Operation Thursday continued.
Other gliders, trying to avoid recently the wrecked aircraft littering the clearing, overshot Broadway and crashed into the jungle. Because of the wreckage, the codeword “Soyalink” was radioed back to Chindit headquarters, halting the operation. But before additional details could be transmitted, the radio at Broadway failed. The chief engineer responsible for constructing the air strip and most of his staff were killed in crash landings. Alison turned to the senior surviving engineer, an inexperienced second lieutenant, and asked him how long it would take to make Broadway ready for the C-47s. The lieutenant replied, “If I have it done by this afternoon, will that be too late?” Hours passed as Alison and his men, with the help of the Chindits, desperately worked to make Broadway serviceable. Meanwhile, at Chindit command, tension mounted as everyone worried over the cause of the delay. The tension broke when, at 4:30 p.m., the code words “Pork Sausage” – ordering the operation resumed – were received.
Though most of the gliders on Broadway were damaged or destroyed, and the force suffered 30 killed and 33 injured in crash landings, 539 men and almost 30,000 pounds of supplies successfully landed in the clearing. The Air Commando engineers had created an airstrip capable of accepting heavily laden C-47s. Before the next day dawned, 62 C-47 sorties would land at Broadway. By March 11, approximately 9,000 men, 500,000 pounds of supplies, and about 1,200 mules and 175 ponies were established 200 miles behind Japanese lines. At this point, Operation Thursday was officially over, but the Air Commandos’ work supporting the Chindits had just begun.
The Japanese quickly responded once they discovered the location of Broadway. On March 11 a fighter-bomber strike was launched, the first attack in an attempt to neutralize what had become a major enemy air base behind their lines. This air attack was followed up by successive ground assaults. Despite attacks that continued sporadically throughout the campaign, the Japanese were never able to eliminate Broadway.
On March 24, tragedy unrelated to enemy action struck. After completing a front-line inspection, Gen. Wingate boarded his B-25 at Broadway and took off for the Chindit home base in India. He never arrived. Days later it was discovered that his aircraft had crashed into a hill, killing everyone aboard.
Coordination between the Air Commandos and the Chindits was gratefully noted by Chindit Sgt. Cyril Hall. Hall was part of a 300-man unit assigned to establish a road block across one of the main Japanese north-south lines of communication and supply code-named “White City.” The unit’s mission was to prevent supplies and transport from reaching the Japanese 18th Army in the north that was fighting Gen. Joseph Stillwell’s army. Hall later noted, “White City should have been renamed ‘Red City’ from the blood that flowed there. . . . Each night, ferocious hand-to-hand battles would take place, British troops wading in with bayonet and rifle butt, whilst the Gurkhas and West Africans engaged with their native knives, the Japs with their two-handed swords. . . . At one crisis of a battle, Cochran’s Air Commandos planted a huge load of high explosives on Jap concentrations preparing to move up. The pilots, whom I cannot praise too greatly, were reluctant, for so short was the distance separating our forces that they feared hitting our own men. However, urging column commanders . . . insisted that it was necessary, so with deadly precision they unloaded everything they had, killing hundreds.”
After Wingate was killed, the consequences on future Chindit operations proved unfortunate, as Wingate’s replacement, Maj. Gen. W. D. A. Lentaigne, did not share Wingate’s passion for unconventional and long-range penetration tactics.