On This Day

The Chinese Nationalist Party Leader's Short Visit to British Burma

By Wei Yan Aung 6 April 2020

YANGON—On this day in 1942, Chinese political and military leader Chiang Kai-shek met with US Army General Joseph Stilwell and British Army General Harold Alexander in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region to discuss plans to repel the Japanese occupation of Burma. Chiang Kai-shek was head of the Chinese nationalist Kuomintang party.

As the United States and the United Kingdom were backing Chiang Kai-shek, who was also at war with Japan, the Chinese general in return lent his support to the Allies. When Japanese forces invaded Burma, he sent his troops into the country.

At the time, Pyin Oo Lwin, a scenic hill town in Mandalay Region which served as the summer retreat for British governors and officials, had become the administrative center for the British after they lost control of Yangon (then Rangoon) to Japanese forces.

When Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong Mei-ling, arrived in Pyin Oo Lwin from China’s Chungking on April 6, 1942, Governor Reginald Dorman-Smith and his wife, known as Lady Dorman-Smith, were on an inspection tour in Mandalay, which was left in a state of ruin following bombing raids by Japanese forces three days prior. The British couple met the Chinese couple after they returned from Mandalay later in the evening that day.

Governor Dorman-Smith invited Chiang Kai-shek and his wife to stay at the state guesthouse but the Chinese couple insisted that they preferred simple accommodations, so the governor made other arrangements for them. Governor Dorman-Smith later told British writer Maurice Collis, who served as an administrator in Burma, that the simple lifestyle that Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling led in their house was far better than the luxury of the state guesthouse.

Lady Dorman-Smith wrote in her diary that Soong Mei-ling interpreted for her husband and that the Chinese general’s wife loved to poke her nose into everything. Not long after their meeting in Pyin Oo Lwin, all of Myanmar fell into the hands of Japanese forces.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.