Operation Axiom

This was an Allied unrealised scheme for the recapture of the island of Sumatra in the Japanese-occupied Netherlands East Indies, and also for the subsequent recapture of Malaya and Hong Kong (February 1944).

The ‘Axiom’ mission was sent to London and Washington during February 1944 by the Supreme Commander of South-East Asia Command, Admiral the Lord Louis Mountbatten, to present his overall scheme for future operations in this theatre. Mountbatten wanted to implement the ‘Culverin’ amphibious operation against Sumatra as the optimum way to open a major supply route to China by sea, but his US deputy, Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, was determined instead to open an overland route by retaking northern Burma and then completing the Ledo Road. Led by Mountbatten’s American deputy chief-of-staff, Major General Albert C. Wedemeyer, the mission was intended to present both points of view, but Stilwell sent his own mission to Washington without even informing Mountbatten of the fact. The British Chiefs-of-Staff and US Joint Chiefs-of-Staffs could not agree on the matter, but were both opposed to ‘Culverin’, which was dropped. By this time the Japanese had solved the Allies’ problem by starting their ‘U’ offensive against Imphal in March 1944, and this led to their strategic defeat in Burma.