Steven Hellerstedt | 06/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Narrated by Ronald Reagan and produced by the Army Signal Corps in 1945, STILWELL ROAD uses stock footage and the ever-popular animated arrows spearheading their ways across maps of the Far East to tell the story of the Allied Armies' mission to reopen the old Burma Road, the overland supply route from India to China.
The Japanese army conquered and occupied Burma by the time America entered the war. `Reopen' is a misleading word to use. The completed road would contain nearly 1,100 miles of newly constructed road - from Ledo in India to Kumning in China - an engineering marvel completed in the face of a hostile enemy, in a land whose torrential monsoons made road construction, not to mention maintenance, a logistical challenge of the highest order in peacetime.
As usual with the documentaries from this period - at least the ones I've seen - STILWELL ROAD is relevant, coherent, and concise. Although it's a little too sketchily drawn to substitute for the written word, this documentary is a wonderful supplement for anyone studying World War II in the Far East. The transfer print is in good to very good condition. A strong recommendation for those interested in the subject.
Horrific task surmounted by unsubduable will.
rsoonsa | Lake Isabella, California | 07/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An excellent tribute to the 63000 men who constructed the 478 mile road from Ledo, Assam, into East Burma, this documentary depicts many of the extraordinary achievements of military engineering required for the passage's completion, a 26 month ordeal completed in 1945 by bordering massive gorges, overstriding raging rapids and invading some of the world's most impenetrable jungles, with a cost of many lives and 150 million dollars. "We got run out of Burma, and it is humiliating as Hell", early in the film states "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, Commander of troops in the CBI (China-Burma-India) Theatre, and the veteran warrior, serving as Chiang Kai-shek's chief of staff returned with a vengeance at the head of his doughty troops, aided later appreciably by personnel from Australia, New Zealand and India under the leadership of British General Ord Wingate, whom we see just prior to his final, fatal flight. Incisively edited, and briskly narrated by Ronald Reagan, the 51 minute work reveals the ongoing testing endured by the construction crews (28000 engineers), in addition to support personnel such as medical staff, maintenance workers for the heavy machinery, et alia, and is replete with combat footage recording the manner in which the original Ledo Road was expanded into the Stilwell Road (renamed in 1945 by Chiang Kai-shek) despite vigourous Japanese opposition, enabling crucial supplies to move from India to China.
A "must see" documentary film on WWII in the China-Burma-Ind
Donald M. Bishop | Virginia | 02/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the finest Army documentaries made during World War II, "Stilwell Road" actually covers far more than the building of the Ledo Road across northern Burma. Using the metaphor of Burma as the land bridge to China, it provides a visual history of operations in India, Burma, and China. It shows:
-- the building of the original Burma Road by the Republic of China in the late 1930s
-- General Joseph Stilwell's retreat through the jungles of Burma
-- the organization of the air route to supply China
-- the training of Chinese troops by the U.S. Army in Ramgarh, India
-- the gathering of allied forces (American, Chinese, British, Commonwealth, Indian Army, Burmese irregulars, and troops from Britain's African colonies) in India for the campaign in Burma
-- the "Burma Surgeon," LtCol Gordon Seagrave with his Burmese nurses and medics
-- behind-the-lines operations by the Chindits under General Orde Wingate
-- the Air Commandos
-- the offensives by American, Chinese, British, and Indian Army troops, especially the battles to take Myitkyina.
And it shows the building of the Ledo Road over 26 difficult months by U.S. Army engineers under Brigadier General Lewis Pick. The dramatic scenes -- terrain, jungles, pack mules, bulldozers, pontoon bridges, air supply -- were mostly shot by U.S. Army combat cameramen. The road ran 478 miles from Ledo in India's Assam state into east Burma, where it linked to the original Burma Road. The movie culminates with the travel of the first convoy from Assam to Kunming in China's Yunnan province, with the new full route named for General Stilwell.
There are many stirring scenes. This viewer's favorite shows Air Force Colonel Philip Cochran speaking to his transport and glider pilots before they took off on the dangerous mission to insert troops into central Burma. Many died in the mission.
Narrating the film was a Hollywood star who had, in the 1930s, joined the California National Guard as a cavalryman. Originally a "weekend warrior" (a reserve officer who trains one weekend a month), he was called to active duty after the attack on Pearl Harbor and given a commission in the Army Air Forces. Because his eyesight was bad, the doctors ruled he should be assigned in the United States in the training command. He became commander of the Air Force film unit in Hollywood. The narrator was Captain Ronald Reagan.