By Fred T. Martin Winston Churchill called it, “An immense laborious task, unlikely to be completed until the need for it has passed.” Churchill was referring to the construction of the Ledo Road out of the Assam province at the eastern extremity of India, to connect with the Burma Road, the ancient high-mountain pathway to the interior of China. Allied air bases there needed massive shipments of supplies and fuel for the B-29s attacking Japan. Twenty thousand engineers and 35,000 natives labored for two years to open the Ledo Road. When completed, it took truck caravans over a month to cross the 800 miles to China, over grades up to 17 percent, and under Japanese air attacks. Churchill wasn’t far off—the road was done less than a year from the war’s end. This project would not have been needed but for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which thrust the United States into the war. With Japan swiftly gobbling up islands and nations in and along the Pacific Rim—including China—there was suddenly a need for America’s unprecedented ability to achieve the seemingly impossible. Late into that grim December 1941, Japan was poised to move next against India. If they cut off access to the Burma Road from the seaport of Rangoon, the Allies could not supply China. On Christmas Eve 1941, Japan attacked British Burma and seized Rangoon. The Asian theater turned to chaos. Churchill’s eastern British empire was collapsing. An American-British-Dutch command was hast


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