Siege of Myitkyina

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Siege of Myitkyina
Part of the Burma Campaign of the Pacific War
75-mm pack howitzer.jpg
An American M1A1 75-mm pack howitzer supports GALAHAD's operations at Myitkyina.
Date17 May – 3 August 1944 [1]
Location Myitkyina, Burma
Result Allied victory
Myitkyina airfield and town captured by the Allies
Flag of the Republic of China.svg  China
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Wei Li-huang
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Joseph Stilwell
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Genzo Mizukami  [2]
Chinese Expeditionary Force
Northern Combat Area Command
Garrison from 56th division (3,000)
Casualties and losses
Chinese [3]
972 killed
3,184 wounded
188 invalid
272 killed
955 wounded
980 invalid
2,400 killed or captured [4]
Advance to Myitkyina Advance to Myitkyina 21 April - 3 August 1944.jpg
Advance to Myitkyina

The Siege of Myitkyina was an engagement during the Burma Campaign of World War II. The Allied victory was part of the larger operation of North Burma & Yunnan which succeeded in opening the Ledo Road.

Burma Campaign series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, South-East Asian theatre of World War II

The Burma Campaign was a series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, South-East Asian theatre of World War II, primarily involving the forces of the British Empire and China, with support from the United States, against the invading forces of Imperial Japan, Thailand, and the Indian National Army. British Empire forces peaked at around 1,000,000 land and air forces, and were drawn primarily from British India, with British Army forces, 100,000 East and West African colonial troops, and smaller numbers of land and air forces from several other Dominions and Colonies. The Burma Independence Army was trained by the Japanese and spearheaded the initial attacks against British Empire forces.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Battle of Northern Burma and Western Yunnan

Battle of Northern Burma and Western Yunnan was the name of the Chinese campaign with their allies in the 1943-45 Burma Campaign. The campaign ended in an Allied victory.



Joseph Stilwell intended to make a rapid march against Myitkyina prophesying it to be a "feat which will live in military history", wanting the town for the nearby airstrip, strategically vital to the campaign as it would be an invaluable source of supplies and aerial support in the notoriously difficult jungle fighting in the China-Burma-India theater. Chinese Expeditionary Force commander Wei Lihuang also played a fundamental role in striking the Imperial Japanese Army. Sun li-Jen, as the second commander of the new Chinese 1st Army, one of the best of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army. The 1st Army has since changed their equipment from old, unsuitable-for-combat caps into US-supplied M1 helmets, and had exchanged their bolt-action Type Zhongzheng rifles for newer American and British weaponry. In addition to that, the Chinese Expeditionary Force (CEF) had finally received artillery and air support from the US and British forces as well, giving them a distinct advantage against the now-malnourished, low-morale Japanese forces around Myitkyina. The US and British played a relatively minor role during the battle, although they also had combat units, such as the famed 'Merrill's Marauders', active in the fighting.

Joseph Stilwell United States Army general

Joseph Warren Stilwell was a United States Army general who served in the China Burma India Theater during World War II. His caustic personality was reflected in the nickname "Vinegar Joe".


Stilwell gave the Chinese 22nd Division orders to advance against the bridges held by the Japanese on March 15. After two months of fighting, Myitkyina was now in reach. With the arrival of the rainy season, the incessant rain didn't stop until May 17. On that day, at 10:00 p.m., the Chinese Expeditionary Force launched an attack with the U.S. Army's 'Merrill's Marauders' unit against the Japanese airstrip at Myitkyina, supported by artillery. Eight Japanese planes were quickly destroyed as the battle escalated. The Japanese were caught by surprise, and, not knowing where their enemies were, poured gasoline onto the airfield in an attempt to disable it and retreated into Myitkyina proper, intending to fight the Chinese and Americans on more favorable terms there. The Chinese and the Americans quickly overran the field relatively intact, whereupon U.S. Army Air Forces and Royal Air Force C-47 transport aircraft moved the Chinese 89th Regiment of the 30th Division to the battlefield to supplement the exhausted C.E.F. and Marauder units already at Myitkyina. Afterward, some Chinese units attacked the town itself, but the attack was soon called off when two Chinese battalions, in the confusion and excitement of the battle, mistakenly engaged each other in a fierce firefight, and when 2 other battalions were moved in, they too repeated the mistake. On August 3, General Genzo Mizukami ordered the town abandoned and took his life in a literal compliance to "defend Myitkyina to the death" as the Chinese and US forces gradually cleared the city and the surrounding area of Japanese troops. [5]


The operations against Myitkyina was particularly hard on the Chinese Expeditionary Force, due to the hard fighting, lack of supplies, difficult terrain, and disease. Owing to excessive casualties, the unit effectively ceased to exist as a fighting force and was therefore disbanded. The long-awaited taking of Myitkyina and its airfield allowed for the opening of the Ledo Road, connecting the old Burma Road with China. The Chinese forces' casualties were the highest among all the battles during the Chinese-intervention of Burma Campaign.[ citation needed ]

Ledo Road road in Myanmar

The Ledo Road was an overland connection between India and China, built during World War II to enable the Western Allies to deliver supplies to China, to aid the war effort against Japan — as an alternative to the Burma Road became required, once that had been cut-off by the Japanese in 1942. It was renamed the Stilwell Road, after General Joseph Stilwell of the U.S. Army, in early 1945 at the suggestion of Chiang Kai-shek. It passes through the Burmese towns of Shingbwiyang, Myitkyina and Bhamo in Kachin state.

Burma Road road in Myanmar

The Burma Road was a road linking Burma with the southwest of China. Its terminals were Kunming, Yunnan, and Lashio, Burma. It was built while Burma was a British colony in order to convey supplies to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Preventing the flow of supplies on the road helped motivate the occupation of Burma by the Empire of Japan in 1942. Use of the road was restored to the Allies in 1945 after the completion of the Ledo Road. Some parts of the old road are still visible today.

Order of Battle

American-Chinese order of battle [6] Japanese order of battle [7]

Chinese and American troops of the Northern Combat Area Command: General Joseph Stilwell

  • New 1st Army: Zhen Dongguo
    • 22nd Division: Liao Yaoxiang
    • 30th Division: Tang Shouzhi
    • 38th Division: Sun Li-Jen
    • 14th Division: Long Tianwu
    • 50th Division:Pan Yukun
  • 1st Tank Division
  • GALAHAD: BG Frank Merrill
    • 5307th Provisional Regiment

Chinese Expeditionary Force: General Wei Li-huang

  • 11 Army Group: Sung Hsi-lien
    • 2 Army: Wang Ling-yun
    • 6 Army: Huang Chieh
    • 71 Army: Chung Pin
  • 20th Army Group: Liao Yao-hsiang
    • 53 Army: Chou Fu-chen
    • 54 Army: Chueh Han-chien
    • 8 Army: Ho Shao-chou

33rd Japanese Army: General Hondo Masaki

  • 2 Division: Okazaki
  • 18 Division: Tanaka
  • 53 Division: Takeda
  • 56 Division: Matsuyama
  • 24 Independent Mixed Brigade: Hayashi
  • Myitkyina: Genzo Mizukami

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  1. Jaques, Tony (2007) Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: F-O (p.700)
  2. Jaques, Tony (2007) Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: F-O (p.700)
  3. China-Buma-India Command
  4. China-Buma-India Command, page 253; only about 600 men of the garrison escaped.
  5. Pacific War Online
  6. Pacific War Online
  7. Pacific War Online