As soon as it joined the Allies, China started carrying out its international responsibilities. The National Revolutionary Army (NRA) was dispatched to Myanmar (then known as Burma) to support the Allied efforts against Japan. Back then, Myanmar was still a British colony, but warfare in Europe had strained British rule over it. Meanwhile, China’s southwest border, especially the security of the supply routes from Yunnan Province (雲南) to Myanmar, became its major concern. On 23 December 1941, China and Britain signed a pact on the mutual defence of the Burma Road. Over the next three years, China sent two military expeditions to Myanmar to fight against Japan.
Japan invaded Myanmar from the beginning of 1942 and occupied its biggest city Yangon (then known as Rangoon) in March that year. At Britain’s request, China dispatched around 100,000 soldiers commanded by Luo Zhuoying (羅卓英), Du Yuming (杜聿明), and Joseph Warren Stilwell, the Chief-of-Staff in the China-Myanmar-India War Zone, to Myanmar between March and August 1942. The expeditionary force made significant advances in Yenangyaung but eventually retreated in defeat. Some retreated to China, some to India.
The second expedition took place between early 1943 and March 1945. Initially, the expeditionary force was split into two groups. Some 120,000 soldiers led by Stilwell, Zheng Dongguo (鄭洞國), Sun Liren (孫立人), and others were known as the Chinese Army in India. Another 160,000 troops of the Chinese Expeditionary Force positioned in west Yunnan under the command of Wei Lihuang (衛立煌), Song Xilian (宋希濂), and others. Claire Lee Chennault commanded the 14th Air Force reconstituted from the Flying Tigers in combat. The expeditionary force won several fierce battles and in January 1945, the Chinese Army in India and the Chinese Expeditionary Force in west Yunnan converged in Mongyu, Myanmar. In March, the Chinese Army in India captured Kyaukme joined forces with the British army and soon made their triumphant return in batches. The expedition to Myanmar was a major success in China’s strategic counteroffensive.
The photos show the Burma Road and the “Hump” airlift route cross the Himalayas during World War II when Myanmar and India were British colonies. After Myanmar was lost to Japan, securing India and China’s communication channels became crucial. Sending expeditions to Myanmar was necessary for China and the Allies.
Left: Japan seized the Yenangyaung oil field in April 1942. Middle: a news story about the Chinese Expeditionary Force’s victory in Yenangyaung. Right: Dai Anlan (戴安瀾), the Commander of the 200th Division of the NRA, died on the battlefield in Myanmar.
The second expedition was made between early 1943 and March 1945. The Chinese Army in India launched an attack eastward while the Chinese Expeditionary Force in west Yunnan advanced westward. Myanmar, as well as the China-Myanmar border, became a major theatre for the Allied counterattack. Left: the Chinese Army in India, the British, and the American forces jointly launched a counterattack in north Myanmar in October 1943. Right: the Chinese Expeditionary Force in west Yunnan fighting by the Salween River that flows through China and Myanmar. The part flowing in China is known as Nu River (怒江) .
From 3 to 9 March 1944, the Chinese Army in India attacked and defeated the Japanese at Walawbum. The former received American military training in India and was equipped with heavy firepower, such as US-made howitzers (left) and tanks (right).
In May 1944, the Chinese Expeditionary Force stationed in west Yunnan crossing the Nu River as part of the counteroffensive against Japan.
From 11 May to 14 September 1944, the Chinese Expeditionary Force in west Yunnan advanced on Tengchong (騰衝), Yunnan. Left: Chinese sappers blowing an opening in the 20-foot thick city wall while their fellow soldiers prepared to storm the city. Right: fierce street fighting between the Chinese Expeditionary Force and the Japanese in Tengchong. The battle ended on 14 September 1944 with the expeditionary force reclaiming Tengchong.
The Chinese Army in India fighting the Japanese in Myitkyina. The battle lasted from 17 May to 3 August 1944 and ended in China regaining the control of this transportation hub.
On 4 June 1944, the Chinese Expeditionary Force in west Yunnan advanced on Mount Song (松山). On 7 September, the Japanese forces at Mount Song were wiped out. The panoramic depiction shows the expeditionary force capturing the summit of Mount Song in the battle.
In the Battle of Bhamo from October to December 1944, the Chinese Army in India recaptured the city, an important hub on the Ledo Road. The photo shows the Chinese Army in India firing at the Japanese army at Bhamo.
Left: In January 1945, the Chinese Army in India and the Chinese Expeditionary Force in west Yunnan converged in Mongyu, Myanmar. Right: soldiers greeting each other as the Chinese Army joined forces with the British Army in Kyaukme, Myanmar, in March 1945. As the Allied powers reunited, the Burma Campaign ended in Japan’s loss of Myanmar and the Allies’ complete victory.
Source of most photos used in this feature piece: Fotoe and misc. photo sources.