Beginning the Fall Campaign in North Burma
When the monsoon rains lifted in the fall of 1944 and the ground began to dry, action in Burma started to rise to another peak of intensity. The great British victory at Imphal, on the Indo-Burmese border, in the preceding spring and summer, had fatally weakened the Japanese 15th Army, while the Chinese and American successes in north Burma had left the Japanese 33d Army strength only to delay. For the staffs, the questions were how far and in what direction to exploit success; for the soldiers, how to overcome the stubborn delaying action of a sorely wounded but still determined enemy.
By September 1944 the Allies had breached the natural defenses of Burma at several points. (Map 6 -- inside back cover; Map 7) A state whose area is as large as that of Germany, Burma is essentially a group of river valleys sheltered between two major spurs of the Himalaya Mountains. On the Indo-Burmese border are the Arakan Yoma, the Chin Hills, and the Naga Hills, which curve in a great arc from the Bay of Bengal to the border of Tibet. Some of their peaks are as high as 10,000 feet, and their lower slopes are covered with tropical forest. The Sino-Burmese border runs through another complex of mountain ranges, which, unlike that on the west, is of great width. These mountains also come down to the sea, so that Burma is most readily reached by sea or air.
Burma may be regarded as the land that three great rivers flowing from north to south have carved from the mountains. The westernmost of these three is the Chindwin River. Running parallel to the mountains of the Indo-Burmese border, it offers another barrier to troop movement in either direction. The country through which it flows for most of its length is sparsely settled brush and forest. Then, at Shwegyin, it emerges from the