Joseph Stilwell, the caustic American Chief of Staff assigned to Chiang Kai-Shek, famously clashed with his superior over the prosecution of war in the China-Burma-India theatre. Things came to a head during Operation Ichi-Go when Stilwell, with the support of Roosevelt, attempted a coup to take over command of Chinese forces.

The coup failed and Chiang clung to power but with great loss in prestige and trust with the Americans. But did Stilwell have war plans had he taken over? Did he express how he would do things differently from Chiang?

From fragmentary reading I gather that Stilwell may have wanted to focus on Burma, disagreeing with Chiang when he wanted to withdraw forces to defend China, and that he disagreed with the KMT building stockpiles to guard against the Communists. I would like to know more details if possible, if he had any clear plans.

1 Answer 1


Stillwell wanted to move the Chinese defensive effort "south."

Stillwell wanted to move as much of Chiang Kai Shek's army to Burma, where it could be more easily trained and supplied from India, and where Stillwell's direct control, and protected from the bad influence of Chiang's "corrupt" (warlord) generals. This included "Force X" which left China and went to India in 1942, Force Y, which left China and went to Burma to capture part of the Burma Road in 1944, and additional forces to be designated Force Z.

Allied plans had been greatly complicated by Japan's Ichigo Offensive, which had extended Japanese influence and territorial holdings into southwest China. While one purpose of this offensive was to threaten and possibly capture Chongqing, a more immediate issue was that the Japanese established a line of retreat from central Burma, across northern Indochina, to their new bases in southwest China.

Taken to its logical conclusion, Stillwell's plan called for the Chinese forces (X, Y, and Z) to penetrate (south) to central Burma, then turn east, pursuing the Japanese forces across Indochina, and from there into south China, near Macao. It would be much easier to supply a Chinese army, or even inject U.S. forces along the coasts of northern Indochina and southwest China, than "Over the Hump" Of the Himalayas, the main supply route to China for most of the war.

To allow this to happen, Stillwell wanted Chiang to pull his forces from northern China, abandoning the more northerly and easterly outposts such as Guilin to the Communists and/or the Japanese if necessary, so that the Nationalist army could fight more effectively in the southern reaches of China, where they could be more easily supplied.

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