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Burma Road

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Burma Road
Traditional Chinese滇緬公路
Simplified Chinese滇缅公路
Literal meaningYunnanBurma Highway
Transportation of Allied Forces in Burma and southwestern China including the Burma Road
The "Twenty-Four Bends" (25.821725°N, 105.202600°E), often mistaken for a segment of the Burma Road, is actually in Qinglong County, Guizhou Province. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Western supplies carried over the Burma Road first arrived at Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, then traveled over mountain roads, such as the "24 Bends," passing through cities such as Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, before continuing to Chongqing.
Burmese and Chinese laborers using hand tools to reopen the Burma Road in 1944

The Burma Road (Chinese: 滇缅公路) was a road linking Burma (now known as Myanmar) with southwest China. Its terminals were Lashio, Burma, in the south and Kunming, China, the capital of Yunnan province in the north. It was built in 1937–1938 while Burma was a British colony to convey supplies to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Preventing the flow of supplies on the road helped motivate the occupation of Burma by the Empire of Japan in 1942 during World War II. Use of the road was restored to the Allies in 1945 after the completion of the Ledo Road. Some parts of the old road are still visible today.[1]


The road is 717 miles (1,154 km) long and runs through rough mountain country.[2] The sections from Kunming to the Burmese border were built by 200,000 Burmese and Chinese laborers during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and completed by 1938 in order to circumvent the Japanese blockade of China.[3][4] The construction project was coordinated by Chih-Ping Chen.

During World War II, the Allies used the Burma Road to transport materiel to aid China's war effort, especially after China lost sea-access following the loss of Nanning in the Battle of South Guangxi. Supplies from San Francisco for example would land at Rangoon (now Yangon), moved by rail to Lashio where the road started in Burma, up steep gradients before crossing into China over the Wanding bridge. The Chinese stretch of the road continued for some five hundred miles through rural Yunnan terrain before ending up in Kunming.[3]

In July 1940, Britain yielded to Japanese diplomatic pressure and closed the Burma Road for three months.[5]: 299  The Japanese overran Burma in 1942, closing the Burma Road. The Allies thereafter supplied China by air, flying "over The Hump" from India, which initially proved fatally dangerous and woefully inadequate, leading U.S. army general Joseph Stilwell to obsessively pursue the goal of reopening the Burma Road.[3]

The Allies recaptured northern Burma in late 1944, which allowed the Ledo Road from Ledo, Assam to connect to the old Burma Road at Wanding, Yunnan province. The first trucks reached the Chinese frontier by this route on January 28, 1945.[6]

First convoy reached Kunming on February 2, 1945.

Films set on the Burma Road[edit]

The construction of the road also features in The Battle of China (1944), the sixth film of Frank Capra's Why We Fight propaganda film series.[7]

Further reading[edit]

  • C. T. Chang: Burma Road, Malaysia Publications, Singapore 1964.[ISBN missing]
  • Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2011). China's Ancient Tea Horse Road. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN B005DQV7Q2
  • Jon Latimer: Burma:The Forgotten War. John Murray, London 2004, ISBN 0-7195-6576-6.
  • Donovan Webster: The Burma Road: The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II. Farrar Straus & Giroux, New York, 2003, ISBN 0-374-11740-3.
  • Smith, Nicol (1940). Burma Road: The Story of the World's Most Romantic Highway. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.[ISBN missing]
  • Tan, Pei-Ying. The Building of the Burma Road. Whittlesey house, 1945. ASIN B000I1C4XW

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Voy: Burma Road
  2. ^ "Burma Road – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 2008-11-18. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  3. ^ a b c Bernstein, Richard (2014). China 1945 : Mao's revolution and America's fateful choice (First ed.). New York. pp. 12–13. ISBN 9780307595881.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ Seagrave, Gordon S., Burma Surgeon, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1943 [ISBN missing]
  5. ^ Lorraine Glennon. Our Times: An Illustrated History of the 20th Century. October 1995. ISBN 9781878685582
  6. ^ Winston Churchill. The Second World War, v. VI, chap. 11.
  7. ^ Brinkley, Douglas; Haskew, Michael (2004). The World War II desk reference. HarperCollins. p. 368. ISBN 0-06-052651-3. Retrieved November 1, 2010.

External links[edit]