End of an Era?

Ex-CBI Roundup 1946-2009
The Roundup Wraps Up

by Clark S. King

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen of the 2009 CBI All-West:

My name is Clark King, and I'm here with you today on four different levels.  Firstly, I'm here as one of the co-planners of this reunion, along with Dave Crocker and Mel and Jennifer McMullen.  Second, I'm here on behalf of the "Ex-CBI Roundup" magazine, which, according to my friend Bill McManus, was designated as the "official" magazine of the CBIVA, at that organization's first national meeting in Milwaukee, way back in 1948.  Third, I'm here speaking on behalf of my father, Dwight, who as many of you know, was the editor of the "Roundup" for 24 years, from 1982 until his passing in 2006.  Dwight was one of you.  He was very proud of his standing in the CBIVA community.  He was a bombardier on the B-29 "Lady Be Good", stationed initially in Kharagpur, India, where he flew the Hump 12 times, shuttling bombs and drums of gasoline to Kunming, China, the end of the longest military pipeline in world history.  He also flew 14 combat missions out of Kharagpur to destinations such as Singapore, Bangkok, Rangoon, and others.  Later he was stationed on Tinian Island in the Marianas, where he flew 21 bombing missions over mainland Japan.  He and his crew and hundreds of other B-29's flew conventional bomb runs over Japan on August 6 and August 9, 1945, the dates of the two atomic bomb drops over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And then on August 14, several hundred B-29 crews, including the "Lady Be Good", were doing their thing over Japan, causing the Japanese to finally come to their senses and surrender.  So, given the risks Dwight took in the service to his country, I feel fortunate indeed to be standing here with you today.  Lastly, I'm here today in the capacity of a proud American citizen who came here to pay his respects to the men and women of the CBI community, who put everything in their life on hold for several years and traveled to a remote part of the world to defend the honor of our United States.

I'd like to speak to you first regarding the Ex-CBI Roundup.  Now, some of you may have heard some of these comments when I addressed this group in Las Vegas in 2007, or perhaps some of you heard what I had to say last year in Scottsdale, Arizona.  But I do realize that there are a few of you here today that were not at either of those previous meetings, and as this may very well be the last time I have this opportunity, I'd like to summarize the history of the Roundup once again, what it means and what it has meant to this veteran's organization, and a little about my involvement in it.  So bear with me as I go back to the very beginning.

The Ex-CBI Roundup was created in 1946 by Clarence Gordon, who coincidentally enough, lived right here in Denver.  He apparently felt that the original "CBI Roundup" that evolved in 1942 in Calcutta during the war should be continued.  I think the CBI veterans had lots to say about their experiences in the CBI Theater, and they obviously needed a vehicle to do it.  Mr. Gordon filled that need with the Ex-CBI Roundup, and he was the primary editor of the magazine until 1958.  During that year, the co-editor, Mr. Neil Maurer, assumed control of the Roundup and moved operations to little Laurens, Iowa, where he lived and operated several business interests.

By somewhere around 1980, Mr. Maurer began to experience some health problems and, having edited and published the Roundup, along with his wife Grace, for over 20 years at that point, began to look for another qualified CBI veteran to take the Roundup over.  The story I got on that was that he solicited a prospective new editor in a note that ran in the Roundup, and evidently, 10 or 12 people expressed an interest.  My father Dwight was one of those people.  Mr. Maurer called my father and thanked him for his interest, and said he'd be in touch.

Well, two years went by, and one day the phone rang at my Dad's house, and it was Mr. Maurer, asking Dwight if he was still interested in taking over the Roundup.  My father didn't hesitate.  "Yes" was all he said.  After he had hung up the phone, my Mother Mary Lee said, "What did you just do?"  He replied, "Don't worry, it's all under control."

My father had been in the newspaper advertising business for some 32 years, and at that time, in April 1982, he still had his "day job".  But he decided the Roundup was something he wanted.  Five months later, the newspaper he worked for was sold to new ownership, and everyone was fired, management, staff, everybody.  So Dwight decided to make the Roundup a full time endeavor from that point on.

I'm in possession of a letter Mr. Maurer wrote to my Dad, and in it, he was clearly trying to "sell" Dwight on the idea of taking it over.  In part, it read:

"I've been giving the future of the Ex-CBI Roundup a lot of consideration recently, and I have found it difficult to reach a decision to part with it.  But I believe it's for the best; I'm sure it would be good for the magazine to bring in new ideas."

"Frankly, I have enjoyed editing Roundup over the last 24 years, especially since selling other business interests in 1975 and 1977.  And with the current upswing in nostalgia, noticeable in so many ways, I am convinced the next 5 to 10 years will be better than any experienced thus far.  Of course it's a dying magazine- they aren't making any more CBI veterans these days- but there are some good years left."

Ladies and gentlemen, the date of that letter was May 22, 1982, almost exactly 27 years ago now.  Once he took over the Roundup, my father Dwight dedicated the last 24 years of his life to making the magazine the best it could be, and to try to introduce it to as many CBI veterans as possible.  He believed strongly in what he was doing.  I recall many, many times during the 1980's taking him to and picking him up from the airport, as he traveled to various reunions and conventions around the country.  He flagrantly crashed reunions of CBI groups he didn't even belong to, casually setting up a card table in the corner of the meeting room and throwing a few magazines around.  He would come back from the trip and announce to me, "I picked up 25 new guys", or "I picked up 35 new guys".  I said to him, "Big deal.  That hardly pays for your airfare."  He obviously saw the bigger picture, that once he got a subscriber, he usually had that subscriber for a long time.  I would wager to suggest that some of you CBI vets here today fell for his scheme at some random reunion in some random city, over two decades ago now.

No doubt about it, Dwight put everything he had into editing and publishing the Roundup, and the results showed it. I was his administrative person for several years, and I can tell you first hand that he routinely received notes from subscribers all over the country, complimenting him on the great job that he did with it and marveling at how long he was able to do it.  When he took the Roundup over in 1982, there were approximately 4,500 people taking it.  By the time his promotional efforts had run their course, that number had swelled to over 7,500.  Make no mistake, his efforts at promoting the Ex-CBI Roundup were instrumental in getting the magazine into many homes and veteran's hands that otherwise wouldn't have known that it ever existed.

He was still at in early 2006 when he called me up in Las Vegas, where I was living at the time, and asked me to return to Southern California and take him in for a medical visit.  He had a biopsy performed and he learned that he had grade 4 bladder cancer.  Although the subsequent surgery was successful and his cancer turned out to be benign, the entire ordeal put such a hit on him that he was not able to rally from his illness.  And so he passed away in early July, 2006, at the age of 83.  He had been a very durable, healthy person for almost his entire life, and as his mother lived to a ripe old age of 93, I really thought he was one of those kinds of guys that would live practically forever.  So it was a great shock to me and my brother Gary and his wife Anna when this happened.  The night before he died, although we didn't know it would be his last night, it was pretty clear to me that he had done his last magazine.  So I asked him, "Dad, what do we do with the Roundup?" He replied, "I don't know, you'll just have to find someone to give it to, I guess."

So that's what I did.  We're all friends here, so I guess I can tell you what happened next.  I called his columnist, Robb Edmonds, and asked him if he would be interested in taking over the Roundup.  The reply: "Gee, Clark, I'm flattered and all, but I just don't have the energy anymore.  And besides, my wife would kill me."  OK Robb, I said, I understand.  Next I called Dave Dale, long time editor of the CBIVA "Sound Off", and asked him the same question.  I basically got the same answer; "Gee, Clark, I'm flattered and all, but my wife would kill me."

My brother, clearly distraught at my father's passing, I remember saying to me, "Just put the thing down.  We don't have time for this."  I replied, "Well, maybe you don't..."  Then I walked into my father's den and looked at his desk, with all the editorial stuff lying all over the place, and checks in the in box.  I thought to myself, "This just isn't the magazine's time.  I think it still has some legs left, and more importantly than that, I know the CBI veterans still want- and deserve- it".  So I went to my brother and told him I had it figured out.  He said, "You do?"  I replied, "Yes, I will take over as editor.  Anna, you're already doing the administrative part, so you just keep doing that, and as a family, we will carry it on."  My brother Gary said, "Do you really think you can pull that off?"  I told him, "There's only one to find out, now isn't there?"

So that's what we did.  The first couple of issues, I will admit, I merely fumbled around in boxes of the stuff I had boxed up from his office, and hoped for the best.  Once the CBI community saw that I was serious, they responded in almost forceful fashion, sending in stories, letters, and pictures, just as had been the "normal routine" for this magazine for some 6 decades.  Things went pretty well until a little over a year later, when in late 2007, the subscription renewals started drying up, and it appeared to me that the momentum that had been created by Dwight many years ago was finally going the "way of all things".  I stressed over it for the better part of two months before I announced to the readership in February 2008 that the July 2008 issue would mark the end of the magazine's amazing 62 year run.  

Well, it wasn't very long before I received an email from Marty Oxenburg, of the 69th Depot Repair Squadron, a subset of the Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force, who urged me to try to continue, and offered help in soliciting new subscriptions, and for the first time ever, flat out donations.  I brought into the email conversations Gary Goldblatt, another baby-boomer son of a CBI vet, who in my opinion, is the most knowledgeable CBI historian of his generation, and also, Dave Dale.  Dave's suggestion to try to encourage the "Lifetime" subscribers to consider making a donation ended up being the one factor that opened the flood gates of donations that ultimately enabled the Roundup to soldier on and make its way through its final annual campaign.  So, thanks Dave!  And thanks Marty and Gary, who, between the four of us, loosely formed the "Save the Roundup" Committee.  I feel very good about making it through this 2008-2009 subscription year, as it allowed a few more CBI stories to be told, and allowed you CBI vets to continue to have your main source of staying in touch with one another.  Make no mistake, this is one of the last vehicles of communication the CBI community has to stay in touch, and it is indeed a sad thing to watch it come to its conclusion.  But as much as I would like to keep it going, I simply can't, for a number of reasons that I am going to defer on here.  Let me just say that it has been a major honor and privilege to be your editor for these 3 years, and it represents to me a life experience that I shall never forget.  I have come to know and work with a number of you, and have the honor of calling a number of you my friends.  It has truly been a win-win situation to be the fourth editor of the Roundup, and the only one of the four who did not personally serve, or even set foot in, the CBI Theater.

As the luck of the draw seems to have chosen me to draw down the curtain on this amazing publication, I am in the position of needing to acknowledge and thank some people for their roles in the Ex-CBI Roundup.  Obviously, the four editors deserve major credit, Clarence Gordon, Neil Maurer, Dwight King, and myself.  Without these guys, the Roundup wouldn't have gotten up in the air in the first place, or stay in the air as long as it did.  Next, the literally thousands of CBI servicemen and women who wrote in during the 6 plus decades the magazine was in print.  Without them, there simply would not have been a magazine.  The print shop, the Laurens House of Print, originally owned and operated by Neil Maurer, and subsequently owned by Dave Evans Sr. and Dave Evans Jr., has been a fixture for the Roundup for some 50 years of its existence.  Their small staff, currently consisting of Joyce Ahlers and Eldora Schultze, has been an amazing asset in terms of laying out, printing and distributing the Roundup each month.

Since I have been at the helm of this operation, I would like to thank a number of people, in the approximate order in which they appeared.  First, Mr. Glenn Hensley of Kirkwood MO came looking for me as soon as he had heard about the change in editors, and offered his unparalleled assistance.  Glenn is one of the finest photojournalists in the history of the CBI, and his photographs of mostly civilian life in Calcutta, India, and Akyab Island, Burma have graced covers and inside pages of many Roundups since I have been cranking them out.  A thank you goes to the Digital Southeast Asia Library at the University of Chicago for allowing me unlimited access to the photographs contained on Glenn website, as well as those of his 40th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron's friends and colleagues, the late Frank Bond and Robert Keagle.  Also, another amazingly talented photographer, Daniel Novak Jr. of the 164th Signal Photo Company also appeared and offered me the use and access of the photos he took in his capacity as an official army photographer.  Mr. Robb Edmonds consented to remaining on as the magazine's monthly columnist, taking over for the late Hugh Crumpler, who had occupied that spot near the rear of the magazine for 20 some years.  Robb blends a unique combination of CBI lore and history with a rather witty sense of humor to produce a column each month that has been enjoyed immensely by the readership, and I have enjoyed working with him tremendously.

Thanks also goes to the aforementioned members of the "Save the Roundup" Committee, Marty Oxenburg of Elkins Park, PA, Dave Dale of St. Louis, and Gary Goldblatt of Fairborn, OH.  These three gentlemen provided me with much needed insight and assistance as I grappled with what the heck to do with what certainly appeared to be a magazine that was expiring before my very eyes in early 2008.

And I think I would be remiss in not thanking the 150 some people who contributed financially to the last year's existence of the Roundup.  Without the CBI community pulling together and rallying one last time, the magazine would have ceased to operate a year ago.  It was very amazing and gratifying to witness the outpouring of support and encouragement that the Roundup readership provided, once I shared with them the reality of the situation back in the February 2008 issue.

There were some stories that I coordinated during my tenure that were absolutely unforgettable for me.  Like the story sent in by George Crow Jr., which consisted of a letter he wrote, and a letter his father George Sr. had written to his wife as he languished on the boat home from India, aching and dreaming for the day that he could be reunited with his wife and young son.  That story caught me at a particularly vulnerable time in my life, when I was still severely depressed over the loss of my father, and the stress of not knowing what to do with this dying magazine I had on my hands.  Mr. Crow's story put a very human face on what it is like to be caught in a war, away from your country, your home and your loved ones in a way that I don't think had previously been done in any other Roundup issues.

Or the stories I coordinated with Bill McManus, who told his CBI adventures in operating the Bengal and Assam Railroad in India, and about how he was involved in the founding of the CBIVA during its infancy in Milwaukee in 1948, or about how he is trying to do everything he can to ensure that history will remember the CBI organization, both locally in Milwaukee and everywhere else in the country, before the inevitable happens.

It was very gratifying for me to coordinate stories and letters about both very well known CBI personalities, as well as everyday people like Calvin Lockwood, of right here in Loveland CO, who went over to the CBI with bad eyes and a medical disqualification for active combat duty.  Mr. Lockwood started out as a technician on an aircraft maintenance line, later saw action as a waist gunner on a B-29 out of Piardoba, and flew on several of the same missions that my father did.  He could have played it safe and stayed on the ground turning wrenches, but that is not what he went to the CBI Theater to do.  He wanted to see some live action, and as his medical records did not catch up with him, he was able to realize his CBI dream.  All the effort and expense of this last year of Roundups was worth seeing that one story make its way into CBI infamy.

This little chat here of mine is going to run as an article in the July 2009 Ex-CBI Roundup, approximately the 600th and final issue that this amazing, totally unique publication will see.  Entitled "End of an Era?" with a question mark, it raises a question about the legacy of the CBI Theater in world history, and the Roundup's involvement in that legacy.  The obvious answer to me is that it while it is the end of a totally unprecedented run in publication history for the Roundup, it is certainly not the end of the era of the CBI Theater itself.  That time will come when the last CBI serviceman or woman finally goes to his or her final reward.  You CBI veterans have every right and reason to be very proud of yourselves, and of each other.  Through a unique bond, and with a lot of help from the Ex-CBI Roundup, you were able to stay in contact with and support each other, literally from one end of your lifecycles to the other.  No other theater in World War II showed such an interest in staying in that kind of contact, or in telling the many, many stories of what their war experiences were like.  The numbers I've heard is that over 16 million American servicemen and women served in World War II, and of that number, only about 305,000 served in the CBI Theater.  Short on numbers, you all demonstrated that you are long on heart.  It is my great honor to be here with you today to thank you for your military service, as an American citizen and as a member of the baby boomer generation.  The Japanese may have started it, at least as far as the United States was concerned, but you CBI'ers, and more specifically, the B-29's of the 20th Air Force, finished it, and finished it in a courageous, heroic, and spectacular fashion, the most spectacular conclusion to a military conflict in world history.  I'm very proud to be with you here today to honor your service to your country, and to your victory.  I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world at this moment.

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