The Consul General at Kunming ( Langdon ) to the Ambassador in China ( Hurley )74

No. 65

Sir: I have the honor to report that the first American convoy to reach China from India arrived in Kunming on Sunday morning, February 4, and was greeted with an impressive ceremony.

[Page 49]

The convoy, consisting of 113 vehicles, many of them mounting 105, 75 and 37 mm. howitzers and guns, left Ledo in Assam on January 11 and stopped eight days at Myitkyina and three days at Namhkhan, with overnight stops elsewhere along the road. The distance of some 1100 miles was covered without mishap.

[Here follows description of welcoming ceremonies.]

Many Chinese and foreign spectators of the ceremonies just mentioned stated that the feature of the historic affair which impressed them most was the appearance of the Chinese enlisted men who manned the convoy with the Americans. These men were from Ramgarh, India, (American-trained) units, most of them veterans of the North Burma campaigns. Sturdy, cleancut, confident, and jaunty, and dressed in khaki woolens and British-type helmets, they looked as unlike their local brothers in Chinese uniform as men of a different race. It did not seem possible that food, good care and training could work such a physical and psychological transformation on ordinary Chinese peasant soldier material. No doubt many Chinese thinking spectators looked into the future and saw in these Chinese soldiers samples of the Chinese masses under a modern, efficient and socially-solicitous government. It is of interest in this connection that the Chinese spectators seemed proud of those soldiers (although they regarded them as aliens), and that General Lung75 insisted on inviting all the Chinese enlisted men of the convoy to his reception, where it may be added they did not seem incongruous rubbing elbows with American and Chinese military and civilian dignitaries at that large gathering.

The day following the ceremonies, the British Embassy’s Press Attaché’s office in Kunming, in its daily news bulletin ran an article about the opening of the Ledo Road and Great Britain’s part in it: General Wingate’s Chindits, the 14th Indian Army’s pressure on the Japanese in the Kohima–Imphal area and its defense of the Bengal–Assam Railroad over which the Ledo Road construction was fed, the labor on the Road contributed by Indian coolies, et cetera. Outside of passing reference in Governor Lung’s address to the British and Indians who worked and fought on the Road, there was no visible acknowledgment in the ceremonies of the British part. The affair was a purely Chinese-American one, with no flags, speakers, national anthems, or portraits of heads of state other than American or Chinese. I learned that the different British organizations and groups here felt very hurt over the omission.

In an interview after the ceremonies, General Pick76 stated that another convoy from India was well on its way to Kunming and that [Page 50] many more convoys would soon follow regularly. Presently, overnight hostels for the drivers are being organized, he added. It is known from an authoritative source that the bed of the Tengchung–Myitkyina cut-off is completed and open at least to jeep travel.

Respectfully yours,

Wm. R. Langdon
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Consul General at Kunming without covering despatch; received February 27.
  2. Chairman of the Yunnan Provincial Government.
  3. Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Pick, in charge of Ledo Road construction.