Supplies and Logistics: Problem Solving Alternatives to Japanese Occupation of the Burma Road

Guiding Question:

How did the Allies develop an alternative access route to supply airfields in southern China once the Japanese occupied the Burma Road?


Using the interactive timeline from the American Battle Monuments Commission, original maps, and primary and secondary source resources, students will identify a solution to supplying airfields in southern China after the Burma Road was taken over by the Japanese.


Historical Context

The Burma Road was originally constructed by the British in 1938 to help supply the Chinese battle against the Japanese. In 1942, the Japanese took control of the Burma Road and shut down this vital supply route to the Chinese and American airfields in southern China. The Americans were forced to find a more dangerous alternative, flying “The Hump.” The Tenth Air Force, operating out of India, organized an active airlift. Crews flew over the Himalayan Mountains to bases in China to keep the supply chain intact. Long flights, unpredictable weather, extreme turbulence, lack of radio navigation and reliable charts, and unforgiving terrain made this a treacherous undertaking. Despite the dangers, the crews flew from April 1942 to August 1945. Over 1,500 Americans died in this effort.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Describe the role of the Burma Road;
  • Understand the difficult task it was to find an alternative to the Burma Road and how dangerous it was for those who kept the supplies coming to China without modern technology; and
  • Recommend an alternative route to supply the Chinese Army.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.2 Analyze the main ideas and supporting details presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how the ideas clarify a topic, text, or issue under study.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.Geo.11.9-12 Evaluate how economic globalization and the expanding use of scarce resources contribute to conflict and cooperation within and among countries.


Lesson Preparation


  • Project World War II: A Visual History in the front of the room. Enter the timeline, click on “1941” and select “Burma Road.”
  • Watch the video with the students and discuss the main events.
    • Ask the students:
      • Why was the road built in the first place?
      • What were some challenges the Allies had in maintaining the road?
      • How did the road finally fall into enemy hands?
  • Arrange students into groups of three to four students each.
  • Give each group a set of maps, colored pencils, and maps to share.
  • Give each student his or her own copy of the China-Burma-India Outline Map and China-Burma-India Map Instruction Sheet to complete.
  • Review instructions and tell students to begin.
  • Instruct all groups to really consider the final step (the alternative route), discuss, and come to a consensus before the end of class.

Assessment Materials

  • Challenge students to defend the alternative route that they selected on their map.
  • Ask each group to present their route using a format of the teacher’s or students’ choice (PowerPoint, Prezi, oral presentation, or short essay). Required components:
    • Explain the route you chose, using correct geographical terms (the names of countries, oceans, etc.);
    • Explain why you chose this route, giving at least three reasons to support your choice; and
    • List three potential challenges to this route and how you would overcome them.
  • Allow students to present their work to their peers. Presentations can be assessed using the Finding an Alternative Route Rubric.
  • Project the World War II: A Visual History Interactive Timeline. Enter the timeline, click on “1943” and select “India Burma Campaign” Ask the students:
    • What were the main reasons military planners chose the route over the Himalayas?
    • Why do you think this route was different than the one you chose?
  • Remind students of the dangers of flying the Hump. Project the Fallen Hero Profile of Frederick W. Langhorst and play the eulogy video. Project the article from the Battle Creek Enquirer showing the return of Langhorst’s remains in 2016.

Methods for Extension

  • Students who want to extend their knowledge of the Burma Road can explore the book, The Burma Road: The Epic Story of the China-Burma-India Theatre of WWII.
  • Teachers can enhance students’ interest in the impact of transportation and supply lines in World War II by exploring these related lesson plans on


  • Teachers can adapt the project to younger learners by bringing in more modern maps or even accessing Google Earth to see the natural barriers a little more clearly.
  • Teachers can edit the map instructions or partially complete the map before giving it to students as needed.


Return to Activity

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

Other Sources