...my grand­fa­ther had been to China three times. His first stay was be­tween 1920 and 1923, and he was the US Army's first Chi­nese-lan­guage stu­dent.''

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

“The skills taught at the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion camps in­cluded tin­smithing, sewing, car­pen­try and such,” said John Easter­brook, point­ing to a pho­to­graph in which Stil­well, hat in hand, is seen talk­ing with a group of Chi­nese sol­diers, most of whom are on crutches af­ter los­ing limbs.

Ac­cord­ing to Ge Shuya, a his­to­rian who spe­cial­izes in the CBI Theater, the crit­i­cism Stil­well re­ceived both in life and death — among other things, he was con­demned for be­ing too harsh on US sol­diers and re­fus­ing to evac­u­ate some deemed un­fit to fight — can partly be ex­plained by his de­ter­mi­na­tion to win the hearts and minds of the Chi­nese sol­diers.

“Stil­well un­der­stood the Chi­nese men­tal­ity well enough to know that to be­come the true leader of those sol­diers, he would have to fight along­side them and demon­strate a high level of fair­ness to­ward ev­ery­one, Amer­i­cans and Chi­nese, which he did,” Ge said. “In the battle for My­itky­ina, the Burmese city-cum-air­field, Stil­well in­sisted that the US sol­diers stick with their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts to the end. That meant four pro­tracted months of hard, bloody fight­ing dur­ing the mon­soon sea­son.”

It was at Stil­well’s in­sis­tence that the “Ledo Road” was built be­tween 1943 and 1944 to link the south­west­ern city of Kun­ming, Yun­nan Prov­ince, with As­sam in In­dia and re­open China’s over­land sup­ply route, which had been cut by the Ja­panese in early 1942.

The project was con­tro­ver­sial, and con­trib­uted to a widely pub­li­cized dis­pute be­tween Stil­well and his CBI sub­or­di­nate, Claire Chen­nault — com­man­der of the “Fly­ing Tigers” squadrons of US pi­lots that op­er­ated in China. Chen­nault was pro­moted to the rank of lieu­tenant gen­eral just days be­fore he died. He was con­vinced that aerial as­saults would be enough to over­power the Ja­panese.

“Keep­ing in mind that the Ledo Road was of­fi­cially opened in Jan­uary 1945, just seven months be­fore

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