Wingate Killed In Air Crash: Maj. Gen. Orde Charles Wingate's world famous "Chindits" fought on to preserve the Wingate tradition in Burma this week as arrangements were made for the final disposal of the remains of their leader.
The 39-year-old commander and founder of the airborne commandos, now cutting enemy supply columns in Northern Burma, was killed March 24 when the B-25 in which he was flying apparently crashed into a mountain peak.
A year ago, Wingate led his commandos into Burma on foot and for months harassed the enemy rear without the support of a friendly invasion. This year his troops were airborne into Burma by Col. Philip Cochran's American aerial circus.
The general, who had a long career with the India Command and the Middle East before going under SEAC, was born in Naini Tai, the son of an India Command officer. He leaves a widow in London.
War correspondents Stewart Emery of the London News-Chronicle and Stanley Wills of the London Daily Herald were also presumed to have lost their lives in the crash.
The death of Maj. Gen. Order Charles Wingate is a tragedy to American as well as British arms. By his daring, his desire to come to grips with the enemy and his unorthodox methods he had captured the imagination of most of the people in the English-speaking world.
It would be premature to say that Wingate has already gained for himself a permanent niche in military history. The father and chief pleader for the idea of the Long Range Penetration Group, his first sorties behind enemy lines last year brought conflicting estimates of military value.
WINGATE'S DEATH TOOK LEADER OF DARING
His operations this year, however, will undoubtedly prove conclusively whether or not his LRPG's present one of the answers to the rough problem of defeating the Jap in the jungle.
The main argument against his force, a year ago, was that the LRPG, unless co-ordinated with an invasion force, does little pratical good. This year that situation is different. Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell's forces have cleared the Hukawng Valley and are moving down the Mogaung Valley not too far from Kamaing.
Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell told correspondents at his Burma headquarters:
Maj. Gen. Wingate's death is a distinct loss to us all out here. he was a real fighter whose combative spirit was inspiring. He meant business. Wingate was very co-operative and was always prepared to change his plans to meet those of others. He was always ready to break with tradition when necessary, as shown by his intense interest in long range penetration. Wingate was a good friend of mine.
The presence of Wingate's troops in Burma inevitably trebles Jap difficulties in supplying and reinforcing the enemy opposed to the men of Stilwell and the enemy attacking through the mountains toward Imphal. It is probable that these Wingate troops will play a major role in current operations and may even play a decisive one.
It the latter should be the case, Wingate's historical position will be secure regardless of who succeeds him in the command. His successor faces the unenviable personal prospect of being subordinated to the "Wingate Tradition."
In any event, the "Wingate Tradition" will live for decades to come. He became the great British military hero in a static theater by the sheer force of his insistance that something be done against the enemy. The mere fact that he could sell an idea as militarily radical as his to Delhi, Quebec and Washington is proof enough of the force of his personal conviction and the dominance of his personality.
Here was a man who, despite residence in a theater of operations relegated to a back seat in the interest of global strategy, went forth with what he had, and at times with what the Japs thought he had, to spread as much consternation and implement as much destruction as possible far behind enemy lines, while cut off from all support except from the then unexplored medium of air supply.
It took a courageous man to do that. It took a man with imagination and great personal courage. It was this courage that caused his death because he refused to sit calmly in some safe ivory tower while his men "sweated it out" in the jungle. He was there with them in person as well as in spirit. Men will go to Hell in a hand basket for that type of military leader and do the impossible over and over again.
Wingate's mortal remains will slowly turn to dust. His grave will become just another mound surmounted by a cross, but the "Wingate Tradition," the Wingate idea, the memory of the Wingate daring and verve will influence men and armies for years to come.