Ordered to the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) General Stilwell was placed in an impossible situation. Upon arrival Stilwell was given command of all forces defending Burma, which was already under fierce Japanese attack. Stilwell was given command but soon found out he was being undermined by Chiang Kai-shek, who was the leader of the Republic of China. It seemed that Kai-shek was afraid of losing American support and materials, so the American General Stilwell was given command seemingly on paper only. Kai-shek constantly changed Stilwell’s orders and subverted his authority. The breakdown of command aided in the total collapse of Burma. In frustration, Stilwell said of his Chinese Commanders “they are up and down, highly optimistic one minute, in the depths of gloom the next. I can’t shoot them, I can’t relieve them, and just talking to them does no good.” Burma was lost and Stilwell’s force was in full retreat. Aircraft were dispatched to retrieve the 3 star General Stilwell from Burma but the disgusted Stilwell declined the trip out, largely because of the fact he would be forced to leave troops behind, He proclaimed "I prefer to walk!"
With the Japanese bearing down on Stilwell and his small group of 114 personnel on May 7th 1942, the group departed for the 140 mile trek to the city of Imphal and safety. From the book THE BURMA ROAD the author describes the scene just prior to their departure “Stilwell stood in a jungle clearing and addressed the group. He advised them that due to limited supplies of food a minimum of fourteen miles per day had to be traveled. He then reminded everyone that only personal disciple would ensure their survival, and he had the evening before offered that anyone believing that he couldn’t follow orders should speak up, so he could be issued a week’s rations to find safety on his own. No one lifted a hand. By the time we get out of here Stilwell concluded many of you will hate my guts. But I’ll tell you one thing you’ll get out.”
Stilwell along with every person in his party made it to Imphal where he publicly vowed to retake Burma! Beginning in late 1943 with the use largely of Chinese troops that Stilwell trained, the battle to retake Burma started. For the next six months Stilwell personally lead, often at the risk of his own life, the campaign and in 1944, Burma was freed from the Japanese.
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Full size flag used by General Stilwell as commander Army Ground Forces Jan-May 1945