The CBI Theater WWII 1943-1945
The Diary of Maj. Charles H. Hamilton
By Charles H. Megarity
Copyright 2012, Charles Flowers and the Megarity Family, all rights reserved
Charles Hamilton Megarity was born in Navarro County Texas January 1, 1906 and died September 12, 1993 in Columbus Missouri. His father was Charles B. Megarity of Corsicana Texas. Charles B. Megarity’s father was Willis Cebron Megarity of Navarro County Texas. Willis’s father was Archibald Megarity who was the original Megarity who settled with his family in Navarro county Texas after the Civil war in 1872. The Megaritys original came from the Megarity families in an around Cobb County Georgia.
Charles H. Megarity was my grandfather. A few months back, I received a typed copy of my grandfathers World War II Diary from my Aunt. I did not know this diary existed! I new my grandfather had served in WWII but he never let on what he actually did. Like many World War II veterans, they did not talk much about their experiences.
The diary is a day-to-day journal of what it was like to be in the service in 1940 and in a World War the likes of which no one had ever seen or could have fathomed. As I started reading this diary I could not put it down, as it was fascinating! It read like a movie!
The Diary starts in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, when my grandfather had enlisted in the Texas National Guard and was stationed in Brownwood, Texas. The diary covers the Army Maneuvers with Patton in 1940, Pearl Harbor, and Debarkation from New York, the convoy to North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Anzio, Egypt, Iran, India, Burma and China.
Introduction to Overseas Duty
My service in the army of the United States lasted exactly five years, from February 8, 1941 to February 8, 1946, and I remained in the Reserve Corp for 10 years after being discharged at Jefferson Barracks on February 8, 1946. I kept a pretty continuous diary from the time I left for overseas duty, February 1, 1942, until I returned home October 30, 1945. Events noted in my diary were written down when they occurred or shortly thereafter, while they were fresh in my mind. When I began to transcribe my notes with continuity, many events, that at the time did not seem important, came to mind and I have described them, not too much in detail, to make the following more readable that just a resume of dates and events might be. I was constantly amazed as I related events from my notes so may things would come to mind after 36 years!
My wife, Daisy, said that she liked the overseas part of my literary effort, but she thought there should be a short resume of my service from the time I was inducted until I went overseas, as sort of a lead in to the main course. Having retired this year, with time on my hands, I agreed as follows:
I had been classified as 1-A for draft purposes and was called as one of the first 35 men to leave Beaumont, Texas, February 8, 1941. I was not too concerned. I kissed my sweetheart, Daisy, and assured here that I would be back in time for our date that night. How naïve can you be? I reported to the Post Office and was put in charge of the group taking the bus to Houston, Texas. I was put in charge of the group, not because if my outstanding leadership ability, but because at 35 years if age, I was the senior member of the group.
We were driven to an Army induction center in Houston for our physical and to be inducted or rejected. I was 35 years old, 40 pounds overweight and I could not have run a mile if my life depended on it. I was certain that the Army could not use such a poor physical specimen, as I appeared to be at the time. I was wrong!
It was a rigorous examination and the doctors said, that outside of overweight, I had the physique of a 21-year-old athlete, and that the excess poundage would disappear quickly. It did!
A couple of smart boys failed the mental exam and were sent home. The rest of us dummies were put on trains for Camp Bowie at Brownwood, Texas. After an all night ride, we were taken into the reception center at Bowie, and for the next three days got the works. More physicals, IQ tests, mechanical aptitude tests, shots and vaccinations, indoctrination, drawing equipment and clothing, bundling up or civilian cloths for shipment home and a lot more.
Finally we were classified and assigned to various units. I was assigned to “A” company, 111 Engineers, 36 Division. The 36th Division was a National Guard Division and had been called to active duty the previous September and was pretty far along with their training. That made it pretty tough on all of us $21.00 per month rookies. I will not go into detail but basic training was very tough. I lost most of my fat and almost felt like an athlete again. My platoon commander, Lt. Foster, from Port Arthur, Texas, was tolerant because of my age, but when I got in shape, he expected me to keep up with the 18 year old draftees, and I did.
I did very well as a buck private and it the end of basic training, three months, I was promoted to private at $30.00 a month. $9.00 does not seem like much of a raise, but at the time, a 45% pay increase made you feel affluent. Thirty days later I made PFC and received another $6.00 raise. With beer 10 cents a can at the PX, $6.00 meant 2 more cans of beer per day and after all the deductions, such as laundry and insurance, that was about all of the beer money we had.
I had an advantage over most recruits after I could compete physically. I could out-do most of them on leadership assignments and on field problems because I was older, more experienced in difficult situations and had a better education that most of them. (Graduated 1928 SMU) I made corporal during the West Texas maneuvers and because the mess sergeant had been trading hams and whiskey, I got his job during the Louisiana-North Carolina maneuvers. Mess Sergeant gave me a staff rating and a lot more respect from the lower grades and also gave me a lever with the officers, as they were always asking for little favors
By December 1941 a fairly large number of personnel had been discharged from duty, as the initial term for a draftee was only a year. Were driving in convoy, back from the North Caroline maneuvers, with a number of men expecting their discharge when we arrived at Bowie, when over the radio we got word of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Moans and groans all thru the convoy from the men looking for discharges, but I was not upset very much. I had decided when I was drafted, the war would last five years or more, and so I never did expect an early discharge.
On arrival at Bowie the next day, we found everyone armed with live ammunition and on 24 hour alert. Of course, there were no Japs within 4,000 miles of Bowie, but I guess there was fear of sabotage. The 36th was triangularized and prepared to leave for Camp Blanding for final training before going overseas. The spare battalion of artillery and regiment of infantry were shipped off to the Philippines to prepare to repel the expected Jap invasion. Two brothers that I new, ex-boy friends of Daisy and who I liked, were in the artillery and were never heard from again, as a great many people in the Death March were never again fear from. The 176th heavy engineer regiment was being formed to go to Canada and help build the Alcan Highway. I was drafted for the cadre and given Master Sergeant rating and felt that I had reached the summit in the Army grade, but there was a surprise in store for me.
When I was inducted I was too old to go to Officers School. In January 1942 the age limit was raised to 38 and anyone with a college education in engineering could not be shipped out of the Continental United State without first appearing before an Officers board. They called me and I tried to wiggle out. After all, there is not much you ask for after you are a Master Sergeant. The Board said I was prime officer material, so I was shipped to Fort Belvoirand and enrolled in the 6th class. I was not too happy about not going to Canada with my friends but I was stuck at Belvoir, for better of worse. It was three months packed with threes of West Point training. It was the toughest training that I had before going overseas. The training officers, Lieutenants, were recent West Point graduates and the company and battalion commanders were Point graduates during the last ten years. We put in 17-hour days for the first 8 weeks and then, those of us that were left, were allowed a weekend pass. Daisy and I married on January 5, 1942 and she came to Washington for the last several weeks, so the weekend pass was really appreciated.
The first seven weeks of the course, you were hoping that you would wash out, and the last seven weeks, when it looked as if you had a chance, you were scared to death that you would wash out. Graduation day was the first week in June and Daisy attended the ceremonies, just like West Point. A new crop of 90-day wonders had been turned out to win the war. About 35% of the class had washed out. We were assigned to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, to train engineer troops in the huge ERTC at that post. I made a big noise about not getting a combat assignment but it did not do any good, thank heavens!
My first command was 1st Platoon, Company “B” 29th Engineer Training Battalion. After 90 days I was transferred to Company “A” 1st Platoon. And in another 90 days I was commanding Company “A” as a 1st Lieutenant.
Promotions came very fast in the Engineers during the early days of the war, as the Engineer Corps were more desperate for officers than almost any other branch of the service. I guess I did a reasonably good job because in April of 1943 I was drafted for the cadre to help activate a new ERTC at Camp Abbot, Oregon near Bend. I went out in May, found a lovely house in the mountains and Daisy and the kids (my father Bob and his sister Doris Ruth) and my mother (Grandmother Elvina) came out for the summer. It was wonderful but in September Mother took Doris Ruth back to Beaumont to school and Bob stayed with us and went to school in Bend. We moved into Bend before the snow came and had a nice house with a garden and hot house and Daisy made the most wonderful Chow Chow that we are for years after the was. I began to get itchy feet and was afraid the war would end before I had a chance to do anything that I might tell my grandchildren about, so I volunteered. I felt like a dog, Daisy was unhappy but never once scolded me. She and Bob shipped me off in a couple of weeks. I shipped out on the George Dern, heading for Newport News, Virginia.
Newport News, Virginia to Oran, Algiers (North Africa)
February 1, 1944
After a pleasant week at the POE BOQ and Officers Club where I won about $500.00, we loaded aboard a new Liberty ship, the George F. Dern, at 1400 hours, and moved into Hampton Roads for rendezvous with the rest of the convoy. Looks as if a very large convoy is forming. There are lots of escorts, baby flat tops, destroyers and De’s (Destroyer Escorts) assembling for the convoy. Our ship is loaded with 500 enlisted men, 50 officers and a miscellaneous cargo. The Liberty ship, George F. Dern, is a new ship making only her second Atlantic crossing of the war. The sea is very green and weather is very cold. I just found out our miscellaneous cargo includes 5000 tons of 500 lb. bombs. However, the detonators are on another ship.
February 2, 1944
We lay in Lynn Haven Roads all day. Convoy numbers about 60 ships and more coming in all the time. Interesting to see ships of every sort: escorts, tankers, freighters etc. The number of ships and the tonnage required to support a war boggles the mind, and there are large convoys leaving every week. Only a few ships are carrying officers and enlisted men, this being primarily a supply convoy for Italy and Africa. Most of the officers and enlisted men are part of my shipment, slated for the “Z” forces now being formed at Kweilin, China, where we are suppose to train 30 Divisions for the Chinese Army. So far the food has been good and the sea smooth as glass. We have one Lieutenant who is already seasick and we have not yet raised the anchor. Rumor has it that we will sail tonight with our first stop at Bizerte. I am lonely tonight, Daisy is much on my mind and it is hard to adjust to the fact that I may not see her for twos or more, if ever.
February 3, 1944
Or ship sailed at 0200 hours, sea is very smooth, about 300 ships in the convoy, including 25 or 30 escorts.
February 4, 1944
The sea built considerably during the night. We are in very close formation and almost had a collision during the night. We sail a zigzag course and all of the ships have to zig together and in the right direction or you are in trouble. Convoy is spreading out because of the heavy weather, making it harder for the escorts to protect the convoy. We sleep in our cloths with life belts on, but it is not too uncomfortable, as they are the CO2 type that look like a belt about 4” wide and inflate like a large donut. You better have the clip off before you pull the trigger or it will almost cut you in two. Everything is blacked out and no one allowed on deck at night temporarily. There will be submarine danger from now on.
February 5, 1944
The sea is extremely tough with the ship rolling about 30 degrees. Captain O’Grady, Col. Smith, Major LaMarche and I share a large 4 place cabin that used to be the “Nut” ward. Very appropriate but they are about the most desirable quarters on the ship. The cabin is quite roomy and just across from the sick bay. About half the officers and enlisted men are seasick but none in our cabin. Guess we will not be sicj or we would have been by now. Ships motion is extremely violent! I inspected enlisted men quarters in the hold. They are terrible, with bunks four high and very crowded with vomit and excrement all over. Many of the men are too sick to leave their bunks. I believe sea sickness is about as sick as you can be without dying. I put the well ones to work scrubbing and disinfecting with Lysol.
February 6, 1944
Sea is down considerably but still 15 ft. waves and quite a roll to the ship. It was quite a storm and Liberty ships, although very seaworthy, are notorious rollers. Just like women, they have nice round bottoms. Passed 175 miles off Bermuda. British planes are in the air as escorts for a while. Lots of sea weed and water is a deep blue and it is much warmer. Should be in the Gulf Stream tomorrow. The ship’s Captain tells us that our destination, if we have no problems, is Oran, North Africa. The dispensary is right across from our cabin and tonight the medic corporal gave us a pint of alcohol, some cokes and grape fruit juice, se we had a party, but no girls.
February 7, 1944
Had a touch of the Flu but took some pills that kept me up all night and I feel alright today. We are about 1000 miles from the United States. Very slow ship! Sea getting rougher, probably another storm. If all goes well, we should arrive Oran in about 14 days.
February 8, 1944
Sea is very rough, big storm and much rain this morning. Still have a touch of the flu but am coming out of it.
February 9, 1944
Storm is over, sea is down and a beautiful moon tonight. Surprising good weather for the Atlantic in February. Had baloney and boiled potatoes for supper. We cook with steam, so our menu us limited. Boiled eggs and vegetables, no toast or fried foods. Gets pretty monotonous. We were allowed on deck tonight but no lights or smoking. Spent two hours on deck after supper.
February 10, 1944
The sea is smooth as a mill pong and weather is very warm. We have a PX on ship that opens every other day and you can buy almost anything except beer and booze. Cigarettes are 50 cents a carton. Plenty of cokes and our corporal give us a pint of alcohol every night, so we stay pretty relaxed most of the time. We have plenty of reading material and play poker every night. We have a big game in the hold last night, both officers and enlisted men playing. I had a big hand, paid $10 to draw one card to a Royal and made the only Royal I have ever had. Several other good hand were out and I ran out of money before all the betting was finished. My share of the pot was $1800.00 and a full house won the rest which came to $3800.00. I plan to have more money in front for the next big game. We are beginning to be bored with shi life, especially the enlisted men, they are so crowded.
We are making better time than usual, according to the Captain, and should sight the Rock around the 18th, if we do not get sunk. I had a strange experience tonight. Maj. LaMarche is a few years older than I and sort of a loner. I am about the only person he has become friendly with, although he is agreeable to others. For the last several nights he has been going on deck between 2100 and midnight. I go out for a bit nearly every night and have noticed him standing on the fantail facing home and not moving for 10 minutes or so. I felt that he wished to be alone and have not gone near him. However, tonight I followed him to the fantail and when I came near him, I could here him talking to someone. This went on for about 10 minutes and then he said good night, turned and saw me. E could see that I was curious and ask how long I had been there. I said that I could hear him talking and that I was concerned about an over-aged Major who stood on the fantail and carried on a conversation with the ocean. He laughed, swore me to secrecy, and told me that he carried on a nightly conversation with his wife via mental telepathy. He and his wife had set 0 PM her time, as the time he would call. Every night he got the ships position from the officer on watch and calculated our time corresponding to hers. It definitely was a two conversation but I have an idea that both parties were in his head.
February 11, 1944
All flags at mast this AM. An officer died on one of the ships and was buried at sea. We have quite a number of elderly officers in convoy. Warm and sunny and sea is smooth. We are just south of the Azores and gun drills are held twice daily. We have 12 guns and experienced gun crews and should be able to put up a lot of flak if we are attacked from the air. These guns crews shot down a bomber on their last trip. Our escorts have been very busy dropping depth charges and at least one ship has been torpedoed. A tanker was hit last night. It was several miles away, for this is a hug convoy, but we could see the flames and the escorts picking up survivors. We are lucky not to be in the perimeter of the convoy. A torpedo would have to miss several ships to hit us.
News report this AM. American troop transport sunk last night about 15 miles from our position. This message came in code and stated that about 3500 troops were aboard. No estimate of casualties. It was a fast Canadian Liner and travel alone, as do the two Queens. I am surprised that our convoy has not been attacked more heavily. There are many U boats in our area and supply convoys are what they are after. Weather is so warm and sunny that everyone is taking sun baths and most of the seasick are felling better. You cannot realize that it is mid-winter in the Atlantic. Phosphorescence is beautiful in the ships wake on a dark night. Enlisted men put on a dandy show this afternoon, some very talented people aboard. From the bridge, we hear we are making unusually good time and may see the Rock on the 17th.
Surprise! Surprise! The cooks came up with a real good fried chicken with lots of extras for dinner. They yse superheated steam at 400 degrees. This should be our last Sunday aboard and services for all faiths were held on deck.
February 14, 1944
Saint Valentines day and no valentines. Another day at sea, everyone is getting a nice tan while gambling , pitching coins at a line on the deck. Had two alerts but did not learn why, although we heard depth charges and guns firing in the distance. Escorts make a wide circle outside our perimeter, some staying several mils outside so they can make contact before the sub is in position to fire. We are still too far out to expect air attack. Poor Lt. Fomberg. He is a young officer from Wisconsin in our shipment and has been sick ever since he came aboard. Even sun and good weather do not seem to help him. He cannot eat and just lies on a hatch in the sun all day. He looks like a green ghost. He is a nice young man but may not be tough enough to handle an uncertain future.
February 15, 1944
Lost two ships last night in a collision. Both dropped back to make repairs. Neither is in danger of sinking but both have very large holes in the bow. Escort dropped back to protect them but they will not be able to catch if repairs take too long. As we passed one of the ships, we observed a 20 x 20 foot hole with waves washing out cargo that was plainly marked “k” and “C” rations. Several of my friends from Camp Abbot are on one of the damaged ships. Sea is building up again and we can expect attack from sea and air from now on, a most revolting thought. Gun crews practice constantly and our escorts are buzzing about like bees. Nights are pitch black and there is much danger of collision when we change course every 15 minutes.
Made us feel pretty good to observe British planes overhead and realize that Gibraltar is not far away. A German scout plane was sighted this morning but it was at 30,000 ft. so we did not waste any ammo. On a tragic note, our ships steward blew his brains out last night. He was buried this morning and everyone attended. He apparently suffered from financial and family problems and it became too much for him. We took up a collection to send his family. It is very sad. We wear steel helmets and side arms on deck now.
February 17, 1944
Sea gulls met us at dawn, must be close to land. Part of our convoy turned off for Casa Blanca this morning. Weather is cold again and it was so rough last night that I could not say in my bunks which was a top bunk!
Sighted the coast if Africa about sundown. Saw beacons flashing along the coast tonight. What you have heard about the stars in Africa is true. You see almost every constellation that is visible in this part of the world. We have picked up a number of British escort vessels from Gibraltar. Rumor has it that there will be wolf pack of subs waiting for us at Gibraltar as usual, a very dismal prospect.
Came on deck at 0830 just as we were entering the straits in a column of twos, into the Mediterranean and the most beautiful sunrise that one could imagine. The rocks looks like rose granite with the sun on it., which it is. Across are Pillars of Hercules and nestled at the foot of the hills is the town Ceuta in Spanish Morocco. A typical Moorish town all in white. From this bay Moorish pirate collected tolls from all the ships passing through the straits in the not too distant past. A sight to remember. Perhaps the fact that we have not seen land for so many days, may have influenced our emotions. Daisy and Mother would have enjoyed the sights on this lively morning. No wolf pack yet.
February 20, 1944
Entered the harbor at Oran, French Algeria, North Africa. No sub attacks last night, although there was heavy firing miles behind us. Captain said the wolf pack knew that we were coming but because of an unusually fast crossing, had arrived too late to intercept us. We thanked him for his speed. Came into the harbor at noon, a fine natural harbor with remnants of the French fleet, sunk by the British in 1942, still lying around. The upper decks if several large ships are still visible above the water. Oran appears to be a city of about 200,000 with a number of 10 or 12 story buildings on the skyline. Had a nice view of the city before debarking. We will dock tonight and debark tomorrow, I believe. The harbor is full of ships unloading supplies for Italy and our troops fighting out in the desert, about 200 miles from here.
This is the end of my diary covering the Atlantic Convoy experience. A twenty day trip across the Atlantic with a convoy of about 300 ships, of which only a few were lost to enemy action. A remarkable feat for the U.S and British Navies. It was and exciting experience for all of us and although we did not see much action, the thought of the possibility of an attack, and being aware of what had happened to some of the early convoys, kept us anticipating things that nearly but did not materialize. I have always considered myself as an adventurous person, but this adventure I would not care to repeat. However, I imaging that there will be adventures in our future that will make our trip across the Atlantic appear to have been a pleasure cruise by comparison. Heaven forbid.
North African Interlude
Oran February 21-28 1944
Debarked at 1100 today and had to climb over another larger ship to get ashore. All of the piers were taken, so we just went along side the larger ship and climbed over. It was quite a chore, considering the loads we were carrying. Went by truck to Canastel, a summer resort about 8 mils from the harbor at the foot of Lion Head mountain. The resort is being used as a bivouac area for arriving troops and troops resting after a tour in combat in Italy. I was assigned to a pyramidal tent occupied by a Chaplain. He helped me with my loot and got me settled in. By the way, part of my loot was a case of Haig pinch bottles that I had bought at the Officers Club in Newport News and smuggled aboard the George F. Dern with the help of some of the crew.
Oran is mostly of French architecture with and Arab Casbah that looks just like the ones in movies. Went into town tonight to see the sites, very interesting. About half the population is Moslem, about one fourth middle class or lower class polygot and the rest are middle or upper class French or Italian with a smattering of Spanish. The city is thriving on military money with a high rate of inflation, about 50 francs to the dollar. A glass of sour wine or a half coke bottle of passable brandy (Eau de Vie) is about ten cents. Glasses are scarce so they cut the swell part of a coke bottle and the bottom half makes a good drinking glass. A bottle of pretty fair Champagne, cold, is $3.50. Most merchandise is sky high and clothing s rationed. A year ago everything was dirt cheap but after a year of GI spending, everything is sky high. We tear up the local economy where we go.
The French, who are pro Nazi, resent us bitterly, but do not mind doing business with us and are charging exorbitant prices. Very colorful population, Arab, French, Italian, Spanish and what have you, every color from ebony to ash blonde. The high class French women are well dressed and pretty but do not associate with Americans openly, but do on the sly. Black market is flourishing and I see more silk stockings and other scarce items than I saw at home. Want to buy a Persian carpet for $1,000? You can even buy a virgin at the Arab market and when you ship out, they will buy her back at a discount, and get her ready for the next sucker. Most of these girls are under 14 years of age.
There is very little whiskey and the military has taken over all of the hotels for Nurses, WACs and personnel assigned to this HQ. Lots of veiled Moslem women with one eye peeking out and are cute but not very attractive. Most of the Arabs are ragged and filthy. The Nazis did not treat them very well, nor did the French before the Nazis came. City is full of soies and the French are very pro Nazis. Italians are most friendly and we have mostly Italian POWs working in the mess hall and kitchens and policing the area, and they are happy to be our POWs and out from under the Germans. They really hate the Nazis. My tent is about 500 yards from, and facing the castle where the Prince of Wales and Wally Simpson really got their romance under way.
February 22, 1944
We have native blood oranges scattered around in GI cans all over the area and in the mess halls. I eat a couple of dozen a day. They are delicious and have lots of vitamin “C” and also keep your bowels on schedule. They look like a cross between a tangerine and a Naval orange, peel easily and have blood red meat and are sweet with a tang. Local olives and almonds are good and we eat pounds of them with our drinks. I think I am putting on a few pounds. That;s OK, I lost a dew pounds at sea. I talked to some officers from the 36th Division today, back from Italy on R & R. They told me that the 111th Engineers, my old outfit, was shot to pieces at Salerno, 50% casualties, and that some of “A” Co., my old company, were at Anzio now. The 36th also took a licking at Messina. I guess a lot of the boys I trained with in 1941 are dead now. My lucky star must have guided me to OCS in 1942 or I might be a casualty by now. Went into town with a Medical Captain
We have just been told, when we went on deck on the night of February 19 and listen to guns firing miles behind us, that three subs were sunk at the Rock. The subs arrived one day late to hit the convoy and ran into a gaggle of planes and anti-sub ships. Only the fact that e made such a fast crossing saved us from a lot of damage and losses. The Germans know when every convoy leaves the States, what the ships are carrying and their destination. Some spy system!
February 22, 1944
A German spy was caught today in a Sergeants uniform, was tried and executed in public to discourage any other characters that might be in the area. A number of us witnessed the execution. Several of us took a Red Cross tour of the city, most entertaining. Old Catholic churches alongside a Mosque, many beautiful homes of the rich and a life size statue of Jean de Arc mounted on a horse and done in gold gilt. Went to the Officers club, The Maison Blue, very posh with pretty good food and plenty of Champagne. The bar 100 ft. long and on the back bar were 50 buckets of iced wine, ready to be served. Wine was cheaper here but a little to sweet for my taste, only drank two bottles. Afterwards we went back to Canastel and arrived in time for a little excitement. We have slit trenches adjacent to our tents. Five torpedo planes flew over us, very low at 1600 hours and torpedoed two ships in the harbor. Neither sank but were heavily damaged and lost a lot of cargo. On the way back to their base, the planes flew over us and emptied their guns into our camp. They only made one pass but that was enough for me and the chaplain! I did not know where the shots were hitting because I was trying to get deeper into my trench. No casualties but a few buildings were damaged. After it was over I needed a nerve tonic, so I ask the chaplain if he would like a drink. I thought he would be pretty dry after all the Hail Mary’s I heard him say during the raid. He accepted so I broke out a pinch bottle and we drank half of it and were not scared any more. If my Scotch holds out perhaps I will stop being such a coward before the war ends.
Took a loaf of bread and went into town to try a nice looking café that opens two days a week for one meal. You have to have a load of bread in order to be admitted. I was tenth in line and they only take 20 because that is all the food they have for that meal. The menu was either liver or poissin with pomme frites and vegetable. I chose the liver and had a serving of the most tender and flavorful liver I have ever eaten. The potatoes were perfect and fresh asparagus was out of this world. Had a cold bottle of dry Sauterne and enjoyed the meal immensely. I asked the maitre d’ where he found such good wine? He said they buried their wine before the Germans came, but now that the Americans were here and would pay for the wine, they were digging it up. I complimented him n the liver and remarked that it must have some from a young calf to be so tender. He told me that there were now cows or calves left after the German occupation but they had young donkeys and their liver was far superior to calves liver. It did not faze me and I agreed. He said he would send word when they had more liver and gave me a bottle of wine. The meal was $3.00 and he kept the bread.
When I arrived back at camp, found orders waiting for myself and my medical friend. Five days TD in Italy and we fly at 5 PM, weather permitting. We were told not to discuss our orders with anyone and to take nothing except what we were wearing. We would be issued whatever we required upon arrival at the destination. Upon our return we are to talk to no one before reporting to the CO. Thank goodness, they did not say “if you return”!
Diary ends for a while. We thought the TD might be CID work. It was not. We are not suppose to keep a diary but I am not putting down anything that will aid the enemy. Perhaps I can be forgiven. If they ever find the diary and decide to court martial me, I will probably be dead, so I won’t worry about it.
MEDITERRANEAN - CONVOY – ORAN TO BOMBAY
February 28 to March 20,1944
What a five day TD (Temporary Duty)! I got shook up pretty good. Just a hint for now and I will fill in later. We flew to Naples in a B-25 and arrived just in tine to board a fast DE (Destroyer) that delivered us at Anzio about 0500 hours. We were issued side arms and combat packs aboard the Destroyer. This shook us up sort of as we did not know our destination at the time. We have had a beachhead at Anzio since January 22, just barely! The invasion force has been trying to build up enough people and hardware to break out but it has been very slow for several reasons. Mainly because the Germans have the high ground and our people pinned down during daylight.
All personnel and supplies move in at night and the wounded and dead move out. We went back to Naples and flew back to Oran, landing just in time to board the British troops transport HMS “Lancaster” bound for Bombay. She is a large vessel, about 17,000 tons, and has been in the England-India run for many years before the war. It has excellent accommodations for officers but no too good for the enlisted men. That has always been the way the British let the Tommie know his position in the army, at the bottom. Capt. O’Grady and I have become good friends and are sharing a large first class cabin on the boat deck, with ceiling fans and private bath.
British cooks and crew and all Indian flunkies to take care of house-keeping and act as bearers, for officers only. Our troops do their own house-keeping just as the British do and, I am sure, are not going to like. I do not like it either. We watched a division of “GOUMS” (French native African tropps) load on two huge French ships. They have their woman and goats with them. Guess I am in the wrong army but I am not sure whether Daisy would come and cook for me in the field or not. T Goums are headed for Italy. I do not envy them. Maj. Moritz is in sickbay with a stomach problem. Too much Eau de Vie, I imagine. O’Grady brought about 12 quarts of brandy aboard and with my pinch bottle we should make out, if the trips is not too long. Eau de Vie is dynamite but it sure does relax a fellow.
Sailed at 2000 hours today. Ship is fairly fast, about 17 knots, almost twice as fast as the George Dern. Food is very good for an English mess. I am sure it is American food sold back to us on reverse lend-lease and costing us a fortune. I hear that the enlisted men’s mess is pretty terrible. I hear also that the ship was watered and provisioned in England with mostly US rations for officers and British rations for the enlisted men. We will probably have a mutiny on our hands before we get to Bombay.
March 1, 1944
We have followed the African coast very closely. Saw Algiers this AM and from this distance it appears to be a large and attractive city, larger than Oran. I believe we have three huge meals per day and tea and crumpets at 1600 hours. No wonder so many older English men suffer from the gout. They eat too much, too often. Our two bars are completely stocked with Scotch, Gin and Beer, however, it has been decided by Col. Schaefer, our troop CO who is a teetotaler, that we will not be allowed to drink at the bar on this trip. He may not really have that authority but I do not have enough rank to challenge him and the other Colonels are chicken. The British officers think we are crazy and I agree with them. So very kindly, they take liquor to their cabins and share it with us.
They love to talk to a yank so we give them all the conversation they want in exchange for their eight year old Scotch. British Royal Navy crew members get a big ration of Rum daily, Navy regulations. They are making a fortune selling it to our enlisted men, although I am sure the enlisted men loaded up in Oran just as we did. I can state that there is a little bootlegging going on between British officers and American officers and enlisted men. The British steward in charge of the officer’s mess and bar should be able to retire after this trip. I think it is great and I hope Col. Schaefer chokes on his lemon squash. I inspected the enlisted men’s quarters this AM and it smelled like a distillery but was clean. I did not even mention it as they have a tough time down in the hold. I have responsibility for half of the ship.
March 2, 1944
Came past the Cape Bon this AM, where the Germans were trapped last year. Two German recon places came over us, very high and fast. They were taking pictures so that they can identify our ships for their bombers. They will probably try to hit us in a few days when we are closer to their bases. We have only 30 ships in this convoy, all heavily armed. We have the first anti-aircraft rockets that I have seen. Only three British escort ships but they are big ones. One destroyer and 2 cruisers with a lots of fire power. No convoy has yet gone through the Mediterranean with out losing at least one ship. The convoy a couple of days ahead of us lost two ships with heavy casualties. Ten large ships just left the convoy and turned off for Italy. Glad I am not with them. Hope I never see Italy again, except as a tourist after the war with Daisy. I was just given a combat star for my ETO ribbon, results of the TD at Anzio. Crete tomorrow and the fire works may start then. Our first port of call is Post Said.
March 3, 1944
Passed former Italian island Pantellaria and Sicily on our port side, big mountainous islands. All our ships are trying out their guns. Our ship fired a rocket cluster at a high flying recon plane, six rockets but the plane was way out of range. The rockets make a nice pattern and they should be very effective at the right range.
Passing time on a long voyage can become a problem in such limited environment, so we bet on anything and are always looking for entertainment. Of course, we play a lot of poker, but you can’t sit on your butt and lose money all of the time. There is an Irish Lt. McLaughlin in our shipment who has been beating the stuffing out of me at poker. He is very powerful in his upper body. Does 500 push ups and 50 bar chins every day and is very proud of his strength and almost perfect physical development. Someone asked if he thought he could go hand over hand up a 1: mast guy wire about 100 ft. long and about a 45 degree angle. I examined the wire and remarked that I doubted it could be doe. Mc offered to be $20 to $10 that he could do it. I replied that I would not put my hand in my pocket for just $10. Thus encouraged, Mc bet $50 to $25 and I took the bet.
With a large crowd watching, Mc went up the first 30 ft like a circus performer and slowed down. He struggles another 30 ft and gave up barely making it back down to the deck without falling. His hands were bleeding from the number of small cuts. He left, washed up, had the medical officer bandage his hands, came back on deck and handed me $50. He said, “You are a smart SOB, aren’t you?” I said, “ I am smart enough not to dive into a pool without checking the depth of the water, if that is what you mean”. He laughed and said that he would get even. He already has. The last two times we played poker he was the big winner and I lost. I have just about lost all of the money I won on the George Dern. Lots of second best hands.
March 4, 1944
Crete is 180 miles off our port side. We are hugging the coast as closely as possible and Germans planes are over us most of the time. They are too high for us to have chance of hitting them or they us. But we fire at them occasionally, just to let them know that we know they are there. No one can understand why we have not been hit. The convoy one day behind us has been hot twice. It is a supply convoy and we are mostly troops. That is probably the reason we have escaped up to now. People are easier to replace than material. Also, the Germans may have to be more selective in their targets because of their plane and fuel shortages. If we make it through today and tomorrow, we should be comparatively safe from air attack but there will still be some danger of sub attacks. It is a ticklish feeling, I can tell you. The Medical Captain and I are bothered a lot about our TD in Italy. We fabricate and prevaricate and keep them guessing. We do not wear theater ribbons on ship so they do not know about the star. I will put it down on paper someday. Or maybe tell Daisy about it after a few Martinis. A year ago, 50% of all ships making this run were sunk!
Smooth sailing. We have lost most of our convoy by now, turning of to other destinations. Still have plenty of escorts though/ Poker last night and I lost all my money in about 30 minutes and had to started for my bunk when Col. Smith stooped me and said that he would like to stake me. I agreed and accepted, with the understanding that he would take half the winnings, if there were any. Went back to the game. Won a few good pots and then Mc and I tangled. After the draw, Mc had kings over full house but I had caught the fourth “6”. There were other good hands out and the pot came to about $500. I won several more nice pots and quit about even for the trip so far. Col. Smith refused his share of the winnings, just took his $100 back.
March 6, 1944
Arrived Port Said this morning. Port Said is a large city with the Suez Canal running right through one side of it. Dozens of ships anchored, waiting their turn at the canal. We had priority and never stopped but went right on into the canal. Lots of native “bum” boats latched on alongside selling fruit, candy and souvenirs. We saw a British sub in the harbor. Gun emplacements all along the canal banks with only one way traffic because of all the ships sunk by the Germans. The Germans mined the canal and attacked heavily from the air, trying to stop the flow of supplies to the British army last year. They were not successful but did make navigation tricky and slow. Passed through Lake Tissoum and saw one of King Farouk’s yachts. It is a big white ship, almost as big as the George Dern.
March 7, 1944
Darkness caught up with us and we anchored for the night in Bitter Lakes, just off the canal. Dozens of ships anchored, waiting their turn at the canal. One way traffic and not night movement until they get some of the wrecks removed. Came into the Suez about 10320 hours, the city at the Red Sea end of the canal. Due to complaints from enlisted men and some officers, English cooks were off loaded and American cooks and supplies came aboard. Lots of fresh fish and vegetables were brought onboard. City reminds me a lot of Port Said with lots of British troops and airfields. Could not go ashore because cholera and typhus and other diseases are epidemic. We through coins to diving boys and enjoyed their antics. They are natural comedians.
March 8, 1944
Left Suez at 1500 hours. Saw the Sinai desert with mountains in the distance at sundown. Red Sea divides Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Arabia has a lot of sand in contrast to much greenery on the Egyptian side. There are many ships of all nations in the harbor. Huge British military installations and supply dumps everywhere. Into the Red sea and it is really hot, day and night. Especially at night with the ship blacked out and most of the portholes closed. Ceiling fan just stirs up the soup, so you just drink gin and ice and sweat.
I am in charge of inspection and activities for about 1000 enlisted men and 200 Air Corp Lieutenants., which is about the ship. I have to conduct calisthenics, hold training classes, lecture on sanitation and personal hygiene and conduct life boat drills. This devours about five hours of my leisure time but it is interesting and keeps me from becoming bored. Ship inspection is held daily and different sections compete for top grade. We have won first place five times and never lower than second. I received a commendation from Col. Schaefer and was very surprised. I felt that I was on his sh—t list because of all the assignments I had been receiving and the fact he usually referred to me, to others as, “The smart ass Captain from Texas”. As a result, Col. Schaefer, my immediate superior, put a superior rating on my 66-1. Col. Schaefer said that absurd, as I already had two consecutive ratings of superior. Co. Schaefer said that he only had one superior in 25 years of service and that I had two in two years. However he did not rescind it, even though he remarked that lots of Generals did not have that many. He remarked. That as I was not a career officer I would not be competing with regular army officers so the rating could stand.
I think he was pulling my leg as I happen to know that superior ratings are seldom given in piece time and this is the first was we have had in 25 years. Army ratings or grading system is very much like grades when you were going to school. Although a grade of Satisfactory will allow an officer to achieve the rank of Captain, he can not be promoted to Major with a grade on record that is below excellent. Rating values are also relative to time, place and type of duty an officer is given. Peace time activities do not carry the weight that the same duty might carry in a combat area during the war. Consequently, and assignment carried out well during Peace time is not scrutinized as closely as a good performance under war time conditions, nor given as much credit for so doing. Well, I have three superiors. Where are my stars?
March 10, 1944
Getting closer and closer to Aden and it gets hotter and hotter. I have never seen such smooth sea. There is no perceptible motion to the ship except when you look at the wake. There is about a 5 degree list to the starboard side, due to unbalanced fuel tanks and cargo loading, but it is no a problem. We are making excellent time.
March 11, 1944
Stiflingly hot. Jap sub sunk yesterday in our vicinity and it was found to have a German crew. Several survivors were picked up and sounds as if the Germans have more crews than subs, which is encouraging to Atlantic convoys. We are coming into an area patrolled by the Jap subs but the danger of attack is negligible compared to the risk in the Mediterranean. There are lots of huge rocks as we approach the straits of Aden and we are running at reduced speed tonight.
Arrived Aden this morning. Very aptly called by the British “Hell with the lid off”. The landscape is very rocky and desolate, and used mainly as a refueling and watering point. Aden was an old pirate hang out and it looks as if some of the natives might still follow the trade. We left Aden and into the Gulf of Aden. Although we are still going South, the weather is some cooler. Had a little rain squall today, practically unknown in this part of the world. Waters are becoming more dangerous because of Jap subs in the area. Our escorts have made several contacts but were not in torpedo.
March 16, 1944
Into the Sea of Arabia. This area is supposed to be lousy with subs but nary a one have we seen. Have had British subs surface near us several time and the first one scared the hell out of us but our people knew they were there. Our subs are painted azure blue, same colors as the water. This convoy employs same evasive action as we did in the Atlantic. I have about decided, from my experience with British aboard so far, excepting the Purser and few others, that the thing I like best about them is their Scotch whiskey.
Had boxing on the deck this afternoon and our boys won every bout from the British army and navy. Our opinion or rather our impression of the British that we have had contact with, is that they are penny-wise and pound foolish, except for the reverse lend lease supplies and then they are much smarter that we are. We will probably wind up owing them a lot of money, after we financed the war.
March 17, 1944
Weather getting cooler and can stand it. Lots of excitement last night with enemy subs in our area. Planes were buzzing around dropping flares and occasionally a depth charge but no results or attacks. We saw a lot of whales today and schools of flying fish. They are cute but they do not really fly. They just leap our of the water and glide on the wind. Our Purser, who is a real nice Joe, invited me to his cabin for a drink and we polished off a bottle of eight year old Vat 69. He has an elegant cabin with two refrigerators loaded with wines, liquors and goodies such as, Russian caviar and Camembert cheese. Bernard Hoffman, one of Life Magazine’s frontline photographers was there. He told us many stories about when he and Shelly Mydans were in Portugal and Spain, the burning of the Normandie and other interesting events that he had photographed. He has had a very exciting career and is headed for the CBI (China-Burma-India) to take pictures for General Stillwell. The Purser told of his experience at Dunkirk, where the “Lancashire” evacuated thousands of French and British troops. This was the most interesting day of the trips and I got to mix the drinks.
The Pursuer had me in for cold Champagne (Pol Roget). He had a small hangover and thought I might too need a hair of the dog. I did. We are due to arrive in Bombay on Monday. We had fried eggs and American ham for breakfast. They had been saving it for a special treat for the day before our arrival in India. It tasted so good! The food has been good, not seasoned heavily enough for American tastes. The English cooks retained for the officers mess, really know how to prepare fish. Nearly every meal has fish course and, for breakfast, they prepare a Bloater (salt fish dried) that tastes almost like a fresh fish. This should be our last night aboard.
This trip was beautiful after what we went through crossing the Atlantic, all of the storms, camped quarters, poor food and other inconveniences. The weather has been perfect except for the heat. The food was excellent, the service was like living in a first class hotel. And we are going to leave the ship with all our laundry clean and our uniforms fresh pressed for the first time in a long time. We saw exotic cities and some beautiful scenery, and all in all, you would not have minded paying for trip in Peace time.
Sojourn In India March 20 to June 8,1944
March 20, 1944
Arrived inn Bombay this afternoon. It is the cleanest city in India but that is rather misleading. Everyone is confined to the ship but several of us finagled passes from Schaefer and went into the Taj Majal Hotel, the finest in India, and it was nice. We had a fine meal and brought back 16 bottles of liquor, good liquor too. They should sustain use on our long railroad trip to Calcutta.
March 21, 1944
Debarked ship and loaded on GIP (Great Indian Princes Express) express at 1500 hours. I will miss the old Lancashire, and especially the Purser, but I am sure there will be many exciting things to see and do soon. I did not get to see much of Bombay but it is immense, crowed and not too clean by our standards. I will try to see more of the city on my way back and I want to see the Taj Majal in Agra.
March 22, 1944
We are loaded on the Great Indian Princes Express and ready to take off. It will be a 4 or 5 day trip, depending on a lot of variables. Four of us, all captains, have a very adequate second class compartment that sleeps four comfortably. We have room for our card table and have bath and toilet in compartment. We are right after the supply cars, over which we have the responsibility of defending from looters, enlisted men, thieves or anyone else who likes beer or “C” rations, which we are supposed to eat during the trip. Plenty of ice is available but it was unsafe to put in high balls, so we fill the lavatory with gin, cover it with ice , fill the commode with tonic water and lemon and orange squash and ice. We are able to have cold drinks in the tropics even if the ice is contaminated. When the ice melts, we all take a pee and fill it up again squash and ice. We do flush it well before we refill it with drinks. Every one brought liquor so we should be alright for the trip.
Out of Bombay passing through large agricultural areas, crowded with lots of natives and water buffalo. Every time we stop at a station, which is frequently, the natives crowd around the train selling fruit, candy, sandwiches and tea and begging. We are not allowed to buy any food or drink because of contamination. We throw a few Annas out the window and cause a near riot.
March 23, 1944
We entered secondary jungle and game country during the night. Saw a lot of monkeys and other small animals and what I took to be a baboon this morning. This is supposed to be Tiger country, so we all have our heads out the window looking for one. Not much chance though, this is fairly open country and I imagine the train frightens most game away. The natives are most interesting. The children are all naked and the adults all with caste marks. There are beggars by the thousands, huge profession here.
We have been passing through heavy primary jungle all day. The area is the finest Tiger hunting country in India. Also Leopards are plentiful. The cats follow the deer and other small game and we see deer and antelope in the thousands, many of them as large as our Elk. We stopped at Raigpur Junction for an hour around midnight. Had tea and biscuits with an English resident’s wife and daughter. They were charming and gracious. They got up and came down to meet the Yanks and do what they could to break the monotony of the long train trip. There were a number of other English families there for some purpose. We have a nice visit with our hostess and learned a lot about this part of India. Here husband has killed 30 Tigers over the years, He is the Man Eater hunter when it becomes necessary. We were invited to stay with them and hunt Tigers, if we ever came this way again. I think I British women better than the men.
Malaria, leprosy and all types of venereal diseases are prevalent here, as it is all over India, because of overcrowding and lack of sanitation. We should make Calcutta tomorrow.
Pulled into Howrah station this morning and were met by American Red Cross ladies with doughnuts, sandwiches, tea, coffee and ice cream. Quite a treat after several days “C” and “K” rations. We were most grateful and KISSED THEM ALL, young and old alike, and the old ones twice. Train was shunted on to a spur and we went about 25 miles out of Calcutta to Camp Angus on the Hooghly river.
The Hooghly is a large branch of the Ganges and is also a Holy river. We detrained about dusk and were assigned to quarters for the night. Slept on a charpoy under a mosquito bar for the first time. It will be mandatory from now on.
Camp Angus is nice. It was established many years ago for the Scotch who manage and direct large jute mills here. The Scots have very comfortable brick homes with all conveniences plus bowling green, theater, club with swimming pool, and oh, yes a cricket playing field. About 150 Scots and their families live here. A sizeable portion of jungle was cleared to construct the bashas for American officers and enlisted men. This is a pool of personnel, either waiting assignment or taking R & R. We are in and officers pool because our assignment went down the drain while we were at sea. The Japs captured Kweilin. Bashas are built of bamboo and have thatched roofs. We have rope beds called charpoys with mosquito frames. Sort of like sleeping in a hammock except it is stable.
There are about four officers to a basha. We have running water and showers and the food is very good, a combination of GI rations and Indian fruits, condiments and rice. I have never eaten Mango before this morning at breakfast! They are a marvelous fruit for breakfast or any other time, for that matter. Fairly large with a huge single seed like an Avaocado, but lots of meat and when at the right degree of ripeness, have a distinctive a flavor as strawberries or huckleberries. Although no similar in texture or flavor. They grow on large trees with many branches and large leaves and make excellent shade trees.
Our section of camp is called Cobra Corner because so many snakes were killed while clearing the 2 acre patch for our bashas. There are plenty of snakes in the jungle which come up to within 50 feet of our bashas and occasionally they stray in to camp, so our bearers tell us.
A funny thing happened this morning to support our bearers stories. Before I awakened, Capt. Baker’s bearer woke him up crying “Snake! Snake!” and when I awakened I saw Baker’s bearer stomping on a small snake. They warned us to shake out our books every morning in case a small snake had moved in. Baker’s bearer apparently had found this small Krait, a snake more poisonous that the Cobra, in Baker’s boot. He was pretty shook up and gave his bearer 10 Rupees for saving his life. I took the small Krait, over the bearers protest that the snake was still dangerous, out into the light to examine it. It had obviously been killed some time previously and even had ants working on it. The bearer was watching me apprehensively and when I threw it away and said “Good Show” he was relived. I found out later that this is a trick they play on newcomers to curry favor.
I did not tell Baker about the fake. I did not want to tarnish his first brush with danger. We are only about 200 miles , by air, from where General Slim and the British 14th Division are in contact with the Japs.
Supplies go by boat up the Hooghly to the troops. Things are very peaceful here. You would never know that India was in a war if it wasn’t for all the uniforms around. The Japs last bombed this camp and Calcutta on December 5, 1943.
March 27, 1944
Drove in to Calcutta and had lunch at the World famous Firpos Restaurant and drinks later at the Grand Hotel, Calcutta’s most distinguished. Lunch cost 3 Rupees ($1) and took an hour to eat. Dinner was 6 Rupee and took 2 hours. Finest meal I have ever eaten excepts for Daisy’s crab soufflé and steaks at the Statler in St. Louis. The company probably had something to do with the flavor of the soufflé. Sure wish you could be here to enjoy Calcutta with me.
Sample menu for dinner at Firpos; 22 courses including lobster, shrimp, hor d’ oeuvres, fried potatoes, fried prawn, sweet bread, shoe string potatoes, veal, beef tenderloin, onion rings, braised celery and peppers, 6 cooked vegetables, 5 fresh vegetables for salad, ice cream and assorted sweets, after dinner liqueur and coffee. Drinks are generous and cheap, 1 Rupee for gin and tonic, 2 Rupees for Scotch and soda.
Barrage balloons all over the city although they have not had a raid for several months and blackouts are hair raising. I had a frightening ride in a cab with a bearded Sikh driver. I could not see anything and he drove like a mad man, must have eyes like a cat. I visited the New Market Bazaar the city market, partly in the open and partly under cover. It covers about 5 acres and you can buy anything made anywhere in the world, including Cadillacs and airplanes, The fresh food section would make you stop eating almost all fresh foods and eat canned food altogether. Hundred of fresh slaughtered animals hanging, black with flies. They just brush off the flies and cut your portion. Fruits and vegetable are not too well presented either. There are some nice shops that handle quality merchandise and advertise one price only, but you must bargain. That’s half the fun and you can usually get the price down by half if you dicker long enough.
In camp all day, too hot for much exercise but I did play some ping-pong and horse shoes. I have no duty assignments other than censoring out-going enlisted men’s mail. I feel like a sneak but you sure get in on some family secrets, censoring enlisted men’s mail. Several of our group went up into the jungle for a few days of DS. Although we sleep under netting, there are no insects or mosquitoes in camp. The air corp. sprays camp daily with DDT.
A large monkey or baboon came into camp this morning. Officers and enlisted men chased it but fortunately no one caught it. They are almost as large as a man and can bite like a crocodile. Jackals and other scavengers come to the edge of the camp at night looking for food. They are noisy but not dangerous. Lots of activity at the airstrip today, the Japs are making a drive for the Arakan, trying to cut the railroad behind the British. British and American Bombers and fighters taking off constantly during the day for missions supporting the British and American troops involved in defending Arakan.
March 30, 1944
A transport plane, on fire, came over camp last night and crashed about a mile from camp. Poor devils, hope they had parachutes and got out. Not much to do except play poker, have a drink and wait for an assignment. We now have light calisthenics early in the day and a few military classes and then out time is out own. We do have to let HQ know where we are at all times. I talked with several officers returning for R&R (Rest and Relaxation) after being on DS with the British as liaison officers. They say it is pretty rugged in the jungle. Guess I will find out pretty soon.
Had services for the three airmen who died iin the flamer last night. The plane was a helicopter rather than a transport with a three-man crew. Apparently it exploded and no one could get out. Looks now as if we will be here for some time. I do not think any of us are frothing at the mouth to get shot at by the Japs but most of us would like to find out what it is all about. You can’t really learn about combat by reading books.
Pay day. Drew pay in rupees. Only denomination are 1, 5, 10 and 100 rupees. There are copper coins called annas, 16 to the rupee. Rupees are worth about .33 cents and, at present, is the most stable currency in the world. The Indian government makes a fortune on their currency program. All mutilated currency above one rupee can be turned in for fresh notes at the bank. Once rupee notes that become too mutilated to be acceptable belongs to the last person to hold it. In this economy, the number of one rupee notes in circulation probably out numbers all other notes by 50 to 1. India is the only participant in the war to show a profit. They have built up 8 billion dollars surplus during the war and Indian currency is much sought after by the Japs and the Chinese. 100 rupee notes, worth about $30 US, will bring $40 in China. Went to a movie this afternoon and sang God save the King at the end. Poker tonight, big game.
April 2 and 3, 1944
Played poker last night and won $210.00. Was $500 ahead at one time but did not have sense enough to quit. Not too much to spend money on around so I sent Daisy $150. My good friend Capt. Thompson is about the best poker player in camp and I am the second best. We never butt heads though. He stays out of my pots and visa versa. We read each other very well. Went to Calcutta, delicious Chinese food at the Cathay restaurant, dinner at Firpos later, 19 courses and then on to the Great Eastern Hotel for dancing and drinking. Most restaurants are off limits but the ones that are on limits are the best in town.
April 4 & 5, 1944
Went to the new market in Calcutta, bought brass and ivory to send home. I almost bought a beautiful sapphire, 2 ½ carats, for 200 rupees but discovered a slight internal flaw and did not buy. It would have been a steal at 1000 without the flaw. Should have bought it anyway. It would have made a beautiful ring for Daisy. Went on to the burning Ghats on the river to watch people burning their relatives. Suttee, the practice of burning a live wife with a dead husband was outlawed many years ago by the British. It costs 5 ruppees to use the Ghats, where an attendant performs the cremation. The relatives take the ashes and scatter them in the Ganges or Hoogly. The people who cannot afford the fee, cut off the heads for burial and throw the body in the river. The head cutting is so the body will not be identified. There are a great many bodies disposed of in this manner. Watched a Spitire take off from a park right in middle of downtown Calcutta.
April 6 & 7,1944
The bodies of several natives without heads have floated ashore at camp. We went down and watched the buzzards pick them apart. Pretty gruesome site but you get used to almost anything over here. Many beggars die on the streets of Calcutta and the meat wagon is kept busy for hours every morning removing the bodies. Most die at night. Got first beer ration today, a 48 can case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Iced it down and had cheese, sardine, crackers and cold, cold beer. It sure was tasty but does not compare with champagne and canapés in Bend, Oregon.
April 8 & 9, 1944
This laying around will never win the war. Wish I could get an assignment and go to work. Have too much time to miss my wife and tings back home. O’ Grady does not miss anyone. He never gets off his charpoy except to go to mess or the toilet. He just lies around and sips gin all day. He is the sone of a wealth Virginia family and trying his best to become an alcoholic. A negro soldier shot a white officer in Calcutta last night. CID friends of mine were sent to apprehend and arrest him.
April 10 & 11,1944
Fight in Assam and the Chin hills is picking up but I do not think that the British or Chinese are going to extend themselves. They know we are bringing a lot of people into the CBI and will wait for us to help them. Have been having some nice bridge games lately. Col. Starchey, myself, Col. Matthews and Capt. Thompson. We play for tenth of a cent so no one can get hurt very badly. I lost about 15 rupees last night. Col. Starchey is Medical and Col. Matthews is my Regimental Commanding Officer at Camp Abbot, Oregon.
Took a conducted tour of military installations and supply dumps in and around Calcutta. Enough supplies to invade Europe with. Also, enough supplies are being stolen to supply a huge black market. Do you want to buy a sack of sugar, case of Maxwell House or perhaps a Jeep? It can all be bought on the black market and at reasonable price. Accountability is so loose and house-keeping so slovenly, that there have to be officers and enlisted men involved in the thefts. It is possible to become a millionaire, almost overnight, if you are crooked. Example: We have a black motor regiment that unloads ships and truck the supplies to the various supply dumps for distribution. One ship came in with 100,000 cases of beer. Truck drivers took every third truckload to a secret dump back in the jungle and kept it under their own guard. Sold it on the black market for $20 per case. Net profit – 35,000 cases at $20 per case equals $700,000.00. This is just a drop in the bucket. It looks as if everyone is in the act and us good guys do not have enough rank to do any good. If I were a 3-star general, the Federal penitentiary at Ft. Leavenworth would be overflowing in six months!
The food in our mess is getting pretty lousy. I think the mess officer is selling his supplies to play poker. Played poker with him last night and Tommie and I won about $500 apiece. The mess officer went back three times during the game to get money so he could continue playing. There is no credit in these games. Camp Angus is a very pleasant place to loaf but is loosely manage with too much waste and graft. I am sure that the dumps are keeping the Black Market in business. You can buy almost any kind if American merchandise for a price.
April 14 & 15, 1944
It rained today, very stormy, had a few classes and listened to a Col. Back from China talk about our effort and conditions in China. It was very interesting and I bet I wind up in China someday. Some of our officers left today for Liaison duty at the NCAC with the Chinese Army in Burma. Hope I can leave Angus soon. I did receive orders today. I am to proceed to Ramghar, about 200 miles inland from here. Chinese divisions are training at this camp. We leave by first available rail transportation. HOORAY!
April 16, 17, 18,1944
Learned that, at Ramghar, we shall take a jungle survival course, learn to speak Chinese and learn the duties of a Liaison officer with Chinese Engineer troops. We will move up with the troops when their training I completed. Sound what I have been waiting for but it will probably be changed several times before I get my final orders. We are standing by with nothing to do but be ready to move on a short notice. Have had good luck at poker. I have to build up my reserves for the big games that held in Ramghar. We stood down and do not know how long the delay will be. No trains or other transportation available. Two negro soldiers have killed a Sikh taxi driver last night in Calcutta. All cab drivers struck in protest and cabs are placed off limits to all US troops. Thousands of taxis drivers paraded in protest at the U.S. Headquarters. A very noisy demonstration.
Saw Crash Dive last night at the English Compound. Very good submarine picture. The movies over here are nearly all about war, as is the news. Of course, the British have known nothing but war for the last several years. They are very good movies too and most realistic. We go to the compound frequently for cold drinks, a swim, shoot a little pool, have a snack and sometimes we have fried eggs with toast and marmalade. I have acquired a taste for English Marmalade.
There are a couple of funny or perhaps you could call them peculiar things pertaining to Camp Angus and also other parts of India. First, there is the Bore that comes roaring up Hooghly everyday at high tide. At least once each day the Bore comes roaring past Camp Angus, A wall of water about 4 feet high, and any boat that is not anchored bow to bore stands a good chance of founding. You can hear the Bore, the roar of the Bore, for several minutes before it arrives.
Another strange thing is the Bamboo Borers. I guess one might call them bamboo termites except they do not fly or line in the ground and are very tiny. The support members of out bashas are all fairly large sections of bamboo. These little buggers infest these member and bore little holes, almost to tiny for a fine needle to penetrate. These little devils just literally east us out of house and home. They never stop boring and cause a fine talcum-like dust to float in the air constantly. They eventually weaken the rafters supporting the thatched roof enough to cause it to collapse of its own weight., usually after a rain., You wake up each morning with a fine film of bamboo dust covering your body. I do not know which end of the borer it comes from but it does not harm you and a shower removes it easily. They can also be heard doing their little drilling when it is very quiet.
Hooray, I hear that we leave tomorrow. About a days ride, I believe, via Calcutta. Ramghar is supposed to be the best camp in India, with bar and officers club and everything for our comfort. A likely story. I just hope that they have Scotch. I am trying to hord my last few pinch bottles. Two doctors left for Kunming, China today. The Japs have been bombing Kunming pretty regularly and more medics are needed. It breaks up our bridge game.
Finally, I believe we have some reliable poop. We leave tomorrow. It is funny how much misinformation gets around. It is called Latrine Rumor in the Army and Scuttle Butt in the Navy. The mess officer that we won money from was relieved of his duty for spending mess funds, and was reclassified. Tommy and I have a lot of that fund in our pockets.
Caught train for Ramghar at 1630 hours and were three hours late by midnight. Had a pretty good sleep in the train lasat night when rain cooled things off. Arrived Ramghar at 1130 hours. This is suppose to be the best effort the Americans have made in India. General Stillwell came here when he led the march out of Burma and established a training camp for the Chinese. Gem. McCabe is in command here.
April 25,26,27, 1944
Had Indian small pox shot and met Gen. McCabe today, very nice gentleman. We shall stay here a month learning Chinese language and customs and how to survive in the jungle. After this is accomplished, we are to fly to China for liaison duty with “Z” foreces, our original assignment. It sounds like a good assignment and we shall probably see action there as the Japs are pushing harder there all the time. The Japs are running out of time.
We are presently quartered in large pyramidal tents, six officers to the tent and eight enlisted men to their tents. See the advantage of being an officer, you have 6 inches more room on each side of your cot. These tents have double fly and are open all around for air circulation. The British have the best jungle equipment in the world. Of course, they have been over here for a 100 years. The temperature gets around 125 degrees by 1400 hours in the afternoon. The officers club is grand, with refrigeration, plenty of ice, good food and Scotch and soda for 3 ruppees and plenty of it.
HOT, HOT, HOT, 125 in the shade. No movement this time of day. We can only survive this heat because of the extremely low humidity, about 5%. The natives are burning the fields and some of the forest around town at night, preparing for planting season. The fires drive lots of game out where they can be shot. The natives have plenty of fresh meat and so do we. Hot and hotter, started refresher course today, 6 am to noon.
Have the afternoons off as it is too hot to be in the sun. The nights cool off very nicely though. The natives do a lot if singing and dancing at night and produce some strange and exotic sounds from their instruments. Its is all very interesting and exotic.
Hot and hotter, Chinese lesson from 1600 to 1700, what a language, small wonder the Chinese have not made progress over the centuries. Routine, I now know 6 words. We are learning to read and write, just trying to learn Chinese so that can deal with Chinese officers who have learned a little English. Poker last night, did pretty well. Tommie left us for a Chinese Division that is in training at Ledo, Assam. Bridge game is out now, all the good players leaving.
April 30, 1944
We are in Jungle training and instructions from a Baptist missionary who has lived over here for 20 years. He is a real nice guy and is an agricultural missionary and not a preacher, so he is believable when he discusses survival in the jungle. I now know how to confuse a wild bull elephant, how to escape from hamadryad (12 foot Cobra) who will go out of his way to bite you and what to do when a tiger charges. I also know how to tell which jungle fruits and vegetable are edible and know that all jungle meat is edible if it does not eat you first. I did take a lot of notes and if I can remember what to do in each case, I may survive. The jungle training and instruction was a fascinating course.
Invited to a Chinese dinner tonight by a Chinese Colonel. Real Chinese food prepared by real Chinese cooks. How Chinese can you get? They say you can expect almost anything, so each of us it taking a bottle of liquor. What a hangover! The Chinese is very tasty and well prepared, all served in courses piping hot. Much of the food has a strange appearance and you do not know what it is unless you ask and don’t ask.
Chinese officers idea of fun, besides eating and drinking is to try and drink Americans under the table. Shao Shing (rice wine) is served warm and is part of every course, several cups of it, all night long with frequent Gan Bei of liquor. Gen Bei translates into “bottoms ups”. We Gan Bei an awful lot and most of the Chinese officers went under the table and so did our less seasoned officers. I did pretty well but was awful drunk. Chinese do very well on Shao Shing but do not have much tolerance for Whiskey. The Col. Had to be carried to the gate to bid us good night.
Had a touch of the runs today. Probably the results of the party last nite. I took several Guanadine tablets just in case it might be a bowel exercise known as Bassilar dysentery. There are several officers in the hospital with Amoebic dysentery and the series of 16 shots hurt as much as hydraphobia shots except they are given in a different part of the anatomy. If the shots are not effective, they will be sent home for hospitalization and further treatment. The natives fertilize with human excrement so we have to be very careful what we eat. You cannot eat any uncooked vegetables. Bu Hao, Chinese for “No Good”.
I am inspecting the enlisted mens quarters and club. They have it about as good as we do and that is the way it should be. I guess I think more like an enlisted man that an officer, having been an enlisted man for over a year and am still an enlisted man at heart.
Today I went on holiday for a visit to the Rajah of Ramghar’s palace. It is almost like something out of Arabian Nights. He has 12 elephants, each with its own attendant, 12 cars, from 2 jeeps through 2 Ferraris and Jaguars and winding up with 2 Rolls Silver Clouds. Four chauffeurs are polishing all day. Palace theater looks like a harem and he does have a harem also. He picks off all the cutest chicks in his state when they are about 14, but he also has 2 English girls in his seraglio. We saw the harem girls but they would not show their faces. They did swish provocatively though, the Rajah is handsome and 26 years old. He is very good to his people and much loved by them. The village is cleaner and more substantial that most and the people are cleaner and better looking than most. They all work for the Rajah and he takes good care of them. He has a fine zoo with almost every animal living in India and a great man from other parts of the world.
He has about a dozen of the largest and most handsome tigers I have ever seen, one of them is white, which is rare, and also have a white elephant from Siam. Went through his treasure house and never saw so much gold and jewels and fine ceremonial robes and jewel incrusted swords pieces and head gear, Rubies and emeralds as large as walnuts and diamonds by the quart. It is hard to believe that he is one of the poorer Rajahs, with only about $110,000.00 per week from his coal mines.
Classes and practice for night compass problem tomorrow. Am no looking forward to it as it will be over some pretty wild country. Night compass thru an unfamiliar jungle is very tough going when you expect to meet a tiger face to face or step on a snake. They do hunt at night, you know. We trekked five miles without a light and by the stars with only a Brunton compass. We missed our objective about 200 yards, which I thought was great although the referee did not. Some of the others never did find theirs. I am covered with scratches and insect bites. I will carry plenty of repellent next time but we had not been bothered in camp.
I am doing some staff work for Col. Schaefer who will be chief of staff for the “Z” force. He does not drink but does like the girls and has had several of the young ones working in the camp. I have talked him into easing up on drinking regulations, that is, being able to drink in your quarters if you do not want to go to the club. I drove Ranchi, a large British air base, about 30 miles from Ramghar. Went to a large Ursuline convent where young women are taught the art of making ace items such as handkerchiefs, napkins, doilies, etc. It is beautiful work and interesting to see them throw the bobbins, all by hand. I bought some beautiful pieces for Daisy.
May 10, 1944
Classes and routine duties today, censoring mail, listening to complaints from enlisted men and having an occasional gin and tonic. This is very good tiger and bear country, they say. About 2 or 3 times each year a native is picked off, usually a female who has strayed too far looking for a goat or gathering fruit or fire wood in the jungle. Then there is a big hunt for the maneater, who is usually an old animal who has lost his teeth and can no longer bring down wild game. I would like to go on a tiger hunt. I was surprised to learn that the biggest killer in India is the Cobra. Over 40,000 natives are bitten and die each year.
We have a very fine officers club and get tight almost every night. The bartender dishes out a lot of drinks on the house, this being a non-profit operation. So some times you find that you are only paying for every third drink, so you pretty nearly have to get tight to keep the club from showing a profit.
General McCabe gave a reception last night for “Z”force officers, with all kinds of drinks and fancy state-side food. I like to have dropped my teeth when I ran ino Dog Dawson at the party. We played football together at SMU in 1927 and 1928. He made All American end in 1928. I had not seen him in 15 years and he had not changed a bit. He is a Major in Chemical Warfare and supposed to go to China with us.
We are really working at Chinese classes and other courses. I must know at least 40 words that I can pronounce so a Chinese might recognize them. They say that the uneducated (about 90%) Chinese soldier has only about a 400 word vocabulary with ver few verbs but quite a few adjectives and lots of nouns. Educated Chinese have much larger vocabularies but the Chinese language has far fewer words than the English language. If there is no word for an object, they just point and dung shi, which translates as “that thing”. Checki dung shi, particular part or thing.
We finished Chinese and other classes today. I do not think any of us are very fluent. Although some of the men picked it up much faster that I did. I was asked to serve on the staff of the rear echelon of “Z” force. Several hundred troops are due to arrive from the states soon, so I imagine we will have to give them refresher courses that we have just completed.
There are more overage in grade, high ranking officers here that I thought would be in our entire army. Some of them are unfit for field duty and I am sure many of them will be sent home before we move to China.
We are making arrangements to move into new barracks and HQ. Buildings. It will be nice to get out of the tents. Preparing to receive troops and begin training. It appears that, in addition to my other duties, I am to act as assistant G-3. Probably as a results of mytroop training at Abbot and Leonard Wood. Moved into new quarters that used to be General Lindsay’s home. This is a very large and comfortable house posh by Indian standards, with ceiling fans, refrigerators, hot and cold water with private baths and private bedrooms for each staff member. My room is next to Col. Schaefers, so I guess he plans for me to be his aide. About eight officers will live in the HQ building.
Beer ration today and I have scrounged 15 cases of “Bud”. I was authorized to buy it from enlisted men who did not drink. All of the staff pitched in and I paid $10 per case. Col. Schaefer has relented and agreed to let us serve beer and liquor in the club room at HQ. We shall keep 2 cases on ice at all times and will probably have lots of high ranking quests. It sure is a tough war but we will try to endure.
500 officers and enlisted men arrived from Calcutta today. Very busy getting them unloaded and settled into quarters, taking small pox shots and drawing equipment. Light training starts tomorrow. Have the training schedule organized. These troops have complete basic training so this exercise will be a repeat of what we have just been through.
I have a hell of a detail for tomorrow. I have to receive 3000 troops arriving by train at Ranchi. This is an emergency, high priority movement to relieve some exhausted troops in Burma. These troops will spend one night in British barracks and be flown to Burma. Equipment, including arms and ammo, will be issued at Ranchi. These men will go right into action to relieve Merrill’s Marauders who are pretty sick and need help badly. I hope they have had combat experience. I have been placed in charge of the movement and can select all the help that I need from our staff. I have chosen 10 officers and briefed them on how I wish to hand the exercise. The monsoons are beginning and will probably low up the operation. I may be a Lt. After this assignment.
Unloaded 3000 troops at Ranchi fresh from the US of A. They had a fast ship to Calcutta, where trains were waiting to bring them here, so they are in pretty poor physical condition. Each of my staff officers brought two NCO;s, so the unloading and dispersal went pretty well. Some old infantry Colonel at the strip asked me, sarcastically, if I thought I could handle the movement properly with only 10 officers and 20 NCO’s. I told him I was sure we could handle it if he would just stay in the back ground and observe, as he was suppose to do. He said I was a smart ass Captain but when I showed him my orders over Stilwell’s signature, he shut up and walked away. If these are combat troops, I hope I never see an eigh ball. These troops were scoured up from camps all over the country. And if I know company commanders, they got rid of their 8 balls and trouble makers. Some have not ever been on the rifle range. Some were cooks and did not complete their basic training, as frequently happens in the kitchen.
The thought of these men being sent up to relieve seasoned jungle fighters, who even though sick with malaria and still holding out, is absurd. Merrill’s Marauders are seasoned jungle fighters who went through the Guadalcanal campaign and were sent to Burma to blunt the Japanese offensive and did. They have lost some of their effectiveness through sickness and fatigue but are still doing a good job. But for how long? It seems criminal and wasteful to send these inexperienced troops up where the Japs will eat them alive. If I had enough rank, about 4 stars, I would have somebody’s ass for this!
Today we loaded men on C-46 and C-47 transports. We loaded unusually heavy because it is a fairly short flight and they could cut down on the fuel load. They fly directly to an emergency strip near Myitkyina as the airfield is still in Jap hands. We are hitting Myitkyina from two sides but they still control most of the airfield. These boys are scared and ask me many questions because they think I have been up there. I try to answer and encourage them as best I can while giving a group instructions on the operatio and maintenance of the Garand M-1 rifle. We also have been giving mortar squads instructions on the aiming and fireing of the 81mm mortar. Heavy rains complicated the loading process some but we got them airborne between showers.
Loaded another 1000 men today in heavy rain. Thirty-six hours from now, a lot of these boys will be casualties. I talked to the battalion CO.,who was pretty apprehensive about the quality of his troops. I tried to encourage him but I am afraid I did not sound convincing. He has had no combat experience. He asked if I would like to come along as his 2nd in command but I told him I could not because of my special orders. I would not care to go into combat with this outfit. God help them. The native girls swarm the barracks area at night, at least the men had a little fun before going off to war.
Completed the assignment at Ranchi. I think we did a good job so I stood the officers and NCOs a couple of rounds at the bar. I hear by the grapevine (G-L) that I may have a new assignment, no with “Z” forces after all. I have not been able to find out what it is but I am praying that it is not to join the troops that I just shipped out. I think that I would go over the hill first! I would not mind a little combat duty, I think, but not with Col. G and his 8 balls. I hope he has not pulled any strings to get me.
We got a commendation today, from the man himself, for the way we handled the Task Force movement. I am glad that I had such good help from O’Grady, Matthews, Baker and so many good noncoms.
Stepped up training program. Weather is cooler and we put in about 10 hours per day of hard training. It rains a great deal but nights are much cooler, about 75 degrees. I am in charge of housekeeping, Mess, bar and just about everything else that no one else wants to be responsible for. At least I do have to furnish the girls. There are hot and cold running brunets all over the place. I have good Indian help and they know how to work. They are the lower castes and have worked for the British for years so they are well trained.
Strong rumors about some of us leaving soon. Sounds encouraging and I imagine it will be forward rather than to the rear, Hooray! I am leaving soon. About 12 of us are slated to move up to NCAN (Northern Area Combat Command) sometime in the near future. We do not know what the assignments are but they are to a combat area.
If nothing delays us we will be leaving about June 6. Can’t leave soon enough to suite me. A few of our group hate to leave the good life at Ramghar and I think they would be better off staying here and training troops for the duration. There was a big farewell party last night. We drank all of our beer and Col. Schaefer even proposed a toast. Schaefer said that he could probably get my orders changed if I would like to remain on his staff. I said thanks but no thanks. Not a bad guy but he has to depend too heavily on his staff. Lots of big heads today but probably not too many from here on.
We have been turning in old equipment and drawing new and are supposed to leave on the 7th. It is sort of a thrill to think about it but also a bit scary. We left for Command HQ., Rear Echelon, Ledo, Assam, North India.
Arrived Calcutta after a hectic train ride. Nearly every one got drunk last night and a number of officers and enlisted men smuggled girls aboard, so it was pretty racy. It was really too hot for romance. When we arrived in Calcutta we were met with the news of the Normandy Invasion. That set off a round of celebrations and every one sat glued to the radio. This could be the beginning of the end in Europe. They broke through the German’s lines and out of the beach head at dear old Anzio on May 22 and rolled into Rome a week later. We are kept up to date pretty well in other theaters but do not know what is going on in our own. They are pretty stingy with CBI war news so things must be pretty grim.
Sight-seeing, eating, drinking and raising hell in general, celebrating the invasion nad our departure to Ledo. I guess everyone wants a last fling before the jungle!
Duty in Assam and Burma
Left by train for Assam this morning. Had very poor accommodations and weather was hot and muggy. However, they have Scotch and clean ice in the diner, so I guess we shall survive. We entered dense jungle almost immediately after leaving the environs of Calcutta, traveling north.
We crossed the Brahmaputra river, a very wide stream, at Pandu Station. Two differing gauges are used by the Railroads in India, broad gauge from Calcutta to Pandu and narrow gauge on the other side of the river. We had to transfer ourselves and all our loot on to the ferry and reload on the narrow gauge trains. We had about a two hour ride on the ferry. Nice lounge, tea, beer, gin and some tasty snacks available. Not a bad crossing.
We are taveling through dense jungle. At times it looks as if we were traveling through a tunnel, the immense trees and ferns grow so close to the track. It is very dark and we have lights on in the coaches. The dining car is 2 cars ahead of ours. There is no internal passage between cars as in US trains, but sort of a walking board along the outside of the cars that allows you to change cars if you like living dangerously. We do not mind because that is where the booze is. Scotch is rationed, just one bottle per day and three of us share it and then finish up on the gin and tonic, which is plentiful. Its nice to have a drink with ice in it.
Arriving at Manipur Junction, we are just a few miles from where the British are fighting at Kohima. Just a month ago the Japs captured Manipur, cut the railroad and started down the tracks for Pandu but a British force intercepted them and drove them back to Kohima where the fighting is now.
Arrived at Ledo, Assam, in the northern part of India just below the Burma border. This is mile 1 on the Ledo road to Myitkyina in Burma. It is also know as Picks Pike because the road engineer is General Pick. He is a one star general in the engineer corps. Weather is much cooler but very damp, the Monsoons have started. We put up for the night in tents, damit, I am put on DS with the 14th Chinese Division in training at mile 22. Some of the rest go straight to Shadazup, Burma by plane. Guess the war will be over before I get there.
June 13, 1944
I have been assigned, I am assistant division engineer, helping my good old poker buddy, Captain Thompson, handle an easy assignment. Tommie saw my name on the list of officers arriving at Ledo and asked for me. He claimed that he had more duty than he could handle alone. Chinese training has a high priority, so he got me. The best soldier that I have met overseas is Captain Thompson. He is about 31 years old, tall and rangy, played at Alabama and has had combat duty in the Aleutians, where he was decorated and got the Purple Heart. He hates Japs violently and cannot wait to start killing them. A close friend was killed at Dutch Harbor.
Tommie said they needed a good bridge player and when my name appeared on the list, his Colonel, the chief division liaison officer, said to get me assigned to him. Speaks well for the way officers are selected for assignments. Tommie said there was very little work to do but there was a hell of a lot of bridge to be played because the Colonel was a bridge addict.
Not mush work. The division is suppose to be fully trained and just waiting to be moved up to the combat area. My assignment is not permanent. I was just drawn because Tommie is a friend and I lplay a passable game of cards. Our Colonel is a disgruntled regular army officer who has the dubious distinction of having been in grade longer that nay other light colonel in the service. He is about 55 and I am sure if he gets his promotion he will be sent back home to a desk job. He is a pretty good player but cannot stand to lose. Very touchy situation because Tommie and I van beat him and his partner most of the time. So he demands that one of us be his partner, most of the time, We see to it that he wins about two out of three rubbers to keep him happy because he can be a bastard when he is unhappy, which is most of the time, except when playing bridge.
I believe it si probably as dangerous here as it will be in combat. The Chinese soldier is notoriously trigger happy and are usually poor marksmen. None of these soldiers have ever had a gun in his hands before coming to India for training. They regard their rifle as anew kind of toy and the fact that it can hurt them is incidental. Consequently, they shoot at anything that moves and usually empty their rifle. However, they have become very good artillery and Chemical mortars. If you give the right coordinates, they are as good as our people. Last night we had a mortar firing problem using compass grid and maps. They set up about 2 mils from division headquarters and starting fireing. They eveidently had their azimuth wrong because rounds starting falling near us and we spent the next hour in slit trenches even after the rounds moved away from us.
A 4.2 mortar round weighs about 25 lbs., and makes quite a splash when it lands. I told Tommie that he was assigned and had to stay but that I was TD and was going to ask for a transfer. He agreed, saying there was not much profit in TD or DS and they would just have to locate another bridge player. I did meet General Gu of the 14th Division Commanding Officer and I did not understand a word he said!
The Monsoons are really here, rain and more rain. I have never seen it come down so hard, a constant roar on the trees and on the bashas. They have over 300 inches of rain each year. We sit around, play bridge and drink whatever we have on hand and take a squad or platoon out occasionally on a training patrol. We come back, burn off the leeches and put on dry cloths. Everything stays damp and will almost while you are wearing it. Leather rots out in a month if you do not keep it oiled.
Rain and more rain. Bridges are going out all along the road. We have men out in jungle cutting bridge timbers out of beautiful light and dark mahogany that would be worth a fortune in the US. When we fell these trees the ground is covered with orchids brought down with the trees. Guess we killed a million dollars worth today. Tommie and I each have a large detail out strengthening, repairing and rebuilding damaged bridges.
Flood water dispersal has been one of the main problems in building and maintaining the road (Ledo Road). Leeches are one of the main pests in the jungle. There are millions of them on bushes, palm fronds, elephant grass and everywhere and are so small that you do not notice them until they have filled up on your blood and are a problem to remove without causing an ulcer. They apparently anesthetize the skin so there is no pain involved when they sink their teeth into your flesh. They do not really have teeth, just good suction, but their heads do penetrate and if you pluck them off the head remains and causes a bad ulcer. So you burn them off. I found they do not like V-12 an insect repellent, so I treat my cloths everywhere they can gain entry. It has been very effective. I scrounged a whole case of V-12.
We have a good American mess here. We are on $2.10 per diem and have enough officers and enlisted men to qualify for our own mess. Fruit juice every morning, powdered eggs, which are not too tasty, white bread baked from American wheat and canned bacon, which is excellent. Also have canned vegetables and fruits.
Chinese are very cruel or heartless or both. One Chinese never worries about a personal problem of another Chinese, no matter how serious. He is strictly for himself and very insensitive to others. This lack of sensitivity, however, is not apparent in the family group. Chinese officer has the power of life and death over his troops. Example: A Chinese officer was demonstrating the use of the axe. He accidentally struck a soldier in the temple, causing a massive wound. He berated the soldier for getting in the way and the soldier died on the way to the hospital. A casualty will not be reported and the CO will continue to draw his pay and pocket it.
One of the duties if a liaison officer is to make head count frequently to eliminate this type of graft. The British furnish food and clothing and we furnish ordinance and payroll money.
I am turning a nice orangey yellow from taking Attabrin, a malaria inhibitor and repressant. I think my shade of orange is much more attractive that the sallow green that Tommie has because he is a dark brunet. We are ordered to take at least 1 tablet each day until we leave the jungle and then take the quinine cure.
June 20, 1944
Saw a Chinese soldier punished today for allowing a horse to break its leg. Quite a few horses are used as draft animals and are valued very highly in the Chinese Army. The worst thing that a soldier can do as far as punishment is concerned, is to lose or damage a piece of equipment. It is almost a death sentence. This culprit was tied with arms stretched up and tied to a tree limb and his feet tied to stakes in the ground. He was then beaten with green bamboo clubs., which are very solid, until nearly every bone in his body was broken – about 100 blows. He was taken away and the Chinese Captain said he would die soon. Apparently the only type of punishment that has any deterrent effect on these people, is one that causes so much physical suffering, if it happened to them, that they can relate to it and be deterred by the though of what will happen to them if they commit a crime. I was sort of queasy during the punishment but I guess I am becoming sort of calloused to human suffering as long as it is not mine or someone dear to me.
Had a phone call from Ledo. I go forward tomorrow to replace an engineer officer, a captain, who was killed yesterday. Happy thought. They did not say how he died. Sounds like a combat assignment. I hope that I am prepared for it. I have learned a lot from people I have trained with, who have fought the Jap, and spent quite a lot of time in the jungle on training problems. I am mentally and physically fit so I shall not allow myself to worry until I have something to worry about.
Hopped from Ledo to Sookerating, big air base in Burma, by C-47. I expect to catch a plane up to Warazup tomorrow. Warazup is at mile 190, just north of combat Headquarters and a few miles south of the fighting. I saw a number of Chinese, British and American wounded being unloaded at Ledo before I left. Over half the men I sent up from Ranchi several weeks ago, have become casualties. The rest should be pretty good soldiers by now. It does not take too long to become a good combat soldier if you can live through the first week or so and begin to learn what jungle combat is all about. Col. G was relieved of his command after he accidentally shot himself in the foot. I am glad I was not assigned to that task force. There were 60% casualties among the officers.
This was a real thrill day. I caught a C-47 just after daylight from Sookerating to Warazup. We flew almost blind in the soup following a river and trying to stay in the bottom cloud cover, about 400 ft. above the trees. We did this to avoid Japanese Zeroes which were in the air. But in this soup there was not much chance that we would run into them. They were on top of the clouds looking for a hole to come down through. It is normally about an hour trip but it took us almost two hours to find the strip and we almost turned back on account of the weather. No one aboard except a load of oil, gas and grease and me. There are no doors on these cargo planes so I sat on a keg of grease. Looked out the door and watched the fog go by, looking at the ground when I could see it and trying to tell how high we were. We have no parachutes!
When we found the strip, the rain and fog was so thick that we almost overshot and washed out. About 10 inches of muck and gravel on the strip slowed our forward progress so rapidly we almost nosed over. All of the cargo that was not tied down slid right up to the pilots compartment but not hard enough to do any damage. I was standing in the door, ready to jump if I had to, and caught about a barrel of muck in my stomach, thrown up by the landing gear, as the wheels touched. Knocked me down but no injury.
I was shook up but the pilots acted as if this sort of thing happened all the time. We unloaded the cargo alongside the strip and the pilots said there would be a truck along pretty soon to pick it up and I could hitch a ride. It stopped raining and the pilots started his takeoff run. The heavy mud did not want to release the wheels so about 500 ft. from the end of the strip the co-pilot retracted the gear and they were airborne. These pilots are really something but I guess they are used to Monsoon flying.
I was all alone in the dark wet jungle and did not know how far it was to the nearest Jap so I took my carbine and hid out in the edge of the jungle to wait for the truck. Shortly, about 10 minutes, I was picked up by a Jeep. Headquarters had received word of arrival or departure and had sent for me. We traveled about 10 miles back to Stillwell Combat Headquarters at Shadazup over the worst road I ever saw. We could not have made it without 4 wheel drive. It is actually the combat trail that the Japs invaded over several years ago and are retreating over now. We are trying to keep the ledo in shape to handle truck and tank traffic as close to the fighting as possible, to relieve air supply which is a dangerous and expensive way to supply an army. Completed road is about 20 miles behind the fighting.
My orders have been changed. My assignment was changed by General Cannon who is G-2 on Stilwell’s staff. I am to be the is chief Liaision officer with the 1st Chinese Regiment which is organized like a brigade or small division. One half of my troops are working on the combat trail, one company fighting with Merril’s Marauders and two companies fighting at Kaimaing and Mogaung. Regimental headquarters is about half way between Shadazup and Warazup, Colonel Lia commanding.
I have replaced a light colonel who was killed in action. General Cannon said that although liaison officers have to be in the combat area and will come under fire at times, they should try and avoid close contact with the enemy as much as possible as too many liaison officers were becoming casualties. He said that the casualty that I was replacing had been too daring, liked to take part in close fire fights and may have been a medal hunter. And he paid the price. I told Cannon not to worry about me as I was raised a coward. He laughed and said, ”Join the Club.”
Formally met the Chinese regimental officers today. They seem to be a cut above most of the Chinese officers I have met up to now. They were all very friendly and respectful, probably due to the Chinese Major General insignia that I was wearing. Face is so important to the Chinese that no Chinese officer could take orders from anyone of lower rank without loosing face. Consequently, there are a lot of American officers wearing Chinese officer rank insignia four or five grades higher that their true rank. I will be able to talk to any Chinese officer, give advice and he will have to comply. There are no Chinese officers in Burma higher than a Major General. Only Chiang Kai Chek has a higher rank. I will have to inspect the regiment shortly.
I have been given an L-5 Liaison plane with a sergeant pilot for when I have to cover a lot of ground in a hurry. It is small but sturdy and has all of the radio and navigational equipment and can land or take off on a country road or sand bar in 1000 ft.
I flew into the strip yesterday afternoon. It was taken several days ago and we took the air strip in Moguang today. My Chinese companies had about 100 casualties but very few killed. We will move regimental headquarters forward pretty soon. We took 6 Jap prisoners, apparently stragglers from the main Jap body, which is on the run. Lots of discarded equipment but they still have a good many trucks and tanks so they will be able to move rapidly towards Moguang. There is a two macadam road between Kaimaing and Moguan in pretty good shape. They will run into our road blocks North of Moguang as we have cut their lines of communication between Moguan and Myitkyina.
There is an estimated 3000 troops in the main Jap force and they are in fairly good shape for supplies. If our fighter planes can catch them in the open and knock out their transports, they are finished. We will just squeeze them from both ends until they have to scatter and take cover in the jungle. They will no longer be an effective force, not being able to take their heavy stuff with them into the jungle.
The jungle is filled with small parties of Jap stragglers and firing breaks out frequently in the vicinity. Their main body is about 20 miles ahead but it is estimated that there are from 1 to 200 stragglers in small groups that are trying to catch up with their main body. Not much chance though, as they are on foot and the main body is mechanized and moving fast.
I have been under small arms fire so I now qualify for the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and $10 per month additional pay. Counting the 10% overseas duty pay I am getting richer by the minute. I had just as soon not have it. How about that! I am already a combat soldier and have not fired a shot at the enemy. We are heavily armed and have scouts out constantly. The jungle is great for setting up an ambush. I carry 3 grenades, a pistol and a M-1 carbine. My bodyguards carry grenades and Tommy guns. They are combat veterans and are responsible for my safety. I am glad someone is concerned with my safety. We are loaded for bear and I do wish it was a real bear hunt!
Air raid today, Shadazuo was hit with light frags and strafing. There was very little damage and no casualties. This is a fighter base and most of the planes were in the air and those that were on the ground were hidden in the jungle adjacent to the airstrip. We have about 12 50 caliber machine guns mounted along the strip and today they shot down 2 Zeroes. About the only damage done was in my drawers. Guess I will get used to after a while but for now everytime I get a whiff of Picric Acid, I have to head fir tge latrine. Picric Acid is the explosive used in most Jap shells and bombs and has an acrid odor. The Zeroes are at a big disadvantage whey they hit this airstrip. It is cut out of dense jungle with mahogany trees from 100 to 200 feet high all over the area. It is only 150 ft. wide and 3500 ft. long and is pretty hard to spot from the air, even when you know where to look.
The Japs find it by flying across it and make longitudinal runs for bombing and straffing. When they come in that, they are exposed to the concentrated fire if 12 big 50 caliber machine guns and lose a lot of planes that way. The Japs must think this base is very important to us. They hit it almost every day and usually lose a plane or two. Their high altitude bombers have not been able to 1 bomb near the strip, so they have given up on the big stuff. Thank goodness. Even when they don’t come close they scare Hell out of you! I got a piece of the fuel tank from one of their wing tanks and think I will send it to Dad.
Bridges are all out and river is rising rapidly. My headquarters is located on a nice little island in the middle of the river with a foot bridge to the mainland. And it is washed out. We are temporarily isolated. It is a beautiful island about 100 yards long by 50 yards wide. It has a lovely grove of bamboo, a number of large trees and some banana plants scatter around. It is so nice that if a war was not going on, I would send for Daisy and make my home on it. Burma is beautiful!
The river splits and rushes past on either side of us. I will try and catch up onnmy letter writing and visit Col. Bunker who is in charge of the bridge construction for the combat trail. He said that Gen. Cannon had suggested that he consult with me, as I had been up ahead and might be able to help him anticipate some of his problems. He is a nice whiskey drinker who was a college professor before the war. Never saw so much rain, You are never dry here but it is better to be wet with rain than sweat and it is not cold. Baths are beautiful. You step out of the basha naked, step back in, soap up, step out and get a good rinse. Takes only a minute.
Heavy air raids today at the airstrip. Several wounded but not much damage. We keep in touch with a two0way radio and I have a telephone line to Cannon, we are still isolated and the river is so wild that we cannot get across to our bank. The Japs are on the other side of the river but we do not worry too much about them. I don’t think they know we are on this island. We have good cover and no one moves out except at night. We have guards on lookout for any movement on the other side day and night. I am sue they would not try anything until the weather lets up and the rivers goes down and then we won’t be here.
Our bashas is on high ground, about 4 ft. above high water, in the bamboo grove. Well protected from observation from the air as well as from the ground by the grove and tree foliage. However, our old foot bridge abutment is visible so they may suspect that someone is still here, if they have seen it. I decided that I had carried my last pinch bottle long enough, Something may happen and I would not get to enjoy it so Col. Bunker and I polished it off. He was amazed that I had hung on to it so long.
Rain stopped, weather clearing, and river falling, lots of activity in the air, both theirs and ours. Supplies parachutes being dropped from the air by both sides. Glad we drank the pinch bottle. Chinese crossed the river and ran the Japs off (not many) but we got straffed and some the bullets struck our island. Raid at the airstrip with heavy stuff but, as usual, their aim was not very good, very little damage. It is pretty hard for a pilot to concentrate on his run, I image, with 12 50 caliber machine guns shooting a stream of fire at you!
A Jap Zero and 1 bomber shot down last 2 days. Still on our island. Tried to build a pontoon foot bridge but water was too swift. No hurry. Will try again when water settles down a but. Water is only 6 or 7 feet deep but it is too swift to swim and the Japs are only a few hundred yards down stream, I think. Patrols went out looking for stragglers but no luck. We got a few necessities by air drop today. I shall go forward as soon as I can cross the river. Must check status of two companies at Myitkyina and Mogaung. Had a bright idea, had an assault floated down to us on a long line and pull us ashore. Took about 3 hours to move HQ to safty.
Went down river by boat and stopped to inspect old Jap positions and battle ground. They must have been in pretty bad shape. I saw evidence that they have been eating snakes and digging clams from the river and I know they were short on medical supplies. The war in the Pacific has cut their supply down to a trickle as the war in Europe has effected our supplies, but we are better off than they are. I know that Chinese troops live off the jungle when they run short of rations. There are a lot of edibles in the jungle if you are too particular.
Went on to Mogaun where I was pleasantly surprised. Had fried chicken and Ice cream, compliment of General Stilwell. The ice cream was from Chicago but I am sure the chicken was cooked at Ledo and flown up. It was still hot. It was a fine meal and added to the Stilwell legend. He is really the enlisted mans general and is much respected by the Chinese and Americans in the field. He and old Shanker Jack do not get on too well though. He knows Shanker for what he is.
Lt. Lynn, one of my battalion officers, returned to duty today. He was wounded painfully but not seriously a couple of weeks ago. That is to say, he got shot in the butt. He is a K.C. boy and a good officer.
We went by boat today, 45 miles on a boiling river, 150 feet wide in some place and 200 yards in others. The narrow places make you pretty nervous. We take to halves of an assault boat, bolt them together and come up with a boat 24 feet long and 5 ½ feet wide. We put a 22 HP Johnson Sea Horse outboard motor on it and make about 25 mph if we are not too heavily loaded.
Saw lots of wild game drinking at the sand bars along the river, buffalo, deer and even an elephant. We also observed monkey migrations, which few people get to see. There were hundreds of monkeys on the move, whole tribes moving to new locations because of food shortage or battle noise. All the wild game seems to disappear when the fighting arrives in their part of the jungle. We saw many Pea Fowl, which are good eating. Saw my first Tiger in the wild today. We came around a bend in the river and there he was getting a drink. He looked up at us from about 100 yards and then moved slowly back into the jungle. He as much larger and handsomer than the ones I saw in Ramghar. None of the animals paid much attention to us and, of course, we did not fire for fear of attracting some other animals in green uniforms.
The word for this country is primitive, no sign of any human habitation. We were fired on about 20 miles from Kaimaing. A couple of dozen shots from some trees about 150 yards off to our right. Some of the bullets hit the boat but did no damage to the wooden hull. Lt. Hill, in my boat was hit twice, once in the shoulder and once in the head. Neither wound looked bad, although the head would put him to sleep. The bullet did not penetrate his skull, just gouged out meat and hair. We revved up and the Hell out of there, everyone emptying their weapons in the direction of th firing. We gave Lt. Hill what first aid we could and he regained consciousness as we came into Kaimaing, where we had a few more shots fired at us from extreme range. They were Jap stragglers alright, for the bullet taken from Rice’s shoulder was a 25 caliber. They would have to capture our boat and supplies, giving them a better chance of rejoining their people up ahead.
I thought Kaimaing was secure several days ago. We control the town and the road to Magoung on this side of the river but the Japs are on the other side only 100 yards away. We have cut a bypass around an exposed part of the road in order to keep traffic moving towards Mogaung. We do mortar and machine gun them at intervals but do not hear too much from them. We can smell their cooking fires but I think they are interesting in joining their main body than provoking a fight with us and they have a long way to go.
Last night a guard caught a Jap entering Capt. Baker’s tent and shot him. He had a grenade but no rifle. He was probably trying to steal food, which is an indication of the desperate situation they find themselves in. Japs in Chinese uniforms are frequently caught in the chow line. They could fool us but the Chinese spot them immediately. This is pretty much it is all about. Just about as I had imagined it would be, bad but not too bad. I had a whole lot rather take my chances here than in the ETO. There are small groups of Japs all around us in the jungle but they are not trying to harass us, just trying to rejoin their forces.
Most of them will never make it. We estimate there are about 500 lost in the jungle. We have combat patrols out and every now an then there is a lot of firing but we are unable to get an accurate body count. If you believe our Chinese officers, they have already killed about 2000 of the original estimate of 500.
The Chinese are suppose to turn over prisoners to us for interrogation. I get a signal that “A” company has taken some prisoners, I rush as fast as possible. Sometimes taking an hour to get there, only to have the Chinese greet me with “No prisoners, all dead.” Of course, the prisoners are not dead but soon will be. They have been taken back into the jungle, where tonight the Chinese will build a fire and dispose of them at their leisure. I cannot stomach this torture but both sides do it! The Chinese do it a little more artistically than the Japs.
We have uncovered the evidence several times of both the Chinese and Japanese torture orgies. It is a sickening site. I blew up this time and told the company commanders that if I did not start getting prisoners, when I know that some had been taken, I would see that they lost their commands!
Went to Mogaung by Jeep today. We were fired on several times but from a great distance, with no results. Later, we were fired on from close range. Capt. Graham and I crawled on our bellies for a while and I finally go off some shots at movement with no return fire but did not check for results. About 40 yards to my left, Capt. Graham cut loose with rapid fire and I started moving slowly to help him out but met him coming back. He said that he had killed 3 Japs at a range of 30 yards and he had souvenirs to prove it, their weapons and papers. Chinese and Japanese look so much alike to us that you almost have to shoot first and check up later. I took a few fooling chances today. The Chinese admire and have more confidence in an officer who will take part in a fire fight occasionally. I felt that I owed it to my grandchildren, if I am fortunate enough to have some sometime, to be able to tell them how their grandpappy helped win the war in the CBI theater.
I have my troops well in hand but on a patrol today we sure pulled a boner. You can never be sure that you are not being observed in the jungle. About dark, we took shelter in a small group of trees where we could not be seen and started up our alcohol stove to make some coffee. Before the water was hot, 2 or 3 Jap 77 mm anti-tank guns opened up on us from across a large rice paddy at a range of about 500 yards. They had caught the flare of lighting our stove and bore sighted in on us. We all hit the deck and I dived into a slight depression with Maj. Hipp right on top me. There we lay while they threw a lot of stuff at us. Maj. Hipp flinched and said, “I have been hit.” “Where?” I asked. “In the ass.” He said. We did not move because the shells started drifting away from us. Firing stopped and we sneaked out.
It was pretty dark by then, fortunately, most of the shells were AP rounds and only a few HE. The AP rounds just whipped through knocking off branches but an HE tree burst got me in the shoulder. I had to turn over on one side to give Maj. Hipp more room to grunt and groan and had just felt his wound, finding a large wooden splinter from one of the tree sticking out of his butt, when the tree burst came.
If it had not been and HE round, I very likely would not have been hit. Corporal Keener was slightly wounded by the same burst that got me and several other of the Chinese got scratches. We were all walking around except Maj. Hipp who was in severe pain and shock and we had to carry him. In about 30 minutes we reach the Battalion Aid Stations and the Mad Russian went to work on us. He worked on Hipp for about 3- minutes, trying to get the splinter out without taking much of his ass with it. He was put on a whirly bird and taken to the field hospital for more surgery and a few weeks R & R. It was a deep wound and hurt me just to look at it.
I had hardly bled at all so the Russian gave me a shot of morphine and opened it up, He took a small silver piece of metal out and it started bleeding pretty good. He stopped the bleeding, filled the hole up with Sulpha powder, took several stitches and said I could return to duty. He told me how to remove the stitches, which were silk, in about 10 days or whenever it was healed. No sweat and no pain to speak of. I have what is possibly a piece of one of the old junk cars that we sold them, the Japs, over the years when they were stockpiling junk metal in preparation for this war. Hope it was a Cadillac. We were lucky and it was a miracle that some of us were not killed. I think that I now know what happened to the Lt. Colonel I replaced, he took too many chances.
Flew to Myitkyina in the L5 today. Shoulder was sore this morning but Anicin took care of it. No signs of infection and healing nicely. Sulpha is great stuff to prevent infection or gas gangrene, which used to kill so many of the wounded that would have lived today. There is a real battle in progress at to Myitkyina! About 4,000 Japs bottled up in the town, with about 6,000 Chinese and 500 US troops hitting them from three sides with the Irrawaddy river hemming them in on the fourth side. We now have the airfield which is a large two strip field which the Japs had extended to accept the largest planes. We appreciate it! We also own a small part of the city.
The Japs are dug in deep and prepared for a no surrender finish a la Alamo. They have fortified the city and have large bunkers dug in 30 feet underground and seem to have plenty of ammo and other supplies. One thing they don’t have is air support! Our fighters and medium bombers are taking off and landing constantly in spite of the heavy shelling. The Japs have the Airfield well zeroed in when they left it. Two engineer companies cam in on gliders and are busy making repairs as damage occurs and they are taking some casualties. Not very pleasant work but they are doing a fine job.
Only one glider crashed, out of 30, which is an excellent landing considering the obstacles the Japs had left. Our casualties, mainly Chinese, have been high but, so have the Jap casualties and they are practically all dead.
Have not been able to locate my troops yet. We estimate that we have killed from 3000 to 5000 jJps in the last 3 weeks and perhaps 17,000 in the last 3 months. Chinese casualties are about 15,000 and US is about 50. Our air support has been terrific. The Japs have none. We get an occasional recon flight from Bhamo, about 50 miles towards Rangoon. Our fighters and bombers drop stuff on bunkers just 100 yards from our positions. We talk them in and they do a dive-bombing run.
We were not having much luck getting the slopes out of their deep bunkers, so we experimented a little. We got hold of some 1/10 th second delay fuses and rigged some 1000 lb. Bombs with them. This is about as large a that a Mustang can carry. They dive bomb the bunkers and, the ground being soft, the bombs penetrate about 30 or 40 feet before they explode, everything comes up. You never saw such havoc. The bomb can miss the bunker 50 to 100 feet and still cave it in. We must have killed a lot of them before they got the idea and started coming out where we could use mortars and machine guns on them.
The idea was not mine. Air Force gets the credit. Bombing is almost perfect. They aim their plane at the target in about a 60 degree dive, release at about 1000 feet and go after another. I should have thought of it because this is what the Japs did at Kaimaing with their 150 mm cannon, only some of their shells had as mush as a two hours delay. It was disconcerting to have them go off in the middle of the night when there was no action. The Japs are throwing a lot of mortar fire at us. It is small stuff but it keeps you in your fox hole!
I checked on my Chinese companies and I have about 100 effectives out of 200. Have sent to Shadazup for replacements. Chinese, not my troops, are reported to have taken about 40 prisoners today. We are trying to get some of the for interrogation. My people have given me two prisoners since I threatened them. One is a Major educated at Stanford and speaks almost perfect English. He said that he was on a visit to Japan when the war started and was drafted for officers school. He gave us much useful information and admitted that most of the Japanese troops not have a defeatist attitude but will probably fight to the end.
I have had the responsibility of operating several air drops fields in the area in addition to my other duties. Nearly all of the rice for the Chinese and many other supplies for the entire operation are air dropped. I spent one night at one airfield operated by a British Lt. Pitt-Kennedy, who has a black West African platoon acting as guards and scouts. They are completely at home in the jungle. They go almost naked carrying only a carbine and a long knife called a Dah which is very good for cutting bamboo or in close combat.
Lt. Pitt-Kennedy said, they go right into the Jap bivouac area at night and get information and occasionally have killed a Jap guard and brought his head back as proof of their valour. I said, “Not really.” In the morning when the black orderly brought our tea to wake us up, he pointed to the head hanging just outside our basha. He had been an officer and had two silver caps on his front teeth. Must have been a poor officer. Most of them have a gold tooth or two.
The Marauders had a tough time yesterday. The Chinese refused to take the point so Merrill’s boys had to take it. They killed a lot of Japs in a fire fight but lost several themselves. We found about 100 Japs bodies that had been left behind, hurriedly covered with a little dirt and leaves. I had my people drag them out, search them and bury them in a common grave.