China Burma India Theater (CBI) was the United States military designation during World War II for the China and Southeast Asian or India-Burma (IBT) theaters. Operational command of Allied forces (including US forces) in the CBI was officially the responsibility of the Supreme Commanders for South East Asia or China. However, US forces in practice were usually overseen by General Joseph Stilwell, the Deputy Allied Commander in China; the term "CBI" was significant in logistical, material and personnel matters; it was and is commonly used within the US for these theaters.
Well-known Allied units in the CBI included the Chinese Expeditionary Force, the Flying Tigers, transport and bomber units flying the Hump, the 1st Air Commando Group, the engineers who built Ledo Road, the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), popularly known as "Merrill's Marauders", and the 5332d Brigade, Provisional or 'Mars Task Force', which assumed the Marauders' mission.
|China Burma India Theater|
|Part of World War II and Pacific War|
Insignia of the CBI Theater
(British Indian troops also participated)
Japanese policy towards China had long been a source of international controversy. Western powers had exploited China through the open door policy, advocated by United States diplomat William Woodville Rockhill, while Japan intervened more directly, creating the puppet-state of Manchukuo. By 1937, Japan was engaged in a full-scale war of conquest in China. The infamous Rape of Nanking galvanized Western opinion and led to direct financial aid for the Nationalists and increasing economic sanctions against Japan.
In 1941, the U.S. made a series of decisions to support China in its war with Japan: Lend Lease supplies were provided after President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the defense of China to be vital to the defense of the United States. Over the summer, as Japan moved south into French Indo-China, the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands instituted an oil embargo on Japan, cutting off 90% of its supplies. The embargo threatened operations of the Kwantung Army, already over a million soldiers deployed in China. Japan responded with a tightly co-ordinated offensive on December 7th & 8th, simultaneously attacking Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, Wake Island, and Thailand.
Japan cut off Allied supplies to China that had been coming through Burma. China could be supplied only by flying over the Himalaya mountains ("The Hump") from India, or capturing territory in Burma and building a new road—the Ledo Road.
In 1941 and 1942, Japan was overextended. Its naval base could not defend its conquests, and its industrial base could not beef up the navy. To cut off China from Allied aid, it went into Burma, captured Rangoon on 8 March 1942, cutting the Burma Road lifeline to China. Moving north the Japanese took Tounggoo, Burma, then captured Lashio in upper Burma on 29 April. The British, primarily concerned with India, looked to Burma as the main theater of action against Japan and wanted Chinese troops to fight there. The United States conjured up visions of millions of Chinese soldiers who would hold the Japanese then throw them back, while providing close-in airbases for a systematic firebombing of Japanese cities. The overland supply route from India to China had to go through Burma. Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek realized it was all fantasy. On the other hand, there were vast sums of American dollars available if he collaborated. He did so and managed to feed his starving soldiers, but they were so poorly equipped and led that offensive operations against the Japanese in China were impossible. However, Chiang did release two Chinese armies for action in Burma under Stilwell. They were smashed by the Japanese and Stilwell, on foot, barely escaped to India; the recovery of Burma and construction of the Ledo Road to supply China via Burma became an obsession for Stilwell.
"On April 14, 1942, William Donovan, as Coordinator of Information (forerunner of the Office of Strategic Services), activated Detachment 101 for action behind enemy lines in Burma. The first unit of its kind, the Detachment was charged with gathering intelligence, harassing the Japanese through guerrilla actions, identifying targets for the Army Air Force to bomb, and rescuing downed Allied airmen. Because Detachment 101 was never larger than a few hundred Americans, it relied on support from various tribal groups in Burma. In particular, the vigorously anti-Japanese Kachin people were vital to the unit's success." 101's efforts opened the way for Stilwell's Chinese forces, Wingate's Raiders, Merrill's Marauders, and the counter-attack against the Japanese Imperial life-line.
US forces in the CBI were grouped together for administrative purposes under the command of General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell. However, unlike other combat theaters, for example the European Theater of Operations, the CBI was never a "theater of operations" and did not have an overall operational command structure. Initially U.S. land units were split between those who came under the operational command of the India Command under General Sir Archibald Wavell, as the Commander-in-Chief in India, and those in China, which (technically at least) were commanded by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, as the Supreme Allied Commander in China. However, Stilwell often broke the chain of command and communicated directly with the US Joint Chiefs of Staff on operational matters. This continued after the formation of the South East Asia Command (SEAC) and the appointment of Admiral Lord Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander.
When joint allied command was agreed upon, it was decided that the senior position should be held by a member of the British military because the British dominated Allied operations on the South-East Asian Theatre by weight of numbers (in much the same way as the US did in the Pacific Theater of Operations). Admiral Lord Mountbatten was appointed as the Supreme Allied Commander of South-East Asia forces in October 1943.
Gen. Stilwell, who also had operational command of the Northern Combat Area Command (NCAC), a US-Chinese formation, was to report in theory to Gen. George Giffard – commander of Eleventh Army Group – so that NCAC and the British Fourteenth Army, under the command of General William Slim, could be co-ordinated. However, in practice, Gen. Stilwell never agreed to this arrangement. Stilwell was able to do this because of his multiple positions within complex command structures, including especially his simultaneous positions of Deputy Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, and Chief of Staff to Chinese leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. As SEAC's deputy leader, Stilwell was Giffard's superior, but as operational commander of NCAC, Giffard was Stilwell's superior. As the two men did not get on, this inevitably lead to conflict and confusion.
Stilwell, however, bitterly resisted [taking orders from Giffard] ... To watch Stilwell, when hard pressed, shift his opposition from one of the several strong-points he held by virtue of his numerous Allied, American and Chinese offices, to another was a lesson in mobile offensive-defence.— William Slim.
Eventually at a SEAC meeting to sort out the chain of command for NCAC, Stilwell astonished everyone by saying "I am prepared to come under General Slim's operational control until I get to Kamaing". Although far from ideal, this compromise was accepted.
Although Gen. Stilwel was the control and co-ordinating point for all command activity in the theater, his assumption of personal direction of the advance of the Chinese Ledo forces into north Burma in late 1943 meant that he was often out of touch with both his own headquarters and with the overall situation.
Not until late 1944, after Stilwell was recalled to Washington, was the chain of command clarified. His overall role, and the CBI command, was then split among three people: Lt Gen. Raymond Wheeler became Deputy Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia; Major-General Albert Wedemeyer became Chief of Staff to Chiang, and commander of US Forces, China Theater (USFCT). Lt Gen. Daniel Sultan was promoted, from deputy commander of CBI to commander of US Forces, India-Burma Theater (USFIBT) and commander of the NCAC. The 11th Army Group was redesignated Allied Land Forces South East Asia (ALFSEA), and NCAC was decisively placed under this formation. However, by the time the last phase of the Burma Campaign began in earnest, NCAC had become irrelevant, and it was dissolved in early 1945.
After consultation among the Allied governments, Air Command South-East Asia was formed in November 1943 to control all Allied air forces in the theater, with Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Peirse as Commander-in-Chief. Under Peirse's deputy, USAAF Major General George E. Stratemeyer, Eastern Air Command (EAC) was organized in 1943 to control Allied air operations in Burma, with headquarters in Calcutta. Unlike the strained relations and confusion encountered in coordinating Allied ground force commands, air force operations in the CBI proceeded relatively smoothly. Relations improved even further after new U.S. military aid began arriving, together with capable USAAF officers such as Brigadier General William D. Old of CGI Troop Carrier Command, and Colonels Philip Cochran and John R. Alison of the 1st Air Commando Group. Within Eastern Air Command, Air Marshal Sir John Baldwin commanded the Third Tactical Air Force, originally formed to provide close air support to the Fourteenth Army. Baldwin was later succeeded by Air Marshal Sir Alec Coryton. U.S. Brigadier-General Howard C. Davidson and later Air Commodore F. J. W. Mellersh commanded the Strategic Air Force. In the new command, various units of the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Tenth Air Force worked side-by-side. In the autumn of 1943 SEAAC had 48 RAF and 17 USAAF squadrons; by the following May, the figures had risen to 64 and 28, respectively.
At Eastern Air Command, Gen. Stratemeyer had a status comparable to that of Stilwell. Coordinating the efforts of the various allied air components while maintaining relations with diverse command structures proved a daunting task. Part of Stratemeyer's command, the Tenth Air Force, had been integrated with the RAF Third Tactical Air Force in India in December 1943 and was tasked with a number of roles in support of a variety of allied forces. Another component, the US Fourteenth Air Force in China, was under the jurisdiction of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek as China theater commander. Although the India-China Division of the AAF's Air Transport Command received its tonnage allocations from Stratemeyer as Stilwell's deputy, ICD reported directly to Headquarters ATC in Washington, D.C.
In the spring of 1944, with the arrival of command B-29s in the theater, another factor would be added to air force operations. XX Bomber Command of the Twentieth Air Force was tasked with the strategic bombing of Japan under Operation Matterhorn, and reported directly to the JCS in Washington, D.C. However, XX Bomber Command remained totally dependent on Eastern Air Command for supplies, bases, ground staff, and infrastructure support.
After a period of reshuffling, Eastern Air Command's air operations began to show results. In August 1944, Admiral Mountbatten noted in a press conference that EAC fighter missions had practically swept the Japanese air force from Burmese skies. Between the formation of SEAAC in November 1943, and the middle of August 1944, American and British forces operating in Burma destroyed or damaged more than 700 Japanese aircraft with a further 100 aircraft probably destroyed. This achievement considerably reduced dangers to Air Transport Command cargo planes flying in support of the Hump airlift operation. By May 1944, EAC resupply missions in support of the Allied ground offensive had carried 70,000 tons of supplies and transported a total of 93,000 men, including 25,500 casualties evacuated from the battle areas. These figures did not include tonnage flown in the Hump airlift missions to China.
Transferred in 1944 to Fourteenth Air Force:
Twentieth Air Force
Twentieth Air Force XX Bomber Command (XX BC) combat elements moved in the summer of 1944 from the United States to India where they engaged in very-long-range Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombardment operations against Japan, Formosa, China, Indochina and Burma. While in India, XX BC was supported logistically by Tenth Air Force and the India-China Division of the Air Transport Command. B-29 groups moved to West Field, Tinian, in early 1945.
The 312th Fighter Wing was a United States Army Air Forces organization. It was a command and control organization of Fourteenth Air Force that fought in the China Burma India Theater of World War II.427th Special Operations Squadron
The 427th Special Operations Squadron (427th SOS) is a specialized, covert unit of the United States Air Force. After reporter Andreas Parsch filed a Freedom of Information Act request, the Air Force told him the unit "support[s] training requirements … for infiltration and exfiltration." That is, it prepares troops for secretly slipping into and out of dangerous territory. The squadron is not listed by the Air Force Historical Research Agency. It is reported by the press to be stationed at Pope Field, North Carolina.The squadron was originally formed during World War II as the 427th Night Fighter Squadron. Its planned mission to defend United States Army Air Forces bases in the Soviet Union was cancelled when the Soviets did not allow the unit to be based in Ukraine SSR during the Operation Frantic shuttle bombing missions that took place in 1944. It later served in Italy, India, Southern China and Burma as a P-61 Black Widow night fighter interceptor squadron.
The squadron was re-activated during the Vietnam War to train Republic of Vietnam Air Force pilots in using the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly in counter-insurgency operations. Its most recent activation may involve counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations as part of Air Force Special Operations Command.444th Air Expeditionary Wing
The 444th Air Expeditionary Wing is a provisional unit of the United States Air Force assigned to Air Combat Command to activate or inactivate as needed. It was last activated in 2003.
During World War II, the 444th Bombardment Group was a United States Army Air Forces combat organization. The group was the first Boeing B-29 Superfortress Group formed for the 58th Bombardment Wing, and served in the China Burma India Theater and Pacific Ocean Theater as part of the Twentieth Air Force. The group's aircraft engaged in very heavy bombardment operations against Japan. The group received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its combat operations on three occasions.
After returning to the United States, the 444th Bombardment Group became one of the original ten bombardment groups assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC). The unit was inactivated on 1 October 1946 at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona. Its B-29 aircraft and personnel were reassigned to the 43d Bombardment Group.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom the group was briefly activated as the 444th Air Expeditionary Group. The composition and stationing of the unit was never officially disclosed, and it was inactivated after the invasion of Iraq was completed.68th Composite Wing
The 68th Composite Wing was a United States Army Air Forces organization. It was a command and control organization of Fourteenth Air Force that fought in the China Burma India Theater of World War II.
The wing was formed as an expansion of the Fourteenth Air Force Forward Echelon in 1943, becoming the command and control organization for the 23d Fighter Group and 308th Bomb Group. It served in combat from December 1943 until August 1945. The mixed unit was composed of fighters, fighter bombers and heavy bombers, flown by both American and Chinese airmen.Ankang Wulipu Airport
Ankang Wulipu Airport (Chinese: 安康五里铺机场) (IATA: AKA, ICAO: ZLAK) is an airport serving the city of Ankang in Shaanxi Province, China. It is located the town of Wuli in Hanbin District, 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) from the city center. The new Ankang Fuqiang Airport is scheduled to replace Wulipu airport when it is completed in 2019.Asiatic-Pacific Theater
The Asiatic-Pacific Theater, was the theater of operations of U.S. forces during World War II in the Pacific War during 1941–45. From mid-1942 until the end of the war in 1945, there were two U.S. operational commands in the Pacific. The Pacific Ocean Areas (POA), divided into the Central Pacific Area, the North Pacific Area and the South Pacific Area, were commanded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief Pacific Ocean Areas. The South West Pacific Area (SWPA) was commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific Area. During 1945, the United States added the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, commanded by General Carl A. Spaatz.
Because of the complementary roles of the United States Army and the United States Navy in conducting war in the Pacific Theater, there was no single Allied or U.S. commander (comparable to General Dwight D. Eisenhower in the European Theater of Operations). There was no actual command; rather, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater was divided into SWPA, POA, and other forces and theaters, such as the China Burma India Theater.Behind the Burma Road
Behind the Burma Road is a 1963 book by William R. Peers and Dean Brelis that describes the American guerrilla warfare operations, including those of OSS Detachment 101, during the Burma Campaign in the China Burma India Theater during World War II.Bhamo Airport
Bhamo Airport (IATA: BMO, ICAO: VYBM) is an airport serving Bhamo (Banmaw), a city in the Kachin State in northern Burma. It is also known as Banmaw Airport.Chengdu Fenghuangshan Airport
Chengdu Fenghuangshan Airport (Chinese: 成都凤凰山机场) is military air base in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. During World War II it was a United States Army Air Forces airfield. It is located approximately 10 miles south of Chengdu.Daniel Isom Sultan
Daniel Isom Sultan, (December 9, 1885 – January 14, 1947) was an American general during World War II. He fought in the China-Burma-India theater in the last half of the war.Gaya Airport
Gaya Airport, also known as Bodhgaya Airport, (IATA: GAY, ICAO: VEGY) is a public airport serving Gaya, Bihar, India. This airport is 12 kilometres South-West of Gaya and 5 kilometres away from the temple city of Bodhgaya which is Gautama Buddha's place of enlightenment. It is the second busiest airport in Bihar after Patna. It is also the only International Airport in the state of Bihar. The airport operates permanent pilgrimage flights from Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Vietnam and Sri lanka as being the gateway to the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world Bodh Gaya.
Air India is the only Indian airline that operates scheduled flights from the airport to other destinations within the country.Hanzhong Xiguan Airport
Hanzhong Xiguan Airport (Chinese: 汉中西关机场) is the airport formerly serving the city of Hanzhong in Shaanxi Province, China. It is located only 2 kilometers from the city center, which severely limits its expansion possibilities. As a result, Hanzhong Chenggu Airport, a military air base located in Chenggu County northeast of the city, was converted to a dual-use airport, and replaced Xiguan Airport when it was opened on 13 August 2014.Jiwani Airport
Jiwani Airport (IATA: JIW, ICAO: OPJI) is situated 10 km away from the city centre of Jiwani in Balochistan. It is not a major airport of Pakistan. At this time, there is no scheduled service to or from the airport.Jiwani or Jwani is a town and commercial port that is located along the Gulf of Oman in the Gwadar District of the Balochistan province in Pakistan. It is located near the Pakistani border with Iran.With the Makran Coastal Highway now reaching Jiwani from Gwadar and also connecting Karachi, Jiwani is a place to be seen especially by those who are interested in observing history more closely. Population of the town is 25,000.Juhu Aerodrome
Mumbai-Juhu Airport (मुंबई - जुहू विमानतळ) (ICAO: VAJJ) is located in Juhu, an upmarket residential suburb of Mumbai, India. It is used by small General Aviation aircraft and helicopters. Founded in 1928 as India's first civil aviation airport, Juhu served as the city's primary airport during and up to World War II. In 1948, commercial operations were moved to the much larger RAF Santacruz which was built 2 km east of Juhu aerodrome during the war. In 1932, JRD Tata landed at the Juhu aerodrome, inaugurating India's first scheduled commercial mail service.
Today, the aerodrome handles all helicopter operations out of Mumbai. It also hosts the Bombay Flying Club and several executive and light aircraft and gliders. In 2010, the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which runs the airport, proposed to extend the runway 08/26 into the sea to allow larger aircraft to land, however permission for this was denied by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. With the New Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules of 2011 permitting roads on stilts, the Airports Authority of India announced in January 2012 that it would once again pursue its plan of extending the runway at Juhu Aerodrome into the sea.Kunming Wujiaba International Airport
Kunming Wujiaba International Airport was the main airport serving Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, China. It is located 4 km (2.5 mi) south-east of metropolitan Kunming. Originally built in 1923, the airport had been renovated numerous times into a modern facility before closing on 28 June 2012. It was a major hub for China Eastern Airlines, Kunming Airlines, and Lucky Air. The airport has been replaced by the new Kunming Changshui International Airport. Wujiaba Airport will soon be demolished and the land will be redeveloped.Liangping Airport
Liangping Airport (Chinese: 梁平机场) (IATA: LIA, ICAO: ZULP), also called Wanzhou Liangping Airport, is a former dual-use military and civil airport, located west of Liangping (formerly called Liangshan) in Chongqing Municipality, China. It served the city of Wanxian (now Wanzhou District) from July 1988 until May 2003, when all civil flights were transferred to the new Wanzhou Wuqiao Airport.OSS Detachment 101
Detachment 101 of the Office of Strategic Services (formed under the Office of the Coordinator of Information just weeks before it evolved into the OSS) operated in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. On 17 January 1946, it was awarded a Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation by Dwight Eisenhower, who wrote:
The courage and fighting spirit displayed by its officers and men in offensive action against overwhelming enemy strength reflect the highest tradition of the armed forces of the United States.Shah Amanat International Airport
Shah Amanat International Airport (IATA: CGP, ICAO: VGEG) (Bengali: শাহ আমানত আন্তর্জাতিক বিমানবন্দর Shah Amanôt Antôrjatik Bimanbôndôr) is an international airport serving Bangladesh's southeastern port city of Chittagong. Operated and maintained by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, it is the second-largest international airport in Bangladesh after Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is used by the Bangladesh Air Force as a part of 'BAF Zahurul Haq Base'. It was formerly known as MA Hannan International Airport, named after Awami League politician M. A. Hannan, but was renamed on 2 April 2005 by the Government of Bangladesh, after an Islamic saint, Shah Amanat. It is capable of annually handling 1.5 million passengers and 6,000 tonnes of cargo. SAIA also serves as a base to Arirang Flying School.Xi'an Xiguan Airport
Xi'an Xiguan Airport (Chinese: 西安西关机场) (IATA: SIA, ICAO: ZLSN) is the former airport serving Xi'an, capital of China's Shaanxi Province. It was closed on 1 September 1991, when all flights were transferred to the new Xi'an Xianyang International Airport.