28 January 1945
Ledo or Stillwell Road
On 28 January 1945, the "Ledo" or "Stillwell" Road was completed. The road linked Ledo in Assam via the Kachin Hills with Kunming in Yunnan. It was the first and still only modern road to connect India and China across Myanmar.
The idea for the road began in 1942 after Japanese forces seized Rangoon and cut the old "Burma Road". The Burma Road began in Rangoon and went via Mandalay and Lashio to Yunnan. It was the critical life-line for Chinese nationalist armies fighting the Japanese in the interior of China. (The Japanese then held the coast and the Chinese regime of Chiang Kai-shek had moved its capital to Chongqing). Hundreds of lorries carrying war supplies used the Burma Road every day. The new "Ledo Road" was meant to provide an all new land connection. From 1942-45 the Allies depending on an airlift over the Himalayas - delivering 650,000 tonnes of supplies - but at the cost of nearly 600 airplanes crashed, most in Burma.
The Ledo Road was also named the Stillwell Road after General Joseph Stillwell (Vinegar Joe), who commanded Chinese divisions in Burma.
The Ledo Road was built by 15,000 Americans as well as 35,000 others, mainly Indians, Chinese, and Burmese. The majority of Americans were African-Americans, who often suffered harsh and discriminatory treatment at the hands of their white officers. By 1945 there was also an African-American medical unit, mainly women nurses, who cared for Indian, Chinese, and Burmese soldiers as well as Americans. When told to reserve special places for white soliders, their unit commander Dr Wilbur Strickland refused, saying all people suffered pain equally.
The photos are of African-Americans serving in the Kachin Hills.