Ledo Road Opens

Universal Newsreel 18-372 (1945/02/12) from National Archives
"Life-Line To China Re-Opened" (quote from Universal Newsreel Vol. 18-372, Feb. 12, 1945):

"Ledo Road ('Pick's Pike') Opens - After many had failed on the Ledo Road project, the task was assigned to Brig. Gen. L. A. Pike, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. He constructed the 478 mile road, through mountain junbles, across swamps, spanning 400 streams or rivers and solving every conceivable kind of engineering problem. The first convoy, made up of 100 trucks, loaded with supplies for China, sets out, with Gen. Pike fittingly at its heads. At Myitkyina, junction is made with the Burma Road. The successful operation of the Ledo Road means that all of Burma will be rendered useless to the Japs," includes scenes of Pigs Point on the Burma Road opened, 1st convoy goes into Myitkyina.

"The Ledo Road" (quote from Builders and Fighters: U.S. Army Engineers in World War II):

"General Stilwell's operations officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frank D. Merrill, recommended building a road from Ledo in Assam Province, India, south and east across northern Burma to a junction with the old Burma Road. The new road would support a North Burma campaign and, when linked with the old, provide a land supply line to China. Merrill chose Ledo because it was near the terminus of the rail line from Calcutta and was at the northern end of a caravan route out of Burma. The concept was for U.S. Army Engineers to build a road generally following the caravan route from Ledo south through the Patkai Mountains and the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys, to connect with the old Burma Road east of Bhamo. The proposed route for the road went through some of the most difficult terrain in the world. The triangular-shaped territory of northern Burma included jungle-covered moun tains and swampy valleys. It was virtually uninhabited with the major towns being nothing more than frontier posts. The mountains, offshoots of the Himalayas, were formidable land barriers that rose to heights of 8,000 to 10,000 feet. The Hukawng and Mogaung valleys were tropical rain forests, dark and silent, with matted undergrowth where the clearings were really swamps covered with elephant grass 8 to 10 feet tall. . . .

Christmas 1944, the third on the road for the engineers, was a busy time with the Chinese and American forces pushing the attack to link up with the Chinese from Yunnan and the engineers following close behind, upgrading the final stretches of the road. However, for the men of the 1875th Engineers and the 124th Cavalry there was a brief respite. As the 124th passed through the 1875th camp, the engineers thought the cavalrymen looked as if they needed cheering up. They invited them into their camp to share the festivities of the day. Candy and cake, packages from home, PX supplies and the battalion's beer ration all combined to make it a memorable event. Then it was back to the war. In January 1945, the 209th and 236th Battalions moved to complete the last sections of the road. When the Chinese 38th Division cleared Mongyu on 27 January, Company B, 236th Engineers, rushed in to complete the junction of the Ledo and Burma roads. That same day the 71st Light Ponton Company put a 450-foot ponton bridge over the Shweli River at Wanting on the Chinese border.

The road was open. It was none too soon for General Pick who, on 12 January, had led the first convoy out of Ledo, bound for Kunming, China. The 113 vehicles, driven by representatives of all the engineer units that had worked on the road, consisted of heavy cargo trucks, jeeps, and ambulances. Among the passengers were some 65 radio, magazine, and newspaper correspondents. The convoy reached Myitkyina on 15 January, where it stayed until 23 January because of the tactical situation. On 28 January, Pick led the convoy into Wanting where T.V. Soong, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, welcomed him. On 4 February, the convoy reached Kunming as firecrackers exploded, missionary nuns waved, and Chinese bands played. That night the governor of Yunnan Province gave a banquet with American operatic star Lily Pons and her husband, conductor Andre Kostelanetz, in attendance. Pick's congratulatory message to his command expressed his sincere appreciation and pride in their achievement. By February, peace had set in along the road as the engineers improved the roadbed and emplaced permanent bridges. That month the civil government of Assam, India, established a customs house at the India-Burma border and a British staff officer from Delhi came to enter into the reverse lend-lease books the number of trees cut from the jungle. The 1905th Engineers had the opportunity to help Father James Devine, newly released from a Japanese prison camp, rebuild his St. Columba's Roman Catholic Mission in the hills east of Bhamo. In March, Company B, 209th Engineers, completed a 450-foot Bailey suspension bridge over the Shweli River at Namhkam. They dedicated it to the engineers lost in the fight at Myitkyina. Finally, on 20 May 1945, newly promoted Major General Pick announced formal completion of the Ledo Road, a task he called the toughest job ever given to U.S. Army engineers in wartime. Renamed the Stilwell Road at the suggestion of Chiang Kai-shek, it was known to the engineers who built it as 'Pick's Pike.'"


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