Assam's WWII Contribution

We are delighted to have a retired Tea Planter Bijoy Kumar Bhuyan of Guwahati 781001, allow us to show his writings on  history--there are several and more will no doubt be added. Bhaiti is an enthusiastic history buff and is sharing his thoughts and knowledge with us. 
Sadly Bijoy passed away in June 2011

Here is a list of contributions please click on the heading to go direct to the subject

3 More WW11 wreckages found
Allied Effort on Stillwel Road (Video)
End WW11 Newspaper headlines
Centre decides against reopening Stillwell Road
Ledo Road Time line of events from 1937
Hump Plane Wreckage
India Invaded1962 by Gerry Halnan
The Ledo Road
Stilwell Road from an Los Angeles Times report
Chinese invasion 1962
Microchip turns 50
Assams Importance in WW2
Fancy a Trip on the Stillwell Road

March 11 2012
We are indebted to Dr Doke for this article--Dr Doke lives in Arunchal Pradesh (previously known as NEFA) and we thank him for keeping us up to date

3 more WW-II plane wreckages found

M Doley  reporter for the Arunchal Times

ITANAGAR, Mar 1: Wreckages of planes used during World War- II (WW-II) continued to be discovered in Arunachal Pradesh -- the so called ‘Bermuda Triangle' of North East. Over the last few years, three more such wreckages were found in dense forests of Changlang district.

According to M Yobin (Lisu), a resident of  Gandhigram village in Changlang district, the wreckages were found in remote mountain jungles of Changlang which can be reached after 11 to 12 days trekking from Miao town. The wrecked planes are believed to be the remains of US aircrafts used during WW-II.

"A metal plate with words "Signal Core, US Army" inscribed on it and some human bone parts are still there to be seen," Yobin told this reporter over telephone this afternoon. He said that most of the metal parts were taken away by villagers.

Earlier, wreckages of MIA (several missing-in-action) US fighter planes were recovered from various parts of Arunachal, including one on a hilltop right in the heart of the state capital, Sagalee, Anini, Donli, Aalo, Tezu, Damroh and Chayang Tajo.

A search operation was also conducted by a US defence team in different places few years ago with the help of Indian Air Force for detection of more plane wreckages.

The allies had lost hundreds of aircrafts in Arunachal Pradesh during World War II while maintaining supply line to allied forces fighting against the Japanese mainly due to inhospitable terrain, unpredictable weather and mechanical failure.


March 31 2011
Here we have a link to the story about the Stillwel Road and the efforts of all the Allies in the Burma, India, and China areas during WW11

Please click to read

There are some advertisements with the film but just ignore--Editor

 March 28 2011
Thanks again to Bhaiti Bhuyan we have two old newspaper Front pages
telling of the first Atomic bomb and the Japanese surrender

  To read First Atomic bomb page please Click Here

  To read the Japanese surrender page Click Here

March 24 2011

We are again indebted to Bhaiti Bhuyan who is currently visiting
Australia but also keeps in touch with his home in Assam and sends
us this informaation from the Assam Tribune
Thank you Bhaiti

From Assam Tribune March 24 2011

Centre decides against reopening Stilwell Road

Spl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 22 - Despite intense pressure, the Centre has decided not to re-open the historic Stilwell Road, the Ministry of External Affairs has clarified.

The Centre's opinion was part of the 12th report of the Committee on Government Assurances that was tabled in the Parliament here today.

The Ministry of External Affairs has said, "Since it has been decided not to reopen the Stilwell Road, no action is pending from this Ministry."

The Ministry's plea to drop the assurance has since been accepted by the Parliamentary Committee, the Report said.

The assurance flowed from a reply given to Dr Arun Kumar Sarma by Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahmed in the Lok Sabha.

The Minister had replied that Government of India had not taken up the issue of reopening of the Road for commercial use with China and Myanmar.

Ahmed had said that The Government of India is considering the commissioning of a pre-feasibility study on the matter of reopening of the Stilwell Road.

Earlier, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Madhavrao Scindia in 1999 had asked the External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh whether Government of Assam had proposed to re-open the Stilwell Road, lying unused since World War II.

The two MPs wanted to know about the regulations proposed to be introduced to check illegal trade and exodus of infiltrators through the route.

Jaswant Singh had replied by stating that information was being collected from Government of Assam.

The replies to the question was treated as an assurance and required to be implemented by the Ministry of External Affairs. The Committee on Assurance last August was requested to drop the assurance.

Reopening of the historic road, named after the American General Joseph Stilwell has been caught up in complications, as both the Indian security agencies and Government of Myanmar are reluctant.

Union Minister of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) had already confirmed that the plan was cancelled following Myanmar's objection to its reopening. Myanmar is apprehensive of the militants which hold sway over the Kachin Province.

Reopening of the 1,726 km Road was backed by business and trade bodies. The WW II connects Assam with Kunming in China's Yunnan province.

The Stilwell Road on the Indian side is about 61 km long. The major stretch of 1,033 km lies within Myanmar, while the stretch in China is 632 km.

 January 20 2011

For this interesting Time Line we are indebted to Bhaiti K Bhuyan 

  Bhaiti tells us:

 As the Ledo Road itself is a history, its enduring charm is infectious, here is
the copy of the time line of events affecting the  Ledo Road starting in 1937
-(You can click on the'more' button get to the full story)

Bhaiti recommends Leslie Anders Book "The Ledo Road"  he also tells us
that a young Assamese scholar, Tarun Dutta has taken up the subject of
the Ledo Road for his doctoral thesis under Assam Unversity, Silchar, Assam.
Click More to link to additional information on the event


   After years of Japanese aggression, full-scale war breaks out.
   Many historians regard this as the start of World War II.


   Capture of Hankow and Canton completes blockade of ocean ports.
   Supplies must be brought by road through Indo-China and Burma.


   Under Japanese occupation a relentless guerrilla war is waged.
   Staggering losses fail to destroy Chinese morale.


              leaving Russia as the only land supply route to China.

              while military and other aid is authorized for Britain and France

              as no progress toward peace is made with Japan

              allowing "lending" of military equipment to U.S. allies.


              authorizing lending of war supplies to China

          ends China's hope for supplies from Russia

              The American Volunteer Group (AVG) heads to China

          the situation becomes critical

          while diplomatic talks with the U.S. continue

              as the military gains control of the Japanese Empire

              "awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve"

              Roosevelt forever labels December 7th the "Day of Infamy"


              Japanese "co-prosperity" sphere grows

          to be supported with Lend-Lease supplies

              the United States organizes in the Far East

          to deliver lend-lease military supplies to China

          closing the important port

              the defense of India and Burma begins

          thereby closing the Burma Road

              and reports "We took a hell of a beating"

              the defense of China begins

          ex-volunteers join the Army Air Corps.

          Joint planning for the retaking of Burma in 1943

          from Ledo forward to Chinese lines

          based on British surveys and a refugee trail

          to coordinate both ends of supply line

          Command for all Ledo Road related operations

          Ill-equipped engineers hack away at the jungle with machetes


          beginning of the road's ascent into the Patkai Range

          36 miles into the Patkai Range of the Himalayas

          Engineers and support personnel for the road project

          Unusual fury bogs down construction progress

          Rest and refueling stop at Hellgate

          Chinese 38th Division crosses the Burma border

          Engineers fall back to strengthen the road against the monsoon

          330th Engineers reinforce the construction effort

          Commander elevated to Brigadier General

          at Hellgate

              under British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten

              Plan to regain northern Burma is agreed on

          14.88 inches fall late in the month, halting work on the point.

              injecting new life into the road building effort

 22 OCT - MILE POST 60
          near Tincha progress on the road reaches about a mile a day

              volunteers for a dangerous jungle mission "somewhere"

          117 miles to the first "town" in Burma


          Chinese 22nd and 38th Divisions in heavy fighting

          10 day hike to Shingbwiyang headed deeper into Burma

          largest air field in north Burma

          remnants of the Marauders and Chinese troops

          the 79-day siege ends

          Chiang Kai-shek prevails and Roosevelt concedes

          China Theater of Operations (CTO) & India-Burma Theater (IBT)

          using Myitkyina's airstrip speeds progress

          having been worn in theater for years

          the tide has turned in Burma


          the entire route not yet cleared of Japanese resistance

              as the Ledo Road is completed

          at the suggestion of Chiang Kai-shek

          first supplies are delivered by land since 1942

          on the way to Rangoon

          the drive to Rangoon continues

          Japanese are cleared from Burma

              war in the Far East winds down

          General Pick formally announces completion

              Enola Gay delivers "Little Boy"

              Bocks Car delivers "Fat Man"

          Emperor Hirohito announces acceptance of surrender terms

          Japanese sign the surrender instrument in Rangoon

          Japanese sign Instrument of Surrender aboard USS Missouri


          curtain falls on the old CBI Theater

          after being officially open for only 10 months

              destined to bring communism to China

          Cancer claims "Uncle Joe" in California

          President Truman officially proclaims end of hostilities

START 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946

World War II Timelines: Asian Mainland Pacific


June 21 2010 

 Thanks again to Bhaiti Bhuyan we have an up to date copy of a story from WW11

Below is another Hump plane wreckage in Arunachal Pradesh

This news was  published in THE TELEGRAPH GUWAHATI of 21JUNE.


We are most grateful to Jennifer, Gerry Halnan's daughter, for forwarding on this story written by her father for us all to enjoy
India - Invaded - 1962

Peter Hardy's article in the January - March 2009 edition of the Camellia magazine prompted me to let you know what it was like in a different area of tea to receive the shock ‘news of an invasion.'

In late October 1962,  when I was the manager  of Banarhat  tea  estate  I was wakened  from a deep sleep  at 3am by the ringing of my recently installed telephone. The voice of Brigadier Hugh Stevens, OBE, secretary of the Dooars branch I.T.A was on the line. For my sins, I happened to be the Sub District chairman at the time and thus he was on official business despite the hour! 

Then ‘hello Gerry this is most urgent'. The Chinese have broken through the Macmahon line and infiltrated Indian Territory at alarming speed. The Indian army up there cannot cope and the main body of their forces are coming across India from Goa by train. I want you to get as many vehicles, (lorries and jeeps etc) as you can muster from your gardens, and get them down to railhead at Siliguri by 8am if possible. Do your best and keep me informed.

From that point onwards, I lifted the phone at least 15 times in quick succession and passed the vital message on.  Many and diverse were the responses I received, especially from one or two Scott's planters not pleased with being roused before ‘murghi-dak'!  However, they all soon wakened up to the necessities and confirmed that they would do their best.

I was requesting a minimum of two vehicles per garden that would leave us with tractors and the odd car to run the estates.

I then roused Joan, my wife, put her in the picture and sent chowkidars to rouse my drivers who attended the burra bungalow promptly. I explained the situation to them and asked for two volunteers to drive our almost new three ton lorry and my two year Willis jeep ( in pristine condition) to Siliguri a distance of 100 miles, pick up the troops and deliver them where directed by their officers. All three drivers were willing and I chose two of them. Mohan driver was selected for my jeep and he returned speedily wearing an ex military greatcoat, beret, woollen socks and canvas shoes.

Tanked up, they were on their way by half past three and subsequently I learned that they had made the R.V. on time.

Soon we heard of troop trains passing through Banarhat railway station bound eastwards and fully laden with soldiers.  

Rumours were rife of planters passing through the district in various forms of transport and dress, (one in his pyjamas) mostly heading west.

We also heard later in the day that many garden lorries, packed with troops, including our own vehicles had been seen passing on the road Eastwards through Dalgaon district.

Meanwhile, work continued on the garden almost as normal.

I went down to Brigadier Stevens's bungalow, about 4 miles away, where several senior planters from estates further East, had gathered and were sitting with a memsahib on the veranda. Soon Hugh Stevens arrived back, carrying his D.B.B.L 12-bore on his shoulder, at best, a token of defiance!

Plans were outlined to prepare for possible evacuation and we went our various ways.

In the next couple of days, we divided our attention between normal work and keeping abreast of the latest media reports from the front.

Very promptly, an R.A.F. troop transport plane landed at Telepara airstrip from Singapore to uplift wives and children and fly them to Calcutta. This I managed to organised without a hitch.

Soon troops were arriving in the district and being camped out in the various Reserve Forests, such as Moraghat, which I discovered when I drove into the latter before dawn and even challenged by a Sikh soldier at a camp perimeter, with loaded rifle and fixed bayonet.  I quickly submitted with hands held high and retreated whence I had come! 

Thereafter much was confusion we could get no information from any source apart from the Calcutta Press whose headlines proclaimed that 10,000 Indian troops had been surrounded and ‘put in the bag' in the Sela Pass area above the snow line!

We expected the worst! The Chinese would be all over us in the next few days. Binnaguri managers decided we would see it through with our labour force and do what we could to alleviate matters in the event. Willie Cheyne of Dumchipara T.E suggested that we be given machine guns and we'd sort them out! That was Willie! The rest of us expressed more sober solutions.

Suddenly and within a day or two of the bad news, we were informed of the magical and lightening withdrawal of the whole Chinese Army back into Tibet. Surprise, surprise, not to mention relief!

After two weeks, my lorry and driver returned ‘battered but intact', but the driver could give no word about Mohan and the jeep, apart from seeing him on the first day.

I was approached daily by his wife, with child in arms, asking for news of her husband. No request for information yielded any fruit from civil authorities, military sources, or from Head Office.

My Chinese carpenter (probably nearer sixty   than fifty years of age) had been arrested and trundled off by the police to ‘God knows where' and his wife and children were a daily demand on my concern.

Shortly after, my lorry driver's return, I received a small postcard from Central India addressed to me. As I remember, it read like this:

‘Dear Sahib,

I am sorry to report that I have lost your jeep in Sela Pass. I have lost one foot by frostbite and fear I may loose the other. Please ask my wife to purchase one black cock and one white cock and do a puja for me and pray for my health.

Offering my salaams,

Your obedient driver,

Mohan '

The memory of this poignant and pathetic little chit, still brings a tear to my ageing eyes, whenever I think back to those days.

There was no return address, although he was obviously in a military hospital somewhere in central India.

I passed the note on to his wife and she performed the rites requested.

I did not learn the fate of Mohan, nor of my Chinese carpenter, before leaving tea for good in February 1963, which I did for family reasons. My feelings were very mixed. It was as if I had two families and therefore split apart and I left with much sadness.

In 2008, accompanied by my daughter, Jennifer (born in Darjeeling in 1950) and her husband, I re-visited India, taking in Darjeeling, the Bengal Dooars and Assam, and enjoying the great hospitality of Ronnie Babycon Managing Director of Andrew Yule Tea Department.

I visited all the estates on which I had worked as assistant and later manager from 1947, staying in the bungalows of Karballa T.E. and Khowang T.E. This was an extremely enjoyable experience and the warmth of hospitality extended, was overwhelming.

During my visit to Banarhat T.E I learned that Mohan driver had returned to the garden and his family, a hero. His other leg completely healed. He had received a medal and a considerable compensation. Unfortunately he had not banked his reward, but foolishly kept it in his house where one night he was attacked and killed by dacoits and his fortune stolen.

I was further informed that my Chinese carpenter (whose work would have challenged Chippendale), had probably been sent back to China, in an exchange deal, for captured Indian soldiers.

How unfair can life be?

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these accounts, but they were told to me in good faith.

What I can confirm is that my old dhobie came running to me shouting ‘I knew that face,' salaaming most profusely, and he contacted my Kitmagar, Banoo, whom I visited the next day in his home (which he reminded me had been built in my time as were over 400 others, and still in good condition).

Banoo was ailing and at 72 had been dressed to meet me, surrounded by his extended family that spilled out into the road.

There were quite a few other workers who remembered me and I was most grateful to see that they were well nourished and better clothed than they had been in my days.

Come to think of it, so am I !

I offer my congratulations to their present day ‘Mai-Baps', who are carrying on the old traditions, of care for their flock.

With apologies to all well - meaning accountants I recommend my old school motto:

‘Deo non Fortuna' (For God and not for fortune) probably they would prefer ‘Deo et Fortuna' (for God and for fortune) with which, after further consideration, I think I would agree.



October 20 2009

The Ledo Road
We are indebted to BK Bhuyan (alias Bhaiti) for obtaining this article which allows us to learn of recent history. Thank you Bhaiti

by James W. Dunn

The United States began to help China defend itself against Japanese aggression even before the attack on Pear Harbor. President Franklin Roosvelt approved lend-lease aidfor China in April 1941, and in June the United States began sending  fighter planes, spare parts, and gasoline. The War and Navy departments also released over 100 pilots to form the American Volunteer Group, popularly called the Flying Tigers. A month later, the War Department established an American military mission to oversee the aid.

Approving aid to China was one thing, but getting it there was another. Japan had already seized China's coastal provinces and the Japanese move into northern Indochina in September 1941 had cut the railroad from there to Yunnan Province. That left the route from Rangoon in Burma to Yunnan as the only land supply line available to the Americans. When the Japanese threatened that route, Brigadier General John Magruder, the United States lend-lease administrator in China, sent engineer Major John E. Ausland to look for an alternate route to China from India through northern Burma. Ausland reported that the terrain there was very difficult, especially in the Patkai Mountains along the Burma-India border.

When America's entry into the war brought a request from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek for an American general officer to be his chief of staff, the United States sent Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell. He was also named Commanding General of the United States Army Forces in the China-Burma-India theater of operations (CBI). It was as chief of staff' that he first got involved in theater operations.

The Japanese seized Rangoon in March 1942 shortly after Stilwell arrived, and Chiang sent Chinese troops into Burma. He asked Stilwell to coordinate their use with the British, who were responsible for the defense of the area. This first Burma campaign was a losing effort.

Stilwell walked out of Burma in May 1942 bringing with him to India the remnants of two Chinese divisions. He still had the mission of supporting China, but he no longer had a land supply line; the Japanese offensive had cut the Burma Road. Stilwell would have to clear a path for a new road right through the terrain Major Ausland had found so difficult.

Only now there was an additional challenge; the Japanese occupied most of the terrain. By the fall of 1942, Stilwell had a plan. The British agreed to a North Burma campaign to clear the road route and assigned the area to Stilwell . In November Chiang Kai-shek approved the use of the Chinese forces and named Stilwell their commander. General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff', U.S. Army, promised Stilwell priority for troops and equipment second only to the North African campaign, but soon found he could not keep that promise.

General Stilwell's operations officer, Lieutenant Colonel Frank D. Merrill, recommended building a road from Ledo in Assam Province, India, south and east across northern Burma to a junction with the old Burma Road. The new road would support a North Burma campaign and, when linked with the old, provide a land supply line to China. Merrill chose Ledo because it was near the terminus of the rail line from Calcutta and was at the northern end of a caravan route out of Burma. The concept was for U.S. Army Engineers to build a road generally following the caravan route from Ledo south through the Patkai Mountains and the Hukawng and Mogaung valleys, to connect with the old Burma Road east of Bhamo.

The proposed route for the road went through some of the most difficult terrain in the world. The triangular-shaped territory of northern Burma included jungle-covered mountains and swampy valleys. It was virtually uninhabited with the major towns being nothing more than frontier posts. The mountains, offshoots of the Himalayas, were formidable land barriers that rose to heights of 8,000 to 10,000 feet. The Hukawng and Mogaung valleys were tropical rain forests, dark and silent, with matted undergrowth where the clearings were really swamps covered with elephant grass 8 to10 feet tall.  

According to Dr. Gordon Seagrave, the famed "Burma Surgeon," this unattractive area was the ancestral home ofthe leech. He found three major types: big brown ones on the ground, red ones in the elephant grass, and green on the tree branches. While the leeches were pests, the malaria bearing mosquitoes and typhus-carrying mites could be deadly in the absence of strict preventive medicine measures.

There are two seasons in northern Burma, wet and dry. The wet monsoon season lasts from May to October when the rainfall is heavy, averaging 140 inches in the mountains and 120 inches annually in the valleys. By comparison, the east coast of the United States gets about 45 inches in a year. Although the monsoon season produces hot, humid weather, the dry season is a very comfortable period ofCalifornia-type weather. 

While the terrain and weather were formidable barriers for the engineers to overcome, the enemy initially posed less of a problem. After the Japanese conquered central Burma in early 1942, they consolidated their position during the monsoon season and did not move forces north of Myitkyina. Lieutenant General Renya Mutaguchi's veteran 18th Division, conquerors of Singapore, outposted the area but made no movement north in the Mogaung Valley. 

The Chinese troops, who would face this Japanese force in the North Burma campaign, began training in India in the summer of 1942. To support them, General Stilwell organized a Service of Supply (SOS) under the command of Major General Raymond A. Wheeler. Stilwell had known Wheeler as one of his language students at West Point and had developed a high opinion of his engineering abilities. A career Army engineer, Wheeler had won recognition as a roadbuilder while commanding the 4th Division's engineers in the Argonne Forest campaign in World War I .

 Stilwell made SOS responsible forconstruction in Indiaand Burma. In response to Wheeler's request, the War Department sent him the 45th Engineer General Service Regiment and the 823d Engineer Aviation Battalion. The two units arrived at Karachi, India, in July. They did not have any of their equipment and had to use lend-lease stock earmarked for China, but they were on the ground, in the theater.

Wheeler established Base Section 3 at Ledo, made it responsible for building the road, and named the 45th Regi--ment's commander, Colonel John C. Arrowsmith, as base commander. Arrowsmith had his own 45th Regiment and the 823d Engineer Aviation Battalion begin the road project, putting them to work first building warehouses, hospitals, barracks, and base roads at Ledo. On 16 December 1942, they began building the double-track, all-weather Ledo Road. The 823d cleared a road trace and the 45th followed completing the grading and applying a metaling stone (any substance, usually natural gravel or crushed rock, used to stabilize a road surface in wet weather) to the roadbed.

The 45th began work with six D-4 bulldozers and no blades, but it managed to borrow one from a British engineer unit. As a result, the first part of the road was rather winding as the D-4 was too light for the rugged terrain and had to detour around obstacles. The 45th was also short of heavy rock crushers, but it did have 11 portables which it set up at the Tirap River near Ledo.

By the first of the new year, the engineers were working around the clock and making good progress. The 823d's full complement of equipment had finally arrived and the unit pushed forward rapidly toward the Patkai Mountains. As it moved into the hills, progress slowed due to the difficult terrain. Continuous use of equipment without periodic maintenance and a shortage of spare parts contributed to the slowdown.
In February 1943, the engineers reached Pangsan Pass where rock outcroppings caused the 823d to increase its use of explosives. In one case, it was necessary to place charges 30 feet up a perpendicular rock face. Here one engineer hung by a rope lowered from the top to place dynamite that another engineer tossed up to him; an efficient but dangerous technique.

Through February, the 823d pushed for the India-Burma border. Company A broke trace, Company B put in culverts, and Company C widened and ditched the roadway. Only construction vehicles were allowed in the forward area. When Private Morris Humphrey stopped the SOS commander's jeep, General Wheeler commended him for carrying out his orders and walked the 2 miles to the roadhead. From long experience "Spec" Wheeler knew the ways and whims of engineers.

The 823d reached the border on 28 February. As the lead bulldozer crossed into Burma, a bugler sounded "To the Colors," and the 823d and the 45th Engineers held a retreat parade. Then they put up a sign-WELCOME TO BURMA, THIS WAY TO TOKYO. In March, the Chinese 10th Independent Combat Engineer Regiment arrived at Ledo from its Ramgarh, India, training base. Without equipment, the unit was outfitted with hand tools and trucks and sent to the roadhead to help clear the trace. Later, when its equipment arrived, the 10th became one of the best construction outfits on the road.

March also brought early monsoon rains, and that meant trouble for the engineers. By the first week in April, the monsoon was in full swing. As the rains poured down, the engineers were constantly wet, equipment skidded off the road into ditches, and even pack animals could not transport\ food and gasoline to the roadhead. Airdrops became necessary for resupply.

The Japanese now reacted to the road construction. With the threat of an Allied offensive, the Japanese formed a second army in Burma and placed the 18th Division Commander, General Mutaguchi, in charge. Lieutenant General Shinichi Tanaka took over command of the 18th Division. Reacting to guerrilla activity by Kachin tribesmen,

small columns from the 18th moved north up the valleys\ from Myitkyina toward the Patkais and the Ledo Road. The Japanese had trouble with the terrain, and air strikes caused the contractors who provided the elephants for the pack trains to desert with their animals. Short of supplies, the Japanese withdrew south.

As the immediate Japanese threat subsided, General Stilwell in April moved the Chinese 38th Division from India into the northern Hukawng Valley. He there established the headquarters of the Chinese army in Burma which assumed, from SOS, tactical responsibility for the forward area, the path for the Ledo Road.

During the early monsoon, March to May, the road moved only 4 miles. The Japanese threat and monsoon rains were part of the problem but so too was a lack of maintenance. Constant use of equipment, a shortage of spare parts, and the lack of trained supply personnel resulted in significant downtime. By the time the 479th Engineer Maintenance Company arrived in May, two-thirds of the tractors and one-half of the trucks in the 823d Battalion were out of service. The 45th Regiment was in much the same shape with one-half of its tractors and two-thirds of its trucks down.

The situation on the road continued to deteriorate through the monsoon even as the engineers applied unorthodox solutions to the maintenance problem. Lieutenant LeoA. Vecellio, who had worked for his father's east coast construction firm before the war, borrowed a cargo plane to bring a load of spare parts from Lahore, India, to the 823d. He then located a tea planter's foundry where it was possible to forge and weld other spare parts.

Additional help came in the form of reinforcements. The 456th Engineer Depot Company arrived in March, and in May the 330th Engineer General Service Regiment came in and went directly to the roadhead. Even though one battalion was assigned to airfield construction in India, the arrival of the 330th had an immediate impact on the road situation.  

The first thing it did was free the 45th and 823d for some welcome rest and relaxation at the Howrah rest camp in Calcutta. The 330th was full of experienced engineers and construction men. The commanding officer, Colonel Charles S.Gleim, was a construction engineer from New Jersey and had supervised the building of the Lincoln and Holland tunnels as well as the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River. Major Edmund H. Daves, Jr., commander of the 2d Battalion, had been a corporal in the 12th Engineer Combat Regiment in the American Expeditionary Force in World War I and was a railroad construction engineer between the wars. Many of the men were skilled hands from contracting firms and construction gangs in the Middle West. The experience factor paid huge dividends, and the 330th became one of the most reliable units on the road.

  More help came when a visitor from the States overstayed his temporary duty but not his welcome. In June 1943, Captain Eugene R. Nelson arrived on a liaison visit from the Engineer Field Maintenance Office. He found the solutions to the spare parts requisitioning, storage, and distribution problems so time consuming that he 'did not get out of the theater until he rotated in the summer of 1945. Nelson determined that distribution suffered from a lack of trained personnel and accountability while a lack of space caused the main storage problem. Requisitioning troubles were caused by a system that was too formal .  

The first thing he did was conduct an inventory which improved the stock records system and accountability. He changed the system to allow an equipment operator to obtain parts without a formal requisition, conducted a training program, and recommended storage space expansion .

However, such successes were limited and not always timely. From May to August, the road advanced only 4 miles. Eager to get through the Patkais by the end of the monsoon, Stilwell sent Colonel Merrill to Ledo to find out what was wrong. Merrill's June report detailed all the problems of supply, maintenance, and weather but was nonetheless highly critical of recently promoted Brigadier General Arrowsmith and the lack of organization on the road. In August, Stilwell went to look for himself, and he determined that Arrowsmith was not the one to aggressively push the road ahead against all obstacles. He asked General Wheeler to replace him with a "top-flight" man from the States. Wheeler obtained Colonel Lewis A. Pick.  

A graduate of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Pick had commanded an engineer roadbuilding company in the Allied

Expeditionary Force. Between the wars he saw duty in the Philippines and was district engineer at New Orleans in the aftermath of the great flood of 1927. Early in World War II, Pick served as division engineer responsible for the entire Missouri River basin. From that job he came to the Ledo Road, where he found a situation that underscored the engineer maxim that drainage is the most important aspect of road construction. As a friend of his noted, the road had developed into a drainage project and drainage was his business.

Colonel Pick took over on 17 October 1943 and immediately set up his command tent near the roadhead. He said he had heard the same story all the way from the States that the road could not be built because there was too much rain, mud, and malaria. He said he wanted to hear no more such defeatist talk . The road was going to be built; "rain, mud, and malaria be damned"

As a beginning, he reinstated the around-the-clock schedule,dropped by Arrowsmith during the monsoon season. To provide adequate lighting at the roadhead, he stripped the rear of all generators, wiring sockets, and bulbs that could be spared. He even demonstrated how flares in buckets of oil-an old construction gang trick-could be used as emergency lighting

In early November, General Stilwell inspected the road and told Pick he wanted a combat trail to Shingbwiyang by the end of the year. Pick said he could not build a combat trail because of the problems maintaining a narrow track in the swampy terrain, but he promised to build a military highway in that time. Stilwell approved and so, with the Chinese 10th and American 330th Regiments out in front, followed by the 45th Regiment and the 823d, 849th, and 1883d Aviation Battalions, the engineers began the 54-mile race to Shingbwiyang

Pick first sent 2 officers and 16 enlisted men ahead to Shingbwiyang to prepare a depot. He had full confidence that he was going to get there on time, and he wanted a depot ready. Then, as more engineer units arrived, he jumped one and then another beyond the roadhead to open advanced sections, thereby getting the maximum possible use from an individual unit. In September, the 382d Engineer Construction Battalion arrived, followed in October by the 209th Engineer Combat Battalion, the 1905th Engineer Aviation Battalion, and the Chinese 12th Independent Engineer Regiment. By December, Pick had two more units, the 76th Engineer Ponton Company and the 236th Engineer Combat Battalion. In the meantime, he had gained an assistant, Lieutenant Colonel William J. Green, well known to sports enthusiasts as the blocking back for Red Grange at the University of Illinois in the early 1920s.

In the middle of November, the roadhead connected with an advanced section about 40 miles from Shingbwiyang, and by the end of the month had moved another 20 miles. Without the rain and the mud of the monsoon, the engineers found they could move the road about a mile a day. The good weather, new units and equipment, an around-the-clock schedule, and Pick's driving force combined to move the road along rapidly.

On 27 December 1943, five days ahead of schedule, the road reached Shingbwiyang Finished grading and graveling remained to be done, but the 117 miles from Ledo to Shingbwiyang were open before 1 January 1944, as General Stilwell wished. 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 Shingbwiyang with candy, doughnuts, and 9,600 cans of beer.

After reaching Shingbwiyang, the engineers' progress declined due to the tactical situation in the Hukawng Valley. In October, the Chinese 38th Division began an operation to clear the northern part of the valley, but it encountered strong opposition from the Japanese 18th Division. In late December, Stilwell assumed command of the Allied force, which now included the Chinese 22d Division. However, it was not until the first week of February that the Chinese could force the Japanese to withdraw south of the Thnai River.

With the northern Hukawng Valley cleared of Japanese, the engineers could get back to pushing the roadhead. Newly arrived units aided the drive to build as much road as possi ble before the monsoon arrived. In early January, the 77th Light Ponton Company joined Pick's forces, followed in February by the 71st Light Ponton Company, and the 497th Engineer Heavy Shop Company. The 497th was a unique organization, as many of its men came from a tractor manufacturing firm in Peoria, Illinois. 

Lacking cement, they fixed their heavy machine tools to wooden blocks carved from the surrounding jungle and earned a reputation for rebuilding worn parts from salvaged bulldozers and trucks.
In late January, better engineer equipment began to arrive at Ledo as a result of an October 1943 visit by Lieutenant General, and career Army engineer, Brehon B. Somervell, Chief of the Army Service Forces. During his visit, the engineers told Somervell that the D-4 tractor and the 1/2-yard shovel were too small. 

They asked that the table of organization and equipment for a general service regiment be changed to provide machinery of greater earth-moving capacity. Somervell agreed. As the new equipment arrived, Pick had the opportunity to exploit fully his method of road building. With Chinese engineers out in front clearing a trace, an American engineer company followed, bulldozing the roadhead. Next an aviation battalion cleared the right-of-way to a width of at least 100 feet. Companies from a general service regiment or an aviation battalion graded sections of 10 to 15 miles and were responsible, with Chinese engineers, for installing culverts. Working with the grading units, an engineer construction or combat battalion built whatever types of bridges were necessary to span the many streams and rivers along the road route. 

Finally, an aviation battalion moved in to spread gravel for the final road surfacing Pick no sooner got his system into high gear than the tactical situation intervened to divert significant engineer assets away from the road. In February, General Stilwell began his drive for Myitkyina, the main Japanese supply base in northern Burma that sat astride the planned route of the Ledo Road. Its seizure was the main objective of the North Burma campaign. 

Stilwell planned to rely heavily in the campaign upon his U.S. Army engineers and a new infantry unit, the 5307th Provisional Composite Unit, code named GALAHAD. The correspondents referred to the latter unit as "Merrill's Marauders," after its commander, now Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill. The Marauders arrived in early February, and Stilwell sent them through the mountains to Walawbum in the southern Hukawng Valley. At the same time, he sent the Chinese 22d and 38th Divisions, supported by the Chinese 1st Provisional Tank Group underU.S. Army Colonel Rothwell H. Brown, down the valley toward Walawbum. The force in the valley needed considerable engineer support. Stilwell wanted his valley force to use an old ox cart trail, so he directed Pick to turn it into a combat trail. Lying below the flood level, the trail had been rejected as a possible road route. 

Now Pick .had to put his engineers to work on both the trail and the road. In early February he put the 1st Battalion, 330th Engineers, and Company A, 1883d Aviation Battalion, together with several light ponton companies, to work on the combat trail. The 76th pontoniers put a 470-foot pneumatic ponton bridge across the Tarung River and the 71st and 77th Companies built a ponton bridge of similar length across the Tanai River. To provide for aerial resupply, engineers from the 330th Regiment built a dry-weather airstrip nearby, despite the interference of Japanese artillery.

In early March, as the Marauders set a roadblock south of Walawbum, tanks and infantry attacked from the north. A detachment from the 330th, under the command of Lieu tenant Albert J. Harvey, supported Colonel Brown's tanks. Harvey's force, using D-7s specially armored by the regiment's mechanics, bulldozed a path through the jungle allowing Brown's Chinese tankers to support the infantry attack on Walawbum. It fell on 9 March as General Tanaka withdrew the 18th Division south of the Jambu Bum into the Mogaung Valley. The Hukawng Valley was open to the engineers.  

As Stilwell continued his drive south into the Mogaung Valley, Pick pushed the engineers to finish as much road as possible before the monsoon arrived in May. Pick's pro motion to brigadier general in February brought with it a small, single-engine airplane which enabled him to get about the road more rapidly. He also began to carry a walking stick carved from a giant jungle vine, a practice translated by the engineers into the descriptive phrase, "Pick, the man with the stick."

Pushing the roadhead, Pick rotated units to keep fresh engineers up front. Through most of March, the 45th Regiment led the way, but the 1883d Aviation Battalion moved to the point near the end of the month. After the 1905th Aviation Battalion took over in April, Company A, 330th Engineers, jumped ahead to clear a 4-mile section. The Hukawng Valley was full of streams and rivers that required substantial bridging In early April, Company A, 209th Engineer Combat Battalion, with the help of the 76th Light Ponton Company, built a 960-foot H-20 fixed bridge over the Tarung River while the other companies of the 209th bridged the lesser streams beyond the river. By May, Company F, 330th Engineers, had completed a 607-foot H-20 over the Tanai River.

Use of the H-20 bridge on the Ledo Road was a point of controversy with the Office of the Chief of Engineers. In January 1944, the Chief of Engineers sent a team of bridging experts to the CBI to consult with the Ledo engineers about the best bridges to use on the road. They recommended a new British-designed structure, the Bailey bridge, which was replacing the H-20 on U.S. Army authorized equipment lists. The Bailey, erected to spans of 30 to 220 feet, could be built to carry loads from 10 to 100 tons. 

Since the Ledo Road was being built far behind the front lines, a commercial structure -the I-beam bridge-was also suggested by the team. However, Pick opted for the H-20, arguing that the Bailey required more cargo space than the H-20 and that the I-beam could not be carried by the railway cars of India. The Chief of Engineers accepted Pick's position and kept the H-20s coming to the Ledo Road. The only Baileys Pick used were those hegot from the British in India. The engineer successes of the dry season stretched well into May, but then came to a halt under the impact of two significant events, one predictable and the other unforeseen.

The 1944 monsoon, the predictable event, rapidly gave evidence that it would be as strong as the 1943 variety. Pick decided to concentrate during the monsoon season on maintaining the road rather than suffer the frustrations of trying to forge ahead against the rain, mud, and floods.

The unforeseen event came about in late May when General Stilwell's campaign developed a need for combat engineers. Wanting to seize Myitkyina before the monsoon arrived, Stilwell sent the Chinese 22d and 38th Divisions south in the Mogaung Valley against the towns of Kamaing and Mogaung, while dispatching the Marauders and regiments from the Chinese 30th and 50th Divisions southeast across the Kumon Mountains toward Myitkyina . 

As the Chinese in the Mogaung Valley pushed south against stubborn Japanese resistance, the Marauders slipped through the mountains. On 17 May they seized the airstrip on the western outskirts of Myitkyina and reached the edge of town. Company A, 879th Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion, arrived via glider and had the airstrip ready for cargo planes that night. On 19 May, a detachment of the 504th Engineer Light Ponton Company flew in from Ledo to operate a ferry system over the Irrawaddy River southwestof Myitkyina.

Until the Chinese could seize Mogaung, Stilwell's force at Myitkyina was dependent on aerial resupply. The Japanese 56th Division on the Salween River front and the 18th Divi sion in the Mogaung Valley had land routes to Myitkyina and could reinforce their units there more rapidly than Stilwell. By 23 May, the Japanese were strong enough to push Stilwell's force back from the edge of town and to threaten the airstrip. Needing more infantry and wanting to increase the "American flavor" in the battle, Stilwell sent in the only American combat units available, the 209th and 236th Engineer Combat Battalions.

The 209th Engineers arrived at Myitkyina on 24 May and the 236th got there by the 28th. Both units came directly from the road, and at first they were a bit rusty on the fine points of infantry combat. Catching on quickly, the 209th joined the Marauders in a 31 May operation to draw a ring around the Japanese defense system. Gaining its objective-a hamlet north of town-by 1900, the 209th then held off repeated Japanese counterattacks throughout the night. In early June, the two battalions were formed into a provisional regiment and brigaded with the Marauders on the northern approaches to Myitkyina.

 The engineers attacked southward on 9 June and by the 13th were at the edge of the town. A Japanese counterattack then cut off two companies. When an initial relief effort the following day proved unsuccessful and the relief force commander was killed, engineer Captain John C. Mattina assumed command, rallied the relief force, collected the wounded, and led a withdrawal to friendly lines. After another relief effort failed, the surrounded companies successfully withdrew through the Japanese to friendly lines on 16 June.

Repeated attacks by Stilwell's force failed to dent theJapanese defenses. When Mogaung fell on 27 June, a land route was finally open from the valley to Myitkyina and reinforcements gradually produced a force capable of taking the town. A general offensive began on 16 July, and by the 21st the engineers were in the northwest outskirts of Myitkyina. The Japanese began to withdraw on 23 July, and with the issue no longer in doubt, the 209th and 236th Engineer Combat Battalions left for Ledo and a period of rest and recuperation. The engineers took heavy casualties in the two-month campaign which ended on 3 August with the fall of Myitkyina.

The 209th had 71 killed and 179 wounded while the 236th had 56 killed and 112 wounded. All engineer units involved in the fight at Myitkyina received the Presidential Unit Citation.  While the combat engineers were engaged at Myitkyina during the 1944 monsoon, other engineers were busy maintaining the road. As expected, the combat trail in the Hukawng Valley was soon under water and the ponton companies had to operate ferries over the numerous streams and rivers.

Keeping the road open during the 1944 monsoon required the engineers to fight what they called the "Battle of the Bridges." The first bridges to go were those over the Tarung River on 2 May. The 75th pontoniers repaired the permanent bridge while the 76th worked on the ponton bridge. In late  commander, prepared to repair expected damage caused by drifting limbs, stumps, and even whole trees. On 8 June, the surging river wrecked the Lamung River timber bridge, and Companies D and F, 330th Engineers, began a reconstruction effort immediately. In late June, the Tawang River bridge began to sag, and Companies D and F added it to their rebuilding work load. When the Numpyek River bridge gave way in early August, the 1883d Engineer  to be working nearby. It got the rebuilding job.

Another major effort during the monsoon season was the construction of a 2-mile timber causeway required by the overflow of the Magwitang River across the road in late June. Pick brought in a drag line and a pile-driving rig and set Company E, 330th Engineers, to work on the 4th of July.

Using pilings hacked out of the surrounding jungle, andaided by two platoons from the 75th pontoniers, the company worked day and night to complete the causeway by 10 August. It stood 18 inches higher than the maximum flood level in the area.

Once the monsoon was over, Pick was ready to push the road south and east from Warazup to link up with the old Burma Road beyond Bhamo. While the Chinese 10th Engineers cleared the jungle, the 330th followed, bulldozing a trace. Behind them the 1880th Engineer Aviation Battalion did finished grading and metaling, and the 1883d and 1905th Engineer Aviation Battalions brought up the rear, performing maintenance and improvement. On 10 October, the 1304th Engineer Aviation Battalion began constructing a 560-foot Bailey bridge over the Mogaung River as the engineers pushed south out of the valley. In November, the 1875th Engineer Aviation Battalion was given the honor of linking

the Ledo Road with the road to Bhamo, a prewar, dry-weather track that ran south to the old Burma Road and needed only improvement to meet the all-weather specifications of the Ledo Road.

In mid-October, the Chinese 30th and 38th Divisions, together with the American 47th Infantry and 124th Cavalry Regiments, had begun the drive to Bhamo. It fell to the 344 Builders and Fighters 38th Division on 15 December. The 30th Division continued the attack up the Shweli River Valley to make contact with a Chinese force that was pushing down the Burma Road from Yunnan Province.

Following close behind the attacking force were the 209th and 236th Engineers, fresh from their recuperation period after the fight at Myitkyina. While they quickly improved the Bhamo Road, the 75th Light Ponton Company built a 1,200-foot ponton bridge over the Irrawaddy River. Completed on 6 December, this 25-ton capacity bridge was at the time the third longest U.S. Army engineer structure, behind only the Union Army James River bridge of 1864 and the Third U.S. Army bridge over the Rhine in 1919.

Christmas 1944, the third on the road for the engineers, was a busy time with the Chinese and American forces pushing the attack to link up with the Chinese from Yunnan and the engineers following close behind, upgrading the final stretches of the road. However, for the men of the 1875th Engineers and the 124th Cavalry there was a brief respite.

As the 124th passed through the 1875th camp, the engineers thought the cavalrymen looked as if they needed cheering up. They invited them into their camp to share the festivities of the day. Candy and cake, packages from home, PX supplies and the battalion's beer ration all combined to make it a memorable event. Then it was back to the war.

In January 1945, the 209th and 236th Battalions moved to complete the last sections of the road. When the Chinese 38th Division cleared Mongyu on 27 January, Company B, 236th Engineers, rushed in to complete the junction of the Ledo and Burma roads. That same day the 71st Light Ponton Company put a 450-foot ponton bridge over the Shweli River at Wanting on the Chinese border. The road was open . It was none too soon for General Pick who, on 12 January, had led the first convoy out of Ledo, bound for Kunming, China. The 113 vehicles, driven by representatives of all the engineer units that had worked on the road, consisted of heavy cargo trucks, jeeps, and ambulances. Among the passengers were some 65 radio, magazine, and newspaper correspondents.

The convoy reached Myitkyina on 15 January, where it stayed until 23 January because of the tactical situation. On 28 January, Pick led the convoy into Wanting where T.V. Soong, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, welcomedhim. On 4 February, the convoy reached Kunming as firecrackers exploded, missionary nuns waved, and Chinese bands played. That night the governor of Yunnan Province gave a banquet with American operatic star Lily Pons and her husband, conductor Andre Kostelanetz, in attendance. Pick's congratulatory message to his command expressed his sincere appreciation and pride in their achievement.

By February, peace had set in along the road as the engineers improved the roadbed and emplaced permanent bridges. That month the civil government of Assam, India, established a customs house at the India-Burma border and a British staff officer from Delhi came to enter into the reverse lend-lease books the number of trees cut from the jungle. The 1905th Engineers had the opportunity to help Father James Devine, newly released from a Japanese prison camp, rebuild his St. Columba's Roman Catholic Mission in the hills east of Bhamo.

In March, Company B, 209th 450-foot Bailey suspension bridge Namhkam. They dedicated it to the at Myitkyina.Engineers, completed a over the Shweli River at engineers lost in the fight

Finally, on 20 May 1945, newly promoted Major General Pick announced formal completion of the Ledo Road, a task he called the toughest job ever given to U.S. Army engineers in wartime. Renamed the Stilwell Road at the suggestion of Chiang Kai-shek, it was known to the engineers who built it as "Pick's Pike."

Sources for Further Reading
For the campaign, see the three volumes by Charles F.
Romanus and Riley Sunderland, Stilwell's Mission to China,
Stilwell's Command Problems, and Time Runs Out in CBI,United States Army in World War II.

The basic engineer story is found in Karl C. Dod, TheCorps of Engineers: The War Against Japan, United StatesArmy in World War II.

The individual engineer story is available in Leslie Anders, The Ledo Road.
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 May  5 2009


More than 1,100 American troops died building the road in what is now Myanmar. Today China and some in India see the long-neglected route as their lifeline.

By a Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 30, 2008

Reporting from Myitkyina, Myanmar and Oakland -- It was a road some said couldn't be built. Most of the men ordered to make it happen were African American soldiers sorted into Army units by the color of their skin.

As World War II raged, they labored day and night in the jungles of Burma, sometimes halfway up 10,000-foot mountains, drenched by 140 inches of rain in the five-month monsoon season. They spanned raging rivers and pushed through swamps thick with bloodsucking leeches and swarms of biting mites and mosquitoes that spread typhus and malaria.

A soldier driving a tractor leads a convoy of military supply trucks over the muddy Stilwell Road in December 1943. 


Some died from disease or fell to their deaths when construction equipment slid along soupy mud tracks and dropped off cliffs. Others drowned, or were killed pulling double duty in combat against the Japanese.

They gave their lives to build a 1,079-mile road across northern

Burma (now Myanmar) to reinforce Allied troops, a project derided by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as "an immense, laborious task, unlikely to be finished until the need for it has passed."

Not long after the thankless job was done, two atomic blasts finished the war with Japan, and a hard-won passage that soldiers called "the Big Snake" was abandoned to the rain forest. The road had cost 1,133 American lives, a man a mile.

Evelio Grillo is one of the few vets still alive to tell the tale of the Stilwell Road.

The son of black Cubans who migrated to Florida to roll cigars in Tampa factories, Grillo graduated from Xavier University, a black college in New Orleans, and was immediately drafted. He made staff sergeant in the Army's segregated 823rd Engineer Battalion.

In an old black-and-white photo he sent home during the war, Grillo wears his khaki uniform and garrison cap, one eyebrow slightly arched, his eyes dark and mischievous. His favorite stories of his time in Burma are about cleaning up at poker, taking breaks to look at pretty girls, and talking to tent rats as big as small cats.

He remembers making road trips across the border to India to buy light bulbs when the old ones popped in their sockets most nights in their camp. The new ones exploded just as quickly as the ones they replaced.

Grillo also tells of boneheaded officers who ordered him to measure the road with lengths of chain for hours on end until someone finally pointed out that the Army jeeps had odometers.

"That was probably you," Grillo's daughter Elisa Grillo Clay says from her father's bedside at a nursing home in Oakland, proudly calling him "a professional troublemaker."

Grillo, 89, was one of more than 15,000 U.S. soldiers who put their backs into the punishing work that many thought was futile.

In a little over two years, they completed the road from India to the western Chinese city of Kunming. The U.S. spent almost $149 million to build it and, at the request of Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, it was named the Stilwell Road, after U.S. Gen. Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, the abrasive commander of Allied troops in the region who insisted the project would work.

More than half a century later, China now is working to resurrect it as the first major overland trade route since World War II with India, where business leaders, politicians and bureaucrats also are pressing their government to formally commit itself to the road as a link between the world's two most populous nations.

Finding the money to pay for the upgrade, Indian proponents say, is the easy part. Overcoming the fear of more competition and the unwelcome visitors opponents say the road would bring is proving more difficult.

India has already declared China a strategic partner, and for the last six years New Delhi's "Look East" policy has held up increased trade with the rest of Asia as India's best hope for economic growth.

With India's traditional trading partners in the U.S. and Europe sinking deeper into recession by the day, the push to reopen the road should gain new strength, said Mahesh K. Saharia, a leading backer in the powerful Indian Chamber of Commerce.

He and other supporters say that connecting two of the most undeveloped regions in India and China could lift millions of people out of poverty. Indian opponents argue that the risk of insurgents and drug smugglers sneaking across a more open border is too high.

"My own guess is that the benefit of the cooperation is so immense, and the cost of noncooperation is again so large, that everyone who looks into it will . . . have to agree to it," said Saharia, chairman of the business group's North-East Initiative.

In 2005, Indian and Chinese survey teams began mapping out plans to rebuild the road. So far China has done all the reconstruction work, paving dozens of miles with granite stones packed into dirt. When the monsoons end, the surface is watered, rolled and baked hard in the sun, making it almost as flat as asphalt.

The road's western end, close to the Indian state of Assam, has been swallowed up by the jungle, and portions of it can be traveled only on foot. In the east, the upgraded section near the Chinese border is busy, but most of the traffic consists of small traders and tourists on short visits to gamble, or to see transsexual burlesque shows in Myanmar.

The rest of the road is usually so quiet that villagers stroll down the middle as if it was a sidewalk. When they hear the distant hum of an approaching vehicle, pedestrians choose a lane and let the pickups, stuffed with swaying passengers on wooden benches or stacked with rusty drums of gas, sputter past.

About 40 miles southeast of Myitkyina, the road winds up a hill past the village of Nalong, where Hla Di Lu has lived since the day she was born 82 years ago.

She lives alone, in a leaky hut of bamboo and wood, next to a tiny plot where she grows rice. A key dangles from a string around her neck. It opens a heavy padlock on her front door, where someone has written in chalk a holiday greeting: Merry Xmas Happy New Year 2008.

She has to coax her brain to recall the long-ago war. What surfaces from the depths of an old mind is a bit blurry, as if one's had a few drinks, Hla Di Lu says with a toothless grin. But a few things come into focus: Japanese soldiers running villagers through with bayonets, American soldiers sharing tins of fruit and canned meat from their K-rations.

The brightest memory is the glow from the road that lighted up the darkness as the Americans toiled through the night, pushing hard to make the next mile.

Grillo had always been a fighter. In wartime, he defied white commanders he considered racist. After peace returned and he moved to Oakland, he struggled for decades to bridge the differences between Hispanics and African Americans, arguing that they were all part of the same black community.

He still lives there today, in a space not much bigger than his bed, in the shared room of a nursing home. The body that fought off malaria 14 times during the war, the lifelong rebel who refused to bow to intolerance, is slowly surrendering to time.

The strong hands that hacked and dug through Burma's jungle and rock are frail now. Grillo's right leg has been amputated at the knee. His dry, papery skin is
drawn taught over atrophied muscles. His voice is a whisper, and each word he speaks is a tug of war between mind and mouth.

Within half an hour, he is exhausted, and his eyes gently close until he can summon enough strength to try again.

Squeezing the hand of his son and namesake, California Superior Court Judge Evelio M. Grillo, the old vet smiles at the memories of winning enough poker pots from his war buddies in Burma to buy his mom a house in Tampa, Fla.

But he'd rather forget most of his two years at war. Grillo had to suffer the indignities of racial segregation on the 58-day passage to India aboard the Santa Clara, where the only comforts were reserved for the white officers.

Grillo remembers most of them as vulgar racists, and wrote in his memoir, "Black Cuban, Black American," that the road builders assumed that the white men giving them orders in Southern drawls had been selected because they were "deemed to know how to handle black men."

The black GIs had to bunk in the ship's windowless, foul-smelling hold, stewing in the "stench cooked up by the sweat, the farts and the vomit of 200 men," he recalled in the memoir.

"White troops had fresh water for showering," Grillo continued. "Black troops had to shower with sea water. White troops had the ample stern of the ship to lounge during the day. Black troops were consigned to the narrow bow, so loaded with gear that it was difficult to find comfortable resting places."

Things only went downhill in the jungle. In a letter home, handwritten on Red Cross stationery and dated June 7, 1943, Grillo was looking forward to taking leave in a big city where he could sit on a toilet again.

"We'll just have to make the best of whatever comes until such time as this nightmare shall spend itself," he wrote, "and a box of candy or a bunch of flowers shall again be thought of as some of man's most effective and most important 'weapons.' "

The men who built the road weren't honored for their feat until 2004, when the Defense Department marked African American History Month at Florida A&M University.

By then, most of the veterans were long dead. The Pentagon could locate only 12 to invite to the ceremony in Tallahassee, and only six were well enough to travel, the American Forces Press Service reported at the time.

Today, the band of brothers who built the Stilwell Road has all but disappeared. But the feeling of resentment among black men who felt dumped in the jungle and expendable because of their race is still alive in Grillo.

He's happy to hear that the road is coming back to life. He summons all his strength to speak, whispering that it shows he and his comrades did a good job building it. But the proud smile on his wan face disappears with a question from his daughter.

"Do you think Winston Churchill was right when he said it was a waste of lives building the road?" she asks from the foot of his bed, speaking loud and slow to help him process the question.

He closes his eyes and nods.
An alarm sounds in the hall, calling a nurse to another room.

Below is a copy of Grillo's letter please CLICK HERE to get the letter

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September 20 2008
The Chinese invasion of 1962
This is a a letter Bhaiti sent to Dr Guha

Dear Dr. Guha, I read your articles in The Telegraph with great deal of interest. One on the 21st June with reference to your visit to IIT-G is of my particular interest.   Quote: "Jawaharlal Nehru spoke (on the air) to the nation on the 19th November 1962. He gave the people the 'very serious and saddening news' of the fall of Bomdi La. He said:'I do not want any Indian, man, woman, or child to get dismayed because the Chinese forces have won some successes in the beginning. This is war and in a war successes come and failures come also. What counts is the end and not the intermediate stage of the war.' He added: 'We shall see the matter to the end and the end will have the victory for India.' Describing China as the 'imperialist of the worst kind',he condemned her disregard for truth and decency in international behaviour and said: 'We must stand up to it: not only we all descent -minded persons and decent-minded countries who value their freedom anywhere- in Asia, Afrika, Europe, and America.' He expressed his grateful thanks to the friendly countries for the speedy help that they had given and said: 'We shall require more help... because it is a matter of survival for us.' In Parliament he said ,'we have asked every kind of aid. There is no inhibition about it.'   The foregoing speech in partial has been reproduced in V.B.Karnik's Edited book CHINA INVADES INDIA, 1963, pp 248-249.   I did hear his speech on my car radio on the 19th November 1962 evening and in it Nehru said: "My heart goes out to the people of Assam". Today I feel that it was a voice bidding good-bye to Assam, broken voice sounded more of a farewell note than one of betrayal or concern. The chaotic situation prevailed then, I have reason to remember every bit of it,  could promote him to express so. NEFA and Assam were left at the mercy of the invading Chinese army  but for the Chinese Government's announcement of cease-fire on the 21th November.   Quoted from Karnik's book:   "How the Government was totally unprepared for facing a state of emergency bacame clear what happened in Tezpur in the next couple of days. Tezpur was about many miles away from the front line. But immediately after the fall of Bomdi La  panic spread to Tezpur and the Government had no arrangement for meeting the situation. The Government machinery itself failed, which led to greater confusion and worst panic. There was no proper liaison between the military and civil authorities and for over twenty-four hours nobody had any definite information about what was happening at the front. Contradictory orders were issued, government offices were closed and the people felt themselves deserted. A report in the Current ( 8nDecember 1962 ) stated: "Indian currency was burnt, the State treasury emptied to pay three months' salary to the Government servants, and the gates of the Mental Hospital and the District Jail were thrown open, letting loose lunatics and criminals on a town which was already witnessing a ghastly devils' dance with pepole fleeing, official deserting and rumour immediate capitulation." At this time some non offcial organizations did good work and did not allow the situation deteriorate any further. The abnormal situation lasted only for a day and a half, after the civilian authorities returned and normality was restored. There was certain amount of evacuation as the war situstion became graver and the front line came nearer. The tribes inhabiting the areas exposed to war danger prefered to evacuate to the plains than face life under the Chinese. The Governmentof Assam arranged to give them food and shelter. A number of Europeans  also left the tea gardens and their establishments and went away for safety to Calcutta or otherplaces. In contrast to them labourers[ and the sons of the soil ] on the tea gardens did not leave their places of work. This is a fact which deserves special mention."     I had seen the evacuation process. The tea planters of Misa area of Nagaon district were asked to gather at the Misa Polo Club on the 19th November. Therefrom, they would be driven down to Guwahati to catch the flights to Calcutta as pre-arranged.   Ex-patriates and the North Indian planters did go and three sons of the soil including myself had to stay where we belonged to..  Some British tea planters talked about the  days as Japanese POW and as Chinese POW it could not be anything better if fallen to them.  Demolition was also talked about instead of leaving the installtions to the Chinese.   Another reference you have made about the historic past of the sites of IIT-G campus. Atan Buragohain had his palace at Lechai Hill and the hill was levelled off to construct the campus..-" Atan Buragohain was prime minister of Assam from January 1662 to March 1679. His appointment as premier synchronised with the entrance of the Mogul forces into Assam early 1662; and the conflict of 1682 witnessed the termination of the long drawn hostilities between Assam and Mogul India. The intervening years represent a faithful period in the history of Assam, both on account of its external dangers and its internal disruptions." (Atan Buragohain and His  by Dr S K Bhuyan). IIT-G can consider a project to compile a history of the North Bank of Guwahati  where it is located which had earlier witnessed the Mohmodeans invasions of Assam from Bukhthiyar Khilki in 1206 to the final repulsion of the Mogul in 1682..Two Jesuits passed through the area en route to Tibet in 1626; the mighty Ahom King Rudra Singha  who planned to invade Gaur and beyond died in 1714 in North Guwahati, about Rudra Singha Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterjee said - 'Rudra Sinha has come to obtain homage which he deserves from the all discriminating historians of India.', the famous rock inscription containing a verse Sanskrit couplet on the defeat of Bukhthiyar Khilki on 'about March 27, 1206' is located in the area and it was the site of famous battle of Saraighat where Lachit Barphukan defeated Mogul army led by Raja Ram Sinha in 1671. Brahmaputra Bridge was  renamed  Saraighat Bridge by Nehru on June 7, 1963 as the symbol of courage and heroism of the Assamese people against the Mogul invasion. Alaboi hill locatd in the area where 10000 Assamese soldiers were killed by Ram Sinha's army on one single day is commemorated every year.   These past histories of the area which do not get the attention of the national historians, hence, is my expectation -one day the regional history will see the light of day at the initiative of the IIT-G.
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September 15 2008
And further information about the inventor of the Microchip supplied by Bijoy Kumar Bhuyan--thank you Bhaiti




  London: Happy returns- microchip, an integrated circuit used in almost all electrical gadgets and equipment now-a-days turned 50 on Friday (12DEC08). The first working microchip was invented by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments on September 12 1958- it consisted of  a strip of geremanium with transistor and other components all glued to a glass slide. In facr, the story dates back to July 1958 when Kilby was a new employed engineer at Texas Instruments who did not have right to a summer vacation. So, he was compelleed to spend the summer working on the problem in circuit design that was commonly called "the tyranny of numbers" and finally came to the conclusion that manufacturing the circuit components in mass in a single piece of semiconductor material provide a solution. On September 12, he presented to the management of Texas Instruments- he showed them a piece of germanium with an oscilloscope attached, pressed a switch, and a oscilloscope showed a continuous sine wave, proving that his integrated circuit worked. Kilby's rough device, measuring seven 16th of an inch by one 16th of an inch, revolutionised electronics, and the world. The microchip virtually created the modern computer industry, and the internet would be unthinkable wiothout it.. Modern communications, transports, medicine, manufacturing and commerce are all based on the remarkable processing power of microchips, "The integrated circuit is the engine of the information age," Gartner analyst Jim Tully said. PTI.
 September 14 2008
Bijoy Kumar Bhuyan wrote to the Editor of the TOI in Guwahati the following interesting reference to history and it's association with Assam--thank you BK
To The Editor, TOI Guwahati Edition.   Sir,      
     Jack Kilby-inventor of Microchip
  I have read today with great interest- News Digest (TOI Guw Sept 13) about Microchip turns 50, and earlier (TOI 10DEC 2000). Its inventor and Noble Laurate Jack Kilby had Assam connection.  He wanted to be an electrical engineer like his father  and set his sights on that Mecca for budding engineers, MIT, but he failed to secure the minimum passing grade 500 and got 497. Frustrated Kilby  joined the US army and Cpl. Kilby  was assigned to the radio repair shop on a tea plantation in norheast India. He stayed at the US army barrack at Chubwa Tea Estate which was under the occupation of the US Army during that period of WWII. If a plaque is installed outside his former abode in Upper Assam it will be of the object of  interest to the tourists and travellers. After the war Kilby went to the University of Illinois on GI Bill taking a degree in "double E" - electrical engineering. He secured a position at Texas Instruments in 1958. TI put Kilby to work on the most important problem in the electronics-known in the technical literature of the day as "the interconnection problem" or "the wiring problem".. All over the world, the engineers were searching for  a solution. US Army, Navy and Air Force spent millions of dollars on the problem. Jack Kilby came up against the tyranny of numbers he had one great advantage ;"I didn't know what everybody else considered impossible, so I didn't rule anything out." Sitting quietly in the semiconductor lab, Kilby came with an answer to the problem: Elimninate the wires. He realized that all the basic elements of  a circuit could be made of the same material, silicon. Then carbon was used to build a resistor which  was cheaper and better. He got the idea- no wiring, no soldering, and  that meant huge numbers of components could be compressed into a tiny space; put whole computer circuit on a chip the size of a baby's fingernail. On July 24, 1958, Kilby scrawled the idea in his lab notebook :" The following circuit elments could be made on a single slice:resistor,capacitor, distributed capacitor, transistor." That was the sentence brought its author  42 years later the Noble Prize  in Physics on 10 December 2000.    from Bijoy Kumar Bhuyan former Manager Chubwa Tea Estat 30 DrS K B Road, Guwahati 781001.
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August 15 2008

Assam's importance in WW2
We are delighted to have a retired Tea Planter Bijoy Kumar Bhuyan of Guwahati 781001, allow us to show his writings on  history--part of the story is Flying the Hump and just below is such a chapter

 Flying the Hump

Dr Thomas DeGregori, Professor of Economics at the University of Houston,Texas, has rightly said in his   article 'Projecting Assam' (Horizon Assam Tribune 26th April 2007) that the military historians of World War II show complete lack of knowledge about the role that Assam played in World War II though they seem to know everything about Stilwell, Chiang Kai -shek etc. Though there are adequate materials we do not have a complete history on the subject yet, the military historians for that matter even national chroniclers mention Assam in passing in a brief sentence or two. It is hoped that an enthusiast scholar will one day compile a 'History of Assam during WWIII', this will be of the interest of the tourist traffic to WWII sites like  other WWII sites.

Those who are keen on this subject will be interested  to learn that in the debris of a US plane  found in Arunachal by a local tour operator Oken Tayeng  a silver bracelet bearing the name Arnold Stavina, flight engineer,. has been recovered..

Arnold Stevina was obviously a member of the crew of the pilot who flew the US plane C-47 cargo version of Dakota to maintain the supply of war goods from  Dinjan in Upper Assam to Kunming in South China during WW II. This was the famous 'Hump' traffic a dangerous flight from Upper Assam's wartime airfields over the great mountains.. 

Chinese Army of Chiang Kai-sheck was getting the American lend-lease aid worth millions of dollars unloaded in Rangoon port  therefrom moved through Burma Road - Lasio to Kunming, before Rangoon was abandoned following its occupation by Japanese invading army in March 1943. All major oil refineries in port city were demolished by the retreating army on the order of General Alexander.

Burma Road to China  remained closed from the spring of 1942 and the alternative  route to supply war goods to the Chinese Army was the airborne traffic over the Hump from Upper Assam. When it was reopened the first convoy from Assam reached Chinese frontier on January 28 1945 through the newly laid road from Ledo to link up with Burma road.- named Stilwell Road  as it was constructed under the command of General Joe Stilwell, Commander of the 5th and 6th Chinese Army Divisions. With the opening of the Stilwell Road to link up with Burma Road the Hump traffic no longer had to make the dangerous flights. The strains on the rearward communications in Assam was relieved by a new 750 miles long pipe-line from Calcutta and also with the laying of the second meter gauge rail line.

President Roosevelt demanded the uninterrupted war good supplies to the Chinese Army. Dinjan was the last stop of US supply chain management under lend-lease column stretching from US to Kunming, China. Supplies came to Calcutta along sea and air routes, and then by rail moved  to Ledo virtually everything to keep  China at war including perfumes and jewellery for Madam Chiang Kai-sheck.

Chiang Kai-shek was getting the  war goods from Assam -transported by the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), jointly owned by Pan American Airways. CNAC flew as the private carrier under the nominal control of the US Air Transport Command. CNAC was manned by like of flight engineer Arnold Stevina and strange collection of civilian pilots and engineers from US, Australia, China, Great Britain, Canada and Denmark. There were  - Steve Kusak, Roy Ferral, Al Mah, Einer Micky Mickelson, Jimmy Scoff, Casey Boyd, Hockswindes, Thorwaldson, Rosebert,Maupin and there was Captain Charles Urban- in khaki short, bare body with a cap and leather boots.

At Dinjan the pilots stayed at the tea garden bungalows. Well before the dawn they would be awakened by the servant boys with a  cup of  thick teas. They would drink it on the veranda looking out towards the jungles where the leopards would pass by. 4-wheel  command vehicles would drive them to the nearby airfields. Time was important, they would take off at the dawn and cross Ft Hertz valley in darkness or in bad weather when Japanese fighters were grounded. Planes would take 800 gallons of aviation fuel two tons over the recommended gross flying weight of 24000 pounds. They would cross three of the great river valleys of the world- Irrawady, Salween, and Mekong. In this place where India, Burma and Yunan Province of China come together lining these rivers constitute the Hump.

If the crew went down in the Hump region no search party was sent. The territory was wild and rugged, settled sparsely by aborginal tribes or occupied Japanese. The snow accumulates in places to a depth of several hundred feet at a crashed plane.The pilots suffered through it and gathered strength from one another talking quietly when a plane was overdue and  thinking about the optimistic possibilities. After a few weeks, missing pilot's clothing was parcelled out among others and his personal effects were sent home..  Those who kept flying grieved for the pilots who vanished out there in the snow or thunders into foggy mountains  in China or blow-up on the approach to Dinjan, and worried about those still in the air.


Those who vanished in the Hump have not been forgotten with the sighting of the wreckages of missing in action planes recently in Arunachal by OkenTayeng and the US private investigator Clayton Kuhle. They and Arunachal authorities could draw the attention of the US. It is heartening to learn that US will soon begin the search for the remains of missing planes and pilots in Arunachal. To carry out the search a five member team from the US Joint Prisoner-of-War/Missing in Action Accounting Committee will arrive in Itanagar on June 24. IAF will assist the US team in the operation and the team will be accompanied by the US Consul General based in Kolkata. Hundred of planes and pilots went missing on the China-Burma-India tri-junction. They had to dodge many Japanese fighter planes and maneuver the treacherous Himalayan terrain for it.

Arnold's siver bracelet was handed over to his nephew and he remained thankful to Tayeng. Kuhle and Tayeng have spotted the debris of the plane with the name "Hot as Hell' missing in 1944.. It is a tremendous job ahead for the search team but the efforts will give the solace to the souls of the brave ones and the hope to the grieved families and friends back home.

I hope that it will not be out of context to mention about my own accidental meeting in 1971 with a Hump veteran   at Rockfeller Centre, New York. My wife and I came down from the viewing gallery at Rockfeler Centre to the floor wherefrom we purchased the tickets for viewing gallery. An elderly man in blue overall leaning on the ticket counter asked us where we were from. He obviously  knew of our Indian origin seeing my wife in Saree.. When I said that we were from Assam his reply stunned me for a minute- :"Chabua, Dinjan, Tinsukia ?" In fact I was then working at Chabuwa Tea Estate. He did not stop there he took out few photos from his breast pocket and handed over to us and these were old photos of him and his mates taken at a Tinsukia studio.  In a city of over ten millions then I had to meet a person by providence who lived at Chabuwa in the army barrack few yards away from where I Iived then, An American radio mechanic, Jack Kilby, of US Army who lived in Upper Assam tea plantation during WWII  was awarded the Noble Laurate in 2000 for his discovery of transistor/semiconductor.. 

Jack Passalacqua was the Airplane and Engine Mechanic attached to the US Air Transport Command and posted  in Upper Assam during 1944-46. He came out from AAF Base in Florida to Kalaikunda in India.. At Rockfeller Centre he was the Basement Maintenance Engineer for utilities required  for the five towers qt the top. We met him again at Rockfeller Centre in 1976 winter.  He drove us to his residnce at Queens to meet his wife and for dinner. His only child Peter was in the Vietnam war. I was in touch with him but my last letter in 1988 came back with a note- moved not forwarded. I visited Rockfeller Centre few times in 2004 in search of any information about Jack  but none could tell me. Jack was our version of a Gaonburah, informal, jovial and carefree. He had lot to tell the tales about his days in Assam. I have his letters and pictures preserved carefully. He would be 86 today wherever he is.

The Hump, in today's world has disappeared. It was a concoc+tion of time and technology. In a jet airplane cruising at 40000 feet the Hump no longer exists, except in the memories of the surviving brave ones- who swept upwards from the black top runaways into the jungles night on their way to China. The Hump has not received  nor the brave pilots and the crews the due recognition in the pens of the military historians whose sacrifices and valour contributed to the Burma campaign and defeat of the Japanese invading army.

 Help taken from SPAN and Churchill's History of WW II 
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December 7 2003
From the Calcutta Telegraph 

Stillwell Road and the Eastside war story
--Dispur develops Indian stretch with funky eateries and eco-huts for smooth ride to history

By Ripunjoy Das

Dibrugarh, July 2: Fancy a drive down Stilwell Road?

No, not the broken, uncared-for stretch but an improved, 61-km double lane dotted with snazzy restaurants and eco-huts that will take you all the way to the Myanmar border. You cannot cross over to China, though.

Ethnic they may be, but the huts will be equipped with amenities such as electricity, drinking water and toilets, the The Indian side of the road, built and made famous by Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell during World War II, is poised for an image makeover. The Assam government is going ahead with a plan to construct wayside amenities like restaurants and hotels and a trade centre to attract tourists. Dispur has been clamouring for re-opening of the road which its believes could change the economy of the region.

Assam power and industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi, who is leading the project, said since the road and the area is steeped in history dating back to World War II era, it could attract a lot of foreign tourists, especially those from the US and the UK.

"And the flow of international tourists will also spread the word about the road's strategic importance in today's changing global scenario. Bordoloi is also the legislator of Margherita, which is close to Ledo from where the road begins on the Indian side.

The 1,736-km road connects Ledo in India with Kunming in China's Yunan province after passing through Myanmar. Gen. Stilwell was entrusted with constructing the road to ensure that the supply lines were reopened to China, which were cut off in Myanmar by advancing Japanese troops. Road construction started in April 1942 and was completed in October 1944.

"The idea is to take forward the initiative started with the Dihing-Patkai Festival. Our objective while starting the festival in 2002 was to publicise the potential of the area as a tourism destination as well as a point where there is a scope for building an international trade centre," Bordoloi told The Telegraph.

The road lay broken after Independence until the North Eastern Council (NEC) took it up for maintenance. When President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam attended the 2003 edition of the Dihing-Patkai Festival and was left spellbound by the tremendous potential of trade and tourism in the area, the national policy-makers woke up and started some exercise to rebuild the Indian portion of the road.

Subsequently, the road was declared National Highway 153 from Zero Point to Pangsu Pass bordering Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.

According to the new plan, the road will be double lane, construction for which began recently. "Apart from a smart drive down the zigzag road, we will make sure that there are stopover points and even eco-huts on either side of the road," said an official involved in the project. 

"The Patkai belt is inhabited by Singphos, Tai-Khamtis, Tai-Phakes and several other tribes. They have been requested to put up eco-huts on the either side of the road so that the tourists can sample ethnic cuisine as well as stay overnight if they so desire

Click here to read about finding a war wreck