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Stilwell Road (Ledo Road)                                  


The historic Stilwell's Road, which was constructed by the Americans during the Second World War from Ledo in Assam, India, which is one of the rail-heads of the Bengal-Assam railway in the valley of the Upper Brahmaputra during that time to Burma Road connecting to Kunming, China passes through Lekhapani, Jairampur, Nampong and Pangsau pass, India-Burma (Myanmar) border. It winds up the passes of 9000 feet Patkai Range and emerges at Shindbwiyang and then Myitkyina. It crosses the broad bowl of the Upper Chindwin, threads the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys, and General Joseph W. Stilwell
General Joseph W. Stilwell
Click on the Map to 'Zoom in'
A map of Stilwell Road
World War II map of Stilwell Road,
China-Burma-India front
goes down to Bhamo and to the Burma road which connects Kunming, Yunnan province, China.

Originally it was called 'Ledo Road'; later it was name after the General Joseph Warren Stilwell (1883-1946), Chief of Staff to Allied Forces in China-Burma-India theatre for defence of Burma (Myanmar) from Japanese forces under the Generalissimo, Marshal Chiang Kai-shek, Supreme Command of the forces of the United Nations in China, including such parts of Indo-China and Siam as might become accessible to the troops.
The Ledo road (Stilwell's Road) was constructed under his direct supervision during the war. He had also participated in the First World war and mastered the Chinese language during his stay
at Philippines and China after the War. He was better known to the World as "Vinegar Joe", though his troops called him "Uncle Joe".

Initially, this project was prospected by British long before the Second World War and could not implemented until the agreement between the British and Joseph W. Stilwell representing Americans on December 1, 1942 during the Second World War when Burma was fully under Seized by the Japanese forces.
General Stilwell & Merrill
General Joseph W. Stilwell (right) & Maj. Gen. Frank D. Merrill planning the mission to capture the airstrip in Myitkyina, Burma, during World War II
Allied Forces extremely in need of this road for restoration of line of communication between China and Burma, and a line of communication to Allied forces in Burma from India to liberate Burma from the claws of Japanese forces as the topography of the Indo-Burma border was very difficult terrains with thick, inaccessible and malaria and Dysentery infested forests. General Stilwell's Operations Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frank D. Merrill recommended building a road from Ledo, Assam, India to Burma connecting the old Burma Road to provide a Land Supply to China and Burma for support of the Allied soldiers who were fighting in the North Burma.

Lieutenant Colonel Frank D. Merrill Commanding officer of "the experienced jungle troops, for a dangerous and hazardous Mission - somewhere" lead his specially trained 5307 Composite Unit (Provisional) called "Merrill's Marauders", code named "Galahad" to the Ledo Road and started marching on foot from Margherita, near Ledo, India on February 7, 1944 passing through Pangsau Pass (Hell Pass), Shindbwiyang, Jambu-Bam, and then Myitkyina most of the times fighting and struggling against rains, mud, swamps, Malaria, Dysentery, Typhoid and strategically positioned enemies at different locations on their way. Merrill's Marauders seized Myitkyina air-strip on May 17, 1944 despite strong resistance from Japanese forces. Then after some days later, they captured Myitkyina town itself, which was stronghold of Japanese forces based in north Burma and the two months campaign ended on August 3, 1944 with Merrill's Marauders 127 deaths and 291 wounded besides, other casualties. Myitkyina was one of the main missions of Stilwell.
Ariel view of Ledo Road
Ariel view of Stilwell Road (Ledo Road)
In December 1942, the road construction begun by constructing Warehouses, Hospitals, Barracks and base roads at Ledo, Assam, India side by side fighting with the Japanese forces. On December 16, 1942, Americans began building the double-track, all-weather Ledo road. Subsequently, the Americans had brought heavy road construction machineries to these wild hills like Bulldozers, Cranes, Power-shovels, Caterpillars, Steam-rollers, in massive procession from the United State production-lines 12,000 miles away, across two Oceans and past three Continents.
General Stilwell had organized a 'Service of Supply' (SOS) under the command of Major General Raymond A. Wheeler, a high profile US Army Engineer and assigned him to look after the construction of the Ledo road. Major General Wheeler in turn, assigned responsibility of base commander for the road construction to Colonel John C. Arrowsmith. Later, he was replaced by Colonel Lewis A. Pick, an expert US Army engineer, as road construction was slowed down under Arrowsmith during the monsoon season of 1943. He had employed some of the finest mechanical roadmakers from Americans, British, Indian, Chinese and West Africans to fight against the wild jungles, tangles of swamp and forest, deep valleys and high cliffs and test of heavy rains and floods across the Indo-Burma mountain Range.

On December 27, 1943, three days ahead of schedule, the road reached Shindbwiyang Finished grading and graveling remained to be done, but the 117 miles from Ledo to Shindbwiyang were open before January 1, 1944, as General Stilwell wished. Colonel Pick's celebration for the engineers omitted none of the available essentials. As he congratulated them for opening 54 miles of trace in 57 days, a convoy came rolling into Shindbwiyang with candy, doughnuts, and 9,600 cans of beer.

In late 1944, barely two years after Stilwell accepted responsibility for building the Ledo Road (Stilwell Road), it connect to the Burma Road though some sections of the road beyond Myitkyina at Hukawng Valley were under repairing due to heavy monsoon water, and it become a highway stretching from Assam, India to Kunming, China 1,079 miles length. On January 12, 1945, the first convoy of 113 vehicles was led by General Pick from Ledo and was reached Kunming, China on February 4, 1945 and celebrated the achievement. The road construction was estimated to cost 137,000,000 dollars.

Two 4-inch fuel pipe lines were laid side by side and followed along the Ledo road from Tinsukia, Assam, India to relieve the road and air traffics of carrying fuel from Assam, India to China. They were fed by gasoline pumped from Calcutta to a station near their starting point.
On May 20, 1945, newly promoted Major General Lewis A. Pick formally announced the completion of the Ledo road, a task he called toughest job ever given to US Army Engineers in Wartime. The road was renamed the Stilwell Road in honour of General Joseph Warren Stilwell at the suggestion of Chiang Kai-shek, it was known to the Engineers who built it as "Pick's Pike." Major General Lewis A. Pick
Major General Lewis A. Pick, US Army Engineer who built the Stilwell Road
In the course of time, the Stilwell Road had virtually disappeared due to the road lies in the lands of three different nation that are China, Burma and India and due to non maintenance by the respective nations. However, 61 km of the road lies in India, 1,033 km in Burma (Myanmar) and 632 km in China. In India out of 61 km, 30 km lies in Assam and 31 km in Arunachal Pradesh. The border between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh has 14 km of the road section which is in deplorable condition. The section of road which lies within Arunachal Pradesh has been maintained by the Government of Arunachal Pradesh and the road section which lies within the area of Assam out of 14 km is in deplorable condition due to non maintenance by Government of Assam and vehicular are facing lot of difficulties.

Recently it is reported that the Indian government has proposed this road for reopening as International Highway linking to Myanmar (Burma). Everyone in this area is looking forward for implementation of the project within the stipulated time. Hope this project be implemented in time.

Table showing location-wise distance from Ledo, Assam, India to Kunming, Yunnan, China within the Ledo Road (Stilwell Road):


Distance from Ledo, Assam, India
in Km
in Mile
Pangsau Pass
Mong-Yu (Ledo-Burma Roads junction)


* Lies on the Burma Road.

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Photo courtesy of Scot A. Tackett, Sr.

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