The Saga of Ledo Road, Life Line to China (World War II)

The Saga of Ledo Road, Life Line to China (World War II)

World War II was a watershed in world history. The European and Pacific theaters are well known, but there is a forgotten theater, often referred to as the CBI (China-Burma-India) theater, that is not so well publicized.

In 1942, the Japanese invaded and occupied Burma, pushing the British-Indian forces out of Burma. The result was that the Burma Road was closed. There was an urgent need for a second road to transport supplies to China during the war. Thus was born the concept of the Ledo road. The Ledo Road started from Ledo in Assam India and wound its way from the tea gardens to the jungles and mountains of northern Burma until it joined the Burma Road

The Ledo Road was the work of US Army Engineers and Indian labor from Assam.

The road was an engineering marvel and passed through some of the toughest mountains and thickest jungles anywhere. Add in the heavy monsoon for 5 months of the year and you can tell that the Ledo road is no ordinary engineering feat.

The man who commanded the construction of the road was General Louis A. Pick (1890-56). He commented that it was the toughest job ever given to US Army engineers in wartime.

The construction of the road began on December 16, 1942 and continued without interruption for 3 years. The Ledo Road was finally declared operational on May 20, 1945. Although it was completed toward the end of the war, it still transported approximately 35,000 tons of supplies to China. The road ran 465 miles from Ledo in Assam (India) to Mongyu, Burma, near Wanting, China.

Military planners debated the usefulness of the road compared to the airlift from Assam to Burma by elements of the US Air Force. But its importance was strategic, and although it was not built to the original specifications as a two-lane highway, it still served a specific purpose. The road, as built, served as a war highway and aided a pipeline that ran parallel to it.

The Ledo Road and its construction is a major American effort, but it has never been given the credit it deserves. This is due to the low priority of CBI Theatre. This sector was declared open on 3 March 1942 and is often calledForgotten theater of World War II.

Few know that at the height of the war, America mobilized 12,300,000 Americans for the war effort. Out of this gigantic figure, only 250,000 (two percent) are assigned to theater CBI. It was therefore inevitable that the CBI would not be present in the minds of the American people at home. But the 12,000-mile supply line was the longest of the war and also had the lowest priority

American servicemen, though few in number, were on duty at the CBI Theater. The Ledo Road is a testament to their indomitable courage. These men along with Indian and British troops tied up many Japanese divisions. The US Air Force also performed a massive airliftover the hump” in China from Assam. The Ledo Road was an addition to this elevator. Ledo was chosen because it was near the northern terminus of a railway which had a direct connection with the ports of Calcutta and Bombay. Construction of Ledo Road was completed in early 1945.

The American role was to support China by providing military materials. United States Air Force Flying tigers fought the Japanese in the air over China and Burma, and the Air Force delivered supplies Above the hump from India to China. US Army Engineers built the Ledo Road to open up the overland route for supplies. It was a supreme engineering feat.

What about human and material costs? Ledo’s total road deaths were 1,133, of which 261 were from the engineering group.

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