Good news…a laptop has been ordered to replace the dead one and should be here next week. I’ve never purchased a “whole” computer from Newegg because I usually just buy all the parts and assemble it myself. But assembling a laptop? Due to their fragility, I would have preferred to buy a laptop locally, but Newegg has been such an awesome company for everything else, I figured why not. And the machine was what us computer nerds refer to as a “smokin’ deal.” Anyways…
When we last left General Stilwell, he was making his way out of Burma with more than 100 others. Their destination: Imphal, India. But with nearly 150 miles of the worst jungle terrain in the world in front of them, and Japanese soldiers behind them, this was about as much a “frying-pan-and-fire” scenario as one could create. And what’s more, Stilwell’s group was doing it on foot, aided by a few pack mules.
As they hacked their way through vine and branch, unwelcome friends began showing up. First came the oppressive heat and humidity. Temperatures and humidity percentages hovered around 100, and the thick canopy of trees blocked nearly all the relief any breezes could have given. Some of the less experienced cut the sleeves and legs off their clothes for improved ventilation, which provided little relief but offered perfect attachment points for mosquitoes, leeches, and other insects.
Stilwell continued to push. Of course, the insects brought their friends as well. Dysentary and malaria started making their presence known, slowing the group and putting lives in danger. As the 11th of May rolled into the 12th, the rains came. These first opening salvos of the monsoon season drenched the men and women as they poled bamboo rafts down the Uyu River. But the skies cleared sufficiently that afternoon for a supply plane to spot them and drop supplies, including desperately needed meat and medicines, particularly quinine (to fight malaria).
On May 14, 1942, the skies opened up again, but in the distance, a group of huts could be seen. Stilwell had reached the town of Kawlun. Located on the Burmese-Indian border, it was the first real sign that safety was at hand. A British district official had been sent to meet them, bringing with him doctors, pigs to slaughter and roast, and food carried on fresh pack mules.
It would be another six-day journey on foot to finally make it to Imphal, but in Kawlun, the danger was behind them. The exodus from Burma had been completed, but even as Stilwell left, he was already plotting his return. Though beset with dangers and debilitating illness, not a single person had been lost (as Stilwell had promised).
And among the recovering was Major Frank Merrill. His exploits in this week-long journey amounted to merely following Joe Stilwell, but he would be back as well, and the “crystal ball” used by Today’s History Lesson sees him in the future. But while we might view their escape as a success, for Stilwell it was a retreat of defeat. Victory would only come via a return to drive the Japanese from the jungles.
Recommended Reading: The Burma Road