Breaking the Blockade of China
Of the three moves by NCAC, only one was aimed toward China. The drives down the Railway Corridor and toward the Shweli would keep the Japanese away from the trace of the projected line of communications, but only the easternmost drive -- down the Myitkyina-Bhamo road -- could clear the way for vehicles and gasoline to enter China on the ground. As the Chinese New First Army (30th and 38th Divisions) completed preparations for the 15 October 1944 offensive, a reconnaissance east from Myitkyina toward China revealed that the Japanese grip had already been pried from the northeast corner of Burma. (See Map 8.)
Maj. Benjamin F. Thrailkill, who as a lieutenant colonel later commanded the 2d Battalion of the 475th at Tonkwa, left Myitkyina on 27 August with a company of Chinese and a platoon of U.S. infantry, plus engineers, signal, medical, and OSS personnel, with orders to establish contact with the Chinese from Yunnan. Moving east via Fort Harrison (Sadon), Thrailkill and his force met the Yunnan Chinese on 6 September in the Kambaiti Pass (Kauliang Hkyet). Eight days later Thrailkill and his men were back at Myitkyina.
The Thrailkill expedition, as it came to be called, established that the trail to China was passable, with numerous dropping ground and camp sites. The local inhabitants were thought to be friendly toward the Americans, but not to the Chinese. No Japanese were met.1
The initial NCAC orders to General Sun Li-jen's New First Army called for it "to advance rapidly on Bhamo, destroy or contain enemy forces there; seize and secure the Bhamo-Mansi area, and be prepared to continue the advance."2 The key point was Bhamo, the second largest town in north Burma and the end of navigation on the Irrawaddy. Before the war the____________________