Photograph of control tower at Kunming

U.S. Army. Via

Kunming (102.706E 25.05N) has been settled off and on since ancient times, but the present city began as the fortress town of Yunnanfu in the 19th century.  It was established to prevent non-Chinese from settling in southwest China, being the most important center of communications in the region.  A railroad from the Indochina ports reached the city in 1910, increasing its prosperity.  The present name of Kunming was adopted in 1912.

When war broke out between China and Japan in 1937, Kunming became a refugee center, in spite of occasional air attacks (beginning on 27 September 1938). The ancient route to Burma was reestablished, using vast quantities of impressed labor, and the new Burma Road became China's most important supply route to the outside world. So important was the road that, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army considered a proposal to reinforce the American Volunteer Group at Kunming with U.S. aircraft from the Philippines in the event of a Japanese attack on the city. Following the Japanese invasion of Burma, the AVG (later redesignated 14 Air Force) made Kunming its principal base. The city was also the principal base of the OSS in China, and OSS provided 14 Air Force with much of its targeting intelligence.

The city was not seriously threatened by the Japanese before November 1944, when the astounding success of the Japanese Ichi-go offensive posed the threat of an advance from Hengyang. However, unknown to the Allies, the Japanese forces in China were near exhaustion and there were no plans for an advance on Kunming.

The local warlord, Lung Yun, jealously guarded his autonomy from the central government. A consequence of this was the development of a large scholarly community that was critical of the Kuomintang and argued for less emphasis on the practical value of scholarship and more on its theoretical basis.

Rail connections


Road connections




Craven and Cate (1947; accessed 2012-5-22)

Hsiung and Levine (1992)

"Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Organization and Functions" (1945-6; accessed 2012-5-22)

Peattie et al. (2011)

Romanus and Sunderland (1950; accessed 2012-5-22)

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