Department of the Army Files

The Secretary of War (Stimson) to Prime Minister Churchill 1


My Dear Prime Minister: I send you herewith the map which you requested, showing the four airfields to be completed in the neighborhood of Ledo in Assam.2

The names of the sites are shown in large type as follows: Chabua, Mohanbari, Sookerating and Jorhat. These four fields have been selected by men of our General Staff and Air Corps who have recently personally visited the spot, and the sites have been checked up with and approved by General Stilwell. These fields have been chosen after a careful examination of all those in that locality and these officers estimate that, if first priorities are given on the shipment of cement, gravel, asphalt and equipment for the completion of these airfields, and an intense effort is concentrated upon these four fields, they may be ready by July first.

They also estimate that, if this is accomplished, our people will be able by intense effort to increase materially the capacity of the air route to Kunming during July possibly up to a capacity of seven thousand tons per month. They also think that it is possible but not probable that, if three additional fields are made available, they will be able to raise this capacity up to ten thousand tons in September. Success will depend upon the keenest concentrated effort in bringing in the fields and in the subsequent management of the route.

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The Brahmaputra River is reported to me as now high, thus making difficult the obtaining of gravel from its bed. I am told that during the course of the monsoon it will tend to rise higher. If so, this means that the gravel will have to be obtained from quarries and this would necessitate its being hauled to the fields by overtaxed railway and highway routes.

But the possibility of General Stilwell’s receiving enough equipment under his allotment to arm and equip the divisions which are to defend Kunming, as well as those which are to be in readiness to enter the Burma campaign from Yunnan, depends upon this enlargement of the capacity of the route at the times estimated. This indicates the importance of speed in the project.

Faithfully yours,

Henry L. Stimson
  1. According to the following concluding portion of the Stimson Diary for May 22, 1943. preparation of this letter began immediately after Stimson’s conversation with Churchill on May 22 (see the editorial note, ante, p. 172):

    “When I got through with him [Churchill] and had left him, I got back to Woodley and got hold of Timberman and got the necessary facts and after dinner I dictated a letter to the Prime Minister and got a map from the General Staff and had that all ready for the next morning.”

    The Stimson Diary entry for Sunday, May 23, 1943, gives the following account of the further preparation and dispatch of the letter:

    “On Sunday morning I sent for Wright, gave him the letter which Miss Neary had written out for me last night and the map, and sent them down to be checked off by the people in the Operations Division (Timberman) and then I went off for a horseback ride. When I got back from my horseback ride to the Meadowbrook Stable I found waiting there for me Wright and Timberman with my letter checked up and rewritten and I signed it there and sent it down to the Prime Minister by Wright who delivered it to the Embassy in person. The whole day was an example of a concrete boost being given on a key point in a snarl which the whole conferences had been unable to resolve during the last week. I hope it will be effective. I telephoned Marshall about it and he was delighted with what I had done, particularly with my coaching of Stilwell and securing finally the approval of the Prime Minister to Stilwell.” (Stimson Papers)

  2. No map found with source text. For a map of Air Transport Command airfields in Assam, including the airfields referred, to in the following paragraph, see Map No. 7, “Transportation System, 1942–1943”, inside the back cover of Rom an us and Sunderland.