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Thread: The Burma Campaign - The Struggle for Myitkyina

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    Default The Burma Campaign - The Struggle for Myitkyina

    Legends of the Burma Campaign – Frank Merrill and the Marauders




    INTRODUCTION
    The Allies' aim in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of World War II was to supply and buttress Chinese armies in their struggle against a massive Japanese incursion. The enemy's seizure of China's seaports had severed its traditional supply lines. Accordingly, the Allies transported equipment, men and supplies to China through Burma by building roads and pipelines, and India by flying the "Hump" route over the Himalayas. In addition, the Allies aided China by conducting ground and air offensives.


    OVERVIEW

    Merrill's Marauders, a Ranger-type regiment, came into existence as a result of the Quebec Conference of August, 1943. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had been so impressed with Orde Wingate, whom Churchill had brought to the conference, that they decided to organize an American commando force to serve with Wingate’s Chindits. Its goal would be the destruction of Japanese communications and supply lines and generally to play havoc with enemy forces while an attempt was made to reopen the Ledo Road.

    A Presidential call for volunteers for "A Dangerous and Hazardous Mission" was issued, and approximately 2,900 American soldiers responded to the call. Officially designated as the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), code name GALAHAD, the unit later became popularly known as Merrill’s Marauders, named after its leader, Brigadier General Frank Merrill. Organized into combat teams, two to each battalion, the volunteers came from a variety of sources. Some came from stateside cadres; some from the jungles of Panama and Trinidad; and the remainder were battle-scarred veterans of Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and New Guinea battles. In India some Signal Corps and Air Corps personnel were added, as well as pack troops with mules.
    Preliminary training took place in secrecy in the jungles of India under the tutelage of Wingate’s Chindits.

    MERRILL’S MARAUDERS
    Plans were drawn up for an offensive to begin with a Chinese-American force attacking North Burma, with the ultimate goal of taking the Myitkyina airfield, which would remove the threat of enemy fighter planes attacking allied forces flying the Hump. Stilwell also planned to use Myitkyina as a bomber base for attacks on the Japanese homeland.

    Accompanied by two Chinese divisions, the three battalions of Merrill's Marauders began its trek through the jungle-choked terrain of Northeast Burma on February 24, 1944. The Marauders quickly struck Japanese outposts all along the Burma front, and by March 3, all battalions had reached the main Japanese line. After four days of harsh fighting, the dug-in Japanese retreated.

    The regiment was reduced from its original 3,000 men to fewer than 1,400 and most of those soldiers were sick (jungle diseases), ill-equipped and tired. The men were now looking forward to promised relief and a long rest behind the lines. Stilwell had other ideas.

    Assured by the British that the situation in Imphal was under control, Stilwell wanted to launch a final assault to capture Myitkyina. The remaining 1,400 Marauders would spearhead the operation.

    On May 17th, 1944, after a grueling 65-mile march over the 6,000-foot Kumon Mountain range (using mules for carrying supplies) to Myitkyina, the Marauders, along with several Chinese regiments, attacked the unsuspecting Japanese at the Myitkyina airfield. Success for the Marauders at the airfield came quickly; however, the town of Myitkyina could not immediately be taken.

    Fighting continued throughout the rain-soaked summer. Myitkyina fell on August 3, 1944. The cost was high but the rewards were substantial. A way had been opened for the Ledo (Stilwell) Road. Engineers, laborers, technicians, and construction crews, following closely on the heels of the combat troops, were already clearing ground for highways, gas stations, supply points, and motor shops along the route of the Ledo Road; they were building pipelines to carry aviation fuel directly from India to China.
    Despite constant battles with the Japanese, malaria, dysentery and scrub typhus, Merrill's Marauders fought their way through hundreds of miles of Burmese jungle over seven months.

    In five major and thirty minor engagements, they defeated the veteran soldiers of the Japanese 18th Division (conquerors of Singapore and Malaya) who vastly outnumbered them. Always moving to the rear of the main forces of the Japanese, they disrupted enemy supply and communication lines, and climaxed their behind-the-lines operations with the capture of Myitkina, the only all-weather airfield in Burma.

    JT


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    Here are some photos.
    1. North Burma February - March, 1944
    Pfc. Norman J. "Chief" Janis, a Sioux Indian, who first fought as a member of the 32nd Division in Buna, New Guinea, displayed his marksmanship anew in a battle near Lagang Ga. He killed seven Japanese soldiers with seven shots from his M1 Garand, which he called “Betsy.” Norman J. Janis is from Kyle, South Dakota.


    2. North Burma February - March, 1944
    Marauder column passes bodies of Japanese killed shortly before in attempted ambush of a preceding I & R Platoon patrol that was advancing along a Burma trail through high elephant grass.

    3. North Burma February - March, 1944
    Sgt. Louis Reid of East Islip, L.I., N.Y., and a Chinese soldier compare old and new model Thompson sub-machine guns when the Chinese relieved the Marauders follwing the Walawbum battle.



    JT
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    More photos.

    1. Sprucing up for a date with the enemy, is Pvt. Joseph Canci of B'klyn, N.Y. formerly a button maker. Barber trimming the mule skinner mustache is Cpl. William Binter of Milwaukee, Wis. Formerly a barber. Binter, 20 yrs. old, has still not had his first shave.

    2. General Merrill, map in hand, evaluating Marauders present position.

    3. Hsamshingyang, Burma, early April, 1944
    C-47 (Dakota) supply ship immediately after belly landing with chute still entangled in left elevator controls. Note propellers and engine parts in rut gouged out by plane in landing.

    JT





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    Good info and photos , thanks jacobtowne.

    BTW do you know the story of defence the Corregidor and Bataan in march 1942?

    "I decide who is a Jew and who is an Aryan "- Hermann Goering

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    Quote Originally Posted by jacobtowne View Post
    The Allies' aim in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of World War II was to supply and buttress Chinese armies in their struggle against a massive Japanese incursion.
    Umm... it would be more accurate to say that the aim of the United States and of the Chinese in Burma was this (with a secondary objective for the US being the break-up of the British Empire wherever possible). The UK - which provided the overwhelming majority of the troops - had a very different set of aims. Namely the defence of India, and the reconquest of Burma, Malaya and Singapore.
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

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    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27 View Post
    Umm... it would be more accurate to say that the aim of the United States and of the Chinese in Burma was this (with a secondary objective for the US being the break-up of the British Empire wherever possible). The UK - which provided the overwhelming majority of the troops - had a very different set of aims. Namely the defence of India, and the reconquest of Burma, Malaya and Singapore.
    The difference is between the very large scale tactical aims, which required supporting the Chinese to keep the Japanese occupied in China so Japan's forces couldn't be used elsewhere, and the grand strategies of the various Allies which generally involved retrieving, preserving or advancing their interests in areas outside China without regard to China or its forces.

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    Default Orde Wingate

    Some readers may be interested to know that as Orde Wingate had been the inspiration for Merrill’s Marauders, and the close cooperation he fostered not only with them, but also with the USAAF, as a mark of honour he was interred (together with American crew of the Dakota transport that had crashed into the jungle-covered mountains of Burma and killed them all) in Arlington Cemetry, Washington D.C.
    Last edited by 32Bravo; 02-09-2007 at 04:36 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chevan View Post
    BTW do you know the story of defence the Corregidor and Bataan in march 1942?
    I've read about the fall of Corregidor and the Bataan Death March. A man from my town perished in that march.

    JT

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    Default Corregidor & Bataan

    Quote Originally Posted by Chevan View Post
    Good info and photos , thanks jacobtowne.

    BTW do you know the story of defence the Corregidor and Bataan in march 1942?
    There are a lot of books on this subject, Chevan. William Manchester's "American Caesar" is pretty good on the topic although I think he gives Macarthur far too much credit for what was, in reality, the entrapment and surrender of the largest single American capitulation in its history. I think that General Wainwright also wrote a good book on this topic but the name eludes me at the moment. It's interesting that Macarthur never wrote a book on the subject, possibly because the whole episode would not have stood up to any journalistic scrutiny. It was not a proud moment.

    The Bataan Death March was never, it seems, intended by the Japanese to be a "death march", but seems to have been the result of the Japanese capturing so many Americans and not knowing what to do with them, much less feed them. They had no regard whatsoever for the Geneva Convention and regarded soldiers who surrendered as being lower than pond scum. Witness the fanatical craziness - yes, craziness - with which the Japanese fought with an utter disregard for common sense and the value of their own lives. The Japanese also proved to be callous to a fault and utterly insensitive to the suffering of others. This has to be a product of isolation and a wholly unrealistic appreciation of their own superiority which naturally cast literally everyone who was not Japanese into a permanent state of value-less limbo.

    It was only when the Japanese realized that the captured soldiers could be used as slave laborers that lives were spared.

    The Japanese assaulted Corregidor which lay in the bay facing Manila frontally after reducing most of the topside of the island to rubble with their artillery. There were big guns on Corregidor and they were used to some good effect against the Japanese until their revetments were pretty much pulverized. In a rather daring attack, the Japanese succeded in gaining a toehold and then a beachhead that brought them to the gates of Malinta tunnel. At that point, it was all over and the Americans quite sensibly surrendered.

    Many of the Americans who surrendered were housed in prisons in the Phillipine Islands, such as Cabanatuan. A number of them were also put on boats and sent to Japan to work as slave laborers. The conditions of these prisoners on the boats has been well documented and do not make pleasant reading on a full stomach. A number of the Japanese marus were sunk byAmerican submarines which after resolution of the defective torpedo problem were devastatingly effective. They of course had no idea they were torpedoing ships with American prisoners on board.

    Japanese behavior during WW2 was beneath contempt. Little wonder then that a "take no prisoners' attitude emerged that had no parallel among soldiers of opposing armies in the European Theatre of Operations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 32Bravo View Post
    Some readers may be interested to know that as Orde Wingate had been the inspiration for Merrill’s Marauders, and the close cooperation he fostered not only with them, but also with the USAAF, as a mark of honour he was interred (together with American crew of the Dakota transport that had crashed into the jungle-covered mountains of Burma and killed them all) in Arlington Cemetry, Washington D.C.
    Even though Wingate was seen in high regard by the Americans, the reason he was buried at Arlington was not as a mark of honour but becasue of the policy of burying all bodies in the country of the majority of the dead if the remains could not be identified.

    This was done upon an agreement made between the British and American Courts, that where bodies were buried unidentified in a mass grave the Americans had the right to have re-interment in the States if there were more Americans than British concerned.
    http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/owingate.htm
    _______________________________________________

    Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji DFC - 43 & 258 Squadron RAF & 6 Squadron RIAF. Hurricanes & Spitfires over France, Tomahawks in North Africa, Hurricanes over Burma.

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    Default Re: The Burma Campaign - The Struggle for Myitkyina

    My father was there and have never been able to find anything about him there, he was one of a hand full of survivors after having been in the jungle. I'm told Stars and Stripes had hip on the cover, but can never find the magazine article

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    Default Re: The Burma Campaign - The Struggle for Myitkyina

    Does anybody remember Sgt Raymond W. Gilliver from Minnesota

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    Default Re: The Burma Campaign - The Struggle for Myitkyina

    I don't know why they listed me as a private, I wasn't even born then

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