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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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