The Burma Road (Chinese: 滇缅公路) was a road linking Burma with the southwest of China. Its terminals were Kunming, Yunnan, and Lashio, Burma. It was built while Burma was a British colony to convey supplies to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Preventing the flow of supplies on the road helped motivate the occupation of Burma by the Empire of Japan in 1942. Use of the road was restored to the Allies in 1945 after the completion of the Ledo Road. Some parts of the old road are still visible today.
The road is 717 miles (1,154 km) long and runs through rough mountain country. The sections from Kunming to the Burmese border were built by 200,000 Burmese and Chinese laborers during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and completed by 1938.
The construction project was coordinated by Chih-Ping Chen. It had a role in World War II, when the British used the Burma Road to transport materiel to China before Japan was at war with the British, especially after China lost sea-access following the loss of Kunming in the Battle of South Guangxi. Supplies would be landed at Rangoon (now Yangon) and moved by rail to Lashio, where the road started in Burma.
In July 1940, the British government yielded, for a period of three months, to Japanese diplomatic pressure to close down the Burma Road to supplies to China. After the Japanese overran Burma in 1942, the Allies were forced to supply Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist Chinese by air.
United States Army Air Force cargo planes, mainly Curtiss C-46s, flew these supplies from airfields in Assam, India, over “the hump”, the eastern end of the Himalayas. Under British command Indian, British, Chinese, and American forces, the latter led by General Joseph Stilwell, defeated a Japanese attempt to capture Assam and recaptured northern Burma.
In this area they built a new road, the Ledo Road which ran from Ledo, Assam, through Myitkyina and connected to the old Burma Road at Wandingzhen, Yunnan, China. The first trucks reached the Chinese frontier by this route on January 28, 1945.