The Burma Road is the extraordinary story of the China-Burma-India theater of operations during World War II.
As the Imperial Japanese Army swept across China and South Asia at the war's onset--closing China's seaports--more than 200,000 Chinese laborers embarked on a seemingly impossible task: to cut a seven-hundred-mile overland route across the Himalayan Plateau, to be called the Burma Road, from the southwest Chinese city of Kunming to the railhead city of Lashio, Burma. They succeeded in less than two years. But with the fall of Burma in early 1942, the Burma Road was severed. It became the job of the newly arrived American General Joseph Stilwell to reopen it, while at the same time keeping China supplied by airlift from India and driving the Japanese out of Burma as the first step in the Allied offensive against Japan.
In The Burma RoadThe Bridge on the River Kwai; describes the grueling jungle operations of Merrill's Marauders and the brigades of British Chindits; and recounts the raucous fighter-pilot bravado of the Flying Tigers Interspersed with lively portraits of the unconventional American General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, the exceedingly eccentric British General Orde Wingate, and the mercurial Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, The Burma Road tells the sprawling, sometimes hilarious, often harrowing, and still largely unknown stories of one of the greatest chapters of World War II.
This is a truly fascinating story of the retreat of General Stilwell, but also adds a personal touch not frequently seen in other World War II history books. Webster's details of his trip to Burma indicate his true passion for the subject, but his emotions and opinions were left out of the history part of the book. He describes his own trips through the Burma Road, the difficulties he had, and is quite vivid in talking about the personal adventures he had while attempting to travel the road today.
The book does much more than focus on the ground campaign though. Throughout the book, many other operations ongoing throughout the theater are covered. It is quite refreshing to see such a diversity of information on the same book.
The history of it is much more condensed than other China-Burma-India theater based works. However, it does not lack in providing the education, and is certainly much more to the point. Very rarely do I see a history book that can be written with true enjoyment and still maintain the objectivity of the history. That was a refreshing change from the usual format of research books. Webster does a masterful job of presenting all of the information in an interesting manner, and has excellent references to key events.
Webster also does not delve into excruciating details, but instead focuses on the key points. So for researchers, this would be an excellent starting book, but if you are looking for fine points of the CBI theater, then this isn't the way to go. However, for those seeking to broaden their knowledge on a often overlooked theater.
The only minor objection I had to the book was the lack of a summary timeline of events during World War II. This is merely a convenience to someone struggling to remember a certain part of the book. However, this is neither a unique problem to Webster's writing, nor is it an easy task to accomplish, given the broad spectrum of the books contents. He does a fantastic job, and in my opinion the book is definitely worth the mere $25 it takes to purchase the book. If you get the chance, the stories between these pages will be sure to keep you riveted to it, and I would highly recommend this book to others.
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