Stilwell's conflict with Chiang

Sep 2012
1,222
Tarkington, Texas
Defending Burma was reasonable and Chiang was favourable to the idea of an airlift from Assam. It was Stilwell who foolishly attacked without air support or enough intelligence on the ennemy forces. The Chinese lost part of their best forces while Stilwell was fleeing, abandonning more than 100 000 chinese soldiers. He did it again in 1944 when he showed little concern for the chinese losses. Taking all that into account, I find it hard to blame Chiang for not wanting to commit more men in Burma. Perhaps these soldiers woud have been more useful during the operation Ichi-Go.



He still was involved in politics, was planning on sending arms to the CCP and was seriously thinking about replacing Chiang, whatever that could possibly mean.
Chiang sent a Chinese Army into Burma when the Japanese invaded. This was only 30K to 40K troops in three divisions. Chiang hedged this by making sure only one division at a time engaged the Japanese. Stilwell complained to Chiang that they were disobeying orders, but he was ignored. One Division retreated into India and scared the British to death, who did not want them there. The first shipment of Chinese Replacements to reach India was inspected by American Doctors and was sent back. Y-Force in Yunnan took them and was glad to get them!

Stilwell wanted American Troops in Burma. He got a Infantry Regiment and a Cavalry Regiment. US Cavalry Regiments were smaller than Infantry Regiments.

The Chinese had some of their best troops opposing Ichi-Go. The IJA beat them. The Chinese lost their remaining Armor they had after the Battles of Chang Sha. Chiang did not want to send troops to battle unless he had to. They and the munitions being squirrelled away were supposed to be used against Mao and the Red Chinese Army.

In 1944, the Chinese only went as far as they wanted. A British Chindit column took Moguang and Stilwell announced the Chinese had taken it. The British commander, Calvert, sent a message saying they had taken umbrage over the announcement. Stilwell's staff told him that they could not find Umbrage on any maps!

Pruitt
 
Sep 2016
48
France
Chiang sent a Chinese Army into Burma when the Japanese invaded.
Actually three armies, the Fifth, Sixth and Sixty-sixth Army. The 200th division, the only mechanized division of the nationalist forces, was part of the Fifth army. So we can't really say Chiang did nothing in Burma.
 
Nov 2019
338
United States
Chiang needed weapons, and despite Stilwell's frustration with Chiang, he helped in training the Chinese forces to be more capable. Chiang had to keep the Burma Road open if he was to receive the weapons he needed from the Allies, and Roosevelt who was rather easily swayed by Chiang, was determined to supply him that support.
 
Sep 2012
1,222
Tarkington, Texas
Actually three armies, the Fifth, Sixth and Sixty-sixth Army. The 200th division, the only mechanized division of the nationalist forces, was part of the Fifth army. So we can't really say Chiang did nothing in Burma.
When were these units actually in Burma? When they were in actual contact with the IJA, how many of the member divisions in contact? There were few roads in Burma. How did a mechanized division operate? The 200th Division had to operate in woods and hills. The Chinese drug their heels into actually moving into Burma.

The Americans sent thousands of Engineers to Northern Burma to try and connect with the Burma Road. It took years as the Monsoons often washed away any progress made during the Dry Season.

There were other Chinese mechanized units that fought in the Chang Sha campaigns. The Chinese sent in their German trained units and their armor to stop the IJA. The IJA did not take this area until the Ichi-Go campaign.

Pruitt
 
Last edited:

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,981
San Antonio, Tx
The objective Stilwell's campaign in Burma was to re-open the Burma Road, the only practical method of bringing allied lend-lease supplies into China... The training, equipment and combat experience (not to mention feeding, clothing, pay and medical care) provided to the Nationalist troops in India showed what Chinese troops could do if properly commanded. Hardly "wasted".

Stilwell and Chiang clashed because they were essentially at cross purposes. Stilwell was there to help win the war by creating a Chinese army that could actively engage the Japanese - he had no other interest. Chiang's objective was to stay in power vis a vis the other interests within the KMT, and to enhance his (and China's) position in the postwar world (and prepare for the inevitable final struggle with the Communists).

These objectives did not always correspond. (and "pruitt" is on the mark about Chennault, who was also insubordinate)
Chennault was probably a great pilot and a good military man, but pretty bad at everything else. The answer to the Big Question of Who lost China? The Chinese lost China.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,863
Florania
Chennault was probably a great pilot and a good military man, but pretty bad at everything else. The answer to the Big Question of Who lost China? The Chinese lost China.
Can you elaborate the matter?
There is an entire wikipedia article about Claire Lee Chennault:

Why did he value Chiang much more than Stilwell?
 
Sep 2016
48
France
When were these units actually in Burma? When they were in actual contact with the IJA, how many of the member divisions in contact? There were few roads in Burma. How did a mechanized division operate? The 200th Division had to operate in woods and hills. The Chinese drug their heels into actually moving into Burma.
Here is what is said in the book War and Nationalism in China 1925-1945 by Hans J. van de Ven.

He (Chiang) stated that because of a British failure to deliver promised petrol, some Chinese tanks and heavy artillery had not yet moved to the front, but that some units of the 5th Army, including China’s only mobile division, the 200th, had been moved to Tounggoo while the rest was on its way, while the 6th Army had been deployed from Jiangmai in north Thailand to the west in north Burma. Chiang went on to say that following the fall of Rangoon, the counter-offensive had to be scrapped.
The first chapter of this book is a great analysis of Stilwell's lack of tactical skills. It concludes :

What I have suggested is, first of all, that Stilwell was neither the great war hero as made out in the US press at the time and as subsequently argued by historians, nor the villain as suggested by Chennault and Chinese opponents. He was a man of limited military skill, both as a commander and a strategist. Launching an offensive at Tounggoo was misguided, as was his dash for Myitkyina during the re-conquest of Burma. His belief that the recovery of north Burma was critical to the defeat of Japan was accepted by few at the time and disproved by subsequent events. Even his supporters agreed that his logistical and intelligence operations were a shambles. He remained wedded to preFirst World War infantry warfare and sought victory through offensive efforts without the necessary means available and without making any plans for retreat. He failed to appreciate the importance of air power.
 
May 2018
1,023
Michigan
Chiang and the other Chinese generals were applying the teachings of Sun Tzu who at the time was unknown in America. Sun Tzu's military philosophy is to minimize casualties. Stilwell and other American observers interpreted Chinese actions as cowardice. A little more cultural awareness would have been useful.
How big would the difference in "minimizing casualties" compared with the American Army after Normandy whom a German officer said, "If the Americans used their infantry like the Soviets, they'd be in Paris by now?" If American tactics were conservative on manpower, the Chinese must have been even more so.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Chlodio