This Day in 1944 – The Japanese Abandon the Shweli Valley

The Salween River raged through a narrow canyon at 2,100-feet above sea level. Once across this dangerous, rapid river, however, the Chinese Expeditionary Force had to cross the Gaoligong Mountains. Rising up to twelve thousand feet above sea level, this monolithic range was the highest battleground of World War II. Captain Kenneth Scott, an American surgeon with the Chinese troops commented that on the Salween Font, he had “more walking to do than ever before in my life, and over tougher country … Going over some of those mountains would make Pikes Peak look like a child’s playground.” The defending Japanese troops had built bunkers and arranged fields of fire to take advantage of the forbidding terrain. The Chinese took grievous losses, but they pushed through. With the 14th Air Force supporting them and supplying them from the air, they made it into the Shweli River Valley on the other side of the range. By June 22, 1944, the Japanese abandoned the Shweli Valley. In forty-two days of brutal fighting, the CEF conquered the Gaoligong, captured the Shweli Valley, and liberated over four thousand square miles of territory. They were well on their way to the legendary city of Tengchong.

A 14th Air Force L-5 flies along the imposing Gaoligong Range over the Salween River - National Archives

A 14th Air Force L-5 flies along the imposing Gaoligong Range over the Salween River – National Archives

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