Burma Road : The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India
Theater in World War II
is the hardcover edition. Other editions:
cassette cassette (abridged)
harrowing story of one of the greatest chapters
of World War II---the building and defense of
the Burma Road
Burma Road tells the extraordinary story of
the China-Burma-India theater of operations
during World War II. As the Imperial Japanese
Army swept across China and South Asia at the
war's outset--closing all of China's seaports--more
than 200,000 Chinese laborers embarked on a
seemingly impossible task: to cut a seven-hundred-mile
overland route--which would be called the Burma
Road--from the southwest Chinese city of Kunming
to Lashio, Burma. But with the fall of Burma
in early 1942, the Burma Road was severed, and
it became the task of the newly arrived American
General Stilwell to re-open it, while, at the
same time, keeping China supplied by air-lift
from India and simultaneously driving the Japanese
out of Burma as the first step of the Allied
offensive toward Japan.
In gripping prose, Donovan Webster follows the
breathtaking adventures of the American "Hump"
pilots who flew hair-raising missions over the
Himalayas to make food-drops in China; tells
the true story of the mission that inspired
the famous film The Bridge on the River Kwai;
and recounts the grueling jungle operations
of Merrill's Marauders and the British Chindit
Brigades. Interspersed with vivid portraits
of the American General "Vinegar Joe"
Stilwell, the exceedingly eccentric British
General Orde Wingate, and the mercurial Chinese
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, The Burma Road
vividly re-creates the sprawling, sometimes
hilarious, often harrowing, and still largely
unknown stories of one of the greatest chapters
of World War II.
Webster was a senior editor for Outside and
now writes for National Geographic, Smithsonian,
and The New York Times Magazine. He is the author
of Aftermath: The Remnants of War. He lives
with his family in Virginia.
must-read for any history buff of World
War II - the story of the struggle to
keep China open through the Burma Road.
While the allies' "grand strategy"
for defeating Japan through China changed,
there was still a need to keep China in
the war. General Stilwell did his part
in spite of obstacles like General Chiang
Kai-Shek and Col. Chennault of Flying
Tigers fame. Both Chiang Kai-Shek
and Chennault, for different reasons,
opposed "Vinegar Joe Stilwell."
Chiang wanted more control and more "Lend
Lease." Chennault wanted more aircraft
and thought he could chase the Japanese
out of China with air power.
Webster shows clearly the daunting task
Stilwell had. The "grand strategy"
changed from defeating Japan through China
to Island hopping the Pacific to Japan.
But there still was a need to keep China
fighting and that required "Lend
Lease" supplies to Chiang. This was
an enormous undertaking, from the United
States to India to China. To make matters
worse, Chiang did not trust his generals
(warlords), so he withheld supplies to
his generals. If this was not frustrating
enough, Chiang did not like Stilwell and
was constantly trying to get him replaced.
The book tells about many of Stilwell's
problems, not the least of which was driving
the Japanese out of Burma.
well documented and well-written book.
Mountainous and malarial, northern Burma
is terrible terrain for war, but the Allies
resolved to fight there to keep China
in World War II. The effort's executant,
American general Joseph Stilwell, occupies
center stage of Webster's chronicle, which
benefits from the author's visits to battle
sites and remnants of a supply road. Applying
concrete visualization of the mud, leeches,
and heat of tropical combat, Webster renders
the misery experienced by soldiers on
both Japanese and Allied sides, blending
them with the tactical details of the
war's ebb and flood in Burma. These flow
into Webster's accounts of Merrill's Marauders,
Wingate's Chindits, Chennault's Flying
Tigers, and other such colorful objects
of Eric Sevareid's and Theodore White's
reportage, all under Stilwell's nominal
control, as was, on paper but infrequently
in fact, the military of Chiang Kai-shek.
Stilwell's headaches running such a sprawling
theater, while previously researched by
Barbara Tuchman (Stilwell and the American
Experience in China, 1911-45, 1970), are
ably integrated by Webster into the infantryman's
viewpoint: the result is a high-quality
overview. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association.
All rights reserved
"Webster tells the story in eyebrow-searing
detail. Look for this to be the next Band
"Brings a light hand and solid storytelling
skills to his task."
paints this tough, bizarre world vividly."
"A high-quality overview."
"In World War II, Japan sealed parts
of China. Nothing could get in or out.
Disaster loomed. In The Burma Road—a
gripping recounting of those dark days—Donovan
Webster tells us the harrowing and heroic
story of how China survived."
–James Bradley, author of Flags
of Our Fathers