C.B.I. Roundup, 24 February 1944

r79

HELL, HIGH WATER
FAIL TO HALT BIG JOB
 

 It’s a little silly to tell United States Army Engineers that a job is impossible. It’s especially silly when they are building a road and under the command of a peripatetic old guy like Col. Lewis Pick. 

 Pick has white hair and didn’t develop his sturdy bottom sitting behind desks. He developed it travelling up and down the Ledo Road in a jeep, telling the boys with the hairy ears that they had to get so many miles done that day and damn the rain, the jungle, the mud, the mosquitoes, the mountains and the consequences. 

Lewis A. Pick

Lewis A. Pick

We are not trying to imply that Pick has gone forth like Lancelot in gilded armor, driving the lead bulldozer and challenging his boys to keep up. He probably couldn’t drive a bulldozer if he had to. What we are trying to say is that Pick is the guy who puts ants in everyone’s pants and delivered an engineering project that must equal in immensity and difficulty any that has ever been attempted by the United States Army. 

Pick doesn’t live in an ivory tower and neither do the boys whose muscles are actually building what is intended to be a new line of communication into China. These junior officers and men live along the road, on top of saw-tooth ridges, and are quite comfortable now. This, gentle readers, is the “dry” season. It only rains about four days out of five and the guys building the road only get wet on the outside. Later, when the monsoon opens, they’ll get wet from sweat and wet from rain and their clothes will never dry out, their shoes will mold, leeches will construct dugouts in their navels, mosquitoes will be as big as B-25’s, the mud will be the same only more so, but they’ll continue to build the road. 

US Corps of Engineers in the CBI.

US Corps of Engineers in the CBI.

 An officer will get an order from Pick to build five miles in 24 hours and he’ll say, “What does that damn fool think I am, a magician?” He’ll tell his sergeant, who will explain, “I’ve got four bulldozers. Two haven’t got clutches anymore. One is hitting on three cylinders. The other will be busy pushing stuck trucks that are never kept off this God-forsaken boulevard so we can build it.” 

They’ll gripe, curse, say it can’t be done, get their T/5 slips and build the five miles. They’ll never admit it was possible to build it. They’ll alibi that it was done because of some fortuitous circumstance beyond their control and say it can’t be done again. The truth is that it will be done again., and again, regardless of circumstances, and one day American trucks with Chinese and American drivers will be rumbling back up the Burma Road to China. 

When this road was started, the cynics went to work in earnest. It couldn’t be done, they said, and it did undoubtedly falter for a while. Then came reinforcements and Pick. The Americans, Chinese, Indians and assorted tribesmen have already pushed the road ahead at a faster pace than these same cynics ever believed possible. The road has been partially graveled, trucks move ahead, never stopping to permit construction to proceed unhampered. 

The first convoy down the Ledo Road, led by Gen. Pick.

The first convoy down the Ledo Road, led by Gen. Pick.

This road is not the Roosevelt Highway and 15-miles-per-hour speed limit signs make you shake your head and wonder how you can ever go that fast without telescoping your spine. It isn’t worth much for Sunday driving in your convertible coupe.  This road is a yellow scar torn through the lush, green jungle and a monument to officers and men who have imagination, who will take a chance, who are tough and who won’t be licked by the elements. 

[Under the outstanding command of General Pick, the Ledo Road was completed in only 2 ½ years.]

Click on images to enlarge.

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CBI Military Humor – 

r525

r80

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Clarence Agress – Knoxville, TN; US Army WWII, CBI, 38th Evacuation Hospital, doctor

William Alloy – New Orleans, LA; US Army, Corps of Engineers (Ret. 38 yrs.)

Roy Anderson – Cloquet, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, 330th Troop Carrieer Sq., C-47 pilot (The Hump)

Max Baker – Topeka, KS; US Army, WWII, PTO, Corps of Engineers bomb squad

Dominic Bonfanti – Ansonia, CT ; US Army, WWII, PTO, 277th Combat EngineersAmerican-Flag-Eagle2

Vincent Gonzalez – Camarillo, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, 9th Combat Cargo Unit/10th AF

Roy Hardesty Jr. – Shelbville, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI

Alfred Kleeman – Brn: Stuttgart, GER; NY; US Army, WWII, CBI, 653rd Topographic Engineer Battalion, SSgt.

Hugh Purnel Jr. – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, 10th Air Force (The Hump)

Conrad Thompson – Youngstown, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, Recon Photography, SSgt.

Joseph Williamson – Fort Mill, SC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, Sgt. Major

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 20, 2016, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 58 Comments.

  1. Wow GP did you write this?

    Like

  2. Pick challenged them and made unreasonable demands … but the men take the credit for somehow making it happen.

    Like

  3. Does General Pick has any relatives with that same great determination that could help us build a better America? It’s amazing what a person can do when it HAS to be done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know you’re being facetious, but you bring up a good point We all have that characteristic within us, we just need to find it. Frankly one fault of this greatest generation is that they gave us a life that was TOO easy. They grew up with having to solve problems for survival’s sake, it became natural instinct. [just think of the difference between our childhoods and those of children during the Great Depression……

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Great story, Lewis Pick sounds like a typical Engineer character, never say Die.
    The more you tell them they can’t the more they will prove you wrong.
    Enjoyable post gp.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds exactly like the Alaska Highway, GP, built with the same grit and determination and some of the same challenges. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly what I thought too, Curt. But then again, we’re talking about the same war and the same generation to accomplish these horrendous tasks. I was just very sorry to see by the link received in Gallivanta’s comment just how it was left to deteriorate – after all that was done for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. An amazing story of perseverance. 🙂

    Like

  7. A fascinating piece. What a pity the road has not been maintained. http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-33785650

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  8. Colonel Pick is a good example to today’s managers. You shouldn’t be spending your life in an office while the real workers do the job.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s the quickest promotion ever, first sentence he’s Col Pick, last sentence he’s General Pick; I trust he was paid accordingly 😄

    Like

  10. Great story! Thanks.

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  11. Pick sounds like an amazing leader. Informative post, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Amazing feat. Thanks GP.

    Like

  13. Interesting! I had read a very limited amount about the Burma Road/Ledo Rd and thought it was a dangerous jungle/mountain route to drive a truck on – – hadn’t realized they created the whole 1,000 miles from scratch! wow.
    I like the red/white/blue eagle picture, too! Good article.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I enjoyed this post, Just amazing what they can accomplish! Ledo road in 2 1/2 years! Grit, determination and probably a lot of swearing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Another stirring tale of the determination of the engineers. Well done to them all.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This records a phenomenal feat in excellent prose

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Reading these stories really puts life in perspective. We complain about the “long days of work” and the little support we receive from our bosses. Then, we read about these engineers that were given tasks under incredibly difficult circumstances with little to no support, yet the got the jobs DONE!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. GI grunts gave Ledo Road mile markers special names, like Pissin’ Post 9, Hell Gate, and other names not fit to print. As you know, my father’s company was charged with repairing the burned out clutches, worn out, and wrecked equipment. His first few days in country, spent during monsoon season, digging drainage ditches to keep the camp from floating away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you had to be enjoying this post and relating it to your father’s stories. If you want to share more – Please do!! Those mile markers prove my point of humor getting the men through these awful trials of the war – they had ever right to come up with whatever names they wanted!! 🙂

      Like

  19. We could use some leadership like that on the road projects around here. They seem to go on without end. The think I found interesting about this post was the fact that the machinery would also break down. I simply can’t imagine how they did this.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Gotta admire the pluck of these engineers. I also admire the war correspondent. He sure knew how to weave a riveting story about something as mundane as the building of a road.

    Liked by 2 people

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