Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

Return of the Chindits, Part 3

ChinditsReturn-Mast3

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Compass reading was not a forte of the Chinese.

When Colonel I. Husang , the commander of the Chinese 150th Regiment was ordered to attack along an azimuth indicated by Hunter, he managed to take his troops along the wrong direction, forcing their recall to the jump-off point. Two years of training under American instructors in India had failed to create Chinese officers capable of reading maps and taking bearings. No one was more embarrassed than senior American commanders such as Hunter who was forced to rewrite his orders in such a manner that Husang and his staff could understand them.

This time Hunter lined the battalions up in columns and told them to attack straight forward. Hunter then hopped into a jeep and followed the Chinese to keep them on track. Overhead were US P-40 Kittyhawk fighters flying top cover. But when their leader radioed that they were short of fuel and needed to return to base, Hunter did not heed the message. He should have.

The barking of a Japanese machinegun shattered the silence and sent the Chinese scrambling. A bullet plowed into the chest of Hunter’s driver, Private First Class Barlow Coon. Hunter pulled him from his seat, took the wheel and rushed back to the airfield. Coon was hastily administered plasma and loaded onto a Dakota flying back to India. As the transport plane roared into the skies, a flight of Japanese fighters appeared from the clouds, guns blazing. Strikes erupted along the length of the Dakota which appeared to shudder as if it were a living thing. Inside, Coon and a nurse were caught in a hail of bullets. Both were killed. The Dakota managed to survive its ordeal and escaped but an L-5 Sentinel flying nearby was not so lucky. On board was Major Bill Lafin, an intelligence officer reconnoitering Japanese positions. Blasted by heavy gunfire, the thin skin of its wings and fuselage shredded like paper, the Sentinel spiraled out of the sky. Lafin and his pilot died.

Meantime, the Chinese 150th Infantry continued its advance into town — to Stilwell’s great pride. “Japs backed into bazaar section,” he crowed. “Resistance now localized and we are reasonably sure of the place. Japs apparently all in confusion and trying to pull out, Chinese casualties heavy.”[i]

The Japanese were anything but confused. According to Kepley they let two battalions through, sealed the lines and then attacked the Chinese regimental command post. The two battalions which had carried on the train station were hammered from both front and back. They fell back in disarray, losing droves. The 3rd Battalion commander was killed as was the US liaison to the 2nd Battalion, Major Frank Hodges. And once again, in a state of panic, the Chinese began shooting at each other. By when the firing died down, the 150th Infantry had suffered 671 casualties. Stilwell was furious, and humiliated.

The regiment was quickly pulled from frontline duties and tasked with protecting the airfield. The Chinese 89th Infantry replaced them in the city. Yet, Stilwell knew he could no longer depend on his trophy troops who were proving worse than tin soldiers. He announced in a release that, “[the Marauders] are to finish the job at Myitkyina.”[ii]

The Marauders were aghast. Merrill had promised them that, “upon the capture of the airfield,” they would be relieved and flown to an already selected site where a rest and recreational area was to be built, according to James Hopins, the medical officer in the 3rd Battalion.[iii]

But the capture of Myitkyina (Stilwell called it “Mitch”) had become a matter of prestige for Stilwell, and the Marauders were his troubleshooters. But the unit was down to less than 1,500 from its original strength of 3,000 and there were signs that Myitkyina would not easily fall. In the lull which followed the second routing of the 150th Infantry, the Japanese, whose supply lines to Bhamo were still open (unbeknownst to the Americans), had begun to pour troops into the city until the garrison numbered 3,500 men in well-established positions (another source says as many as 5,000[iv]).

Both sides had clearly misconstrued each other. The Japanese grossly overestimated the strength of the Stilwell’s forces and did not attempt a counterattack. Stilwell on the other hand, underestimated the Japanese capacity for resistance. Yet, he still had three Chinese divisions and the Marauders — outnumbering the Japanese by about ten to one. Static warfare, with its emphasis on fortifications and heavy weapons, however, ill-suited a jungle-fighting unit like the Marauders.

By now, the regiment occupied a porous line running from the village of Charpate in the north to Rampur (largely held by the Lt-Colonel Charles Beach’s 3rd Battalion). The line was augmented by the Chinese of the 88th and 89th Infantry, while the 1st Marauder Battalion held the airport along with the disgraced Chinese 150th Infantry and companies of the 89th Infantry. Lt-Colonel McGee’s 2nd Battalion held the line in the south.

Myitkyina remained a hornet’s nest and scattered combat with Japanese infiltrators stealing into Myitkyina through the frontlines continued to claim lives as did disease. Colonel Kinnison who had once commanded the Marauder’s “K” Force, died of the new strain of typhus on May 22nd. He was one of 149 men in the hospital with the disease. Hundreds of other men were sick with other illnesses.

Hunter seethed. Stilwell’s headquarters apparently did not know or care about the condition of the men at the front. He drafted a letter to Stilwell in which he — as delicately as he could — accused Stilwell of favoring the Chinese over the Americans.  McCammon urged the deletion of several passages, but Hunter delivered it as is. Stilwell read it in Hunter’s presence and branded it as a “strong letter.” He sacked McCammon and appointed his chief of Staff, Brigadier-General Haydon L. Boatner to take command of the Marauders. Hunter was not pleased. As far as he was concerned, Boatner was part of the problem.[v]

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Meantime, at Blackpool, the Chindits were enjoying three comparative days of peace. The troops patrolled at leisure, fixing the wire and defenses, but the lull was to prove illusory. The Japanese Air Force, in a belated attempt to reclaim air superiority over northern Burma, was planning attacks. On May 19, seven Air Commando Mustangs flying over Blackpool ran smack into 16 Japanese fighters and bombers. The Americans dumped their 500lb pounds on the Japanese positions below and swept up to tackle the fighters. A massive dogfight erupted over and around Blackpool. The Mustangs shot down one bomber and two fighters for no loss.[vi] It was the Air Commando’s last major combat engagement of the season. Further flying was prevented by the onset of the monsoon, which turned the grass strips at Hailakandi and Lalaghat “into quagmires.”[vii]

It was perhaps a fortunate turn as the Air Commandos were already showing signs of wear and tear. “My fighter pilots were getting sick with extreme fatigue,” Cochran said. “Some were losing their desire to fight and fly. It was the same with the bomber pilots. The transport and light-plane flyers were losing their fire, were growing ill. They had some of the heaviest of the evacuation jobs. We had harder work than ever in winding up the job, and wore ourselves out, wore ourselves ill.”[viii]

By mid-May, the Air Commandos were largely out of the fight in Burma after Cochran told USAAF chief, General “Hap” Arnold that senior British officers had no immediate plans of recapturing central and southern Burma, obviating the need for further air landing operations. Arnold, who been planning to vastly upgrade the Air Commandos, found the British mentality confounding and counterproductive to the Allied war effort.

Cochran’s deputy, Alison had previously complained to Arnold that, “In this campaign the only two activist officers arguing for the recapture of Burma were General Wingate and General Stilwell… The British General Staff apparently had other ideas, and with the death of General Wingate…the momentum for retaking Burma died with him.”[ix]

Arnold decided to test the waters by talking to Mountbatten about the introduction of new Air Commando units. When he found the supreme commander cool to the idea,[x] Arnold realized that Cochran and Alison had been correct in their statements. He pulled the 1st Air Commandos from frontline operations, moving them to Asansol, deeper into the hinterlands of eastern India, for rest and recuperation.

Cochran began to release several of his longest-serving officers and men, especially those who had completed two tours of duty, sending them back to the States. Most of the senior officers qualified for this category, including Lt-Colonels Mahony and R. T. Smith (the bomber leader), Major Walter Radovich (Smith’s deputy) and Cochran himself.[xi]

Already ill with fatigue and an unspecified ailment, Cochran went to Delhi for recuperation, because as he said: “I didn’t want my men to see I was sick.”[xii] Alison was already long gone, having been recalled to the United States a week after Wingate’s death, to help form three new Air Commando groups. On May 20th, Cochran relinquished command of the 1st Air Commandos to Lt-Colonel “Clint” Gaty and moved out of the Burma story.

Under Gaty, the Air Commandos soon retired to Central India to refit with new aircraft and train new crews, while small detachments of planes and pilots continued air operations over Burma. These detachments were so small that their efforts were largely supplanted by other USAAF and RAF units in the theater. It was the end of an era.

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At Blackpool, swirling masses of Japanese troops had appeared. On May 22, fresh units of Japanese infantry began to push forward from the southeast. Their artillery began to shell the airstrip, prompting the immediate evacuation of the single Dakota and two light planes. The third battle for Blackpool had begun.

Again the defenders cursed Brodie’s 14th Brigade for not being there when they were needed (years later, this indictment would stand, with many saying: “Look at 14th brigade. They hardly did any fighting.”[xiii]  In reality, Brodie’s brigade, which had been assisting with the evacuation of White City, had already pushed north. The brigade hoped to attack the Japanese in strength, and in doing so, silence many of its detractors who had complained that the brigade had done little so far in the campaign. Yet, initially, Brodie’s men seemed never came into contact with enemy troops.

At the outset, the brigade had been fresh, according to Lt-Colonel Philip Graves-Morris who commanded the 2nd Yorks & Lancs Regiment. “They [had been] capable of giving a first-class account of themselves,” he wrote. But with their marches up and down rain-washed slopes and ridges, and across streams, as food ran low and as malaria and typhus laid low men of all ranks, the brigade became largely useless. “We were  all to see the devastating effect of continuous rain, jungle gloom, mud, and toiling, backbreaking marches was to have on men’s minds, as many cheerful normal men became depraved, collapsed, and asked to be left to die or even hastened their end by their own hands,” Graves-Morris said.[xiv]

Nevertheless, the brigade advanced on Hopin, about 5.5 miles south of Blackpool, and once there, set up a perimeter and started to come under the same sort of Japanese harassing fire which had bedeviled the defenders of Blackpool. Small-arms fire, snipers and artillery barrages kept the British pinned.

“The Japanese were showing great initiative in trying to make the British position… untenable and continually infiltrated small parties to ambush the track that led from the supply drop area,” said Graves-Morris.[xv]

Living conditions became increasingly difficult at Hopin. The Japanese poured heavy fire on the brigade by day, while at night, heavy rain pelted the troops. There was little chance for the troops to have hot meals, and as casualties rose, Graves-Morris decided to evacuate his 84 Column and bring up 65 Column which had been busy building a seaplane landing base at Lake Indawgyi, 12 miles to the east.

At Blackpool, the Japanese had changed tack. This did not rush in blindly like before to be chewed up by the Chindit machineguns. Instead, they were content to blast away at the camp with their artillery as their ack-ack guns harried those Dakotas still foolhardy to try and land at the airstrip. The guns interfered severely with crucial daylight airdrops. Drops by night encountered another problem — the lack of accuracy which resulted in scattered supplies and too much time spent retrieving them.

PrintMasters wanted to withdraw deeper into the jungle at his back, from where they could ambush the advancing Japanese and set up a new stronghold with the help of 14th Brigade and West Africans, who were probing the jungle ridges east of them. He signaled Lentaigne asking for permission to abandon the block at his discretion.

But Lentaigne’s authority had become reduced. He was forced to take the message to Stilwell, who having been thwarted at Myitkyina, had allowed the Hyde to his Jekyll to emerge. In scathing language, he called the British “a bunch of lily-livered Limey popinjays.”[xvi] Lentaigne let his Irish temper get the better of him, and a fierce argument erupted at Stilwell’s headquarters.[xvii]

WhyteMasters was in despair. Yet, his outward appearance manifested unnatural optimism. “Doc” Whyte and Major Douglas deHochepeid Larpent (an auxiliary officer)[xviii] feared that he had become unhinged. His men and officers began to watch him closely. When once he instructed Johnny Boden to “drop a few bombs over the wire,” the Cameronian’s padre went rushing to Major Brennan, to tell him that “the CO” had become cavalier over the business of taking of human lives.[xix]

The Japanese soon fell back to old habits and began massing troops for frontal assaults, this time attacking from the south. The Cameronians of 90 Column, who held the southern perimeter, were being forced back, inch by inch, as the Chindit artillery engaged the Japanese assaulters over open sights. Soon the airstrip was in enemy hands, prompting the Bofors 40mm AA gunners to lower their quadruple barrels and blaze away at the enemy troops. The pyrotechnics took on a fantastic quality as night fell. At dawn on the 23rd, the Japanese withdrew to just beyond the airstrip, as 10 Japanese fighters swept in to strafe and bomb the British. Their attack proved almost leisurely compared to the artillery and infantry strikes. When the fighters departed, the Japanese artillery and machineguns resumed.

Masters called for a supply drop of ammunition. The previous night’s expenditure had been massive, but necessary. Eight RAF Dakotas appeared that afternoon, in light rain, low, just over the hills, twisting and turning over the forested peaks. Nearing Blackpool, they straightened out and flew level. Doors opened, parachutes streamed and crates of supplies came from the sky. A storm of fire erupted from the Japanese positions. The heavy AA guns joined in, the boom-boom-booms of their heavy fire becoming rhythmic in the distance. The wing of a Dakota vanished and plane fell like a twirling leaf, crashing into the jungle across from the “Deep.” Two other planes in their haste to evade fire nearly crossed streams; their payloads hurled far and wide, most of falling into Japanese hands. In all, four Dakotas were shot down. The defenders only managed to get a half an aircraft’s load of ammunition.[xx]

The night passed with continued shelling, and before dawn on the 24th, the fire escalated under the cover of driving rain. The Japanese were mounting a concerted attack from the south. The shelling had severed telephone wires throughout the camp and the flow of information became sketchy, but Masters soon learned that the Japanese had overrun a hillock known as “the pimple” held by Harper’s 3/9th Gurkhas. Harper mounted an immediate counterattack.

At that moment the phone began to ring again. It was Major William Henning, temporarily in command of the 1st Cameronians and 90 Column.  He starting to say something when the line was interrupted by a frantic, young voice: shouting: “They’re all round! I can see them! They’re in everywhere, I can’t hold—”

Masters managed to calm the young officer and learned that the Japanese had broken through a part of the southern perimeter. The conflagration quickly spread along the length of the southeastern defensive line.

HarperHarper’s Gurkhas struggled to dislodge the Japanese from the “pimple,” but failed. The defenders threw machinegun fire and hurled mortar bombs towards the hillock with little apparent effect. Meantime, the forward area around one of the 25-pdr artillery guns and Bofors pits, from where the young officer had screamed frantically on the line to Masters, was in imminent danger of falling to enemy troops. Masters called for a withdrawal from that sector and ordered that the guns be spiked. Smoke thrown up by mortars mixed with morning mist and the rain, as the men withdrew under the cover of British machinegun fire. The world moved in slow motion. Men, both British and Japanese trudged wearily across the mud, without the strength to fight, much less kill. Johnny Boden radioed that he was almost out of mortar ammunition.

Masters was at the ridge crest when a Japanese “coal scuttle” mortar bomb exploded on a big tree. Fourteen artillery troops who had just arrived were blown to smithereens; their lieutenant vanishing into thin air.

Scott’s 1st King’s own and Lt-Colonel “Tommy” Thompson’s 2nd Kings were hastily ordered to do what the Gurkhas had failed to do — clear the Japanese from “pimple” as Masters attempted to salvage the situation within the camp. By now, the entire eastern line was in in disarray. Another concerted attack by the Japanese would have severed the block into two.[xxi]

At the hillock, the troops were engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese. Remarkably in the midst of this maelstrom, both battalion commanders were in the fray, including “Scottie” Scott of the 1st King’s, and “Tommy” Thompson of the 2nd King’ own.

ScottRight in the middle of the camp was a large tree, gutted and made bald by gunfire and blasts. Behind it, Thompson and Scott were lobbing grenades up the “Pimple” at the Japanese, but the grenades kept rolling back and exploding ineffectively. Thompson was firing with his weapon from the left-side of the tree when there was a whump and he crumbled to the ground, a great wound open on his left shoulder, near the neck. When Scott bent to pull him into cover, he was hit. Something wet gushed down his leg. He thought it was blood. A bullet had pierced his water bottle.[xxii] The attack failed. Masters was shocked to see Thompson return with a great gash on his shoulder.

From the “pimple,” the Japanese attacked and seized “Silly Point,” reportedly after the 3/9th Gurkhas abandoned the position. Masters desperately awaited a signal giving him concrete permission to abandon Blackpool. Fearing a courtmartial, he refrained from withdrawing on his own volition. His original orders instructed him to hold the position to the last man, last bullet.[xxiii] The day passed.

The next morning, on the 25th, convinced that both Slim and Stilwell were insane for not issuing discretionary orders, Masters decided to withdraw while his forces still enough ammunition to defend themselves. His men faced imminent death if they stayed. All he had to lose if they retreated was his commission in a courtmartial.

He and his commanders decided to withdraw in stages, with the forward line of defenders leapfrogging over a second line of the defenders covering them from a defensive position (known as a layback). This second line, were in turn, then to be covered by the troops now behind them, allowing them to leapfrog to the next covering position —a formula which could be repeated for as long as possible, and as long as the ground permitted it.[xxiv] Such tactics had worked in the grim Northwest frontier— even during daylight as was proposed now — but how effective would it be against a foe as determined as the Japanese?

Masters ordered Henning to establish the first layback. Harper was given responsibility for the second and third. Scott’s troops were to wait for them some four miles to the west. Next Masters sent a signal to headquarters informing of them of his intention to withdraw. He also signaled Major Maurice Deane’s 30 Column (3/4th Gurkhas), holding the brigade’s rear headquarters at Mokso Sakan  about 40 km (25 miles) west, to march east to meet them en-route. Mokso Sakan held all of the brigade’s reserve mules and pack animals, and a cache of weapons, food and ammunition. Deane was to bring all of it.

About 25 pack animals had been retained at Blackpool, including Masters’ favorite mule, Maggy, a wonderfully behaved and affectionate animal from Missouri which had gone through all the privations of the brigade and had lugged the heaviest of the brigade’s radio set across northern Burma. She had at one point, also dragged a stretcher bearing a Chindit officer, Captain Hanley who had been wounded in the head during an airdrop, for five days over fifty miles, until he was safely evacuated by a light plane back to India. [xxv]

PrintNow, Masters wished he had sent them back as well. The Japanese artillery had taken a grievous toll on the animals. As he and the signals officer, Major Briggs, inspected the mule lines, they saw that only three or four horses and about 10 mules were in any state to move. Maggy was quietly eating bamboo, a large red slit wound on the side of her belly, her entrails hanging out. She did not look to be in pain. Masters went up to her and hugged her neck as Major Briggs shot her in the head.[xxvi] The surviving animals were to be packed with equipment, including radio gear, the cipher machines, the 3” mortars and the heavy Vickers machineguns which weighed 90lbs when the water jacket was full, to the limit of their carrying capabilities. The rest, including all necessary small arms, 2” mortars, grenades, rations, and ammunition, would have to be shouldered by the men

There was also the matter of the wounded. Ninety men could not walk without help and another 30-40 could not walk at all. A doctor summoned Masters to a group of 40-50 disheveled men, many wounded, but still standing, carrying stretchers from the Main Dressing Station. They were now on the evacuation path, now largely devoid of fighting troops. The surrounding foliage which threatened to close in on the path streamed with water from the unrelenting rain. None of the walking wounded would look Masters in the eye. The stretchers and litters were full of men with horrific wounds. One man had no stomach, ripped out during shellfire. Another had nothing below the hips, one had no face. These were the sort of injuries which rendered proud soldiers as monsters to a civilian world insulated from such horrors, and for which there was no medical salvation. There were 19 in all.

To Masters’ distress, the doctor said there were another 30 such cases ahead who could be saved if they were evacuated. He had given the 19 here full doses of morphine said, under the thundering noise of the rain, that the men had no chance. It dawned on Masters that the doctor was suggesting that these men be put out of their misery.

“Very well. I don’t want them to see any Japanese,” Master said.

“Do you think I want to do it?” the doctor cried. But Masters was already seeking a way out. “Get the stretcher bearers on at once,” he snapped. “Five minutes.”

As he went back up the ridge towards what was left of the camp, he heard the carbine shots going off one by one along the line of casualties. He pressed his hands on his ears to blot out the sound, but couldn’t.

By now, Scott’s rearguard and the troops of the covering laybacks, under the command of Major Larpent, had departed for their respective positions.  The camp looked deserted, save for the troops of Brennan’s 26 Column who were at the first layback, and other Cameronians on the second layback at the ridgetop.

A soldier of the King’s own, who was limping by, looked at Masters: “We did our best, didn’t we, sir?” he asked. Masters nodded, his mind swirling with emotions.

Nearby, unrelenting scenes of horror and courage testified to grim realities of war. A Cameronian who was close to death refused to be evacuated from the top of the ridge. “Give me a Bren,” he told his mates. “Leave me. I’ll take a dozen with me.”[xxvii]

Captain Rhodes-James, the cipher officer, found himself praying helplessly as a stretcher was hit and the casualty and stretcher-bearers were hurled into the air. A severed head gazed up at him from the track.[xxviii] Another officer, Lt. Neville Hogan, was astonished to see a British sergeant, his boots on his hands, dragging both wounded legs behind, still barking orders to his men.[xxix]

Masters decided to stay with the troops from Layback 1 due to retire to the rear within five minutes. And just then, Brennan’s troops were running towards the ridge as the Cameronians in Layback 2 covered their retreat. All that day, the columns leapfrogged each other in their relentless exit west, but were never pursued by the Japanese who defied belief and simply let them get away. Masters expected to link up with Deane’s 30 Column on the next day.

As night set in they stopped for rest. Masters sat on the sodden earth among the remains of his brigade. His mind raced with a hundred thoughts. Soon, he would be pulled from the line on Lentaigne’s orders to face a courtmartial but at least his men were safe. When he saw that Lt-Colonel “Tommy” Thompson’s wounds had developed gangrene, the thoughts became self-recriminatory. “Why didn’t I lead that last counter-attack and get gangrene instead?” he thought. “Didn’t I know it was the last. No excuse. Mike Calvert would have, and led all the ones before too. We did our best, sir. Balls. You did. There is no such thing as a bad soldier, only a bad officer.”[xxx]

A debate began that the troops were actually in Burma to reclaim the interests of the oil corporations who had bribed Churchill, Eden and all the other senior politicians. The rain streamed, and the rotting ground became alive with insects. The next day, Major Briggs received a signal, dated from 24 hours before, authorizing the brigade to abandon Blackpool. Masters had to contain himself from hysterical laughter.

PrintAbruptly, the brigade encountered men on the trail — not Deane’s troops, but West Africans from the Lt-Colonel Gordon Upjohn’s 6th Nigerians. Amid the sea of mud, the Africans were completely naked because they had wanted to keep their clothes clean. The Gurkhas, renowned for their toughness, blushed.[xxxi]

When Upjohn informed Masters that he had been sent by Lentaigne to take command of the “scattered remnants” of 111th Brigade, Masters turned on Upjohn, unloading all the vitriol and bile that had built up within him over the continued absence of the 14th Brigade, and up till then, the Africans. Upjohn, who knew the strain Masters as under, took it in stride.[xxxii] Next, Masters sent a strong signal to Lentaigne telling him the brigade was intact and in full command of its capabilities, and that if he wished to relive him from command, then he had to simply say so, instead of insulting the brigade. Having thrown all decorum of rank to the wind, he followed this with a second message, writing: “Have approx one hundred and fifty casualties for evacuation. Send flying boats Lake Indawgyi. Masters.”[xxxiii]

Four days after leaving Blackpool, the brigade, now reached Mokso Sakan, near the eastern shore of Lake Indawgyi. Here the exhausted men of the 111th Brigade flopped down onto the earth and went to sleep. Other men, with orders to get things ready for the flying boats, set markers out on the lake and they came — two, big Shorts Sunderland flying-boats who needed 15 seconds to respond to each movement of the control stick. They were bigger than houses and they had been pulled from vital anti-submarine work in the Bay of Bengal. Lentaigne had received Masters’ signal.

Indawgyi

Master’s command had come out of Blackpool with 2,000 men and 130 others requiring immediate hospitalization. The light planes of the Air Commando, which were still active, joined the evacuation flights for hour after hour until 600 men were flown out. Lt-Colonel “Tommy” Thompson was flown to Shaduzup where Lentaigne visited him in the hospital. When Lentaigne asked if he could anything for him Thompson asked for only thing he coveted in the world at that moment — a clean handkerchief. “Lentaigne gave him his own.”[xxxiv]

Stilwell was furious that Masters had abandoned Blackpool and in his rage, already inflamed by repeated failures at Myitkyina, accused of Chindits of having done nothing. [xxxv] When Lentaigne argued that his troops were tired, Stilwell barked: “You’re not tired, you’re yellow and I’ll run you into the ground.”[xxxvi]

Already, Stilwell was running Brigadier “Jumbo” Morris’ Morrisforce into the ground. On May 25th, the same day Masters had quit Blackpool, he had ordered Morris to seize Waingmaw, across the river from Myitkyina. Unfortunately, the Japanese had entrenched themselves at the town and enjoyed the luxury of a natural moat after heavy rains flooded the fields on the approaches to the town.

Morrisforce was not a proper brigade, having only two columns of troops, to which a third from the 111th Brigade had been added (1,500 troops in total). It had been conceived to harass the Japanese on jungle areas. Now, they were up against fortified positions. The result was a bloodbath.

Morrisforce began to rapidly deplete in strength. By 14 July, it was to consist of exactly three platoons (about 120 men). A week later, it had only 25 officers and men,[xxxvii] and an enraged Stilwell — repeatedly hounded by Lentaigne over the issue — finally gave the survivors permission to be flown back to India.[xxxviii]

In the interim, as the 111th Brigade waited for permission for evacuation, Masters found men dying of common infections. It was Major Whyte’s informed decision that a large proportion of the men “were…on the threshold of death from exhaustion, undernourishment, exposure, and strain. It needed only a small push to send such men over.”[xxxix]

Abruptly, Stilwell made up his mind and orders issued forth from Shaduzup. Three brigades, the 111th, 14th and the 3rd West Africans were to advance north to support Calvert’s 77th Brigade, which he had ordered to take Mogaung. The Chindits were incredulous.

WestAfricans1

Calvert, who had already foreseen Stilwell’s employment of his troops as assault infantry, had signaled Lentaigne asking for his brigade to remain In the Loiyang Mountain Range, to resume LRP tactics and harass the Japanese. “I suggest we do not, repeat not, make flat-out attack against Mogaung in which we risk everything. Can this be given earnest consideration? Only way we can be defeated is by hammering our heads against a brick wall”[xl]

Lentaigne had responded: “You will take Mogaung with 77th Brigade, less 81 and 82 Columns and levies. Plan at your discretion. Ensure adequate ammunition. Give timings.”[xli]

On a separate axis of advance, Masters and the remains of his brigade set off north on June 9th. Battles with the Japanese would erupt once again and Masters became painfully aware of the uncommon valor of his men, even as their shirts rotted on their backs and as disease and malnutrition ran rife through the ranks. Masters was particularly touched by the heroism of Major Frank Gerald “Jim” Blaker, an Anglo-Indian (although British registers recorded him as a Scot) of the 3/9th Gurkha whose handsomeness and soldiering skill had prompted the nickname: “Galahad.” And then there was Major “Doc” Whyte who had insisted on remaining with the troops although he could have been evacuated to India.

Whyte, his uniform long reduced to ribbons, worked tirelessly wearing nothing but a longyi (a long sheet of cloth worn around the waist) and boots. His optimism was boundless and his devotion to duty a thing of inspiration. Yet, when a man he was treating for battle wounds, pneumonia and malaria, died after the pony he was being carried on slipped and fell down a 30-foot slope, breaking his neck, Whyte plunged into despair.

Masters would recommend Whyte for a Victoria Cross, supported by all four of his battalion commanders. By any conservative estimate, Masters estimated that Whyte had not only rescued a hundred men under fire, but through his sheer force of will and medical acumen, had saved 200 injured and infirm men from certain death. Whyte was instead awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO). “Not good enough,” Masters wrote. [xlii]

Meantime, Calvert’s 77th Brigade was down to 2,300 men of which only 550 were in fighting trim (including 230 Gurkha), owing to disease and wounds.[xliii] On June 2nd, they reached the foothills bordered Mogaung — now defended by a strong regiment from Lt-General Takeda’s 53rd Division. Nevertheless, Calvert’s troops had gone into the attack, in pouring rain, without tank, air or artillery support.

Stilwell was grounding the Marauders to dust at Myitkyina and he intended to do the same to the Chindits if it meant attaining the objectives.

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One Marauder would later refer to the assault on Myitkyina as “our little Gallipoli.” It was no frivolous comparison.

In their attempts to capture this river town which had become so dear to Stilwell’s heart, the Marauders were losing droves to enemy fire and 75 to 100 men a day to malaria, dysentery and scrub typhus by May 25th. For an American soldier to qualify for evacuation, he needed to maintain a temperature of 102°F for three consecutive days while remaining on the line. Those grievously ill were unable to eat, unable to ingest their K-rations which were vomited out, and unable to stand. Some fell asleep or fainted in the thick of battle as did troops of Lt-Colonel McGee’s “M” Force who persistently fell asleep during combat on May 27. McGee himself fainted three times.[xliv] Some fifty Marauders were classified as “psychopathic cases.”

Some Marauders cut holes in the seat of their pant so that their dysentery would not interrupt their fighting. Hardly a man could walk straight because of fatigue and illness and hardly a man looked normal because of roving skin diseases.

Yet, Stilwell and Boatner, it appeared, were more interested in evacuating the Chinese than they were Americans. According to Boatner’s own figures: from May 18 to June 21st, he had evacuated 2,478 Chinese, explaining that they had suffered “one killed per wounded,” while during the same period, 447 Americans had been evacuated.[xlv]

McGee demanded that his battalion be relieved but was told to hold as American reinforcements were on the way. For once, Stilwell was telling the truth. Reinforcements were indeed enroute such as the engineers of the 209th and 236th US Combat Engineers Battalions who joined the assault from May 27th. Both battalions had been pulled from the construction work on the Ledo road.

US Lt John Eichelberger Jr. of the 236th Engineers remembered being astounded by the sight of the scarred landscape at Myitkyina airport. “It looked like a no-man’s land,” he said. “There were more bomb craters on that place than Carter’s got pills. The plane came down in a zigzag fashion and he still had to zigzag after he got his wheels down.”[xlvi]

Other troops had been called up from hospitals, 200 of which were so infirm that they were sent right back to the hospital after landing.

The engineers had little combat training and proved hopeless at identifying enemy troops. One young officer led his men “towards a group of what he took to be men in Chinese uniforms. One man beckoned him forward before hurling himself to the ground, allowing a Japanese machine gun positioned behind him to scyth the air. The company was destroyed.”[xlvii] Veteran Marauders took every opportunity of lulls in the fighting to show their new comrades how to use rifles, grenades and mortars.

Meantime, genuine combat replacements were on the way. In April, the US War Department had called for volunteers for service in the Far East. The effort had succeeded in gathering 2,600 men from across the United States. This group, eventually to be christened “Galahad II” or “New Galahad” landed in Bombay (now Mumbai), on May 25th. They were rushed to Ramgarh for a crash-course in infantry combat and sent to Myitkyina a week later.

The old Marauders were appalled. Most of the new men were too raw, too untrained, and too used to the luxury of stateside existence to endure what was to come now. The replacements were strewn across the three battalions where it was hoped that the experience of the veterans would rub off on them. But many were traumatized by their first glimpse of Myitkyina.

“These green soldiers were flown in… during the monsoon rains and stepped off the transports into a nightmare,” wrote the sympathetic US diplomat John Paton Davies, who was Stilwell’s political adviser. “They entered a battlefield of mud from which the veterans of the airfield victory were being flown out by the scores, wounded and diseased.”[xlviii]

Marauder commanders found the replacements had no sense of cohesion, that the men and the officers were strangers to each other, that they did not know how to use their weapons and were so clueless about infantry combat that it proved a concept wholly alien to them.

Hunter tried to organize a last-minute training program, but when he informed Boatner, he received only sarcasm “and ordered to get into Myitkyina,” according to Major James Hopkins, who was soon himself hospitalized for severe dysentery.

Incidences of self-inflicted wounds began to rise as Marauder morale nose-dived. Confidence collapsed further when desperate staff officers (including Hunter) attempted to stem the rate of evacuations, and pressed the sick and the walking wounded into action.

Stilwell’s angst at the proceedings in Myitkyina translated into anger against the Chindits. He began to berate Lentaigne to for the slow progress of the British against Mogaung and on Kamaing, which were sores on his flanks.

Calvert’s 77th Brigade was making the best time when compared to the other Chindit brigades. The abandonment of Blackpool, however, was to pose grave ramifications for the advance on Mogaung. With the block no longer in place along the railway, the Japanese had been able to move reinforcements into Mogaung and towards Kamaing, which was still held by their 18th Division.

Lentaigne, pressed by Stilwell, sought to have his 3rd West Africans, the 14th and 111th Brigades squeeze the Japanese along the western flanks of the Mogaung valley, in which Mogaung occupied the lowest point of an inverted triangle, with the other two points being Kamaing on the top left and Myitkyina on the top right. With any luck, his three brigades could capture Kamaing, which occupied an enviable place on the Mogaung River. This belief was further emboldened by Calvert who estimated that his troops, refreshed from a week’s rest, could capture Mogaung town by June 5th.[xlix] He was misplaced in his optimism. Mogaung was rapidly filling with Japanese troops.

Lt-General Masaki Honda of the newly formed 33rd Army had been charged with  defending Mogaung Valley, and he acted quickly. He ordered up Takeda’s 53rd Division from the south to reinforce the 18th Division at Kamaing, while he hurriedly shunted other forces to Mogaung.

The leading elements of the Japanese III/128th Infantry began to arrive in the town in the first week of June and were deployed along the eastern perimeter. Another unit, II/114th Infantry came from Myitkyina, having breached the porous Chinese-American frontline, allegedly led through by two Kachin turncoats.[l] This unit, however, was in poor shape. As it had trudged through the jungle, the battalion had been beset by leeches.

“We could hear hundreds of thousands or … tens of thousands of leeches dropping down from upper leaves to the lower and over us,” wrote Private Fujino of the battalion. “…I pulled up my sleeves to be able to take off bloody leeches at the moment they attached to the arms. I’d never expected to suffer such combat in a jungle in Burma.[li]

As soon as it arrived at Mogaung, the battalion found itself ushered into a hospital, which looked like “a coarse stable.”

In fact, it was proving so easy to breach the American-Chinese lines that Major Mihashi the Intelligence officer of the 33rd Army, easily penetrated the lines twice — once to confer with Maj-General Genzo Mizukami (in charge of the Myitkyina garrison) and Colonel Maruyama (CO of the 114th Regiment, who was in charge of Myitkyina defense) about Japanese strategy at Myitkyina, and once again, while returning to Honda with his report.

Divider-11

Meantime, III/114th Infantry was streaming down Mogaung Valley in a rabble. “The jungle and our physical condition was killing us as much as [the enemy],” said Private Miyashita Susumu. “By now, four of every five men dying in the withdrawal were dying of starvation and disease….There was no more discipline. There was no one giving orders. …I had been shot twice; once through the shoulder and once through the knee. And every day, as I limped and crawled … I would search for a vehicle with gasoline in it. If I could find one, I would siphon a bit of gas out of its tank with a long cane and use the gasoline to clean my wounds. Otherwise the maggots would grow huge. Gasoline was the only thing that I could find to kill the maggots. My life, every day, had become a struggle to stay alive.”[lii] The survivors stumbled into Mogaung and joined the defenses. In this way, the Japanese managed to assemble about 3,500 troops in the town.[liii]

Gurkhas2The Chindits troops had received assurances that “Mogaung was only lightly held and that we need have no anxiety about capturing it at once.”[liv] But twelve miles from Mogaung, Calvert’s forward troops began to run into Japanese patrols and snipers. Despite taking losses, the 3/6th Gurkhas led by Colonel Claude Rome, who in his previous incarnation had been overlord of “Broadway,” pushed on, seizing the western heights overlooking Mogaung on May 31.

On June 1st, Calvert’s South Staffords linked up with Rome and the Gurkhas at the village of Loihinche. Other elements of the brigade reached the southern foothills of the heights, three miles south of the town, on June 2 and went straight into the fray.

Calvert decided he would need to build a base akin to White City, where he could collect supplies and build an airstrip to take out the wounded. Calvert fixed his eye on the village of Lakum, occupying a strategic spot on the eastern foothills of the heights overlooking the Mogaung plain. The country leading up to Lakum, however, was hard stuff.

It was in the midst of thick jungle intersected by deep ravines. The path proved difficult to follow as it sometimes wound along a ridge and sometimes went straight up or straight down. The place was a defender’s paradise. “A handful of resolute men could hold successive hill-tops for hours against a large force such as ours overburdened with mules and heavy stores,” wrote Lieutenant L.F. Jeffrey of the Lancashire Fusiliers.[lv] And the Japanese did just that.

The leading force of Fusiliers was soon pinned down by heavy fire, the impasse only broken when a Bren gunner in the leading rifle section went wild, and ran “straight up the hill, firing from the hip and screaming curses at the Japanese.” [lvi] He was an ordinary soldier whom no one had much noticed before.

Softening up the Japanese with airstrikes from Air Commando Mustangs, troops of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers and 1st South Staffordshires attacked and wrested Lakum village away from Japanese and occupied the summit of the range of hills overlooking the city, to the northwest. The village was found to have substantial ammunition, a field hospital and buildings which had obviously hosted several Japanese headquarters.

On the following day, the 3/6th Gurkhas seized another hamlet, dubbed “Gurkha Village,” just north, after wiping out the 40-strong garrison here. A Japanese officer who attempted to rally his troops was struck by a PIAT bomb and blown to bits.[lvii] Here, Calvert’s men built a small airstrip, a hospital and set up ammunition dumps nearby. C-47 Dakotas began a supply drop just east of the ridge, and later that day, by 8 pm, Calvert had his headquarters operational at Loihinche, less than a kilometer south of Lakum.

Two Commando platoons led by Captain George Butler, meantime, captured a ferry crossing at Tapaw, to the east, to serve as the Chindit escape route if necessary.

Calvert did not have the benefit of artillery to counter Tanaka’s heavy guns, and his 3” mortars were unable to hit Mogaung, two miles away. One of his South Staffords officers remembered having seen two 4.2” heavy mortars at an Army warehouse at Kanpur, India. Calvert put in an immediate request for them. The two mortars, one British and one American, would eventually arrive by air on June 2, as did all available rounds of 4.2” mortar ammunition that could be scrounged up in India, which was not much.

Meantime, leaving all their heavy packs and mules on the eastern foothills around Mogaung, the Chindits began to move their support weapons, the machineguns and mortars to the summit. “Progress was very slow as the ridge consisted of a series of steep hills with passes in between,” wrote Lt. Norman Durant of the machinegun platoon of the South Staffords.  “The job of carrying the guns and mortars up these slopes was a difficult one. We were in our usual formation for a march through thick country, the whole battalion in ‘column snake’ single file, with a platoon slightly ahead as advance guard, a Vickers gun with the second platoon followed by the remaining platoon of that company.”[lviii]

To compensate for his previous losses, Calvert had reunited his columns into their parent battalions, all of which nevertheless, remained understrength, with each battalion consisting  of two just rifle companies, a support group of mortars and machine guns, a commando section and reconnaissance units. “There were too few riflemen, on whom the main burden of battle must fall: the capture of a fortified town such as Mogaung involved constant patrolling, raids and probing attacks as well as the assault itself. Equally serious was our lack of weapons of heavier caliber than a 3” mortar which was admirable enough for breaking enemy groups in the open and neutralizing areas of jungle, but ineffective against sandbagged bunkers or pill boxes,” wrote Lt. Jeffrey.[lix]

Soon through information relayed by local villagers, Calvert learned that his men were up against at least a brigade of troops, which rendered those messages from Force HQ about the lack of Japanese at Mogaung as “irritating,” as one Chindit officer said.

Durant’s machinegun platoon quickly set upon the crest of what was called “Lakum Hill,” but not before being pinned down on the slopes under fire from less than 20 yards away by Japanese hidden behind the think jungle. Durant ordered a Vickers to be set up. The machinegun blasted the foliage with heavy fire and a rifle platoon went in with bayonets fixed. They found the Japanese had quit, leaving behind two dead and “a great bucket of hot rice and fish.”[lx] Just six Japanese had held up the entire advance for an hour — that was the kind of country they were in.

Mogaung2

As dusk approached, the Chindits advanced down the other side of the hillside, their progress hampered by more Japanese. “There were several ammunition dumps in the jungle half-way down,” Jeffreys said. “And the Japanese fought hard for each one.”[lxi] As night fell, the British began to consolidate their gains. The Fusiliers advanced off the crest of the hill occupied the northern foothill near the village of Pinhmi (also known as Pin Hmi) and dug-in for the night.

Durant and his platoon had deployed their guns and were whiling the hours away when they observed a party of eight Japanese walking down the road from Pinhmi. The British let them come to within 20 yards before opening up with a Vickers. Later that night, a Japanese patrol was sent out to discover the source of all that firing. It stumbled into Durant’s perimeter and was “wiped out.”[lxii]

Nothing much happened for the next four days as the Chindits prepared for their attack. Gazing down upon Mogaung, in the far distance from the top of Lakum hill, Jeffrey noted a conspicuous absence of life in the valley below.

We could see no signs of life, let alone troop movements and fortifications. But when I looked again, I noticed how thick the jungle was on the approaches and how many streams and large pools crisscrossed the country. There was enough cover for a couple of divisions … The country was covered with thick bushes, lantana grass and prickly thorn. Water was everywhere, in pools, in chaungs and in bogs … I had thought of Mogaung as a town, but it was in fact little more than a large village consisting of bamboo huts raised three or four feet off the ground on stilts. There was, however, one red-brick building — at the railway station, on the north-east corner – which we guessed rightly that the Japanese would make a strong point in their defense system.”[lxiii]

One June 6th, they heard incredible news that the Allies had landed in Normandy, France. But France seemed to be on another planet just now. Miles away to the east, near Lake Indawgyi, Major “Doc” Whyte of the 111th Brigade was taking a stroll in that part of the jungle. He went to the top of a hill to look at some birds when he saw — to his exhilaration, a herd of wild elephants. Returning to camp, he told his friends of the wonderful sight he had seen when one of them said: “We have heard something even better, we have just heard over the radio about the D-Day landings in Normandy.”[lxiv]

Map14

Calvert had used a four-day respite to plan. The terrain ahead posed a grave challenge. The 400-yard-wide and fast-flowing Mogaung River (which swept at six knots), enclosed Mogaung from the north, spanned by a single, partly damaged girder railway bridge leading to Myitkyina. The river curled around the east to the rear, to Tapaw ferry and joining the Irrawaddy. To the west, a deep stream, the Namyin Chaung, flooded by the monsoon, flowed past the town from the village of Loilaw, in the southwest. Here the land was firm and flat, held a railway line, a good road and offered plenty of cover. Along the eastern approaches, the terrain became more muddy and wet with many leech-infested lakes called “Ins” (or inlet), where the 30-yard-wide Wettauk Chaung (also flooded), cut across the terrain near the village of Pinhmi.[lxv]

The Wettauk, widely regarded as unfordable, was spanned in only one place, a quarter of a kilometer (.15miles) west of the village, where a utilitarian, 10-yard-wide steel-girder rose over an ugly mixture of water and marsh. The marsh extruded all around the bridge and to the north, but the road from Pinhmi had been elevated over the land as a measure against flooding, with a four-foot-deep, grass-chocked ditch running alongside, keeping the surrounding jungle and muck at bay.

For Calvert, the southwest approach from the village of Loilaw offered the least arduous stretch of land. Unfortunately, reports indicated that the Japanese had 500 troops at Loilaw, and in any case, this was the route the Japanese expected him to take. So Calvert opted to attack from the east, through the marshes of Pinhmi, where the capture of the bridge could prevent the Japanese from counterattacking his base at Lakum. Unfortunately, the Japanese had enough troops to cover this approach as well. But Calvert reckoned that the Japanese were not properly organized and that his troops could simply waltz into Mogaung. But a first hurdle was a 15-foot high embankment rising on the far side of the bridge where the Japanese had deployed in numbers within heavy foliage.

Early on June 8, the 1st South Staffords set off to secure the Pinhmi. The village was defended by elements of III/128th Infantry who were also protecting some ammunition dumps in the area. The Staffords routed the Japanese and destroyed the dumps, clearing the way to the bridge. By now it was afternoon, and they stepped aside to let the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers move on to capture the 150-foot-long bridge. All seemed well until a hail of gunfire shattered the silence, tearing into the Fusiliers.

Jap-POWTwo companies were pinned down in the ditch while another was in the jungle further down. In a nearby hut, a solitary, malaria-afflicted Japanese was found. He babbled “incoherently, waving his arms.” The Fusiliers, in a fine rage, set upon him, kicking him. Major Bond, a company commander rushed over and put a stop to it. Jeffrey gave the man a drink of water from his canteen and sent him back to headquarters under guard.[lxvi]

At about 6 pm, Calvert arrived at the front to confer with Major David Monteith of the attacking company. It was decided that two platoons, under the cover of a mortar barrage would dash across the bridge and secure the other bank. Calvert’s mind went to the 4.2” mortars. He intended to use them to deadly effect now.

Two platoons of Fusiliers moved in on the bridge, with one platoon attempting to move along the ditch, only to struggle against the thick, waist-high grass, as the second slipped off the road into the jungle. The mortars, about 60 yards behind them, began firing, slowly at first, but then as fast as the men could drop bombs into the tubes.

Monteith also deployed a 2” mortar to help lay smokescreen. He looked weary and old, Calvert thought. As Monteith walked back towards the bridge, he was shot through the head and killed.[lxvii]

The two platoons assigned to the task were nervous wrecks. “The faces of the men in the ditch were tired and grim: some of them pressing each others hands,” wrote Jeffery who was nearby. “My own belly was turning over and over and tying itself into knots… The attack went in down the road. It was suicidal.” [lxviii]

The men, with fixed bayonets, charged across the bridge. The Japanese waited until the British were halfway across before opening fire. Tracers filled that little space, bullets tearing into flesh. The Chindits toppled left and right. Some crawled in their bellies, trying to get just far enough to throw their grenades upon the enemy positions. By 6.15, it was all over, the retreat was called.

Calvert summoned US airstrikes. Mustangs swooped in, bombing and machine-gunning the enemy emplacements, but one Mustang mistakenly bombed a group of Fusiliers unloading mules. It was a bloodbath. Gutted mules lay “kicking and screaming on the ground,” as the Fusiliers hurled angry curses at the pilot as he came in a second time, this time correctly on target — at the bridge. But the damage had been done. Some of the Fusiliers, their nerves already frayed, cracked. [lxix] The bridge remained a no man’s land.

The breakthrough came after nightfall on June 8th, when a ford was discovered over the Wettauk, south of the bridge. At dawn, Calvert ordered his 3/6th and South Staffords through the gap. The Gurkhas, out for blood, moved along the marsh, swooping upon unsuspecting Japanese from III/114th Infantry at the village of Mahuang. A firefight erupted. It was brief. Twelve Japanese were killed and the village was in Gurkha hands.

Meantime, a South Staffords company under Major Frank “Nip” Hilton, having crossed a chaung neck deep in water, encountered other Japanese near the village of Ywathitgale, which turned out to hold a Japanese administrative headquarters. Hilton’s company wiped out this party of Japanese.

Calvert dispatched the entirety of the 1st South Staffords (now under Ron Degg’s command), to clear the village. When Ywathitgale was cleared that afternoon, Major Freddie Shaw’s 3/6th Gurkhas were told to advance on a wide right flank attack, to attack the bridge from the rear, but the Japanese earned a reprieve as it was too late in the day to mount the attack. Meantime, Calvert ordered a company of Gurkhas under Major G.W.F. “Fearful” Smith at Mahaung to create the impression that the main assault would fall from there. Smith carried out his orders dutifully for the next 48 hours, capturing Kyaingyi and running amok towards the Mogaung train station.

At dawn on the 10th, Shaw’s Gurkhas moved forward, waist deep in marsh water and mud. The bridge assault party was under the command of Captain Michael Allmand, a one-time cavalryman commissioned into the Indian Army in 1942 after escaping from Singapore.

AllmandAllmand 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. Coming in from the marsh, the Gurkhas set upon the bunkers at the bridge with grenades and small-arms fire, but the Japanese held their ground. At 10 am, they tried again, shooting and hurling grenades from amid waist-deep mud of the Wettauk. Allmand, who was close to shore charged. Throwing grenades to scatter the enemy, he closed in to kill three with his kukri. Rallied by his heroism, the Gurkhas rushed the remaining defenders, capturing the bridge.

About 35 Japanese were killed at the bridge and the Gurkhas captured one medium machinegun and two light machineguns. In return, Chindit casualties in the encirclement and capture of the Pinhmi Bridge came to about 130 killed and wounded.[lxx] The Japanese considered the bridge defenders of having done a commendable job in delaying the Chindits for three to four days.[lxxi]

By mid-afternoon, Calvert had deployed two battalions up on the Mogaung-Pinhmi Road, while a third occupied the bridge area. The next hurdle was already shaping up to be the village of Naungkyaiktaw, another quarter kilometer from the bridge. The delay had allowed Lt-General Takeda of the 53rd Division to bring in two new Japanese battalions, the II/128th and I/151st, from Myitkyina, until four battalions faced Calvert, whose three battalions were down to company strength (about 100-200 men each) by the 13th. [lxxii] When informed of this, Stilwell promised to send Chinese reinforcements for the final drive on Mogaung.

Map12Map13

Calvert decided to wait for the Chinese, but in the interim, on June 11, he sent in the Fusiliers under Major Harrington (Christie being laid low by a leg infection), to capture the courthouse, set among trees just north. All day long, under a blazing sun, the battle raged against a force of only 40 Japanese who made the Fusiliers suffer for every meter of ground. In the end, the Japanese fled after having lost 10 men. The Fusiliers, in return, suffered the loss of one officer and two soldiers killed. They captured three 3” anti-aircraft guns, which were found to have their breech blocks missing.[lxxiii]

Meantime, Calvert, to secure his right flank, sent a company of South Staffords under a new replacement officer, Major “Archie” Wavell Jr, son of the venerable Viceroy, to secure the area between the road and the Mogaung River. The Staffords made good headway, but near the river, they came under heavy fire from entrenched Japanese. Wavell was hit in the wrist, the bullet almost taking the hand off. Wavell was pulled out of the line and walked back to the field hospital near Gurkha village, clutching onto his hand, now hanging on by a sinew. That night, the surgeons at Gurkha Village were to remove the hand entirely. Wavell Jr’s war was over. The Staffords pulled back towards the road.

By when June 15th arrived, the Chinese still had not appeared, and Calvert pulled his troops back towards the bridge. At that moment, remarkable news arrived: The Japanese were abandoning their positions along the river. Calvert was exuberant. This meant he could move out of his bridgehead perhaps capture the town. Certainly, it meant a reduction of the shelling which was claiming at least 15 of his men a day.

Yet, when the shelling did not die down and it quickly became apparent that Takeda was merely redeploying his troops along the railway, to get them out of flooding in low-lying areas. Chindit recce teams reported the area from the train station, in the heart of the town to the Mogaung Railway Bridge, further north, was heavily defended with eight bunkers dominating the landscape.

Calvert had also been promised two columns from Brodie’s 14th Brigade, but these weary columns were marching from Indaw. The men were afflicted by all manner of tropical ailments and diseases, badly malnourished and incessantly “floundering beside their mules in mud and swamps.” All pack animals which could no longer move were shot in an effort to hasten the advance, which frequently stalled amid exhausting marches up and down relentless hills, to the extent that the columns missed the battle of Mogaung all together.[lxxiv]

Shelling from the village of Naungkyaiktaw, astride the road to Mogaung, set between fields of paddy, was persistent. Naungkyaiktaw had to be captured. Calvert estimated the village was held by a hundred Japanese. His troops outnumbered them, but unwilling to suffer needless casualties, Calvert directed the American fighter-bombers against the village, which was bombarded on the night of the 17th.

Half an hour before dawn on the 18th, the Chindit mortars pummeled the place with 400 rounds for good measure. Calvert then sent in his assault force. Among the attackers was a company of 70 men from King’s (Liverpool) led by Major Fred Reeman. This was a company that had stayed on with the 77th Brigade after the rest of the battalion had been transferred to the 111th Brigade. They were joined by 12 men of Blaine’s Detachment, once evacuated to India but since returned, this time armed with flamethrowers.

Met in India by Major Blaine, Lt. Arthur Binnie, who had served as the unit commander since March, and having since recovered from malaria, had been told to take a detachment of 11 men by Dakota to Myitkyina airport, after which they would be flown to the 77th Brigade’s Gurkha Village airstrip by light plane, to take part in the assault on Mogaung.

In the darkness, Blaine’s Detachment was told to advance in front of the company of King’s, and to “turn the fucking lights on.”[lxxv] As the detachment began to hurl flames far and wide, the Chindits behind them began cheering. The men had been told that the village had many bunkers, but never saw any at first. The scene soon turned fantastic. They went through the entire village “with twenty or thirty yards of flame shooting out in front.”

They soon found the bunkers. The Japanese became crazed with fear especially after the British began yelling “put out the fucking lights,” and turning the flamethrowers their way. Many Japanese fled the bunkers, joined by those outside. They fled through the paddy fields, making for the railway station 400 yards away. Calvert’s machine gunners had been waiting and blazed away, killing at least forty.[lxxvi]

Binnie was so busy that he didn’t notice when a grenade was hurled his way. It went off and shrapnel plowed into his legs. He did not think it hurt much and got back on his feet. After a moment, he realized that he couldn’t see properly out of his right eye. He was told to go to the hospital. Blaine’s Detachment had lost one man killed and the remaining 10 had all been wounded to a degree.

Mogaung1

At the field hospital, Binnie found he was in a queue with the injured Archie Wavell Jr, who was having his dressings changed. Calvert, in the heat of battle, had forgotten all about Archie, but not so had Lentaigne who was under immense pressure from GHQ India and the Wavells to get him out. Archie Wavell, however, seeing cases worse off than him languishing at the aid station for lack of evacuation, had refused to go.

In near hysteria, Lentaigne demanded that Calvert place Wavell on an immediate plane back to India, threatening Calvert with dismissal if he failed to ensure this. [lxxvii] Calvert supposed, in his memories, Prisoners of Hope, that there was one reason why there was such haste to get Archie Wavell out. On situation maps, it looked as though the 77th Brigade had come to a standstill and was in danger of being surrounded. If Archie Wavell fell into enemy hands, he could be possibly handed over to the renegade Indian National Army which could “torture him to bring pressure on the Viceroy.”[lxxviii] In the end, Archie Wavell ensured that more than 60 wounded men were evacuated first in the planes that kept arriving to fetch him before finally acquiescing to be flown to Assam, where his anxious parents were waiting. For his actions, Archie earned the undying gratitude of many of the men he helped save.

Meantime, back at Naungkyaiktaw, the rest of Fusiliers and the Kings walked up the paddy, picking off Japanese hiding or trying to crawl away in the ditches. Calvert, his mobile brigade-major Brash and his orderly Lance-Corporal Young decided to join the mop-up, shooting at Japanese while standing on chairs, as more Fusiliers began clearing the last of the bunkers, hurling grenades into them and blasting the insides with flamethrowers.

As twilight set in that day, the most peculiar thing happened. The Fusiliers were cooking an evening meal in their newly-won positions, when a weary, seven-man patrol walked into their billet and began to take off their kit. The Fusiliers who looked up casually, noticed to their horror, that the new men were Japanese. The Japanese, for their part, had not noticed. The Fusiliers lunged for their weapons and opened fire. The Japanese patrol did not survive.[lxxix] In all, Calvert estimated that his troops had killed about 70 Japanese in the capture and holding of Naungkyaiktaw, while suffering 16 killed and 38 wounded. Major Reeman’s King’s company had become reduced to a platoon.

These were casualties Calvert could ill afford. The brigade was simply withering away under disease and fire, but the morale of its men remained unbreakable. In fact, the wounded proved themselves of a will far greater than Calvert had expected. Men laid low with grievous battle wounds volunteered to return to the fighting — often against doctor’s order —determined to destroy the Japanese.

WilcoxOne fine example was Captain Jack Wilcox, a bespectacled young officer of the Staffords who was more experienced than his tender looks belied. During the charge at Pagoda Hill, he had partaken in the battle and had been wounded lightly. He remained on active duty and during the brigade’s heroic defense of White City, had been responsible for all medium machineguns within the perimeter.

He may have been weaned on static warfare, having been an anti-aircraft officer for most of the war, but soon showed a penchant for more exciting stuff — raider operations. Although wounded early in the battles at White City, in the thigh and shoulder, he remained fighting. In May, he had been given orders to take a detachment of men and sever the nearby Indaw-Mogaung railway line outside White City. 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, near Blackpool, when Wilcox and a group of men waded through heavy marsh and the swollen Namyin Chaung to conduct a night attack on the small Burmese village with explicit orders to wipe out a suspected Japanese gun position which had been shelling 111th Brigade. 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 had been given another mission on June 12, at Mogaung: his platoon was to seize and hold an important position which intelligence warned was heavily defended. Predictably, as Wilcox’s unit moved into assault, a formidable hail of enemy fire shot 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.

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, just below his chin. Refusing to be evacuated, he was back with his unit in a day or two, his neck plugged with a wad of gauze, which he used to “keep the wound clean by using as a pull-through.”[lxxx]

It was common valor such this that kept the brigade fighting at Mogaung. But for how much longer? Calvert was considerably cheered on the evening of the 18th, when the much promised Chinese reinforcements finally arrived, guided over the river in motorized ranger boats by a towering Chindit officer, Captain Andrew. This was the 1st Battalion of the Chinese 114th Regiment[lxxxi] led by Major P’ang, which quickly deployed in the positions pointed out by Calvert but left the Chindits a little flummoxed when they proclaimed that they were in no particular hurry to fight as they had been fighting for years.[lxxxii]

On the following day, another battalion of Chinese arrived under the personal command of the regimental leader, Colonel Li Hung, as did a battery of 75mm pack howitzers — the “6th Battery”[lxxxiii] — under US Major Wayne Cook. The Chinese quickly assumed the defense of Mahaung, prompting an American liaison officer with the Chinese to send a press release that the Chinese had “captured” the village, which embarrassed Li.[lxxxiv]

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Cook’s battery was deployed into position at Pinhmi village began operations on the 20th, hurling fire against the Japanese positions as the Chinese infantrymen consolidated their positions. Meantime, the Chinese 113th Infantry, operating five miles north of Mogaung, surrounded a Japanese company, while Cook’s guns hammered them. Fifty Japanese died from first blast alone. The Chinese finished off those who survived.[lxxxv]

The reinforcements heartened Calvert for his own brigade was now a shell of its former self. The Lancashire Fusiliers and the King’s Liverpool had only 110 men, the South Staffords had 180 and the Gurkha Rifles had 230. He planned a fresh advance, this time aiming for the hamlet of Natgyigon, on Mogaung’s right flank, near the river. This area, Calvert believed, was the “key to Mogaung.”[lxxxvi] For the time, he chose the early hours of darkness on June 23rd — a day which would go down in the annals of the 77th Brigade as the “stuff of legends.”

The plan called for a mortar barrage of 1,000 bombs, in addition to shelling from the 75mm guns to cover the advance of the Chindits across the open ground towards Natgyigon. The Gurkhas were to move on the right, with the South Staffords on the left. Blaine’s Detachment and the Lancashire Fusiliers were in reserve. The objective was to capture the entire stretch of ground from the Mogaung Bridge to the train station, the latter of which the Chinese were to secure. Once the area was in Allied hands, the troops were to dig in while the reserve troops mopped up. In addition, Allied aircraft were to bombard the area before the start of the assault, which itself was timed to launch at about 3.10 am. In the dark, section commanders could be heard telling their men: “We attack Mogaung tonight and once we’ve taken it the Brigadier says we are through!”[lxxxvii]

It was a solid plan, but like most plans, something went awry. To start with, the artillery failed to subdue the Japanese whose own artillery retaliated with such vehemence that they not only struck the 3” mortar positions but also savaged the infantry forming up to attack. Many Chindits were killed. Those that survived closed the distance to their own creeping barrage, to stay out of harm’s way.

PrintCalvert had moved his tactical headquarters to where the two 4.2” mortars were deployed, and was soon joined by Major Francis Stuart, now grievously ill, who insisted on being brought forward by stretcher to see the battle. “I’m not dead yet, I’m damn well going to see it,” he told Calvert.[lxxxviii]

The Gurkhas, moving along a wide right flank along the banks of the Mogaung River, headed for the railway bridge. Approaching the bridge, they came under heavy fire. Captain Allmand, by now suffering from trench foot as were most of the troops, moved forward to silence a machinegun firing on his men. He could barely run because of his affliction but advancing through the mud, he hurled grenades at the Japanese position. A burst of gunfire plunged into him. He fell, badly wounded. One of his Gurkhas, Sgt. Tilbir Gurung pulled Allmand and another wounded NCO to safety. For this, Gurung was to get a Military Medal. Allmand’s own valor was to be recognized by a Victoria Cross.

The South Staffords swept into Mogaung town. Resistance was heavy. Lt Durant of the South Stafford deployed his machineguns to rake Japanese positions with fire. Meantime, the flamethrowers were brought up. As they moved up past Durant’s positions, a shell burst exploded one, setting the man wielding it on fire.

The man screamed and somehow shook off the flamethrowing unit from his back. Durant and some of his men rushed forward and rolled him into water in a nearby ditch.[lxxxix] The Japanese had dug-in beneath the ruins of a brick house from where they were stubbornly holding the Staffords at bay. The rest of the flamethrowers moved in and sprayed the building. One Japanese, his clothes ablaze, leapt from his positions and tried to make a run for it. A scythe of gunfire cut him down. The rest valiantly held their positions and were burned to cinder. The Staffords, mopping up the, found the Japanese officer. He had shot himself with his revolver.

The Japanese had entrenched themselves at a strategically important building dominating the place where the railway joined the road from Pinhmi. The building, known as the “Red House,” accommodated a Japanese headquarters and was well-protected with machinegun nests.

Bahadur-PunAs the vengeful Gurkhas swept into the town, they ran smack into this killing zone. A double platoon assigned to capture the house was caught in a murderous crossfire. In one platoon with a nominal strength of 25 men, only three men had survived. One of them was Rifleman Tul Bahadur Pun, an unremarkable soldier — until then. His surviving sergeant attempted to rally them for a renewed assault only to be badly wounded by a hail of bullets as he rose his feet.

Pun and the other surviving Gurkha (a Bren gunner) charged, but the second man was hit and fell to the ground, dropping the Bren. Pun snatched up the weapon, and firing from the hip, dashed across the open, muddy ground in the face of what the regimental history described as “the most shattering concentration of automatic fire.”

Although silhouetting 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. It is likely that Pun also finished off two or three Japanese wounded in the house with his kukri. Setting up his Bren, he 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.

Nearby, meantime, to his great annoyance, Calvert discovered the Chinese infantry had not captured the all-important train station, even as their American liaison officer, a much maligned blunderbuss of a Lt-Colonel, insisted that they had. Calvert angrily pointed out that no, the Chinese had not, because enemy fire from that direction continued to pick off his men at the railway embankment.

Calvert had no choice but to summon his reserve into the fray. He held a quick, conference with Degg, Christie, Shaw and Major Lumley near where the Japanese had been attacked by the flamethrowers. Calvert could still hear the men screaming and “smell the odor of their cooking flesh.”[xc] Nearby, on a stretcher, lay Michael Allmand, his right arm shattered and a great wound on his side. Without turning his head, he asked how the battle was going. Calvert replied they were winning.

“Good,” Allmand said. He was to die later that night[xci]. He was only 20 years old.

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The Chindits began to pummel the Japanese positions. The Lancashire Fusiliers poured 200 mortar shells into the area while the South Stafford brought up PIATS and anti-grenades to bring down the walls of buildings held by the Japanese. The Chindit machineguns blazed away at each and every window of the train station.

Wilcox and his platoon reached the station amid fierce house-to-house fighting. The Japanese were determined not to lose ground and casualties were heavy on both sides. More flamethrowers were brought up, finally forcing the Japanese to flee. A Gurkha machinegun team opened fire on the bolting hordes, killing a few.

The battle had cost the Japanese dearly. An estimated 100-120 may have died, while the Chindits suffered about 60 dead and over 100 wounded. In Wilcox’s platoon only 10 men were alive. Wilcox had been shot again, this time in the head, the bullet slicing through part of the scalp leaving it dangling over an ear. Calvert thought Wilcox was finished, but he was mistaken. Wilcox had his wound sown up and with his paltry group of survivors, led them on a last mop-up patrol down the railway line. He 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 to be found among the remains of his platoon as of the 27th, grimly holding their positions in the ruins.  For this, Wilcox was awarded an immediate DSO, later followed by a US Silver Star, becoming one of only four Chindits to be given this American decoration.[xcii] He also had the dubious honor of being the last surviving subaltern within the Staffords.

By noon the Chindits had captured all of their objectives and began to dig in as the Japanese again began their shelling. “The Chinese were full of admiration [of Chindit heroics],” wrote Lt. Durant later. “But they thought we were quite mad, for with oriental patience they would have taken a week to do the same attack and probably suffered five percent of our casualties.”[xciii]

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. The Chinese had lost 30. In all, since the 77th Brigade had come under Stilwell, Calvert had lost 47 officers and 729 other ranks killed or wounded.[xciv] The brigade had exhausted over 60,000 mortar bombs in the battle. Japanese losses are difficult to gauge, but what is known is that the units of the 53rd Division alone suffered 1,600 casualties.[xcv]

When the Chindits moved into the rest of the town, especially the built up western quarter on June 26th and 27th, they found the Japanese had gone. The troops found not a single civilian, dead or alive. Mogaung was a ghost city.

“Good news from Mogaung,” Stilwell wrote in his diary on June 27th. “We have it!”[xcvi] Then came the most remarkable broadcast from Stilwell’s headquarters via the BBC: The Chinese had captured Mogaung. There was no mention of the Chindits.

Calvert was incensed. Colonel Li was appalled and apologized profusely. “If anyone has taken Mogaung it is your Brigade,” he told Calvert. “And we all admire the bravery of your soldiers.”

Calvert, his anger against Stilwell unmitigated, sent a message to US headquarters: “Chinese reported taking Mogaung. My Brigade now taking umbrage”[xcvii] — which had the end result of prompting Stilwell’s staff to scour the maps for the location of Umbrage.[xcviii]

Meantime, congratulations poured in from Lentaigne, from “Scottie” Scott, from John Masters, and the other brigade commanders. Among the lot, there was one, from Derek Tulloch, which struck Calvert’s heart the most: “Wingate would have been proud of you.”[xcix]

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This was hardly the first time that Stilwell had jumped the gun when announcing victory. He had done same at Myitkyina on May 17, and now, over a month later, that city was still a contentious hellhole rife with Japanese. Stilwell was particularly concerned by a June 15th signal from Boatner indicating the Marauders were becoming spent as a unit and that “there are many cases simply terrified of the Japs.”[c]

“Galahad is shot,” Stilwell had written in his diary. “US troops are shaky. Hard to believe. Either our officers are rotten or else Boatner is getting hysterical. I’ll have to go down.”[ci]

Stilwell indeed went down to Myitkyina and by all accounts was lucky to come back alive. Lt. Charlton Ogburn, later wrote his bestselling book, The Marauders, that Stilwell was “bloodless and coldhearted without a drop of human kindness.” Stilwell may not have known it, but some of the Marauders would have shot him if they had the chance. “I had him in my rifle sights. I coulda squeezed one off no one woulda known it wasn’t a Jap that got the son of a bitch,” one Marauders is recorded as having said.[cii] Stilwell, however, was to prove oblivious about more than the danger to his life alone. Upon returning to headquarters, he wrote in his diary: “Saw Hunter and talked it over, not so bad as painted [by Boatner], the men looked good.”[ciii]

Stilwell began to blame the morass on Boatner who was by now sick with malaria. On June 26, he wrote in his diary: “Chased Boatner to the showers. He cried and protested; told him no argument.”

Boatner was relieved as commander, officially for malaria, unofficially because of the grim picture of Myitkyina he had presented. Three days later Stilwell appointed Brigadier-General Theodore F. Wessel from Southeast Asia Command as his new chief of staff and gave Hunter command of all US forces around Myitkyina.

Next, he turned to the Chindits. All Chindit units across northern Burma were now beyond exhaustion. Their commanders, after four grueling months in the field, had been demanding relief. On July 11, a doctor was to report that almost all officers and men in the 77th and 111th Brigades were worn out. Calvert’s brigade was now down to only 300 men fit for operations — all of them sick or tired. The other brigades were in slightly better shape, but in no state to mount assaults. Average weight loss was 19 kg (42 lb) and all had suffered or were suffering from malaria. But Stilwell obsessed with his objectives ordered Lentaigne to send the 111th Brigade down the railway towards Hopin, near Blackpool, to finish off the remnants of the 18th and 53rd Divisions, which were in full retreat from Kamaing and Mogaung (the former had been captured by the Chinese on June 16).

These two Japanese divisions were trying to muster their strength at Sahmaw, 10 miles southwest of Mogaung and Taungni, a further five miles south. Stilwell wanted them destroyed. Two hills dominated the landscape — Hill 60 (named for a WWI battlefield) which rose in the plains north of Sahmaw, and Point 2171, amidst the jungle north of Taungni.

The West Africans were detailed against Hill 60. Masters’ troops were to get Hill 2171. The men were in disbelief. Many simply couldn’t believe their orders. Their brigade commanders urged them on and the hills soon turned into ferocious battlegrounds as the Chindits, without the proper weapons or the training for mountain warfare, struggled.

Next, Stilwell ordered Calvert’s 77th Brigade to move to Myitkyina. Calvert’s reaction was to deftly cut off all radio communications with Chindit communications with headquarters at Shaduzup, 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 courtmartial. Finally Calvert himself arrived in a jeep. Even as Colonel Henry T. Alexander, GSO 1 (Operations) of “Special Force” told him not to hold his punches and give Stilwell hell, Lentaigne “begged him to consider the other brigades and hold his tongue.”[civ]

The next day, Calvert, Lentaigne and Alexander drove to Stilwell’s headquarters, where they found the general at a table with his son and Boatner. Calvert shook hands.

“Well, Calvert,” Stilwell said. “I’ve have been wanting to meet you for some time.”

“I have been wanting to meet you too, sir,” Calvert said.

“You send some very strong signals, Calvert.”

“You should see the ones my brigade-major won’t let me send.”

This seemed to stop Stilwell dead in his tracks. He roared with laughter. “I have just the same trouble with my own staff officers when I draft signals to Washington,” he said.[cv]

Now, speaking with the same sort of blunt honesty that Stilwell prided himself on, Calvert went into a long monologue explaining that despite their crippling losses and lack of heavy weapons, his men had sacrificed so much at Mogaung that now 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 contained monologue. Then his shock turned to scathing anger towards his own staff. “Why wasn’t I told?’ he demanded.

It quickly became obvious to Calvert that Stilwell had not realized that the 77th Brigade had “done the gliderborne invasion [four months ago], didn’t realize we’d blocked the railway at White City for almost five weeks, four of them against repeated Japanese attacks. He didn’t realize my brigade had not only been decimated but had had other bits taken off to help other brigades. We had no artillery; he didn’t realize these things.”[cvi]

As Calvert later wrote: “It became obvious from Stilwell’s repeated ‘Why wasn’t I told? Is this true?’ that his sycophantic staff had kept the true nature of the battle from him.”[cvii] Overcome with the truth of it all, Stilwell apologized. “You and your boys have done a great job,” he told Calvert. “I congratulate you.”[cviii] Calvert was allowed to evacuate his brigade. Their campaign was over.

What is to be made of this remarkable change of attitude, even human compassion, from Stilwell? Was Stilwell’s cruelty and acerbic actions actually a product of misinformation and in part, the toadying of his staff? There are some accounts which seem to suggest so. In a postwar study for the US Army War College titled Valiant Men: A Study in Leadership, Lt-Colonel Henry Kinnison IV, the grandson of Galahad’s one-time commander, quotes Lt-Colonel McGee of the Marauder 2d Battalion, who claimed that the morass of Myitkyina was largely the making of Hunter who “provided little direction to the Marauders during the battle.”

He claimed that Hunter never met with battalion commanders, as he was content to “remain at the airstrip” and that he “never constituted a staff or communications capability to support his responsibilities.”[cix]

McGee also stated that, contrary to expectations, he found Stilwell “easy to talk to” and once when reporting about the situation in the Namkwin area and of the Japanese opposition in that area, found that Stilwell was “interested …he displayed no irritability, no impatience, and no outward indication of the serious problems [with] which he was most surely concerned at the time.” McGee added that Stilwell has been unjustly treated in many historical accounts of his time in the Far East. [cx]

Other accounts also dispute the angry assessment of the Marauders. The Chinese often praised him for showing concern for the enlisted man. “He paid special attention to people at the bottom,” said one Chinese officer.[cxi] The Armed Force Magazine termed him as “the GI’s favorite” after he cancelled rules forbidding soldiers from having pets, and had “officers only” signs stricken from bars and restaurants. Once, upon learning that the 20th General Hospital in Ledo had no air fans he ordered his staff to strip those at Imperial Hotel in Delhi, where US staff officers lived, and sent to the hospital.[cxii] In his diary, Stilwell jotted down passages on the psychology of command, writing that the commander must “reward promptly and punish justly.” This perhaps best described Stilwell’s approach to command, although in reality, he rewarded few and punished most. The leader “must be human, humble patient, forbearing” he wrote. “Unless a commander is human, he cannot understand the reaction of his men.”[cxiii]

But what is to be made about the profanity also lacing Stilwell’s diary, and the anti-humanistic bile which rendered him a misanthropic authoritarian? That was nothing more an outlet to let off steam, said his grandson John Easterbrook in a 2016 interview with the New York Times.[cxiv]

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Although Stilwell had seen reason when it came to Calvert, he refused to send the Chindits home, prompting Mountbatten to sternly warn that: “If they are not relived soon, we may both be faced with the…accusation of keeping men in battle who are unable to defend themselves.”

By now the West Africans were in the thick of combat against the Japanese at Sahmaw and Hill 60 where the Japanese defenders continued to accrue reinforcements and stragglers. They held out despite bombing and artillery attacks, repeatedly thwarting the Africans from their goal. Meantime, Masters and the 111th Brigade were battling the enemy at Taungni and at Point 2171.

The brigade had begun its battles for the area on June 20, and combat began to acquire a fevered pitch from July 8. The Point had resisted all attempts at capture. Masters and his commanders decided to send a force up a neighboring ridge to mount a flank attack. “Alec” Harper recommending sending his best officer, Major Gerald Blaker, “Sir Galahad” as Masters called him and his ‘C’ Company of the 3/9th Gurkhas.

By now, the brigade troops were a nervous wreck. That night, a young Gurkha was found screaming in his foxhole, “howling like a train in the American night,” his eyes glazed over. Masters had summoned “Doc” Whyte and Major Douglas Larpent, the latter a product of the British Army (not the Indian Army) to try to sort out the problem.

Larpent socked the Gurkhas in the chin. The blow did not knock out the soldier as expected. “Douglas didn’t know you can’t knock a Gurk out that way,” Masters wrote.

But the blow did seem to bring the soldier to focus, for he stared at Larpent and then ran screaming into the jungle even as the Japanese artillery bombarded the hillside. He soon disappeared into the gloom. They found he had returned early that next morning, “barking and eating equipment.” “Doc” Whyte had him sedated. Morale was breaking and Masters knew it.  Blaker had to succeed. The brigade was falling apart and could not withstand more stagnation.

As he saw off attackers on the morning of the 9th, Masters “told Blaker to make bloody sure he was on the right ridge and that he got to the top.” Then he tried to smile, only to see Blaker actually smile, by the “light of the radio.”[cxv]

The summit was an hour-and-a half’s climb away (with a dozen rests), and the assault force reached their objective at noon, about 300 yards from the crest line. Blaker came over the radio: “Ready, very close. Ready to go.” Masters ordered mortar fire on the crest and told the machinegunners to open up against all targets they could see. Furious firing erupted to the left of the crest and the summit. The Gurkhas advanced in single fire, following by another company from the King’s (Liverpool).

Coming up against enemy machine-gun fire, the other company fell back. Blaker and his men moved in to relieve them only to have them meet the same slaughter. One particularly thorny position was an enemy defensive nest on the north point, armed with one heavy and two light machine guns.

As the Gurkhas fell back in disarray, savaged by machineguns firing straight down the ridge, the surviving men scattered, diving into the jungle. Blaker moved on alone, firing his M1 carbine, yelling: “Come on, ‘C’ Company!”

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 seven bullets plunged into Blaker who fell against a tree, bleeding profusely. He turned his head to call on his men: “Come on, ‘C’ Company, I’m going to die. Take the position.”

The Gurkhas surged forward, bayonets glinting in the dull light, crying: “Ayo Gurkhali, the Gurkhas have come!” The Japanese were ejected from Point 2171.[cxvi]  Fifty Japanese dead were counted on the summit.

BlakerBlaker was 24 years old. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.[cxvii] The troops which followed up the advance, having no strength or time to bury the bodies of the fallen, pushed the dead men over the edge of the steep ravine, watching them fall into the jungle below. Three months later, Masters wrote, “a Graves Registration Unit found them, bamboo six feet tall growing among and through them.”[cxviii]

Soon enough, troops of the 14th Brigade arrived in the area, and relieving Master’s brigade, took possession of Point 2171.[cxix] The Point constituted 111th Brigade’s last major action of the campaign.[cxx] The Battle for Hill 60 continued to rage just north, however.

Calvert’s brigade had been given the option of going to Myitkyina where they would be flown out to India or march on to Shaduzup, from where they could be evacuated. The march to Shaduzup was to take two weeks, but Calvert wisely chose this over Myitkyina.  Stilwell, however, wanted to keep the 111th Brigade in the field, leaving Masters disgusted. His men were simply wasting away. The average weight loss per man was between 30 and 40 pounds. “The brigade had a dozen psychiatric cases but discipline remained fantastically good,” Master said. [cxxi]

Armed with the evidence of three-days-worth of medical examinations by doctors who determined that of the 2,200 men who had survived Blackpool, only 119 men (including Masters) were fit for duty, Masters demanded the immediate evacuation of his brigade in increasingly bitter signals to Stilwell.[cxxii] The request was finally granted on July 17, but by then Masters had already sent all the wounded and the infirm to the main road 10 miles north, to march onto the Kamaing where they would come under the protection of Special Force HQ and its staff.

Then Masters signaled Stilwell once more, to sarcastically request orders for those that remained. Stilwell responded soon enough: the 111th Company (as he called it) was to guard a Chinese medium artillery battery in the area.[cxxiii] As Masters and his men marched out, they passed intact companies of British soldiers of the new 36th Infantry Division headed south, their uniforms clean and new, their weapons clean and unfired, and their ranks intact.

The Chinese artillerymen and their American liaison officer were surprised to see Masters since they needed no guarding as there were no Japanese in the area. They pleaded with Masters and his men to go away, even as the Chindits dug foxholes and trenches. This charade was to continue for the next ten days as the Chinese major in charge of the unit despaired under the continued presence of a British brigadier (Masters).

Stilwell, whose relationship with Lentaigne had reached a new, caustic low, became eager to rid himself of the Chindits, complaining to Mountbatten that “the units of ‘Special Force’ had disobeyed his order to carry out an advance.”

“Since he no longer felt in command of the Force,” Mountbatten wrote, “[Stilwell] wished it to be withdrawn.”[cxxiv]Slim was brought in to mediate between Stilwell and Lentaigne who were barely on speaking terms and negotiated the exit of the Chindits.

Where once Stilwell had demanded that the 111th, 14th and 3rd West African Brigades help the 72nd Brigade of British 36th Division which was entering battle at Sahmaw and Taungni, he now came to an agreement that all the remaining Chindits in Burma would be free to evacuate to India as soon as the British 36th Division reached the railway valley — which they now had.[cxxv]

Accordingly, Stilwell’s orders granting permission to evacuate reached the 111th Company on the last week of July.  Masters and his men immediately marched the 10 miles to Mogaung, caught a train to Myitkyina and arrived at the airfield on August 1. As the sounds of a petering battle still raged from Myitkyina, Masters and his men boarded C-47 Dakotas that night. The tensions drained from their bodies. They were going to India, and home.

Just before he had departed, Calvert had received a letter from Colonel Li of the 114th Regiment, saying: “I heard you were about to leave yesterday and when I went to bid you goodbye at your HQ, you were gone. I enjoyed fighting alongside you and am sorry that you have to leave because of the casualties. My regiment and I really admire your brigade’s gallant action and your men’s spirit. We unanimously think that you and your brigade are very brave…I sincerely hope you will come [back].”[cxxvi]

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The Japanese had held Myitkyina through a rainy and muddy, summer-long siege, but when Allied forces cut off the last of their supply lines and as infighting grew between the two local Japanese commanders over their orders, the defenders began to waver.

The crisis between the two Japanese leaders was a matter of semantics. Colonel Maruyama of the 114th Regiment who was in charge of the defense of the city, interpreted his orders to “facilitate the future operations of 33 Army ‘by securing the vital areas in the vicinity of Myitkyina’,” as a call to defend the city street-by-street, house-by-house.[cxxvii] When Maj-General Mizukami of the 56th Division arrived, he pointed out that all Maruyama had to do to satisfy his orders was simply continued to deny the Allies access to the Ledo-Kamaing road. But Mizukami failed to press this case to Lt-General Honda at 33rd Army HQ and by July 10, it was too late.On that day, Honda had sent a signal saying: “Maj-General Mizukami will defend Myitkyina to the death” — a message sent with deep regret and sadness according to the staff officers who wrote and dispatched the order.[cxxviii]

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As July wound to its twilight, Maruyama apparently began to see reason. The garrison had suffered a thousand casualties since the end of May and it had reached the limits of its resistance. To stay meant certain death and Maruyama began to press for a withdrawal to the east, beyond the Irrawaddy, where the remnants could continue fighting.

Mizukami remained silent and Maruyama took this as a sign of his superior’s tacit approval, and accordingly ordered the garrison to pull out of Myitkyina. The garrison was to get across the Irrawaddy by night, in three contingents, on 1, 2, and 3 August.

By the third night, the town was largely in American hands. The defenders had quietly evacuated their wounded on rafts, some intercepted by unforgiving Kachins as they drifted down the Irrawaddy. Many others reached the far bank and lived to fight another day. Maj-General Mizukami, however, was not among them.

As the 3rd of August meandered on in a haze of gunfire, blood and rain, Mizukami went to sit with his back against a tree. There came the sound of a pistol shot. Japanese officers nearby sprinted to the scene. The general’s orderly was in tears. They found Mizukami’s body erect against the tree trunk, facing northeast, towards Japan.[cxxix]

The fall of Myitkyina was to be Stilwell’s greatest victory. It would earn him a promotion to full general on August 1st, two days before the city finally fell, but he was not witness the defeat of the Japanese on the continent.

In a heated quarrel with Chiang Kai-Shek, he once urged the Chinese leader to purge corruption in the government and the army and stop quarreling with communists under Mao Tse-tung, and instead join them in fighting the Japanese. With the road link-up to China now complete, however, Chiang was less inclined to tolerate Stilwell’s malice and demanded his removal. On his insistence, President Roosevelt recalled Stilwell home in October. In a last gesture of gratitude, Chiang, in January 1945, renamed the completed Ledo road as “the Stilwell Road.”

Jap1The capture of Myitkyina was also to prove the apex of the Marauders’ war, and most of were going home. The town’s capture allowed Ledo road builders and American transport planes to move to Myitkyina, and allowed US-Chinese ground forces to link with other Chinese forces in neighboring Yunnan. The last Japanese threat in the supply war had been defeated. Stilwell had his victory but at a tremendous cost – 1,244 American and Chinese soldiers had been killed and 4,140 wounded[cxxx]. A further 188 Chinese and 980 Americans were evacuated sick, including 570 Marauders. About 3,000 Japanese had died.

In all, total Chinese and American casualties from 1 January to 19 August 1944, amounted to 13,618 Chinese, killed, wounded or missing, and 1,327 American casualties.

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Yet the noises of gunfire did not subside. Much south, the West Africans, joined by the 36th British Division continued to battle the Japanese at Sahmaw until August 5, when Hill 60 was finally captured. Three days later, the West Africans were in Mogaung, and boarding planes at Myitkyina bound for India from August 12.

Their departure proved so swift that they had not even time to hold a service for their dead. “We didn’t even keep a record of where we left them,” said Lt. Jack Osborn. Captain Carfrae estimated that for every man killed or wounded in his column, a dozen had been afflicted by malaria or typhus. He was himself suffering from a high fever when they were ordered to evacuate. Many in the battalion were simply too weak to even march more than two or three miles a day, but did so under sheer force of will or were carried towards evacuation by more able comrades.[cxxxi]

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The final Chindit forces to leave were 65 and 84 Columns from Brodie’s 14th Brigade. At a rest camp in the hills overlooking Mogaung Valley, the tired troops shaved their beards, cut their hair and bathed — the first time for many in four months. Copious quantities of food had been airdropped, and the men gorged themselves. After days of doing nothing — an unexpected luxury — they marched to Mogaung where they boarded a train to Myitkyina, from whence they were flown onto Assam. It was August 27th, and the last of the Chindits had left Burma. Operation “Thursday” was over.

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For the Chindits who had carried out the lion’s share of fighting in northern Burma, victory was not be as well defined as it was for Marauders and Stilwell’s Chinese. They had suffered 5,000 killed, wounded or missing – 3,800 after Wingate’s death.[cxxxii] Just what had they accomplished? It was true they had not, by themselves, permanently liberated any towns or cities, nor had they held their ground until relieved. But their “special war” had pioneered fighting methods and tactics unprecedented in their scale and efficacy.

The first Chindit campaign had proved that the Japanese could be fought on equal terms in their own backyard. The second proved that they could be beaten and put to flight. The campaign also unquestionably proved that Allied air and transport power was capable of sustaining a division of troops deep behind enemy lines for months on a wholly unprecedented scale, which Wingate had believed was viable but few had thought possible.

 “[N]o one would claim that Wingate invented Air Supply because it was well known,” Mountbatten wrote later. “But what he did was to prove that military ground forces could operate with no other form of supply at all, other than air supply. And these lessons were taken up with practically the whole of the 14th Army on air supply, of which Wingate was the pioneer.”[cxxxiii]

 The ability to receive supplies from the air as opposed to by road obviated the need for a large administrative tail and service troops (who amounted to half of a division or about 10,000 men in a standard British division), which in turn, saved time, reduced the number of noncombat vehicles, and cut down on the consumption of fuel, food and resources, while making the fighting forces leaner and more mobile.

In contrast, armies with long, road-bound lines of communication, such as the Japanese, or even the Allied armies fighting in northwest Europe, all heavily dependent on unending convoys of trucks for supplies, rapidly bogged down and lost mobility, consuming valuable resources for little appreciable gains. In addition, of the 20,000 Chindits who had fought in Burma that season, the vast majority were fighting men and potential “Jap killers” who had taken a heavy toll on the enemy while suffering fewer casualties. There were limitations, however. Food was never dropped in wholly adequate quantities and on schedule so as to prevent malnutrition. The troops also suffered from the lack of or shortage of light combat vehicles such as light tanks and jeeps, both of which could have turned the tide in flat, teak country of Indaw, Mogaung and in the railway valley. The campaign left the British army with reams of critical information on special operations to be used in future conflicts, even if the architect of those lessons was dead.

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The timing of the operation had also been impeccable, coinciding with the Japanese offensive into India. When Lt-General Renya Mataguchi of the 15th Army had launched his offensive on the night of 7/8 March 1944, by ferrying 100,000 crack Imperial troops with armor and artillery across the Chindwin by an ingenious bridge of boats, he had crowed: “This operation will engage the attention of the whole world and is eagerly await­ed by a hundred million of our coun­trymen. Its success will have a profound effect on the course of the war, and may even lead to its con­clusion. We must therefore expend every ounce of energy and talent to achieve our purpose.”

Yet, Mataguchi had also known that Imphal with its large stores had to be taken quickly, for once committed, his troops could depend on no more than three to four weeks’ of supplies from warehouses in Burma — a calculation gravely upset by “Special Force” activities, who prevented men and supplies from moving to the frontlines. After the battle for Mogaung, for instance, Calvert learned that several of the Japanese battalions which had fought his troops had originally been earmarked for India or Myitkyina.

By May 27th, it was apparent to many Japanese in India that they had lost the battle. Hammered by attacks in the air and on ground, and brought to a standstill in the jungle hell of Kohima, the Japanese were to feel no greater sense of frustration and angst than to realize that their depots deep in Burma, with their carefully husbanded supplies, had been beset by invaders who came from sky, from the jungle and from a place where no Japanese and few men had ever been —the mind of Wingate.

The arrival of the Chindits in the Japanese rear, at the moment of their invasion of India, was also akin to, as one historian would later write, the equivalent of the Allies preparing the invade Normandy only to discover that a German airlanding division had landed en masse in England. When Mataguchi had learned of the Chindit threat to his rear, he should have called off the offensive and crushed Special Force. Yet, his ego and Japanese pride had prevented him. In the end, when it all came crashing down at Imphal-Kohima, that same Japanese pride would turn on itself.

In late-May, when one of his divisional commanders, Lt-General Kotoku Sato (of the 31st Infantry Division), signaled Mataguchi, angrily demanding supplies and warned of his intention to pull out, Mataguchi cabled back: “Retreat, and I’ll courtmartial you.”

Infuriated, Sato had answered: “Do as you please; I’ll bring you down with me.” On the 31st, Sato sent a last bitter signal saying that, “Cadets know more about tactics than the staff of the Fifteenth Army,” and with that he closed down his radio station and ordered the remnants of his division to fall back to the south.

Throughout their retreat, the exhausted and diseased Japanese were pursued by the Allies. On June 22, an Indian armored regiment from Kohima linked up with their comrades in the 5th Indian Division, north of Imphal. The city was at last relived – after over 80 days of siege and confirmed to Mataguchi that the tide had turned. On July 8, he ordered a general retreat, and his starving columns began a terrible march back to the Chindwin.

A Japanese war correspondent, Shizuo Maruyama, later described the horrific retreat: “We had no food, no clothes, no guns…the men were barefoot and ragged and threw away everything except canes to help them walk…all they had to keep them going was grass and water…We were starved and then crushed.”

Mataguchi had dashed his army against the rocks of Imphal and Kohima, until only 50,000 of the 115,000 men who had come to India were left standing. He also lost his entire force of heavy guns and tanks, and 17,000 mules and ponies. The Japanese defeat, enabled through the activities of the Chindits, gutted the Japanese Army in Burma and prompted the Allied reconquest of Burma a year before it was anticipated by war planners.

When Churchill remembered Wingate in an address to the House of Commons in August 1944, he spoke words which became famous: “We placed our hopes at Quebec in the new Supreme Commander Admiral Mountbatten and in his brilliant lieutenant, Major-General Wingate who, alas, has paid a soldier’s debt. There was a man of genius who might well have become also a man of destiny.”

However, Mataguchi who only learned of Wingate’s death after the war, was more astute in his words. “General Wingate’s airborne tactics put a great obstacle in the way of our Imphal plan and were a very important reason for its failure,” he said. “I realized what a loss [his death] was to the British Army and said a prayer for the soul of this man in whom I had found my match.”

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All the Chindits who returned to India were given time off. Many troops were based at Dehra Dun, a hill station much north of Delhi, where a banner welcomed them back: “Chindits, watch your saluting.”

Men who had family and significant others in India, were granted furlough and hastened to join them. Masters went to Kashmir’s Gulmarg Hill Station, where he was reunited with his fiancé who had by now given birth to his child. He was accompanied by “Doc” Whyte and Major Larpent. It became an idyllic holiday.

After returning to India, Calvert visited his brigade-major Francis Stuart in Calcutta, who had been evacuated sick from Mogaung at the end of the battle. When Calvert saw him at the hospital, he realized his old friend, thin-faced, hollow-eyed, was dying of tuberculosis. It is likely that he had contracted TB before joining the brigade, but had not wanted to miss the big show for anything, as he told Calvert. Calvert, who had read of a new cure for TB called diasone in an issue of Readers Digest, began to scour his contacts in the hopes of getting a shipment sent out from the United States. Eventually, in an age without internet shopping or quick courier services, he managed to get a shipment posted, but to no avail. Stuart died a week later.[cxxxiv] Days later, when in Delhi, Calvert received news that his mother had also died in England. The twin deaths left him reeling, but more gloom was to follow.

Upon making inquiries about Lt-Colonel Richards of the South Staffords, his orderly, Paddy Dermody and the Japanese-speaking Captain Ryan, who had been evacuated to hospital in India some time ago, Calvert was shocked to learn that all three men had passed away, the news of their deaths kept from him.

The men had been initially placed in the “Special Forces” hospital at Sylhet under Matron MacGreary, but soon after Wingate’s death, the hospital had been shuttered. The three, like many wounded Chindits, were on penicillin supplied specially by the Americans as it was not widely available in India. When the hospital was closed down, however, they were moved to the “hellhole” of Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) where the armed forces hospital had a reputation as a death center. Taken off their critical antibiotics, the men had died — needlessly.[cxxxv]

Calvert’s other orderly, the Anglo-Chinese Lance-Corporal Young, who was himself evacuated sick to India, survived his hospitalization in Assam, but was never the same after hearing about Dermody’s death, Calvert said.

To get away from the barrage of appalling news, Calvert went on holiday to Ceylon, but returned to Dehra Dun in September to reform the 77th Brigade, which was expected to take part in another Chindit operation targeting Rangoon. John Masters, now commander of 3/4th Gurkhas, discovered that his unit was to go in by glider with the first wave and was appalled at the thought of gliders.[cxxxvi]

Calvert’s reunion with the 77th Brigade was interrupted, however, when he broke his Achilles tendon while playing football (soccer) and had to return to England to get it set. He spent a miserable winter moping around in London waiting for it to heal. In doing so, he missed the February 1945 conference of senior Chindit officers who were summoned to Lalitpur airfield, to be met by Mountbatten.

Many of the men having long rejoined their units, had been training in the Central Provinces for the next mission. Most now expected Mountbatten to brief them on the details of the new operation.

Instead, Mountbatten told them the decision had been made to disband Special Force, with the battalions being reassigned to conventional army formations as the Japanese were retreating in Burma.[cxxxvii] “The powers that be [had seen] sense,” said “Doc” Whyte. “We were disbanded. We weren’t sorry.”[cxxxviii]

Whyte may have spoken for a great many of the ordinary troops and the junior officers, but Calvert was appalled, arguing that Special Force could still be used to get behind the Japanese and hasten the total liberation of Burma.

His anger was assuaged by a letter from Mountbatten in which the supreme commander wrote: “It was the most distasteful job in my career to agree to your disbandment. I only agreed because by that time the whole Army was Chindit-minded.”[cxxxix]

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Masters was appointed General Staff Officer, Grade 1 (GSO1) and assigned to the 19th Indian Infantry Division, which fought a conventional land battle in central Burma in 1945.

After the war, he 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. Yet, his greatest book was The Road Past Mandalay, written 16 years after the horror of the Blackpool, into which Masters poured all his angst and feelings over the death of his fellow man. Today, while the man himself is largely forgotten, his books have started to come back into print, or in several cases, as ebooks.

DNA testing was to later confirm what Masters suspected all his life — that he had some Indian blood, which perhaps explained his great sympathy for India, although perhaps not entirely, for like so many of that great class of Britons who fell in love with India, Masters — like Auchinleck and Slim — to which category can be added Kipling, E.M. Forster, John Lang, Jim Corbett and thousands of others, found something there which gave him a sense of completion.

Calvert was next reassigned to Europe, where he took command of the elite Special Air Service (SAS) Brigade, with its five regiments. After the war, he was handed command of the Malayan Scouts, a battle-hardened and hard-drinking commando force which experienced great success during the Malayan communist insurgency in the 1950s. But after this, Calvert’s life took a drastic downturn.

While serving in Germany in 1952, he was cashiered for what can now be construed as homosexuality after reportedly inviting three German youths to his apartment, although the case was 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 an anti-Chindit mentality in the army and because of the crusade against homosexuality which marked that era. Disgraced and made a virtual outcast outside the Chindit community, at one point, this celebrated soldier and tactician worked as a common laborer and a gardener (the latter of which had some therapeutic value). He repeatedly 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 who were embarrassed by him, and wanted him gone, he was helped by his few remaining friends, including General “Uncle Bill” Slim (who tried to aid him during his long period of being down and out in Australia), Peter Fleming (his old friend from Burma), who stuck up for him during and after his courtmartial, Tony Harris (whom Calvert had originally hired as a research assistant), who came to regard him a mentor and cared for him for the last 25 years of his life, and Bernard Fergusson, who often served as his moral compass when Calvert’s acrimony at the way his life had turned out manifested itself in bitterness at the world and those he held dearest. Scores of ex-Chindits kept in touch with him, keeping him grounded even as he fought to keep a darkening, cynical view of the world from engulfing him. He 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 book called The Patterns of Guerrilla Warfare (a massive project which was unfinished) and appeared in the critically-acclaimed war documentary The Second World War. He worked feverishly, writing hundreds of magazine and news editorials on a variety of matters (as a freelance writer which ensured a life of penury) and three non-fiction books on the Chindits, including the international classic, Prisoners of Hope — a title which perhaps best reflected his inner sentiment.

He died on 26 November 1998 while residing at the convalescent Royal Star & Garter Homes in London. Over a year before, in March 1997, although ailing and hobbled, he had returned to Pagoda Hill. “I never thought I’d come back,” he said, as the memories of that distant age engulfed him.

In recent years, two of the delinquent youths, now grown men, were appalled to learn what had happened to Calvert. They attempted to set the record straight, telling David Rooney that nothing improper or serious had ever happened, and that the Military Police had been attempting to build a case against Calvert based on his homosexuality. Despite this new evidence, attempts to have Calvert’s record cleared have been stubbornly resisted.

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 complete devotion. He was also a man completely careless of personal danger and ready to take the same risks that he expected of his troops. Calvert was perhaps the Chindit’s most ardent defender, but he was also their most tragic hero. Today, the adjective most used by the British press to describe him is “legendary.”

In 1945, Bernard Fergusson 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 had been awarded a string of honors, including being made an OBE, and a knight as part of GCMG and the GCVO.[cxl] 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 on 28 November 1980.

He wrote 15 books, including one about his visit to the old Burmese battlefields in 1962 — which while all largely forgotten, remained outshined by two, Beyond the Chindwin, about his experiences in the first expedition and The Wild Green Earth, about the second, both back in print as of this writing, in 2016.

“Joe” Lentaigne, meantime, stayed on in the army, retaining control of the Chindits until February 1945, until they were disbanded. He was later made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He remained with the Indian Army, commanding the Indian Defense College for several years. When India gained its independence, the new government decreed that it was time for all British officers to go. Old soldiers of the Indian Army like Lentaigne had nowhere left to go, and for him, the pain of being told that he was no longer welcome in a system he had known his whole life, was acute. The Indian officer cadre came to his rescue, however, and asked that an exception be made in his case. It was. Lentaigne stayed on at the College and when he retired from the army as a Lt-General in 1956, it transpired that he had not long to live. He died just a few months later of a heart-attack. He was 56 years old. He left behind four children from two marriages.

Major-General George Symes, meantime, having tendered his resignation in April, found himself out on a limb. Being 47 years old, he had in essence, concluded his frontline career.

Given deputy command over rear-echelon, Line of Communications troops in the 21st Army Group in northwest Europe, Symes moved with this formation during its campaign in Northwest 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.

Not much is known about Lt-Colonel Walter Purcell “Scottie” Scott’s postwar activities. Commonly known as “Scottie” to his peers and “Jammy” to his men, owing to his irrepressible flair for leading them out of sticky situations, Scott had been an enlisted man at the start of the war and an electrical engineer by trade. Soon tiring of this job, he had requested a transfer to the infantry and for his mental acuity had been selected for training at Sandhurst, the distinguished military academy. Scott survived the war and later retired to Wiltshire.

Squadron Leader “Bobbie” Thompson, Calvert’s RAF liaison officer was a veteran of both Chindit operations. 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 the 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 to advise US commanders and President Diem in South Vietnam. He did this from 1961 to 1965, adding to his reputation by repeatedly appearing in press conferences. (In the “Redux” version of the Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz quotes Thompson, although with a sardonic tone, from an issue of Time Magazine to Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard).

By 1966, however, Thompson had left Vietnam disillusioned with American and South Vietnamese tactics, which he saw as hopeless. That same year bore witness to his first book, Defeating Communist Insurgency. 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, “Bobbie” 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).

Captain Jack Wilcox, who had distinguished himself on Pagoda Hill, White City and Mogaung, returned to England after the war, where 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.

Private Tul Bahadur Pun, the hero of Mogaung, returned to his home village of Mygadi in Nepal after the war. 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, Major James Lumley, 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. All of his sons and grandsons have served or are serving with the Gurkhas. The family’s martial spirits were given a boost in 2010, when one of Tul Bahadur’s grandsons, Dipprasad Pun, a member of the 1st Royal Gurkha Rifles in Afghanistan, found his outpost under siege from 15 to 20 Taliban insurgents.

He was one of only four men occupying the outpost as the rest of his platoon was out in patrol. Believing he was about to die, Pun went berserk, blazing away at the enemy with his assault rifle and a machinegun, firing 400 rounds of ammunition and throwing 17 hand grenades to try and take as many of the enemy with him. In the end, he lived, battering to death the last Taliban militant with the tripod of his machine gun. It was a feat equal in ferocity to the one achieved by his grandfather over seventy years before, but Dipprasad was only awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (the modern day all ranks equivalent of the DSO).

The Air Commando leader, Philip G. Cochran stayed on in the air force after the war, spending the remaining years of his life in his usual, colorful manner. Retiring from the air force in 1946, he joined RKO Pictures as an aviation advisor. He supervised the aerial scenes on the Howard Hughes’ 1957 cold war clunker, Jet Pilot, and dated actress Betty White in the 1960s, until she spurned his marriage proposal to wed TV host Allen Ludden. When the cartoonist Milton Caniff founded a new comic strip called Steve Canyon, Cochran was cast as “General Phillire.”

After wrapping up his career in the movie business, Cochran returned home to Erie, Pennsylvania and joined his brother trucking company, Lyon Trucking, which he helped expand to a nationwide business. He died of a heart attack while fox hunting in Genesco, New York, on August 26, 1979. He was 69. Milt Caniff said of Cochran that he “had class. Nobody can ever define it, but you can sense it. He had the ability to always do and say the right thing at the right time… Some people naturally rise above the crowd. He was one of them.”

His deputy commander, John Alison, a certified ace with seven victories, went to become the “father of Air Force special operations,” commanding the 3rd Air Commando Group in the Pacific and serving in the Philippines and Okinawa in 1945. He left the air force in the seventies as a Major-General, and served as vice president of the Northrop Corporation in the 1980s. Alison died on June 6, 2011. Among his many decorations were the US Distinguished Service Cross and a British DSO, presented by King George VI. As Calvert had hoped, he had finally gotten “something” for his fine work at Broadway.

Cochran’s chief of photo reconnaissance, Lieutenant Charles Russhon, who had photographed a log-strewn Piccadilly on March 5, became the first American to photograph Hiroshima after the atomic bombing. He ended the war as a lieutenant colonel, and later went into Hollywood like his quondam boss, working as a technical advisor, notably on James Bond films from 1963 to 1973.  Russhon, like Cochran was also friends with Caniff, and served as the inspiration behind his ice cream-loving character Charlie Vanilla in Steve Canyon. Russhon died in Manhattan in January 1982, aged 71.

As for Stilwell, after being drummed out of China in October 1944 he was given command of the US Tenth Army in the final phase of the Battle for Okinawa. Stilwell led this formation with his customary verve and remained in active service after the war. In May 1946, he and Frank Merrill led two Marine platoons to quell the prison uprising known as the Battle of Alcatraz, but died unexpectedly on 12 October at the Presidio of San Francisco. His diary was published soon after polarizing readers the world over. Yet, despite everything, his reputation  as a “soldier’s soldier” remains with an even a museum built in his honor at Chongqing, China, where in a strange twist, Stilwell remains much admired by the Chinese government for his opposition to Chiang Kai-Shek.

Merrill, for his part, retired from the army in June 1948. He became the New Hampshire Commissioner of Highways, and in December 9, 1955 he was elected President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The honor was short, for two days later, he passed away.

“Doc” Whyte, who only became a doctor because he wasn’t able to find a spot in the Royal Marines (his first choice) was later promoted to Lt-Colonel and became chief medical officer in the Indian 44th Airborne Division. After the war, he married and while serving in Cyprus, resigned his commission in 1957. He went on to become a senior consultant radiologist in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, living there for the rest of his life. In the years that followed, he gave scores of interviews on the Chindits to writers, reporters and visitors, endearing himself to all who met him, disarming them with his erudite manner and a minor stutter. [cxli] After his retirement, he became actively involved in the community and the local British Legion, and made a hobby of visiting the curio shops in London and Dublin with his wife. He passed away on February 18, 1998. He was 84.

Douglas Larpent retired from the army and became employed at a British Army records office in Germany. Tim “Breezy” Brennan also left the army and became a partner in an underwriting firm associated with Lloyd’s of London, while “Tommy” Thompson became a bank manager in Bristol.[cxlii] Richard Rhodes-James went on to an illustrious career as a teacher and  as an educator. He became an evangelical Christian. In 1981, he published a book titled Chindit, in which analyzed the campaign with fresh insights. He died in January 2013, aged 91.

Lt-Colonel Alec Harper of 4/9th and 3/9th Gurkhas, a cavalryman of the Deccan Horse before joining the Gurkhas, went on to Java with the 3/9th, who had by now been assigned to the 5th Indian Division. There, he won a DSO during two weeks of fighting to restore calm and free European hostages. He later witnessed the horror of the Indian partition while a student at the Quetta Staff College, watching on helplessly as the old animosities of the Hindus and Muslims returned to the fore, resulting in sheer slaughter.

He quit the army soon after, in 1947, moving to Calcutta to help run his father-in-law’s distillery business. The business was sold in 1954 and Harper and his wife returned to England. He became a celebrated polo player in the 1950s and was still a formidable name in the sport for decades. Later, he earned a reputation as a respected breeder of polo horses with his old Indian Army orderly and cavalryman from the Deccan Horse, Bachan Singh, working for him. He wrote two books, on horses, and was planning a third when he passed away in March 2003. He was survived by a son and daughter.[cxliii]

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Wingate’s death continued to reverberate within Chindit circles long after the war, and he has continued to divide historians, readers and soldiers for the last seventy years and will continue to do so long after these words have been written.

Almost immediately, his enemies attempted to denigrate his status. A letter from the War Office to GHQ India declared that Wingate had not been a major-general long enough to warrant his widow getting the pension that came with the rank. By excluding the time when Wingate was laid up with typhoid the letter argued that Wingate did not even enough have the right to the rank of temporary major-general and thus, it was right to call him a “brigadier.” The staff of GHQ India, to their great credit, considering how maligned they had been by Wingate, categorically rejected the letter and sent it back with “the appropriate remarks.”[cxliv]

Yet the vitriol remained high in many quarters, prompting many ordinary Chindits and officers to come to their late chief’s defense. In one telling incident, a group of junior Chindit officers, recently returned from Burma were drinking and making merry at the Maiden Hotel in New Delhi when they were confronted by a major-general who told them that “Wingate’s death was the best thing that ever happened to the British Army.”

It was early in the evening and the young officers were not yet drunk, so they held their anger in check. But before the night had ended the major-general found himself thrown, body and uniform, into the hotel fountain by unknown assailants.[cxlv]

In 1947, another controversy arose when an Anglo-American group disinterred Wingate’s remains, as it did the others who died in the crash. Three years later, the US government, citing an agreement with the British, argued that since the majority of those who died were Americans and since the remains could not be separated for identification, they should be buried in a single grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, no one bothered to inform Wingate’s widow, Lorna, or his son, Orde Jonathan Wingate  — who like his father would eventually join the Artillery Regiment, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel.

When the Wingates and the families of Lt. Borrow and two the British correspondents who had also died, finally learned of what had happened, furious letters were written, triggering a debate in Parliament, and widespread media coverage. Nothing came of it, however, and in 1974, the families were mollified somewhat after the cemetery erected a large headstone dedicated to all the victims of the crash.

The dead may have been at peace, but there was to be no peace for the living. In the long decades that followed, the Chindits found themselves pariahs in the army, frowned upon by several senior army officers despite all they had achieved. Slim, who was to do much to help ex-Chindits, nevertheless dismissed their war in his autobiography, writing: “I came firmly to the conclusion that such formations, trained, equipped and mentally adjusted for one kind of operation only, were wasteful. They did not give, militarily, a worthwhile return for the resources in men, material and time that they absorbed.”[cxlvi] Derek Tulloch who was to fiercely defend Wingate in public until his death in 1974, sneered at this — what he called “Slim’s fairytales.”[cxlvii]

But it was not just Slim’s words which wounded the Chindits. Their war was also 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, whom Wingate had treated badly. 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, concerned 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, including “Bobbie” Thompson, Calvert, Fergusson, Masters, Richard Rhodes-James, Charles Carfrae, and dozens of ordinary Chindits.

Their works have ensured the reversal of rancor, and today little is present barring that found in the writings of revisionist historians. Even more telling today is that for all their erstwhile mistrust of the Chindits, the British army insists on using the name “Chindit” to denote special barracks, sections or programs of action. Yet, the great hypothetical cliffhanger which developed following Wingate’s death persists. That Wingate’s strategic thinking evolved from outflanking, jungle tactics to an intention to hand the Japanese a theater-level defeat through a massive air and land offensive – and being prevented from doing so by his death – remains one of the great unknowns of the war.

Yet his death, occurring at the apex of his career, like all such great misfortunes, has further mythologized him and the “romantic” nature of the Chindits. They have overshadowed the equally brave and more numerous troops of the conventional 14th Army, depriving them of some laurels, and unequivocally securing for themselves a towering place in history.

The mythology, however, has also rendered their multinational war as a patriotic undertaking revolving around the central character of Wingate’s madness or genius, it has portrayed their battles as one-sided when they were actually multifaceted, complex and convoluted, and it has depicted their struggles as clean and noble when it was detested, loathed and suffered by those who were there.

In the myth, the men have become stoical and brave as they sallied forth into the cauldron of war. They became architypes of the sort written about by Kipling, broad-shouldered and decent, but who in reality, wept and despaired at the loss of their dearest friends at the twilight of empire, fought tooth-and-nail against an unrelenting enemy, bled for the love of their fellow man and were destroyed by the toughness of the country which consumed all men equally, whether they be Britons, Scots, Africans, Americans, Burmese, Chinese, Gurkhas,  Indians — or Japanese. And although the survivors returned home to their distant shores, their plains, their woods and their foothills, the smells of the jungle, of the earth, the trees, the rivers, the cordite and sickly sweet smell of blood, remained. The memories endured, flitting past unceasingly like scenes in a fragmented film.

Charles Carfrae, speaking nearly five decades after the war, told of suffering from mysterious jungle ailments for a week or so every year, for no medical reason at all.[cxlviii] He likened the phenomenon to a hangover, but it was more phantasmal in nature. Burma had dug in under the skin.

What would have happened if Wingate had lived? Would he have succeeded in bring about a decisive Japanese defeat in Burma as he had foretold Churchill? Could he have saved the lives of thousands of his men? What is certain is that where Lentaigne had proved powerless in confrontation against Stilwell, Wingate would have been strong. He would have refused to see his troops squandered at Mogaung, at Point 2171, at Hill 60 and at Blackpool. He would have threatened to resign, but would he have allowed strategic requirements to upset his own operational doctrines as it had at Indaw? There remains a possibility that Wingate would have committed to a battle at Mogaung, but on his own terms. And what if his troops had been returned to India largely intact? Would they have gone to land at Rangoon the following year for a glorious conclusion to their war?

Several alternate realities are conceivable. But as in life, Wingate remains enigmatic in death. There are no easy answers.

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[i] Astor, 273.

[ii] Ibid., 274.

[iii] Ibid.,274.

[iv] Ibid., 274.

[v] Ibid., 276.

[vi] Van Wagner, 71.

[vii] Ibid, 72.

[viii] Allen, 363.

[ix] Van Wagner, 82.

[x] Mountbatten became the virtual Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces in the Far East in late July.

[xi] Van Wagner, 83.

[xii] Astor, 287-288.

[xiii] Calvert, Prisoners, Loc. 1390-1398, 27%

[xiv] Astor, 267.

[xv] Astor, 267.

[xvi] Masters, 252.

[xvii] Allen, 359.

[xviii] Of the 5th Fusiliers who somehow made his way to Blackpool by Dakota, to be able to fight. (Masters, 243)

[xix] Masters, 252.

[xx] Ibid., 253.

[xxi] Ibid., 255.

[xxii] Walter Scott Interview, IWM Catalogue# 12352

[xxiii] Masters, 255-256.

[xxiv] One easy way to understand this move is to consider the withdrawal this way: Layback 1 withdraws, covered by Layback 2. Layback 2 then withdraws, covered by Layback 1 behind them…etc.

[xxv] The already badly wounded Hanley had earlier survived the demise of the L-5 Light plane which crashed while takeoff in the presence of Major Whyte. The pilot, who had survived the crash, muttered “I should be shot.” The Chindits managed to get him onboard a second light plane a few days later, and he lived.

[xxvi] Masters, 258.

[xxvii] Ibid., 258.

[xxviii] Allen, 361.

[xxix] Thompson, 198.

[xxx] Masters, 263.

[xxxi] Thompson, 198.

[xxxii] Upjohn had known Masters at Sandhurst before the war.

[xxxiii] Masters, 264-265.

[xxxiv] Ibid., 265.

[xxxv] Ibid., 267.

[xxxvi] Rhodes-James, IWM Interview, Catalogue# 19593

[xxxvii] Allen, 362.

[xxxviii] Astor, 266.

[xxxix] Masters, 268.

[xl] Bidwell,263.

[xli] Ibid., 263.

[xlii] Masters, 278.

[xliii] By mid-May, Calvert had lost 38 officers and 592 other ranks killed, wounded or evacuated. (Diamond,  56)

[xliv] Allen, 268.

[xlv] Astor, 280-281.

[xlvi] Ibid., 277.

[xlvii] Allen, 368.

[xlviii] Ibid., 278.

[xlix] He gave this estimation in response to a query by Lentaigne on May 27.

[l] Diamond, 60.

[li] Ibid.

[lii] Ibid.

[liii] Comprising of troops from the III/114th Infantry (18th Division); artillery units of the 18th Division, the regimental headquarters and the 3rd Battalion of the 128th Infantry (53rd Division), which had been able to travel to Mogaung after the collapse of Blackpool. In addition, the Japanese had several service troops in charge of the ammunition dumps and the hospital.

[liv] Diamond, 60-61.

[lv] Ibid., 62.

[lvi] Ibid.

[lvii] The PIAT —Projectile, Infantry, Anti-Tank, was the British equivalent of the Bazooka rocket launcher, except in this case, the 2.5lb projectile was launched an anti-tank round via the use of a powerful spring.

[lviii] Astor, 269.

[lix] Diamond, 57.

[lx] Astor, 269.

[lxi] Diamond, 57.

[lxii] Astor, 269.

[lxiii] Diamond, 63.

[lxiv] Thompson, 198.

[lxv] This village is also known as Pin Hmi in some accounts.

[lxvi] Diamond, 64.

[lxvii] Calvert, Prisoners, loc.3111, 60%

[lxviii] Allen, 370.

[lxix] Ibid., 370-371.

[lxx] Ibid., 371.

[lxxi] Calvert, Prisoners, Loc. 3159, 61%

[lxxii] The total strength of the brigade on this day was not more than 550 men, many of them of lightly wounded. (Calvert, loc. 3199, 62% & Allen, 371)

[lxxiii] Calvert, Prisoners, 3175, 61%

[lxxiv] Astor, 287.

[lxxv] Thompson, 201.

[lxxvi] Calvert, Prisoners of Hope, 218.

[lxxvii] Bidwell, 269.

[lxxviii] Calvert, Prisoners, 211.

[lxxix] Calvert, Fighting Mad, 197-98.

[lxxx] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 3305, 64%.

[lxxxi] Not to be confused with the Japanese 114th Infantry Regiment.

[lxxxii] Allen, 372.

[lxxxiii] Of the 2nd Battalion of the Chinese 38th Artillery Division.

[lxxxiv] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 3452, 66%

[lxxxv] Astor, 285.

[lxxxvi] Allen,373.

[lxxxvii] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 3581, 69%

[lxxxviii] Ibid., loc. 3604, 69%

[lxxxix] Astor, 285-286.

[xc] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 3628, 70%

[xci] After midnight, on May 24th.

[xcii] The other three recipients of Silver Stars were Calvert and two Gurkhas, Lt. Riki Ramjale and Lance-Corporal Balbir, both of 3/6th Gurkhas.

[xciii] Bidwell, 272-73.

[xciv] Allen, 374.

[xcv] War Against Japan Vol III, p.410, note 4

[xcvi] Calvert, Prisoners, 235.

[xcvii] Calvert, Fighting Mad, 198.

[xcviii] Masters, 279.

[xcix] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 3802, 73%, Ch. 11.

[c] Allen, 368.

[ci] Ibid., 368.

[cii] Ogburn, The Marauders, 279.

[ciii] Astor, 282.

[civ] Allen, 375.

[cv] Calvert, Prisoners of Hope, 252.

[cvi] Calvert, IWM interviews, Catalogue# 9942 & 18642

[cvii] Allen, 375 & Calvert, Prisoners of Hope, 252.

[cviii] Calvert, Fighting Mad, loc. 2931. 85%. Stilwell asked Calvert to submit the names of five officers or men to whom he wanted to award the Silver Star. He removed two, one because that officer’s feats had come before joining Stilwell’s command, and replaced the other with Calvert’s name.

[cix] Astor, 282-283.

[cx] Ibid., 283.

[cxi] Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in the China, loc. 8714 (71%), Ch 17.

[cxii] Ibid.,

[cxiii] Astor, 370.

[cxiv] Jane Perlez, China Maintains Respect, and a Museum, for a US General, The New York Times, February 23, 2016.

[cxv] Masters, 275.

[cxvi] Ibid., 275-76.

[cxvii] Also see Frank Anthony’s Britain’s Betrayal in India, 1969.

[cxviii] Masters, 276.

[cxix] Romanus & Sutherland, Stilwell’s Command Problems, 222.

[cxx] See Redding, War in the Wilderness

[cxxi] Masters, 279.

[cxxii] Ibid., 281. The actual breakdown of this figure was: Eight officers, 90 Gurkhas, and 21 British soldiers fit for duty.

[cxxiii] Masters, 281.

[cxxiv] Allen, 376.

[cxxv] Ibid., 377, 379.

[cxxvi] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 3855-3864, 74%, Ch. 11.

[cxxvii] Allen, 381.

[cxxviii] Ibid., 381.

[cxxix] Ibid., 398.

[cxxx] Americans: 272 Marauders killed and 955 wounded; Chinese: 972 killed and 3, 184 wounded.

[cxxxi] See Barnaby Phillips, Another Man’s War.

[cxxxii] The 77th Brigade suffered 1,578 casualties; the 111th Brigade suffered about 700 casualties. (Masters, 289). Total Chindit casualties up to July 1944 amounted to 3,628 killed, wounded or missing.

[cxxxiii] Simon Anglim, Orde Wingate and the British Army, 209.

[cxxxiv] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 3945-3963. 76%, Ch. 11

[cxxxv] Ibid., 2277-2285, 44%

[cxxxvi] Masters 290.

[cxxxvii] Many of the battalions were also assigned to the newly formed 44th Indian Airborne Division. (Anglim, 211).

[cxxxviii] Thompson, 204.

[cxxxix] Calvert, Fighting Mad, loc. 2947, 87%.

[cxl] GCMG (Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George), GCVO (Knight of the Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order)

[cxli] Max Ryan, Desmond Whyte obituary, The Irish Times, October 12, 1998 (http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/dr-d-g-c-whyte-1.202739)

[cxlii] Masters, 335-36.

[cxliii] Lt-Col. Alec Harper, Telegraph obituary, 15 March 2003.

[cxliv] Calvert, Prisoners, loc. 1324, 25% Ch. 7.

[cxlv] Calvert, Fighting Mad, loc.1107,33%

[cxlvi] See Defeat into Victory.

[cxlvii] Rooney, Mad Mike, Letter from Fergusson to Calvert, 1970, loc. 3006, 85%

[cxlviii] Charles Carfrae IWM Interview, Catalogue# 10467

9 responses to “Return of the Chindits, Part 3

  1. Paul Smyth August 25, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I worked with Col DGC Whyte in Radiology Dept, Londonderry from 1975 until his retirement. It was a privilege to know him – his influence was felt throughout Altnagelvin Hospital and he was instrumental in setting up the Londonderry School of Radiography which I attended.

  2. Anonymous November 28, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    thankyou,akhil it was wonderful education and reading
    sk_medhi@yahoo.co.in

  3. Peter December 17, 2016 at 5:14 am

    All thanks for your marvelous writing about the Chindits. Fascinated, read all three sections today.

    Peter
    Sanpatong

  4. Lynne Moneypenny January 8, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I have just spent three days reading through the Return of the Chindits, sometimes in tears, sometimes with pride, mostly with disbelief at what they went through.

    My Dad was L. Cpl Matthew Moneypenny of the 1st Bn King’s Regiment. He hardly ever spoke about his times in Burma and India. I know he never wanted to return to either. He abhorred the difference between the extremely poor and extremely rich, and the separation of the caste system. I have some photos of him during his time in India, once with local children.

    He once spoke of eating cubes of meat he suspected were donkey in the jungles of Burma and another time he and a few other soldiers became disconnected from the rest of the troop as the made their way through the jungle. They carried on with their journey for a few days until they eventually met up with them again. He was hospitalised in India 3 times as far as I can tell probably with malaria.

    In later life my Dad was a Cub Scout Leader and Church Warden of our Church and was well liked and respected.

    I can’t believe how much time and effort you have put into these pages and want to sincerely thank you for all your hard work. I have discovered a lot more information on my Dad’s journey and the people he was with.

    Thank you so much.

    • Akhil Kadidal January 8, 2017 at 11:05 pm

      Thank you for your sincere and heartfelt comments -And for sharing your father’s story.

      I can understand his reluctance to ever return to India and Burma. Seventy years have passed since the region’s independence from the empire and in India little has much changed in the areas of social inequality and justice, although a large middle-class now exists, which didn’t back then.

      The 1st King’s certainly experienced unrelenting combat during the campaign. Would you happen to know which column your father served in?

      • Lynne Moneypenny January 9, 2017 at 7:29 am

        Hello Akhil, I believe my Dad was in column 81 or 82. From what I have found on your website I know now he served under Mike Calvert and probably Walter Purcell Scott. I have downloaded Mike Calvert’s book Prisoners of Hope to my kindle and can’t wait to read more of my Dad’s time in Burma.

        I have also reread some airmail letters he sent to my Mum back in Liverpool, one written from the jungle floor in Burma when he mentions his glider followed in behind Jackie Coogan’s whom I first heard of on your pages!

        I now know more than ever about my Dad’s time in Burma and for that I thank you so much.

        Best wishes.

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