General “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell, Sr. – Intermission Story (25)

He is probably best remembered for his military service in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. His nickname “Vinegar Joe” was attributed to his caustic personality. Born in Palatka, Florida, then moved with his family to New York.

After high school he received an appointment to attend the US Military Academy at West Point, New York and graduated in 1904 with a commission as a second lieutenant. During World War I, he was assigned to the US 4th Corps as an intelligence officer and helped plan the St. Mihiel offensive. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in France.

After World War I he served three tours in China, where he became fluent in Chinese, and was the military attaché at the U.S. Legation in Beijing from 1935 to 1939.  In 1939 he returned to the US and became the assistant commander of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and from 1940 to 1941 he was assigned to organize and train the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California.

In 1941 he was sent back to China by President Franklin Roosevelt and Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall where he performed duties as the Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, and also served as the commander of the China-Burma-India Theater responsible for all Lend-Lease supplies going to China, and later was Deputy Commander of the South East Asia Command. Unfortunately, despite his status and position in China, he soon became embroiled in conflicts over U.S. Lend-Lease aid and Chinese political sectarianism.

Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell wasn’t around, so caricaturist Don Barclay, did the next best thing – captured him from a photograph. Here’s the result. Barclay is making a tour of hospitals and small units in CBI-land. CBI Roundup

When he arrived in China, he immediately began the task of reforming the Chinese Army, over the concerns of Chiang Kai-Shek that the American-led forces would become another independent force outside of his control.  The Chinese leader was far more concerned with fighting the Red Chinese Army, while also keeping a majority of the Lend-Lease benefits for himself and his cohorts.

In Burma, his initial military operation, to keep open the Burma Road between India and China and to repel Japanese incursions into Burma, failed. The operation in Burma was so disastrous that Chinese forces under his command stopped taking orders. He personally led his 117-member staff to safety in India on foot as the Allied forces capitulated to the Japanese invasion.

In India, he became well known for his no-nonsense demeanor and disregard for military pomp and ceremony. His trademarks were a battered Army campaign hat, GI shoes, and a plain service uniform with no insignia of rank, and frequently carried a .30 Springfield rifle rather than a sidearm. His derogatory remarks castigating the ineffectiveness of what he termed “Limey” forces, a viewpoint often repeated by his staff, did not sit well with British and Commonwealth commanders. However, it was well known among the troops that his disdain for the British was aimed toward those high command officers that he saw as overly stuffy and pompous.

He managed to lead Chinese divisions to retake Myitakyina and its airfield on August 4, 1944, from Japanese control, rebuilding the Ledo Road, a military highway in India that led into Burma. However, conflicts with Chiang Kai-Shek led to his ultimate removal in October 1944. He then served as Commander of Army Ground Forces, US Tenth Army Commander in the last few days of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, and as US Sixth Army Commander.

In November 1945 he was appointed to lead a “War Department Equipment Board” in an investigation of the Army’s modernization in light of its recent experiences. Among his recommendations was the establishment of a combined arms force to conduct extended service tests of new weapons and equipment and then formulate doctrine for its use, and the abolition of specialized anti-tank units. His most notable recommendation was for a vast improvement of the Army’s defenses against all airborne threats, including ballistic missiles.

He died of stomach cancer at the age of 63 at the Presidio of San Francisco, while still on active duty. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.

Among his military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Philippine Campaign Medal, the World War I Victory Medal, the China Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Order of the Legion of Honour (France), and the Combat Infantryman Badge, only one of three general officers to be given this award normally reserved for those in the rank of colonel or below. The General Joseph W. Stilwell Award for the Outstanding Overall Cadet, Senior Division, in the California Cadet Corps is named in his honor.

So much more could be written for this soldier and his standards.  You can stand down now, General.

This information was obtained from a bio written by: William Bjornstad; CBI Roundup; History on-line.

This post was done on a recommendation by 56 Packardman 56packardman.wordpress.comx

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – CBI Roundup style & Cpl. Gee Eye

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Paul Addington – No. Canton, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII

John Beitia – Shoshone, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, radio & co-pilot

Alfred Dresner – Brooklyn, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

William J. Ely (105) – Claysville, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Lt.Gen., Corps of Engineers (Ret. 33 y.), West Point grad 1933

Frank Gilchrist – Centersville, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII & Korea

Bud Hindsley – Union City, IN; USMC, WWII, PTO, Cpl.

Georgina Leland – Ossipee, NH; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Anthony Malizia – Nutley NJ; USMC, Korea

William Packard – Locust Grove, Ga; US Army, WWII

George Sims – Papakura, NZ; 2nd NZEF # 641719, Sgt., 5th Engineers

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Personal Request –    click to enlarge

I have been shown this photo and asked if I or any of my readers could give a clue as to where this WWII picture was taken.

Thank you for taking the time to look…..

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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 October 19, 2017, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. Just curious – where do you get the names for your “Farewell Salutes”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are very wherever I see them, Cat. Newspapers, online Legacy.com, the readers sometimes request their relatives or friends to be included, news magazines, cemeteries. As you can tell, some veterans are only just coming home for burial and they have the all-too-familiar KIA with their name, sometimes that comes from Star & Stripes or the recovery teams themselves. Should you know of anyone who you would like to have remembered – feel free to contribute from your own local newspaper, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I still have my cap bought on a visit to the Flying Tigers museum in China. In fact, wore it on my walk today. http://www.chongqingtrip.org/attractions/stilwell-museum.htm

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew that bust of Stilwell was in China, but did not know, for some reason, that it was at a museum there for him! I suppose I just couldn’t imagine China honoring an American! Thank you very much for this. And keep that hat!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It made me quite exhausted just reading about Vinegar Joe’s activities and achievements. Thanks for a very interesting post again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ganduri bune, o cafea tarzie si un buna seara! Sa aveti parte de clipe cat mai placute, dragilor!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. He did so much in such a relatively short life time. Amazing life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wat een gekke daad om verdunde azijn te drinken…Zo iets kan ik echt niet begrijpen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Het klinkt zeker ongewoon, maar het is niet zo zeldzaam als je misschien denkt. Vooral in de hedendaagse ‘health-craze’ fads, is appelcider azijn vrij gebruikelijk. Sommige Amerikaanse folklore noemt het ook.

      Like

  7. The General had some tough assignment. he has to put up with Chang and try to stop the Japanese at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You have many brass-officers at home giving each other medals and demanding respect.

    Sometimes you have some iconoclastic slob squelching through the mud and actually getting things done …

    Like

  9. I enjoyed learning about Vinegar Joe, GP. It is sad he died early of stomach cancer, 63 years young.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. High ranking British officers, ” overly stuffy and pompous”?? I find that very difficult to believe!

    Liked by 4 people

  11. He was also called Vinegar Joe because in the field he would drink diluted vinegar in imitation of soldiers in the Roman Legions.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a life. You wonder what the US Military would be without the occasional man such as this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a shame FDR didn’t realize he should keep him in the CBI to keep Chiang in check, but then again, who expects any politician to know what they’re doing? 🙂

      Like

  13. In regards to the picture, I might be able to find someone who may know. I’ll let you know if they can figure it out. 🙂 No promises though!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Burma, seems to have been unimaginable “heat (climate)”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Movie [1941] ↓ Where is he?,I didn’t know this 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • You sent a very funny short clip of the 1979 comedy movie called “1941”. It is what we call ‘a spoof’ on the old war films. It is purely for entertainment and laughs.
        あなたは1979年のコメディ映画「1941」の非常に面白い短いクリップを送った。 それは古い戦争映画の上で「偽装」と呼ばれるものです。 純粋に娯楽と笑いのためです。

        Liked by 1 person

        • ありがとうございます!!:D
          This movie turns everything into jest(and Vinegar Joe,too) .
          I like American with a sense of humor which is always playfully twisting ,Also like British Humor with heavy irony. :D
          I did not know that Vinegar Joe led the Chinese Troops.
          But I imagined, I smirked a little,Whether American humor sense and the character of Chinese were suited or not to each other…(I beg your pardon) XD!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Nasuko,
            Normally I would say there would have been a cultural difference that might have made leading the Chinese, but Gen. Stilwell was accustom to the orient, just as MacArthur had been by living in the Philippines for so long. The movie was just for fun and laughs.

            Liked by 1 person

      • The movie is set in California.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It is a subtropical monsoon climate I understand. I do not know from experience.
      Thank you for stopping by, Nasuko.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. GP – Thank you very much for posting this! “Vinegar Joe” is one of the forgotten and underrated heroes of WWII. As events proved, he was spot-on with his concerns about the corruption of Chiang Kai-Shek.

    Liked by 1 person

    • FDR screwed up royally on his handling of the Chinese leader, the Lend Lease program both sides of the war and Stilwell – I could make the list longer, but I finish with – You’re welcome.

      Like

  16. A nice tribute to a real military ‘character’. They don’t make them like him anymore, it would seem.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Vinegar Joe sounds like the kinda guy I would like to know as his heart is in the right place. Sort of like bark is worst than bite. Thanks for this read. Pity he was taken before his time😟

    Liked by 1 person

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