Archive for January, 2016

Engineer Moments in History – January 2016

Army Engineers Construct the Ledo Road in World War II

Army bulldozers constructing the Ledo Road cut a path through a hillside in the Indian jungle

Army bulldozers constructing the Ledo Road cut a path through a hillside in the Indian jungle

In the fall of 1942, Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell, the Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces in the China-Burma-India theater of operations, had the mission of supporting the Chinese in the fight against Japanese forces. However, the Japanese controlled the main supply road into China from India, which necessitated the need for a new supply road. To address this problem, LTG Stillwell organized a group of Engineers to build a road from Ledo, India through Burma to the main supply route in China. This road would serve as both a supply route to China and also a line of communication that could enable offensive operations against the Japanese in Burma.

The 45th Engineer General Service Regiment and the 823rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, as well as several other Engineer battalions and companies, were tasked with building the Ledo Road. Initially under command of Colonel John Arrowsmith, construction of the road began 16 December, 1942. The Engineers operated almost continually through severe weather, thick forest and mountainous terrain. The project included clearing, grading, compacting, and finishing the road, as well as constructing several culverts and bridges to navigate over numerous streams and rivers. Operations started well, but slowed down several months into the project due to severe weather and issues with equipment maintenance, and in October of 1943 Colonel Lewis Pick took over as commander. Finally, on 12 January, 1945, after more than two years of consistent hard work, Major General Pick led the first convoy of 113 vehicles out of Ledo, India to Kenming, China. The Engineers’ steadfast effort over the more than two years of the project was much appreciated, and MG Pick called the construction of the Ledo Road the toughest job ever given to U.S. Army Engineers in wartime. The actions of the Engineers greatly contributed to the war effort and the eventual victory over the Japanese. (source: Fowle, Barry W. Builders and Fighters: U.S. Army Engineers in World War II. Fort Belvoir, Va.: Office of History, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1992. 327-346. image source: http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/indiaburma/indiaburma.htm)

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