Historic '24-zig' Rediscovered on Stilwell Road

People can see a famous old photo on websites about World War II: convoys of US GMC military trucks snaking up a steep zigzag road in southwest China's mountainous region.

It illustrates the crucial lifeline that linked the Chinese battlefield with allied forces 57 years ago. The road, nicknamed "24-zig" because it has 24 sharp bends on a high mountain, was believed to lie on the famous Stilwell Road, also known as the Burma Road.

Along the road, mountains of guns, bullets and food were carried by US trucks to China to fight against the Japanese troops.The "24-zig" was so geologically typical and a symbol of the timesthat its fame was soon spread worldwide by the international media.

However, after the war ended half a century ago, the precise location of the "24-zig" faded from memory. Many Chinese, Japanese and Westerners tried to pinpoint it along the Stilwell Road and the Burma Road in Yunnan Province, but it seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth.

Guo Shuya, a Chinese expert in World War II history, has been studying the road for many years. In 2001, he happened to get a piece of information from Japan that the "24-zig" was not on the Stilwell Road as many experts believed, but actually on another road in nearby Guizhou Province.

Guo went to Guizhou and sought help from elderly drivers, and they told him the "24-zig" was in a county named Qinglong, two hundreds miles away from Guiyang, capital of Guizhou.

Guo made his way to Qinglong where he rediscovered the "24-zig".

"I have solved a riddle that has puzzled people worldwide for half a century, " he said. "It seems that we still don't know verymuch about World War II."

The Stilwell Road was a single road built in 1944 between Indiaand China's Yunnan Province. However, the international community usually regarded all the traffic networks in southwest China as being part of the famous road, which was named after Joseph Stilwell, commander-in-chief of the China-Burma-India war theater.

"The '24-zig' is indeed in Guizhou, and it can be seen as an extension of the Stilwell Road," said Zhou Mingzhong, an official with the Guizhou Transportation Bureau.

He said that the road was built by US troops and remained undamaged. These days curious drivers usually ride on the historicroad for fun.

"Currently, Guizhou is investing heavily in a campaign to buildnew roads. However, we will preserve the "24-zig" according to itsoriginal look," said Zhou, adding that "it is a relic of World WarII, and a symbol of Sino-American friendship".

Lin Kongxun, 80, a former interpreter with the US 1880 engineerbattalion stationed along the "24-zig", said that the road was so dangerous many trucks overturned. "Whenever the US drivers got onto the road, they prayed to God," said Lin, a professor from theHuanan Agriculture University.

But it was the terrible, unforgettable road that guaranteed final victory in the war against the Japanese, he asserted.

Guo's rediscovery of "24-zig" has amazed the world. Guo and Linbelieve that the road will serve as an emotional link between China and the United States in the 21st century.

"I hope people from different countries will return to the roadto remember its history, just like the reunion of surviving Chinese and US pilots in Beijing in May this year," Guo said.

Before the India-Burma-China road was constructed, all strategic materials had to be carried into China by air. A total of 468 US planes crashed when crossing the Himalayas, killing 1,579 pilots.

Lin said a reunion of veterans of the 1880 engineer battalion was held in 1986. "After the gathering, I received a lot of pictures and reports about the Stilwell Road mailed by my Americanfriends," he said.



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