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“After Pearl Harbor, Chiang [Kai-Shek]’s armies began to receive massive American support in kind and in cash, much of which the generalissimo and his supporters pocketed. Since there was no overland link between British-ruled India and Chiang’s territories between 1942 and early 1945, all supplies had to be flown five hundred miles ‘over the Hump’ of 15,000-foot mountains to Kunming, the nearest accessible landing ground in China, at staggering cost in fuel, planes, and American pilots’ lives. In December 1942, the Hump air shuttle shifted a mere thousand tons a month. By July 1944 it was carrying 18,975 tons. This was an extraordinary logistical achievement, but remained a negligible contribution to the Chinese war effort; especially so as most of these supplies were stolen and sold long before they reached Chiang’s soldiers. Much of the matériel which remained was absorbed by the needs of the U.S. air forces in China. It was simply not feasible to airlift arms and ammunition on the scale needed to equip a Chinese army. From beginning to end, Chiang’s formations lacked indispensable heavy weapons to match those of the Japanese. For all the strivings of American generals, diplomats and military advisers, most of the fourteen million men drafted into the Nationalist army between 1937 and 1945 served as hapless victims rather than as effective combatants. Xu Yongqiang, in 1944 an interpreter with the Nationalists, watched new intakes of men herded in from the provinces: ‘Most recruits came simply as prisoners, roped together at bayonet point. They had so little training that it was easy to see why they were no match for the Japanese, who for years had been schooled to kill. It was inhuman! Inhuman! There were no such things as civil rights in China. For eight years, it was the peasants who had to fight the Japanese, both for the Communists and the Kuomintang. The middle class stayed at home and made money. The big families did nothing at all.’ ” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Published inEconomicsMax HastingsPolitics & LawThe Second World War

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