Memorandum by the Ambassador to China (Johnson), Temporarily in the United States 40

In the conclusions set forth on pages 9 to 12 of the attached report41 there occur the following sentences in reference to the road to Burma:

“That it can and will be completed to this point in time to be of any real value during the present conflict is open to grave doubt.”

“The volume of war material which can be transported over this route and the overhead incident thereto is a matter of simple arithmetic which can easily be computed from the basic statistics of mileage and gasoline consumption of our trip alone—and the result is not encouraging.”

By way of comment I desire to say that these statements result obviously from a consideration of the length of the road, statistics which we compiled regarding our own consumption of gasoline and the numerous difficulties obviously to be overcome in putting the road into condition for the handling of the amount of heavy traffic necessary to move large quantities of goods in trucks. The present conflict, in my opinion and in the opinion I am sure of Major McHugh, is going to last for a considerable period of time and we did not intend by these statements to convey the idea that the road would be of no service whatever in assisting the Chinese in their resistance. It is our feeling that the road will be of considerable assistance; that this assistance will increase as time goes on and as effort is made to improve the condition of the road and to supply it with the necessary equipment to handle traffic over it. Neither McHugh nor I wish to leave any doubts in the minds of anyone as to the difficulties involved.

N[elson] T. J[ohnson]
  1. Transmitted to President Roosevelt and to the Embassy in Japan.
  2. Memorandum on “the Burma Road”, dated December 31, 1938, by the Assistant Naval Attaché in China (McHugh), who accompanied the Ambassador from Chungking to Burma; not printed.