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China

During 1943 the best the United States could do to support China was to keep alive Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault's Fourteenth U.S. Army Air Force in China, train two Chinese divisions airlifted out to Ramgarh in India, push a trickle of war supplies over the "Hump" and send a combat team of U.S. ground forces to support the Chinese in a projected plan to recapture Burma. Meanwhile, Allied leaders tried to persuade Chiang to attack the Japanese in China.

On August 21, 1943 provision was made by the CCS for setting up a supreme Allied command in Asia, named Southeast Asia Command (SEAC), with Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander. Mountbatten actually assumed his duties on November 16, 1943, at which time General Stilwell, Commanding General of CBI, became deputy commander and continued in this capacity until October 21, 1944 (he was succeeded in the position by Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler on November 12, 1944).

Until late 1944, securing a port and establishing airfields in southeastern China, from which bomber (B-29) raids could be launched on Japan, were considered essential parts of the strategic plan to defeat Japan. Opening a land supply route to China across Burma so that large numbers of Chinese Nationalist troops could be equipped was an essential prelude to the accomplishment of the strategic plan.

Meanwhile, Chiang's Nationalist Government had failed to build up a strong military force and was engrossed with the revolt of China's Communists, led by Mao Tse-tung, who had gained control in North China.

In September 1944, Japanese forces in China overran the airfields in South China and threatened areas slated for the construction of B-29 airfields. Progress of the offensive in the Pacific had by this time permitted a revision of Allied strategy, and it had become evident that islands in the Pacific which the Allies were capturing could be used to greater advantage than China as a springboard for an effective attack on Japan.

In any event, President Roosevelt had displayed a growing disinterest in the China problem following his meeting with Chiang Kai-shek at Cairo in November 1943. Grandiose lend-lease plans for the eventual equipping and training of 30 Chinese divisions gradually evaporated.

Differences with General Stilwell led Chiang in early October 1944 to ask that he be relieved as his Chief of Staff. Stilwell left China in late October and subsequently became Commanding General of the Army Ground Forces in the United States.

Upon Stilwell's departure the American administrative area CBI was separated into the U.S. Forces, China Theater (USFCT) and U.S. Forces, India-Burma Theater (USFIBT). These commands were established on 24 October 1944. Lt. Gen. Daniel I. Sultan was named (31 October) commanding general of the USFIBT, and Maj. Den. Albert C. Wedemeyer became (27 October) commanding general of the USFCT. Wedemeyer also took over Stilwell's position as Chief of Staff to Chiang Kai-shek.

General Wedemeyer, with the aid of an American cadre, endeavored to reorganize and train Chiang's forces for a drive to the coast, but that drive never came off. China was a disappointment, and the only aim of Allied strategy during the last year of the war was to keep Chinese resistance alive in order to distract Japanese forces in that area.


[The primary source for this text is the U.S. Army Center for Military History. For a more general overview of the war see the Brief History of WWII e-text."]


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