Frowned upon by several senior army officers and denigrated in the official postwar British History of the Second World War: War Against Japan — whose acrimony reflected the personal bias of its writer, Major-General S. Woodburn Kirby, the Chindits were disbanded to pithy words at the twilight of the war and shoved aside. But two decades after the war, by when criticism of their wartime efforts reached a fevered pitch with the 1962 publication of War Against Japan, irate Chindits veterans and supporters sought to set the record straight.
The expiry of the official thirty-year secrecy rule in 1978, allowed veterans to publish histories based on recently-declassified information. Peter Mead, an ex-Brigadier who had served under Wingate became the first. His 45-page treatise countered every condescending point made by Kirby. Others soon followed.
Today, the facts have been largely established. For all their erstwhile hatred of the Chindits, the British army today insists on using the name “Chindit” to denote special barracks, sections or programs of action — and today, the Chindits’ daring actions in 1943 and 1944 against the Japanese Army have been affirmed as signs of military genius and courage.
Below follow a few of the human faces of the Chindits. Some are famous to any student of literature or history. I had originally intended to write a detailed study on their war, but free time is a rarity.
Major-General Charles Orde Wingate, DSO & 2 bars
Described by one his officers as “a military genius of a grandeur and stature seen not more than once or twice a century,” Charles Orde Wingate (26 Feb 1903—24 Mar 1944) remains to this day a controversial, if not mythic, figure.
An eccentric man, reputed to keep a large alarm clock dangling from his belt, eat raw onions which he kept on a string around his neck (although there is little photographic evidence of these), and instruct orders half-naked, Wingate came to be seen as something of a madman for more than this alone. Raised in the Plymouth Brethren faith, he regarded the old testament as the literal truth, and laced his fiery speeches and official writings with biblical rhetoric. But in the eyes of many, a worse offense was that he hardly looked like a proper British officer. In an army which celebrated impeccable “grooming standards,” he was often poorly turned out with untidy kit, filthy uniform and usually sported a beard. He was certainly different and remained in frequent contest with the regular army establishment over the idea of unconventional warfare.
Nevertheless, he first attracted the attention of his superiors while in Palestine in 1937-38, when he formed Jewish “Special Night Squads” to tackle roving bands of Arab troublemakers. In 1940 he was appointed to lead a force of irregulars in Ethiopia, whom he christened “Gideon Force” – after the old Testament hero who defeated 15,000 men with 300. With a strength of never more than 1,700 men, including a thousand spear and rifle-armed Ethiopian warriors, Wingate and “Gideon Force” went after the Italian army.
In January 1941, he seized the Ethiopian border town of Ulm Idla, making it the first town to be liberated by his force. Next in March, combining daring with bluff, he drove a 6,000-strong Italian infantry unit backed by several thousand auxiliaries along with artillery and mortars, from the garrison fort of Bure, guarding the approaches into the Gojjam Province. But this victory proved a mere prelude of what was to come. Now reduced to only 1,000 men, Wingate then routed a force of 12,000 Italians, plus thousands of Pro-Italian Ethiopian warriors from the key town of Debra Markos. Finally, Wingate a chased after a group of about 10,000 Italians retreating from their last stronghold at Amba Alagi. Both sides ran out of food and their clothes were reduced to rags, but as cold weather set in that May, the Italians surrendered on the 19th. Gideon force had captured some 19,000 enemy troops and kept occupied vastly greater forces.
It was a brilliant effort, but for his troubles Wingate was given only a minor staff posting in Egypt. Depressed and suffering from malaria, he tried to kill himself by cutting his throat in a Cairo hotel.
“You know, I’m not the only great soldier who has tried to commit suicide,” he told his doctor later. “There was Napoleon for instance.”
Only the influence of his superior, the benevolent Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, allowed Wingate a further posting – to India, to command what would become the Chindits. It was tragic then that Wingate died at the height of his mortal fame in a plane crash in March 1944, returning from a visit to his forward troops in the field.
After his death, his men were badly misused by U.S. General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell (who hated the British and in turn, has come to be reviled by the British; one recent English documentary continues this, calling Stilwell an “unsavory character”). The surviving Chindits, wracked by disease, malnutrition and atrocious losses, were only evacuated by executive order weeks later.
For all his charm and force of character, Wingate also had an irascible temper. This has allowed detractors and revisionist historians to question his sanity and military acumen. In reality, Wingate’s perpetual impatience with select subordinates and even senior commanders was his greatest Achilles’ Heel. In this way, he could be a mirror of his American counterpart, “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell. On one typical occasion, during a meeting with General Giffard, chief of the 11th Army Group, Wingate elected to have his subordinate, Brigadier Joe Lentaigne, chair the proceedings. Suddenly exasperated with Lentaigne (see below) whom he felt was not being “tough” enough, Wingate derided him publicly and took over as chairman.
At another time in 1944, after flying back from Ledo to Comilla following a heated meeting, Wingate was enraged to find that his personal ground transport was not waiting for him at the airport. He set upon his long-suffering GSO1, Lt-Colonel Francis Piggot in the mistaken belief that he had been responsible, kicking him out the open door of the still taxiing aircraft. When Lt-General Henry Pownall demanded an apology, Wingate told them brusquely that, “I always used to kick my younger brother off moving buses and quite suddenly the old impulse came over me.” In the end, the recipients of Wingate’s ire were as restricted as those in an exclusive club, primarily the officers of his staff in whom he had little faith.
Yet for all his flaws, Wingate was a man who showed that the impossible could be made possible and by this virtue alone becomes something more than exceptional. He was, in the words of historian Shelford Bidwell, a leader “capable of flashes of genius,” and a man who waged a continuous struggle with himself and the world as part of a lonely devotion to no other object than the categorical defeat of the enemy.
Winston Churchill, an admirer who was nevertheless appalled by Wingate’s eccentricities, said of him after his death: “There was a man of genius who might well have become also a man of destiny. He has gone, but his spirit lives on….” But perhaps the best euological words came from his opposition, from the famed Japanese Lt-General Renya Mataguchi, who upon hearing the stunning news of Wingate’s death after the war, said: “I realized what a loss this was to the British Army and said a prayer for the soul of this man in whom I had found my match.”
Major-General W.D.A. “Joe” Lentaigne, CBE, DSOAfter Wingate’s death, “Joe” Lentaigne (1899—1955), was the man promoted to replace him. The choice was strange. Lentaigne, although a seasoned officer who had seen combat in Burma during the great retreat of 1942, was unsuited for the job. Not only did he consider Wingate an upstart, he was himself, an uninspiring commander and “physically inadequate” for the stress of the campaign. Also, as a long-serving man of the old officer cadre, he had been actively disliked by Wingate for his conservative Indian army roots and was a relative outsider to the Chindit creed (he had commanded the 111th Chindit Brigade for only a few weeks).
General William Slim, an ardent opponent of the Chindits, nevertheless appointed him Wingate’s successor, stating that he was the most senior commander left in the Chindits. In reality, Major-General George W. Symes (Wingate’s second-in-command) would have been a good choice. The best would have been Michael Calvert, popular not only for his heroism and concern for his men but also because he was a trained “Royal Engineer capable of detailed planning.” The esteemed historian, Louis Allen, contends that Lentaigne was decided upon because like Slim he was a Gurkha officer, and because unlike Wingate he was not unorthodox or independent, and could be controlled. It was a corrupt choice. Worse still, it appears as though Derek Tulloch, Wingate’s trusted staff brigadier might have recommended Lentaigne in a moment of incredible folly, stating that Lentaigne was the one “most in-tune with Wingate.”
Whatever the reasons, Lentaigne would prove ineffective as a Chindit leader. When US General Joseph Stilwell began to use the Chindits as assault infantry at Moguang – a role for which they were ill-suited – a more forceful commander could have stood against Stilwell and prevented needless bloodshed. Of the 5,000 casualties endured by the Chindits during the second expedition, 3,800 had become so after Wingate’s death.
Despite this, Lentaigne was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and retained control of the Chindits until February 1945, when they were disbanded. After Indian independence, he remained with the Indian Army, finally retiring as a Lt-General in 1955.
Major-General George W. Symes, CB, MC & barA great, imposing figure of a man, George Symes (12 Jan 1896—16 Aug 1980) won a battlefield commission during World War I at only 18 years of age. Thrown into the thick of combat, he soon carved a reputation for heroism. On one occasion he single-handedly captured 20 Germans during a sortie towards an enemy communications trench, and acts such as these twice won him the Military Cross (MC). Unlike a generation of young men, Symes was fortunate enough to survive the war and although a bright military future awaited the young veteran, his career was destined to suffer repeated hurdles as the years passed.
A Lt-Colonel at the start of the Second World War, Symes was promoted to Brigadier in a year and given command of the 8th Infantry Brigade, recently retreated from Dunkirk. The brigade was in sore shape, minus its heavy weapons and in any event, Symes’ posting was to be short. Soon he was on uninspiring staff duties until 11 February 1942 when he was made a Major-General and given command of the illustrious 70th Division — a veteran of the battle for Tobruk. Yet, immediate glory still eluded Symes. Orders from above forced the division to India with the intention of deploying it along the tenuous India-Burma border. But once in India, to everyone’s shock and disgust, information came through that the division was to be broken up and reassigned into “Special Force,” the official title for the Chindits.
Symes had suffered another setback, but he showed none of the disgruntled mutterings of many officers under him and indeed in his capacity as second-in-command of the Chindits, went to great lengths to convince his subordinates and regular soldiers to accept the Chindit creed. Consequently, when Wingate died in March 1944, Symes naturally expected to be appointed his successor and by all accounts should have been made so. But events had been swirling at GHQ which took matters out of his hands.
When Lentaigne was chosen over him, Symes was furious, and in his great disappointment, went to see General Sir George Giffard (his superior and the chief of the 11th Army Group). Betraying his great anguish at the decision to appoint Lentaigne leader of the Chindits, Symes would later record in his diary that, “I didn’t like the way it was done, there was a lot of evasive action and I told Giffard so.” Symes even lodged a formal protest with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff Field Marshal Alan Brooke — which did little good. Ultimately convinced that the decision betrayed an official lack of confidence in him, Symes tendered his resignation in April. It was a drastic move. Being 47 years old, Symes had in essence, concluded his front-line career.
Given deputy command over rear-echelon, Line of Communications troops in 21st Army Group, Symes moved with this formation during its campaign in Western Europe until 1945 — when he returned to Burma to command other communications troops while the rest of the 14th Army conducted its victorious advance towards Rangoon. All these second-line duties (loyally performed) resulted in him being made a Companion of the Order of Bath (CB). Another string of administrative posts followed after the war until 1949 when Symes finally left the army.
Moving from rain-drenched England to Australia, Symes and his wife settled in Adelaide, where he remained for the rest of his life. He passed away on 26 August 1980 at Adelaide’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Hospital. Although married twice, he left behind no children.
(Details by the Australian Center of Biography and a biographical monograph written by Robert Palmer)
Brigadier Michael “Mad Mike” Calvert, DSO & bar, U.S. Silver Star
Michael Calvert (6 Mar 1913—26 Nov 1998) was perhaps the Chindit’s most ardent defender, but he was also their most tragic hero.
A veteran of repeated hand-to-hand fighting, Calvert often led from the front. For his heroism, he twice won Britain’s number two military award, the DSO (Distinguished Service Order), and was reputedly recommended for the big one, the Victoria Cross — but which recommendation was destroyed when Wingate’s plane crashed. On one occasion, he would have certainly thrown his life away by trying to go out alone into Japanese lines to find the body of a friend who had been killed in action. He was stopped only after one of his officers pulled out a pistol to prevent him going.
Calvert survived the war only to be discredited later with the rest of the Chindits. In Calvert’s case, he was cashiered for what can now be construed as alleged homosexuality after reportedly inviting three German youths to his apartment, although the case was deliberately obscure on the “indecency” which Calvert was charged with attempting on them. Two of the plaintiffs (all the young men were repeat delinquents) recanted on their sworn statements but the sentence stood. His biographer, David Rooney, believes that Calvert was not given a proper trial because of the anti-chindit mentality prevalent in the army at that time. Disgraced and made a virtual outcast outside the Chindit community, at one point this pioneer of irregular warfare could be found working as a common gardener in Surrey. On several occasions he attempted to resurrect a career as an engineer, to no avail. On one occasion he was offered a job in Australia, only to be turned down by a company executive soon after arriving. His record had preceded him.
Depressed and reduced to an alcoholic, he later found himself living in the slums of Glasgow where his fellow drinkers abused him, deriding his poverty despite his education and his intelligence. Jarred by their abuse, he attempted to better himself. Long disowned by his family he was helped by his few remaining friends including Bernard Fergusson (see below), and eventually managed to recover some of his lost esteem although he was never able to completely free himself of the drink.
He joined Manchester University in 1974 to write a specialized study called The Patterns of Guerrilla Warfare (which was unfinished) and even appeared in a critically-acclaimed documentary on the Second World War. He also wrote three non-fiction books, all to enlighten the public on Wingate and the Chindits, including the international bestselling classic, Prisoners of Hope — a title which perhaps best reflected his inner sentiments.
He died in 1998 while residing at the convalescent Royal Star & Garter Homes in London. In recent years, one of the delinquent youths, now a man suffering from the weight of conscience repeatedly attempted to retract his charges, stating that he and his associate had attempted to rob Calvert and when the latter resisted, fled and later denounced him to exact revenge. Despite this new evidence, attempts to have Calvert’s record cleared have been stubbornly resisted by the British government, which has also resisted an apology.
In life, Calvert’s men remembered him as a great leader of men. Although he was a born rebel, there was no arrogance or malice in his character. He was often quiet and his way of giving orders was “gentle, even hesitant,” and he was completely human in his concern for his troops and in this way won his brigade’s total devotion. He was also a man completely careless of personal danger and ready to take the same risks that he expected of his troops. Today, the adjective most used by the British press to describe him is “legendary.”
Major (later Brigadier) Bernard Fergusson, DSO “Emerging from the bamboo jungle in moonlight, the Chindit officer moved silently towards the village hut. Outside, sat four men around a fire. Politely, in Burmese, the man asked for the name of the village. The men looked up. To his horror, the Chindit realized that they were Japanese. And he was close enough to touch them.
Resisting, as he later said, a curious instinct to apologize for his intrusion, he pulled the pin from his grenade and tossed it into the flames. It had only a four-second fuse and as the Japanese sat with horror-struck paralysis, it went off, killing them all.”
That man was Major Bernard Fergusson (6 May 1911—28 Nov 1980), leading one of seven Chindit columns deep into enemy-held Burma, seen above as he appeared in 1943, having come out of it all, unkempt and emaciated in nearly nine weeks of marching and near-constant action. He recounted his experiences in the wartime bestseller Beyond the Chindwin, written while recovering in India.
Fergusson’s experiences during the campaign were in large part, an archetype of the entire Chindit operation. After his grenade in the campfire incident at the village of Hinthaw on the night of March 28th, he ran into one of his junior officers, Lt. Philip Stibbé. Fergusson quickly told him to take a detachment of men and clear out that end of the village using bayonets. But chaos reigned. “[Even] as I spoke,” Fergusson wrote, “A [Japanese] man ran past me in the direction of the fire. I shot him in the side with my pistol…”
When Stibbé and his men reached the campfire, waiting Japanese machine-gunners opened fire, forcing the raiders to ground even as brilliant white-yellow tracers raked the darkness. The Chindits returned fire as best they could but seeing a large group of Japanese run out of a house, realized that they were in danger of being overrun. Even worse, losses began to mount and Stibbé himself was badly injured by a machine-gun bullet. Fergusson soon appeared, asking if they could go on. Stibbe replied: “I don’t think I can — it’s pretty hot. I’m afraid I’ve been wounded in the shoulder.”
At this moment the Japanese who been gathering on a nearby jungle track, charged, throwing grenades. One landed near Fergusson who hit the dirt and tried to take cover but was struck in the hip by shrapnel. Stibbé was wounded again.
Fearing that the end had arrived, Fergusson readied his arms for a last stand but at that moment a series of loud bangs erupted among the Japanese. Fergusson’s loyal batman, Corporal Peter Dorans, had rolled half a dozen grenades among the group of 20 or 30 Japanese. “Where I had seen them dimly in the moonlight and the shadows, there was now writing heap of bodies into which Peter was emptying his rifle,” Fergusson later wrote.
During the second Chindit expedition in the following year he returned to Burma as a Brigadier and after the war remained in the army, initially as Director of Combined Operations at the War Office but later serving as the Inspector-General of the Palestine Police from 1946-47, before Israel was born.
In 1948, he became the commanding officer of the elite 1st Black Watch Regiment, a frontline command which led to other similar roles in the 1950s, including being made commander of the 153rd and 29th Infantry Brigades. Fergusson left the army in 1958 and in 1962, became the last British-born Governor-General of New Zealand. He was awarded a peerage in 1972, and became Baron Ballantrae. Along the way, he been awarded a string of honors, including being made an OBE, and a knight as part of GCMG and the GCVO. From 1973, he served as the Chancellor of the University of St. Andrew’s (Scotland’s oldest university), a post he held until his death at Auchairne in 1980.
GCMG (Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George), GCVO (Knight of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order)
(Thanks to Robert Palmer for providing me details on Fergusson’s post-war career).
Major (Acting Lt-Colonel) John “Jack” Masters, DSOVaguely of half-Indian blood, John Masters (1914—1983) lived the life of a “pukka sahib” (First-class Englishman) in the final age of Imperial India, but surprisingly sympathized with the Indian nationalists at the end of empire.
Born into a family with strong connections to the British-Indian Army, Masters was educated at Sandhurst and Wellington and seemed destined for the idyllic, Victorian existence of peacetime soldiering in the colonies. Some of his escapades strongly reflected the starch-collared, closeted, sexually-profligate society that the British had created for themselves overseas. He charmed the wife of a fellow officer and they began a torrid affair. The scandal was barely mitigated by the fact that they later married.
By 1943, he was a brigade major (an administrative post) with the 114th Brigade, but was recruited by Brigadier Joe Lentaigne for the Chindits in 1944 to perform a similar role in the 111th Brigade. When Wingate died in March 1944 and Lentaigne was chosen to replace him, Masters took over temporary command of the brigade.
Ordered to set up a new stronghold and airstrip called “Blackpool” to block the railway valley about 20 miles southeast of Moguang, Masters had barely begun construction when troops from Lt-General K. Takeda’s 53rd Japanese Division ran smack into him. Supported by accurate mortar fire and airstrikes, Masters and the brigade held out for five days but on May 25, almost out of food and ammunition, Masters decided to evacuate “Blackpool.”
Never smitten by Wingate’s force of personality or his strategic thinking, Masters became critical of Wingate’s dictum and posthumous reputation — especially after being placed in the tenuous position of asking his medical officers to shoot 19 badly-wounded men who could not be moved during the evacuation — fearing that the Japanese would torture them. In reality, he should have blamed Lentaigne and Slim for these actions because by this point Wingate was already dead. As events transpired, he betrayed his mounting anger against his old chief, Lentaigne, at the moment of withdrawal, saying: “Why did he [Lentaigne] not come and visit them, and see for himself how shot they were?”
In a brilliant exertion of effort, Masters finally withdrew the brigade on May 25, in driving rain and mud, taking with him 100 wounded whom he refused to shoot or leave behind. Two days later, the brigade reached the safety of Mokso, 25 miles west. From here they moved on to India in July and out of the story of the second expedition. Officially, the action at “Blackpool” cost the Allies, 70 dead, 50 wounded and 100 missing. But upon examination by a medical team in India it was discovered that of the original 3,000 men in the brigade, only 118 would ever be fit enough to fight again.
After the war, Masters and his wife moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico and attempted to set up a business conducting walking tours in the Himalayas. When this failed, he resorted to writing a book on his wartime experiences. When this became an unexpected bestseller, he became a full time writer. Twenty-five books were published before his death in 1983 to heart complications. Two of his novels were made into films – Bhowani Junction (1958), starring Eva Gardner, and The Deceivers (1988), starring Pierce Brosnan.
Major (Acting Lt-Colonel) Walter Scott, DSO
Another drawing of Walter Scott
Walter Scott led a Chindit column from the (Liverpool) King’s Regiment into Burma in the first expedition, but later took an entire battalion into action during the second in 1944.
Commonly known as “Scottie” to his peers and “Jammy” to his men, owing to his irrepressible flair for leading them out of sticky situations, Walter Scott was originally an enlisted man at the start of the war and an electrical engineer by trade. Soon tiring of this job, he requested a transfer to the infantry and for his mental acuity, was selected for training at Sandhurst, the distinguished military academy. After four months of course-work for his new infantry trade, Scott rejoined his home regiment, the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.
Immensely popular, Scott was described in the words of one of his men, Sgt. Tony Aubrey, as a “Smasher. He had the personality, courage, foresight, and the greatest of all qualities in a leader — luck. He had been a Lance Corporal during the Battle of France and so he knew the mens’ point of view. He had as much time for the thoughts and ideas of the humble private as he had for his second-in-command. He respected his men and they would follow him anywhere.”
Scott’s mission in the second expedition of 1944 was to spearhead a glider-borne landing upon a stretch of open ground in enemy-held Burma, codenamed “Broadway,” securing it and the surrounding jungle for further waves of reinforcements. If his men encountered Japanese troops, he was to fire a red flare to warn off the rest of the gliders. But eight hours before take-off from India, he told one of his men that, “I’ve got that flare so deep in my pocket that I doubt if anyone else can find it if I’m killed.” Personally, he was determined that his battalion would fight for the landing zone even if they found a Japanese division occupying it.
During the actual landings, chaos overtook the field with gliders crashing into already landed gliders and troops. With only 380 men of his 750-strong force on hand, Scott rallied his surviving troops and secured “Broadway,” winning the DSO for his exemplary leadership.
Scott survived the war and later retired to Wiltshire. (Details courtesy of Steve Fogden)
Major James LumleySecond-in-command of the 3/6th Gurkha Rifles after Lt-Colonel Freddie Shaw took command of the battalion, James Lumley (1910—1991) witnessed the battle of Mogaung first-hand. Two of his men, Michael Allmand and Tul Bahadur Pun won the Victoria Cross for their actions at the town and and Lumley later watched Pun being honored for his heroism by Field Marshal Wavell during a ceremony in New Delhi in March 1945.
Remaining with the army after the war, Lumley saw service in Malaya during the Communist “emergency” – a conflict which also drew in other Chindits, notably Brigadier Michael Calvert who led the unruly British counter-guerrilla unit known as the Malayan Scouts, and Sir Robert Thompson (in 1944, an RAF Squadron leader and air liaison officer), who earned fame there and later in Vietnam as a premier counter-insurgency expert.
After Malaya followed a spell in Hong Kong, after which Lumley returned to England. Scarred by the war, Major Lumley’s turmoil was exorcised after watching an Imperial War Museum special on the Chindits in the mid-1990s. He had reluctantly attended the screening at the behest of his daughter, the actress, Joanna Lumley. “Afterwards, he said seeing it had laid many ghosts to rest; that it had stopped some of the nightmares,” Ms. Lumley remembered.
James Lumley died in 1991 at the age of 81.
Squadron Leader (Later Wing Commander) Robert Grainger Ker Thompson, Royal Air Force, DSO, MCOnce a household name across the Empire, Robert Thompson (12 April 1916-1992), a brilliant player in the British victory over Malayan Communists is today a largely forgotten figure outside England — primarily for his unrelenting belief that Vietnam was a war that could have been won by the Americans, if not for incompetence.
But Thompson, before his incarnation as a counter-insurgency expert, was a pilot in early life. He first drew the flying bug when he was studying for an M.A. at the Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. There, as a member of the Air University Squadron flying obsolete biplanes, he was one of the lucky few candidates who had some extensive flying experience prior to joining the Royal Air Force (RAF). Tasked as a fighter pilot, he was in Macao when the Japanese invasion in the East struck in 1941. Although Macao was safe as a Portuguese colony, Thompson decided to get out and barely managed to do so, with a briefcase full of notes, somehow making his way through war-torn China to Burma. When Burma was also attacked, Thompson retreated to India.
Largely relegated to second-line duties for the next two years, in 1943 and 1944, he became an RAF Liaison officer for the Chindits. In 1944, he served in this role by frequently flying into the Chindit fortresses in his personal Hawker Hurricane fighter-bomber. For his services, he won the DSO and unusually, a Military Cross, largely an army decoration. But the medal citation makes the reason clear for this as Thomson was frequently found at “the fore with his Tommy gun.”
When the war ended, he returned his pre-war occupation in the Malayan civil service, and through this branch became involved in British efforts to staunch a rising communist insurgency in the country. Together with Lt-General Sir Gerald Templer and others, he became instrumental in reversing the insurgency although he would later suffer embarrassment when the media attempted to pin credit for the victory on him alone. Still, on the strength of this reputation, Thompson was brought in advise US Commanders and the President Diem in South Vietnam. He did this from 1961 to 1965, adding to his reputation by repeatedly appearing in the world press. (In the “Redux” version of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando’s Col. Kurtz quotes Thompson, although with a sardonic tone, from an issue of Time Magazine to Martin Sheen’s Capt. Willard).
By 1966, however, Thompson had left Vietnam disillusioned with American and South Vietnamese tactics, which he saw as hopeless. That same year saw witness to his first book, Defeating Communist Insurgency, which has become a textbook for dealing with guerrillas. Another important work was 1968’s No Exit from Vietnam, in which he scathingly criticized US policy by writing: “It is all very well having B-52 bombers, masses of helicopters and tremendous firepower, but none of these will eliminate a communist cell in a high school which is producing 50 recruits a year for the insurgent movement.”
Eventually retiring to Somerset, Thompson passed away in 16 May 1992, leaving behind a son and daughter. In the interim, for his services to the crown, he had been knighted and been made a Companion to the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG).
Major Frank Gerald “Jim” Blaker, VCBorn in India in May 1920, Gerald Blaker was classified in British registers as a Scot — although one of his classmates later described him as a “typical Anglo-Indian.” Nevertheless, Blaker had a distinctly English upbringing at the care of his parents, Gerald and Nora Fox Blaker, and after his schooling was commissioned in the Highland Light Infantry, a proud Scottish Regiment which could trace its history to 1881. Seconded to the 3/9th Gurkha Regiment as a temporary Major in 1943, Blaker found himself destined for Burma with the Chindits that following year.
On 9 July 1944, a company of Blaker’s Gurkhas (‘C’ Company) began a dangerous flanking advance through thick jungle, towards a strategically important hill near the town of Taungni. They reached the hill well enough and dug-in as another company probed the Japanese flanks before launching a frontal attack on the town. Stumbling upon enemy machine-gun fire, the other company fell back and Blaker moved his men in to relieve them only to have them meet the same slaughter. One particularly thorny position was an enemy defensive nest armed with one heavy and two light machine guns.
As the Gurkhas fell back in disarray, Blaker moved on alone. Seeing him, the Japanese threw grenades. Braving the blasts despite an arm savaged by shrapnel, he charged the Japanese. At the last moment, the enemy gunners found the range and a volley of three bullets plunged into Blaker who fell badly wounded. Refusing to be cowed, he called on his men to carry on and overrun the position. Astonished at his courage, his men finally stormed the hill, forcing the Japanese into the jungle.
Although carried to the rear by a rescue party of medics, Blaker died soon after. He was 24 years old and for his actions was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. (details from Frank Anthony’s “Britain’s Betrayal in India,” 1969)
Captain Robert St. John Walsh, RWAFFOne of the white officers of the Nigeria Regiment was Robert Walsh. Although post-colonial discourse on Europeans serving in African regiments, especially in the RWAFF (Royal West African Frontier Force), is clouded by embittered rhetoric and Pan-African nationalism, there is strong evidence to suggest that African subalterns and infantrymen in the 1940’s (especially from Northern Nigeria) were well devoted to their British officers. Many whites were even afforded native nicknames which when translated into English provided a description of that man’s character.
Walsh served with the 6th Battalion of the Nigeria Regiment during the 1944 expedition. Further information unavailable at the moment.
Lt. (Temporary Captain) Jack E.D. Wilcox, DSO, U.S. Silver StarFormerly an artillery man seconded to the 1st South Stafford Regiment (itself part of Brigadier Mike Calvert’s 77th Brigade during the second Chindit Expedition) Jack Wilcox (15 Sep 1919-18 Dec 2006), was a graduate of Pembroke College in Cambridge.
During the 77th Brigade’s heroic defense of the White City fortress, Wilcox became responsible for all Medium Machine-guns within the perimeter. In May, however, he was given new orders: take a detachment of men and sever the nearby Indaw-Moguang railway line outside the fortress. Heavy rains and bad weather on the first two nights hindered an attack, but on the third day, Wilcox and his men were supplied boats and paddled their way over a swollen canal towards Japanese lines. A raging rain storm hid the infiltration and the first inkling the Japanese had of the raiders was when explosive charges tore the line in three places.
More action followed on May 19 when Wilcox and another group of men waded through heavy marsh and the Manyim Chaung to conduct a night attack on the small Burmese village on Banmauk with explicit orders to wipe out a suspected Japanese gun position which had been shelling “Blackpool” fortress. The Japanese saw them coming and conducted a banzai charge. Wilcox and his men hit the dirt and opened fire, badly mauling the Japanese although two Chindits were killed and four others wounded.
By now adept at commando-style raids, Wilcox was given another mission on June 12 — while the brigade conducted a main attack against the enemy at Mogaung, Wilcox’s platoon was to seize and hold an important position which intelligence warned was being heavily defended. Predictably, as Wilcox’s unit moved into assault, a formidable hail of enemy fire plunged towards them. Several men fell wounded and those unscathed found themselves under sniper fire. Patrols sent out to locate the source of the enemy fire failed miserably and finally fed up, Wilcox stood up, making himself a target for a snipers. When the enemy sharpshooters exposed themselves, his men went forward and violently rooted them out. Eventually the position was won but Wilcox’s bravery had come at a cost — he had been badly wounded by a bullet through the neck. Refusing to be evacuated, he insisted on remaining with his men until Mogaung was captured and his platoon participated in the center assault on the town’s train station.
At first light on the morning of June 18, the platoon reached the station, but fierce house-to-house combat began with determined Japanese defenders. Casualties were heavy. Only ten were left alive within the platoon but the Japanese had been wiped out. Wilcox had been wounded again, this time in the head. With his paltry group of survivors, he led them on a last mop-up patrol down the railway line but then refused orders from his battalion commander, Lt-Colonel Ronald Degg, to pull back for treatment at a field hospital. In awe, Degg would later write to his superiors that Wilcox, despite his bloody wounds, was still among the remains of his platoon as of the 27th, grimly holding their positions in the ruins of Mogaung town.
For his heroism, Wilcox was awarded an immediate DSO, later followed by a U.S. Silver Star, becoming one of only four Chindits to be given this American decoration (the others being Brigadier Calvert himself and two Gurkhas, Lt. Ramjale and Lance-Cpl Balbir). In 1945, Wilcox would go on to become mentioned in despatches.
After the war, he found work in none-too-inspiring roles, first as a worker and then as the director of a shoe factory. Yet, he remained reluctant to sever his links with the army and continued as a reservist in the North Somerset Yeomanry of the peacetime Territorial Army. During this period of service, he was the unit’s commander of the Airborne Squadron, a position he held until 1957. Eventually married and eventually retired from the shoe factory, he died in 2006, leaving behind four children.
Lt. (Acting Captain) Michael Allmand, VC Born in London, Allmand (22 Aug 23—24 Jun 44) was commissioned into the Indian Army in 1942 after escaping from Singapore which had fallen to the Japanese earlier that year. He later volunteered to join the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Regiment and led a force from this unit into action during the second Chindit operation in 1944.
Allmand won Britain’s highest award for battlefield heroism, the Victoria Cross, during the regiment’s brutal slog towards Mogaung. The Gurkhas had been ordered north to relieve the pressure facing the American Special Regiment, Merrill’s Marauders — an advance made difficult by the onset of the monsoon rains. “Conditions were appalling, malaria and typhus were rife,” recorded the regimental history. It was hardly an understatement. Even as they fought off ambushing Japanese, disease began to take its toll on the 3rd Battalion. Still, by the end of May, the men were within ten miles of Mogaung — then fateful orders came: “Take the town.” The original 3,500-strong 77th Brigade under Michael Calvert was down to 2,300 men of which only 550 were in fit condition, including 230 Gurkhas. Facing them were an estimated 4,000 Japanese. On June 9, the Gurkhas reached the edge of town.
Two days later, Allmand led his platoon into attack against the important Pin Hmi road bridge, a quarter of a mile east of Mogaung’s train station, near a strategically important building called the “Red House” which the Japanese had made their headquarters. Allmand moved his men forward warily. The approaches to the bridge were narrow with the road up on a high embankment with swampy, tree-heavy low-ground flanking both sides. It was this low-ground that the Japanese had appropriately chosen to dig in on.
They waited until Allmand and his men came to within 20 yards of the bridge before opening up. As Gurkhas fell to the chattering of gunfire, Allmand charged. Throwing grenades to scatter the enemy, he closed in to kill three with his knife. Overwhelmed by Allmand’s heroism, his men rallied and rushed the remaining defenders, capturing the bridge.
Two days later Allmand’s force once again came under intense enemy fire and once again Allmand pushed on alone, running for nearly 30 yards through a machine gun-swept field, knocking out several gun nests and allowing his men to secure the high ground beyond on the edge of town. Despite these acts of heroism, the Japanese held on for two more weeks until June 23, a day which would become recorded in the annals of the 77th Brigade as the “stuff of legends.”
It was also the day that Allmand’s luck ran out. By now suffering from trench foot, he tried to rush another Japanese machine gun nest on the far left of a Japanese strong-hold known as the “Red House” and was hit. Mortally wounded, he died later that night. He was only 20 years old.
Postscript — One of the 3/6th Gurkhas, Sgt. Tilbir Gurung had pulled Allmand and another wounded NCO to safety. For this, Gurung won the Military Medal.
Count Juan “Johnny” Salazar (Lieutenant), MCBorn in Kent in 1919 to a family whose descendents had been the Counts de Val de Salazar of Castille, Juan Colby Sarsfield Salazar (19 Mar 1919-1 Aug 2003), with his foreign-sounding name, made an unlikely British Army Officer on the surface.
His great-grandfather had left Italy for Paris in the hopes of being inspired in his career as a painter but instead of seizing inspiratus, ended up falling in love with an Irish girl during his frequent visits to the art museum. Consequently, Juan’s grandfather was born in Dublin in 1905, who in turn produced Juan’s father, later a British Cavalry officer during World War I. Educated at the Alpine College in Switzerland and then Oxford, Juan himself joined the British Cavalry in March 1939, choosing the illustrious “Buffs” as his regiment. Eventually transferred to the Bedfordshsire & Hertfordshire Regiment, Juan saw combat in North Africa, especially at Tobruk but was then transferred to India as were the Beds & Herts.
After training as Chindits and in jungle-fighting, the Beds & Herts were flown into the “Aberdeen” Fortress to be reunited with the 14th Brigade. Salazar was a platoon commander in 61 Column and was ordered to take his unit two miles south of Indaw with orders to destroy a large Japanese supply dump. Splendid patrolling by his men revealed the existence of six fuel dumps but the attack route was over open paddy fields and a track which just skirted the dug-outs of a Japanese company.
Hoping that one man could slip through the Japanese cordon, Salazar elected to go on alone. Somehow making his way close to the dumps but realizing that he was in danger of being spotted by a nearby Japanese outpost, he fired incendiary rounds into the fuel barrels, igniting nearly two hundred 40-gallon drums into a conflagration that lit up the entire area. Then amidst the chaos, he tried to slip back to his men only to run into two enemy runners on the track leading to the Japanese Company HQ. He killed the first man and wounded the second, taking him prisoner although the man died of his wounds soon after.
During a subsequent action in May at the village of Zigon, Salazar led a patrol which cleared the town of the enemy through systematic house-to-house fighting. Seven pack horses, overburdened with supplies were also captured, and for his series of victorious forays into Japanese lines, Salazar was awarded a Military Cross.
After the war, Salazar continued his service with the Beds & Herts, first in India and then in Greece. He later taught winter courses at Goslar in the German Hartz Mountains and saw a five-year detachment in Rhodesia and after that in Malaya for 18 months, where he was Mentioned in Despatches. Frequently hostile towards army authority, especially those of his superiors, Salazar’s friends frequently had their hands full trying to keep him out of trouble. He eventually retired from the army in 1974 and spent the rest of his life in France. He had married a woman by the name of Jeanne Oliphant in 1946 and on his death in 2003, left behind a son and daughter.
Lieutenant Philip Stibbe, MIDAlthough born in Liecester, Philip Stibbe (20 Jul 1921—17 Jan 1997) joined the Royal Sussex Regiment in the summer of 1940, and by virtue of his college education (at Merton), was commissioned as an officer. Soon, he had been seconded to the Chindits for their fateful 1943 first expedition into Burma.
Training with No. 5 Column, Stibbe found the Chindit methods grueling and Wingate’s leadership exacting. As he later said: “A constant stream of orders, pamphlets, information encouragement and invective showered down on us from Brigade HQ… Saluting was cut down to a minimum. Everything was to be done at the double. Everyone must eat at least one raw onion per day. When marching in mass formation through the jungle, thorn bushes were to be ignored and only thick plantations of bamboo were to be looked upon as obstacles…”
By when the training concluded, Stibbe was the commander of the 7th Platoon within No. 5 Column, but his command was short-lived in combat. In March 1943, No. 5 Column stumbled into a Japanese defensive position at the village of Hinthaw and was badly scarred. Stibbe was wounded and as Wingate had made no provisions to get the wounded out, was simply left behind by his comrades. As things stood, No. 5 Column had been badly dispersed in the fighting. Stibbe’s hopes now rested on the chance that returning members of his column would come across him and help him back to India. In the interim, he was greatly cheered when a young Burmese rifleman, Maung Tun, offered to remain behind, ostensibly in the belief that he could help Stibbe make it back to India on foot.
Unfortunately, Tun was captured by the Japanese while foraging for food and although tortured, he refused to betray Stibbe — paying for this silence with his life. Yet, Stibbe too was suffering horrors of his own. On his first night alone, as the sky turned dark, “I heard a lot of rustling in the leaves near where I lay,” he later wrote. “To my horror, I saw several large spiders about the size of my hand crawling towards me. No doubt they were attracted by the smell of blood. It was a beastly sensation lying there unable to move while these loathsome creatures crawled nearer.”
He survived his brush with the spiders but was captured by the Japanese on March 31. Sent to the Rangoon goal, after having first passed through the Bhamo prison and the Chindit POW base at Maymo, Stibbe became POW No. 33 in Rangoon. His time in Rangoon was far from rosy. Embittered over Japanese brutality, he would write: “We became hardened and even callous. Bets were laid about who would be the next to die. Everything possible was done to save the lives of the sick, but it was worse than useless to grieve over the inevitable.”
Miraculously, Stibbe survived to see liberation on 24 April 1945. After the war he became a teacher and headmaster in Oxford. In 1947, one of the first books to be published on the Chindits was Stibbe’s own Return via Rangoon, a seminal work that is still turned to today when it becomes necessary to catch a glimpse of Chindit training and life. Stibbe later married in 1956 and had three children. He died on 17 January 1997, three years after Return via Rangoon hit bookshelves once again, riding on a crest of renewed public interest in the Chindits.
(Thanks to Steve Fogden for his research concerning Stibbe’s POW number)
Sergeant Eric HutchinsIn the 1943 expedition, no one was immune from the deleterious effects of operations deep behind enemy lines, not least of all men traveling with Wingate himself. One of these was Hutchins, a signals man in Wingate’s officer-heavy headquarters party. Several of Wingate’s closest aides and adjutants, if badly diseased or wounded, were simply left behind for the Japanese. But Hutchins, although suffering from dysentery himself narrowly avoided the same fate when some of his comrades decided to help him back to India. He is pictured above as he appeared in April 1943, hungry, unshaven and badly frayed.
Owing to this, Hutchins’ early admiration of Wingate quickly soured to rage over the abandonment of colleagues and officers —whom he believed victims of Wingate’s notions of self-preservation. No doubt, Wingate must have sensed these feelings from survivors for he went to lengths to rectify them. During the following 1944 expedition, Wingate (although scathingly criticized for his static “fortress” tactics), was determined that no future wounded need ever be abandoned again. Great pains were taken to ensure that all the wounded were instead flown out via the same-criticized fortresses.
Corporal (Acting Sergeant) Joseph Chaplin, MIDA sheet metal worker in Coventry just before the war, Joseph Chaplin (13 Oct 1919—12 Apr 1976) was drafted into the Territorial Army in 1942 – a full three years after the start of the war. After a series of non-combat assignments with a variety of real-echelon units, he was transferred to India and joined the King’s own Royal Regiment in 1944. In action with Lentaigne’s 111th Brigade, he was mentioned in dispatches and also won a coveted certificate of gallantry (one of only 48 awarded to Chindits in 1944 – the recipients were all non-coms or enlisted men). He was later promoted to Company Sergeant-Major.
Demobilized in November 1946, he returned to Coventry and took up work in the local colliery.
Rifleman Tul Bahadur Pun, VC
Tul Bahadur Pun was one of twelve Gurkha Victoria Cross winners of World War II (remarkable because the Gurkhas were never members of the British Commonwealth). Hailing from the foothills of the Himalayas, they arguably remain to this day, Britain’s most highly-regarded troops. Also from the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Regiment, Pun won his Victoria Cross on 23 June 1944, the same day that Michael Allmand (see above) died.
Just before dawn the 21-year-old Pun was a member in a double platoon attack on Mogaung’s Red House, the strategically important building home to a Japanese headquarters. As the Gurkhas charged, the Japanese opened up with a murderous crossfire that slaughtered nearly all the men. In Pun’s platoon (normally with 25 men), only he, his sergeant and one other man had survived. The sergeant attempted to lead them on a renewed assault only to be badly wounded by a hail of bullets as he rose his feet. Pun and the other surviving Gurkha continued to charge, but the second man was shot up seconds later. Snatching up the man’s Bren light machine-gun and firing from the hip, Pun carried on alone, dashing across the open, muddy ground in the face of what the regimental history described as “the most shattering concentration of automatic fire.”
Even as the sun came up behind him, silhouetting him perfectly for the Japanese gunners, Pun somehow covered 30 yards through soggy ground unscathed, often ankle-deep in mud, and leaping over fallen trees. Reaching the house, he opened fire, killing three Japanese and frightening five others so greatly that they fled. Two enemy machine-guns were captured as was a lot of ammunition. Setting up his Bren, Pun next opened up on a nearby enemy bunker so that the other men from his battalion could follow him up to the house. The act was enough ensure the battalion’s second Victoria Cross of the day – an incredible achievement.
The fighting continued at Mogaung for the rest of the day, petering out only at dusk. That night, the Japanese pulled out, leaving the town to the shattered remnants of the 77th Brigade. It was the first major Burmese town to be recaptured by the Allies, but the cost had been high — 126 men killed in action (plus a similar number laid low by sickness) and seven missing, including one, Harold Kyte (illustrated below), who was never found.
The Gurkhas stayed on at Mogaung until July 5 but were then flown back to India. As for Pun, in later years, suffering from deteriorating health and living in near-destitute conditions, he attempted to immigrate to England in 2006. His application was rejected because officials failed to see “a strong enough link to the United Kingdom,” despite Pun’s heroic service to the British Army. His cause was taken up by the English actress Joanna Lumley (whose father had once been Pun’s commanding officer). In great part due to her efforts, Pun was eventually allowed to settle in the country. His arrival in England in 2007 was met with great public acclaim, as the act of a returning hero.
But his stay was short. On 20 April 2011, Pun died unexpectedly while overseeing the construction of a school in his native village in Nepal. His name appears at four monuments in London: at the Memorial Gates at Constitution Hill, at the Westminster Abbey Memorial, at the Union Jack Club and at the “Memorial to the Chindits” near the Victoria Embankment.
Private Philip HoseA native of Liverpool, Hose joined the army at the onset of war, and during the 1943 first Chindit expedition into Burma, found himself in No. 7 Column which consisted mostly of 13th King’s (Liverpool) Regiment personnel. Initially all was well but trouble brewed up during the Irrawaddy River crossings as the Chindits moved deeper into Burma. During a fracas with Japanese troops on March 17, Hose was one of those posted missing in action and was reported as captured on the 22nd.
Incarcerated at the Rangoon prison, Hose was sadly destined never to leave the POW camp alive. He is recorded as having died on 18 February 1944, just shy of his first anniversary as a Prisoner of War of the Japanese. He was 24 years old. (Information courtesy of Steve Fogden)
Private Walter Weatherly, MIDWalter Weatherly from ‘A’ Company of the 2nd Leicestershires was a veteran of both Chindit expeditions. For meritorious service he was supposedly mentioned twice in official dispatches to higher command — although I have been unable to find any mention of this in The London Gazette for the years 1943 and 1944.
Two 1944 Chindits – Rifleman Norman Campbell and Fusilier Harold Kyte
Two archetypical examples of the younger Chindits. Above — Rifleman Norman Campbell from The Cameronians Regiment, serving with Lentaigne’s 111th Brigade. On his shoulder is the purple, green and black Douglas tartan of the regiment’s native Scottish lowlands. Below — Fusilier Harold Kyte from Wigan, Lancashire, who was killed in action on 18 June 1944, during the 77th Brigade’s costly battle for Mogaung. He was 25 years old. He is remembered at the Rangoon War Memorial.
Unknown Private, Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF)Among the Chindits was an entire brigade of West Africans, mostly Nigerians, who led largely anonymous lives in the official records, such as the man above – captured from the edge of a wartime print whose photographer instead chose to concentrate on a group of white Chindits carrying a stretcher case.
The identities of very few African infantryman are known in the annals of western history, although this is gradually changing with books recording their sacrifice, especially James Shaw’s The March Out, and in novelized form, Biyi Bandele’s Burma Boy (known as The King’s Rifle in the United States).
Although few decorations were presented to these sadly-neglected soldiers, the Africans were undoubtedly just as brave as their white counterparts. Michael Calvert told of the following account of an African Chindit captured and interrogated by the Japanese:
Japanese Interrogator: “Which branch of service are you in?”
African Private: “Paratroops.
“Are there many African paratroopers?”
“Naturally, all Africans are paratroopers.”
“How many of you are there in India?”
“Oh, about a million or so.”
The Japanese interrogator slapped the African hard. “Do not lie!”
The African rubbed his face. “Oh sorry. Five million,” he said.
The Japanese interrogator conferred with his colleagues. “Take us to where you landed,” he commanded.
The African led them to “White City,” to Calvert’s 77th Brigade, who promptly gunned the Japanese down.
In all, the African Chindits of the RWAFF were awarded one Distinguished Conduct Medal, 10 Military Medals and six Certificates of Gallantry.
U.S. Lt-General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, U.S. Distinguished Service Cross
There was little doubt that General Joseph W. Stilwell (19 Mar 1883-12 Oct 1946) was a brilliant officer in the field, but he was also a difficult man to be around and notoriously caustic to both friend and foe.
As a military attache in pre-war China, he became fluent in the language. At the onset of war, he was sent back to the Far East by President Roosevelt with orders to keep China in the war. His arrival in Burma coincided with the exact moment of the British retreat westwards and he went along with the fleeing troops. In India he was asked by the press what had happened in Burma, to which he bluntly replied: “I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and retake it.” But his following remarks on the so-called incompetence and cowardice of “Limey forces,” were not well received by the English.
His relationship with the Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek was initially cordial, but soon turned sour after he railed against the corruption and incompetence within the Chinese army. Stilwell demanded that Chiang purge those responsible, and instead of hoarding arms and resources for a later fight against the communists, join forces with the communist leader, Mao Zedong, to defeat the Japanese.
His bitter anglophobia and contempt for Anglo-Indian forces resulted in his stark misuse of the Chindits — and when they dithered because of heavy casualties, criticized them for being “yellow.” This sentiment was largely fed by sycophantic junior American officers on his staff. Forcing Michael Calvert’s 77th Brigade into a dangerous battle for the Burmese town of Moguang, Stilwell is ultimately responsible for the deaths of some 800 lightly-armed Chindits (a horrific twenty-five percent casualty rate) in the three months from May to August, before the brigade was withdrawn that summer. Far from satisfied, Stilwell gave complete credit for Mogaung’s capture to the Chinese army and next ordered Calvert’s worn brigade to the north to cut off two Japanese divisions from retreat. It was the last straw for Calvert who had been forced to watch the gradual destruction of his command.
He deftly cut off radio communications and pulled his men out to Kamaing where he hoped to fly them out to India. Furious, Stilwell descended on Lentaigne’s headquarters and as Lentaigne desperately tried to defend Calvert from charges of disobedience, raged on about a court-martial. Finally Calvert himself arrived in a jeep, already irate at Stilwell’s castigation of his men as cowards, and now with talk of a court-martial, determined to have it out once and for all. Speaking with the same sort of blunt honesty that Stilwell prided himself on, Calvert pointed out that despite their crippling losses and lack of heavy weapons, his men had sacrificed so much at Moguang that now they they had nothing left to give. To order the survivors into combat now was to pass nothing more than a death sentence.
Stilwell seemed stunned at Calvert’s angry monologue. Then his shock turned to scathing anger towards his own staff. “Why wasn’t I told?” became his most repeated question. He even seemed complete unaware that Calvert’s brigade had been the same one which had flown in four weeks before, assuming that fresh British reinforcements had poured in. Finally overcome with humility, he apologized. Calvert was allowed to evacuate his brigade.
But Stilwell’s acerbic tongue continued when it came to other men. Finally fed up with the constant criticism, Chiang finally requested Stilwell’s recall — to which Roosevelt agreed in October 1944. Commanding the US Tenth Army in the final phase of the Battle for Okinawa, Stilwell (by now a full General) remained in active service after the war but died unexpectedly in 1946, his reputation as a great field commander cemented.
For a full bibliography of all Chindit writing on this site, check the bottom of this post: Chindits – In 1944.