Soldiers practicing “Myit Tha” and tolerance? Chivalry, anyone? What a surprise!

Why did his majesty, the British monach and US President Roosevelt confer the highest honors on a Chinese general?

After many decades, why did British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on behalf of the British Government, personally thank a wheelchair bound old Chinese in Los Angeles?

In Yenangyaung, why did British soldiers kneel down to their Chinese allies?

Find out why!


Journeys in Time 2010-08-16 The Chinese Expeditionary Force (2)- Rescuing the British in Yenangyaung



Today, we’re continuing our series about the Chinese Expeditionary Force in Burma during World War Two. In 1941, the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and on several British overseas colonies ignited the Pacific War. At the time, China was already involved in its own war of resistance against the Japanese invasion. The Japanese strategy of isolating China had left only one line of communication open with the West – the Yunnan-Burma Road. To protect this line, on February the 25th, 1942 a Chinese Expeditionary Force consisting of about a hundred thousand men was dispatched to Burma.

In ferocious fighting at the key city of Toungoo, elements of the 200th Division inflicted 5000 casualties on the Japanese. Eventually, though, the overwhelming strength of the Japanese meant the Chinese Expeditionary Force had no alternative, other than to withdraw from Toungoo, leaving an empty city to the enemy.

Sun Liren had been badly wounded during the Battle of Songhu in 1937. After recovering from his injuries, he’d led his troops back to the front line. Sun was later appointed General commanding the 38th Division, and at the Battle of Yenangyaung in Burma,his force fought heroically, saving 7000 British soldiers.

Although the Japanese suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Yenangyaung, the Allied forces were too weak to hold the oil fields. On April the 20th, the British and Burmese forces abandoned their positions. Without informing their Chinese allies, they placed explosives on the Mandalay Bridge. This action caused divisions within the allied forces.


With Burma under Japanese control, the blockade on China was complete. Even so, Burma continued to represent conflicting goals for the three allied nations.

To the United States, Burma was the key to keeping China fighting, which was essential as it tied down large Japanese forces that might otherwise be redeployed in the South Pacific;

To Britain, Burma was a buffer between the Japanese forces and India;

To China, Burma was vital, in that it provided an important supply line. Realising that they could not win without British support, the Chinese forces conducted a hasty and disorganised retreat.

In the next edition of our programme, we’ll hear more about the ordeal suffered by the Chinese Expeditionary Force on Savage Mountain.

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