The Chancy War: Winning China, Burma, and India in World War II Review

The Chancy War: Winning China, Burma, and India in World War II
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The Chancy War: Winning China, Burma, and India in World War II ReviewThe China-Burma-India theater of the Second World War is an oft- overlooked portion of the conflict. The account given by Edward Fischer in "The Chancy War" is a superb telling; few authors can meld personal experience with historical timeline in such a seamless fashion. Fischer's story weaves back and forth between his own experiences as an officer in the CBI, and the theater's overall history. Fischer captures intricate details with such precision; a large part of the author's success in retelling his memories of the CBI and the Area of operations in general lies in the assignment he was given following the Allied victory in Northern Burma.
Fischer arrived in Northern Burma at the very end of 1944, trained as a muleskinner, or a specialist in guiding mules used to resupply units in the rugged mountain ranges. Upon his arrival he is informed that his services are no longer need as control of the area's airfields has allowed the majority of equipment to be airdropped to troops in forward positions. Fischer's experience in journalism before the war caught the attention of his commanding officers and his new assignment would be to guide a convoy of reporters along the newly opened Ledo-Burma road. This had been a prime objective of General Stillwell's Chinese and American forces driving on Myitkina during the spring of 1944. Through the control of these two roads, Allied forces in China could receive critical supplies through an overland route, taking pressure off dangerous flights over "the hump" from India to China.
Fischer is a keen observer in his first months in Burma, as he takes the convoy closer to the Chinese border and the eventual link up with the army of Chiang Kai-shek. The writing is extremely colorful as the motley Allied group celebrates the victory with a series of festivities designed as public relations photo ops. It is here Fischer first realizes the complicated nature of the CBI. The celebrations, which ended in Kunming, China were emblematic of the Allied war effort in Southeast Asia, as representatives from America, England, India, China and native Burmese tribes were all present. Needless to say, the diplomatic feats that went into the success of such an operation were staggering. Fischer touches on the complexities only briefly at this point, noting the awe and at times comical wonder he has in the cooperation that allowed the mission to be accomplished. The sights, sounds and smells of the Far East are certainly new to Fischer, and all western servicemen; the first part of the book is dedicated to the culture shock experienced when he witness the sometimes disorganized, haphazard way of life in China, Burma, and India.
After returning to Burma, Fischer's new assignment would be that of theater historian, as he is charged with compiling a concise record of the CBI, with all its ups and downs. Fischer mixes his personal journey around the theater (meeting with various servicemen from Merrill's Marauders, the morose Orde Wingate's Chindit raiding force, and SE Asia commander Lord Mountbatten) with the area's official record he received from the various interviews. Through aggravating supply trouble, to malingering Chinese Army units, OSS rangers fighting with Kachin guerillas, and the ever present struggle for command and supply that went on between the oft-hilarious wit of General Joe Stillwell, Chiang Kai-shek and Air force general Claire Chennault, Fischer paints a great portrait of what went into the Allied war effort in South East Asia. He noted that some of the wars most offbeat characters seemed to end up in a place that was considered the most backwater campaign in the world, leading to a great story that is both personal memoir and brilliant historical record.
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