The Battle at Kaibtik
The enemy was given a surprise by the New 30th Division’s march on Namhkam while the New 38th Division was still fighting for Bhamo. Reinforcements were brought in hurriedly in an attempt to disperse the New 30th Division and thence to go to the relief of Bhamo. These forces, recently transferred from Korea, met the New 30th Division at the Kaibtik plateau, and the first frontal battle of Northern Burma took place.
Kaibtik is the highest salient between Bhamo and Namhkam and is of such strategic importance that its capture would be decisive in the battle for Namhkam.
After a number of battles, the enemy was completely routed, abandoning 1260 dead when they retreated by December 14.
The Crossing of the Shweli River
The approach to Namhkam is a narrow valley enclosed by mountains, and is neither easily attacked nor defended.
By this time, Bhamo had already fallen, and the forces attacking Namhkam were reinforced by two regiments from the New 38th Division.
The most eventful episode at this period of the campaign was the crossing of the Shweli River, a watercourse flanked by high cliffs offering a great risk to the undertaking.
The Capture of Namhkam
Little fighting was expected in the Namhkam Valley itself, but the problem was the securing of the mountains surrounding the valley.
After successfully crossing the Shweli River, the Chinese forces had little difficulty in breaking through enemy lines in the vicinity of Namhkam.
On the morning of December 15, the Namhkam Valley was enveloped in a thick fog. The 90th Regiment marched through the fields into the town of Namhkam, which was fully captured before noon that day.
After the capture of Namhkam, the New 38th Division did not allow the enemy breathing space, and continued to march rapidly on to Mongyu, the intersection point between the new India-China Road and the old Burma Road. The point was captured on January 27, 1945, and the historic junction of the Chinese Army in India and the Chinese Expeditionary Force from west Yunnan was effected.
The khaki-clad New First Army and the grey cotton-padded uniformed Expeditionary Force arrived at the appointed meeting place early in the morning when the ceremony was witnessed by a number of ranking Chinese and American generals. The Chinese National Flag and the Stars and Stripes were hoisted amidst the playing of the national anthems of the two countries and a salvo of gun fire.
In an address on the occasion, General Wei Li-huang referred to the junction as the most important achievement in Sino-American cooperation. The principal slogan of the day was “To Tokyo,” and the junction at Mongyu was celebrated as the prelude of the meeting of the Allies in Tokyo.
After the ceremony, the two forces parted company. The Expeditionary Force returned to China. But the Chinese Army in India had not yet completed its duties – the safeguarding of the Stilwell Road. The stalwart sons of the New First Army continued their march on Lashio.
With the junction of the Chinese armies at Mongyu, the India-China Road was cleared of the enemy. The road was officially opened and named after General Stilwell by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
One hundred and five vehicles participated in the ceremony for the opening of the highway – the first convoy traveling from India to China.
When the convoy passed through the Field Headquarters of the New First Army, General Sun Li-jen gave an official reception at which the guests were offered Chinese and Australian food, American cigarettes, British matches, and Indian liquor.
The official opening ceremony was held at Wanting, and presided over by President of the Executive Yuan Dr. T. V. Soong.
The opening of the Stilwell Road was soon followed by the opening of the India-China pipeline. Trucks using the highway sent supplies of arms for the improvement of the equipment of the Chinese fighting forces, while the pipeline brought into China the fuel needed for the motive power of the China war theatre. A great stride was made towards victory.
From Hsenwi to Lashio
While the enemy was cleared off from the Stilwell Road, he still maintained forces at Meng Yu and Namhakka. The New 50th and New 38th Divisions therefore continued to clear these districts of remnant enemy units, and the divisional commander of the enemy 56th Division barely escaped being taken prisoner in the engagement.
Hsenwi was captured by the New 30th Division on February 20, when the march on Lashio was launched.
The 30 odd miles separating Hsenwi and Lashio was very mountainous territory, and the progress was necessarily slow but now with the arrival of armored car units our forces were reinforced.
The old town of Lashio fell on March 6, while the new section of the town fell three days later.
From Mwanhawm to Hsipaw
The capture of Lashio completed the mission of the New 38th and the New 50th Divisions, but the 50th Division had still to effect the last act in the Burma campaign.
The 50th Division, after the Mogaung Valley campaign, was first charged with the task of affording assistance to our British Allies (36th British Division) in their attack of Katha which was successfully accomplished. The 50th Division then crossed the Irrawaddy to mop-up the remnant enemy units in that district. The battle for Mwanhawn was the fiercest engagement in this connection, and the point was captured after a series of vogorous attacks.
The 50th Division carried on its victorious march southwards and by the middle of March captured Hsipaw and on March 23 effected a junction with the New 38th Division on the Naphai Highway.
The area west of Hsipaw was virtually a British war zone but because of the swift advance of Chinese Army the British were enabled to push immediately southwards to lower Burma, leaving the Chinese forces to capture the important point of Kyaukme west of Hsipaw with which Chinese Army in India concluded its brilliant Burma campaign.
No less than six Japanese Divisions were routed by the New First Army in Burma, the casualties amounting to 100,000, with 323 taken prisoner. Trophies captured by the New First Army included 7,938 rifles, 643 machine guns, 186 cannons, 553 motor vehicles, 453 locomotives and wagons, 67 tanks, 5 planes, 108 warehouses and more than 20,000 tons of metals.
Prisoners of War
It must be admitted that the Japanese soldier was fully imbibed with the spirit of sacrifice, which was especially demonstrated in the Saipan and Iwo Jima engagements in the Pacific where the Japanese willingly died rather than surrender. Accordingly, in the wide stretched battlefield of Burma where more than 2,000 engagements took place, only 300 odd prisoners were taken, amounting to 0.3 percent of the number of their casualties. However, a low ebb in Japanese morale was noticeable with his defeat at Yupong Ga, where the Japanese militarist hold on the rank and file began to lose his grip.
The best treatment possible was accorded the Japanese war prisoners who were subjected only to restrictions in their movements but received all the medical attention they needed. The stubbornness of these prisoners were soon won over and they were made to realize their folly in playing into the hands of their ambitious military aggressors. The prisoners taken in Burma were ultimately transferred to internment camps kept by the Allied Command at New Delhi. Culture in Army Life In addition to military training, spiritual training was given the Chinese Army. During the training at Ramgarh, a campaign against illiteracy among the enlisted men was carried out.
When the men were sent into actual battle, their cultural life was not neglected. Newspapers were issued among various units. Dramatic entertainment was also successfully carried on to benefit the men. Performances were often staged by their own members even during the progress of fighting. Motion picture squads were later also introduced as an additional recreation. The Army also undertook work in establishing good relations with the population in the war zones – a measure which proved most effective in promoting cooperation between the Army and the people.
Special Service workers of the Army visited villages to bring succour to the population suffering from the Japanese invaders. Their sympathy was soon won and they cooperated in various measures to the progress of the military operations.
The Army also took time to pay attention to the improvement of the large numbers of overseas Chinese communities in Burma. In this interaction, General Sun Li-jen was personally interested in various schemes for the betterment of the lot of the Chinese residents. After the victorious conclusion of the Burma campaign, the New First Army was assembled at Myitkyina to await orders for its triumphant return.
Towards the end of June, 1945, our Allied Air Force placed more than 30 air transports of the C-46 and C-47 models for the transportation of the New First Army back to China. The general counter-offensive in the China Theatre was to be launched, and the New First Army was to take up the task of the offensive against the enemy on the Liuchow Peninsula, to coordinate with the operations of our Allies in the Pacific.
While the New First Army was marching towards its new destination from Nanning in August, 1945, the Japanese announced their unconditional surrender. The Army was then commissioned with the new task of accepting the enemy’s surrender in the Canton area.
The Causes of Victory
The brilliant victories scored in Burma by the Chinese Army in India were neither accidental nor sheer luck. The general conception that the success was chiefly due to the efforts of our Allies was also exaggerated. Of course, air support, efficient supply lines, and excellent first aid service by our Allies contributed much to the outcome, but the main source of success lay in the hardy fight put up by our own men.
High morale and capacity for endurance marked the principal characteristics of the C.A.I. The operations carried out over difficult terrain in northern Burma were further complicated by the roundabout movements which were employed on more than one occasion to surprise the enemy. The stamina and ability for physical endurance displayed by the Chinese troops made a great impression on the United States Medical Corps, and even on the enemy who prided his bushido.
Superior strategy and efficient command also marked the Burma campaign where the Chinese Army usually took the initiative in the engagements.
The intensive training received by the C.A.I., which was continued even during the campaign when no actual fighting took place, was another factor which ensured victory.
Carl Warren WEIDENBURNER