By Robb Edmonds Is it too late to lodge a complaint with the Commissioner of Rail Travel? In a story about a trek by train across the Sub-Continent, I found the sentence, "The electric fans in each compartment did little to relieve conditions." Compartments? Electric fans? Not counting round trips between Calcutta and Kanchrapara, on pass, we rode on four long distance fun rides with nary a fan nor convenience other than an electric light or two. Walt Tegan and I were walking toward the 4th (or lower) class cars for a day trip to Calcutta. We passed a First Class coach where a British gentleman stood inside the exterior door with the window open. He invited us in and we had a pleasant conversation, but the only subject I recall was "Don't drink alcohol before sundown." Walt and I were both teetotalers. So we didn't.
The CBI From A to Z- November 2010
Until reading numerous stories, articles, and facts-as-they-prevail, it had never occurred to me that Chinese given names can be translated into English. We have Smith, Carpenter, Brown, Green and many others. One Chinese orderly for an American lieutenant was Fang-U-Guay, "One Who Has Seen Ghosts". Maybe if he had an alias we'd know some details. Related item: In China, there are only about 100 surnames, hence many "Chou", "Chu" and variations. If that's a bit more information than you wish to memorize, don't read that item.
On China bases and camps, most guards were Chinese army men and boys, and some appeared to be not more than 13 or 14 years old. They would challenge anyone at night with "WAAAHH!!" at maximum lung capacity. We were advised they might ask (phonetically) "Shay-mor-en?" ("Who goes there?") And we answered "Megwa ping", which was commonly thought to mean "American soldier". "Ping" was right on but "Megwa" translates as "Beautiful Country". It was nice, after all, to be thought of in such high regard by the Nationalist Chinese name-assigner.
I was a temporary instructor at the Camp Pinedale rifle range. One early, cold, drizzly morning, Lt. Elofson told me to check out a camp stove, large kettle, and coffee. "Who, ME?" I didn't say. I asked the checker-outer how to use this equipment and he disappeared, returned with a new mattress cover and told me, "Pour in coffee and dunk it in the boiling water like an oversized tea bag until the color of the brew looks right." It worked. Thanks to the cold outdoors and light rain I got many compliments on a "great cup of coffee." "Who, ME?" I didn't say.
I take my shirts to a Chinese laundry and the man always writes something on the claim check. I finally ask him, "Is that my name?" He said, "No, that say 'Funny looking white hair guy with mouth like torn pocket.'" You believe? 'Tain't Necessarily So. (Song title).
Tony Guzan (Calumet City, IL) was walking cross-lots between tent rows en route the mess hall and came face to familiar face with his brother. Neither had known the other had left the States. At war's end, Tony went back the way we had come to China and his bro was still at Camp Kanchrapara. Cadre or permanent party. They had another nice visit til Tony's ship came in and he went home. I saw three of my high school mates and phoned one on the hospital staff in Burma. (Can't remember how I found out he was there. Wartime secrecy and all that), but a brother is something else again.
Atabrine is yellowish and in tablet form, larger than an aspirin but smaller than a manhole (sewer) cover. It was to stave off the effects of malaria should Annie (Anopheles mosquito…female, no less) make a withdrawal. In time, daily swallowing the medication allegedly turned the whites of our eyes and complexion Amarillo (as they say where Spanish is spoken). "Yellow", where it's not. I've tried to picture myself with that color scheme, but I fail. Nonetheless, we were handed a pill and a slug of water as we entered the mess hall or outdoor dining salon by a medic with sergeant in attendance to be sure we swallowed the whole thing, opening our mouth wide to show it wasn't secreted beneath our tongue or in our cheek pouch. Just one man in our 28-man detachment contracted malaria- and he was just as yellow as the rest of us. Sorry, that doesn't sound right. His complexion was just as discolored as the rest of ours. We all returned to normal when we had lived in China for awhile.
At now famous, if you've been reading our magazine, Ex-CBI Roundup and CBI From A to Z, Camp Kanchrapara, it was August 15, 1944. It's in my diary. We were sitting in the outdoor theater waiting for it to get dark enough to start the movie when I felt a kick in my shins. I looked up to see the grinning puss of Pat Sullivan. At home he used to stop by my house on the way to school. We journeyed five houses north and collected Claire Pollack. Then we three rode our bikes together to Hollywood High. I mention that part because Pollack was one of two additional HHS buddies I encountered "in person" in CBI. Postwar, as a member of the CBI Vet's Ass'n, at a National Reunion, Pat was living in nearby Winter Park, Florida, and I spent several hours with him. When we had our National Reunion in Salt Lake City a couple of years later, Pat was living there and we had another visit together. It was during the Florida get together that he told me he had gone to Chabua, Assam, where he was a parachute rigger and, as long as our friendship was fraught with so many coincidences, although there would have been no way I would have known it, he may have packed the chute I wore on my one and only flight over the Hump. From Chabua.
Parachute packers at Chabua, Assam. Pat Sullivan is the slim fella at the far right.
Jerry Cincotta saw a sword in a village shop in Chiunglai and checked the price, which was so high only a dog could hear the quote. Just as he had anticipated. The bartering began and see-sawed back and forth. To and fro, so to speak, and finally, Jerry showed the merchant the contents of his wallet which amounted to about $2.50 American. But in CNC, he said "Take it or leave it", and walked away. The huckster followed, gave in and accepted the last of Jerry's fortune. With sword in hand, as he returned to the field, his conscience began to gnaw at him, so instead of going to his quarters, he detoured to the Catholic Chaplain's office and confessed how he cheated the poor merchant. The good Father took the sword, balanced it on his forefinger, then laughed, because the cheater had become the cheatee. "Your sword began life as the leaf of a jeep spring." Jerry was absolved. He brought his purchase home and still has it. It has been a great conversation piece.
On AFRS, XJOY, Chengtu, we said things on the air, out of FCC jurisdiction, that would have had us "called behind the Green Door" at the Federal Communications Commission office in San Francisco, with some explaining to do. When Noel J. Schram, our station manager, had been assigned to the one in Shanghai, he left we four "staffers" behind to stay on the air til we shipped out for home. Two men from AACS arrived and I was appointed trainee for my shift and Dinty took over the morning gig. Since there was no Green Door, I threw caution to the winds and Warner (sorry, his first name escapes my fading memory) and I alternated except for the final sentence: Me: This next exercise is for you GI's on KP. He: We want you to fill your mop buckets with water. Me: On command, raise them high over your head, arms straight. Ready? Together: UP YOUR BUCKETS!!!! We followed it up with station identification: This is your Farmed Horses Studio Ration, X Way Oh Jigh, Tengchu. The phone didn't ring. Nobody was listening. No "Green Door."
Another sight to which we quickly became accustomed in India was males, of all ages, toddler to adults, with shaved or short scalp adornment with a 3 or 4 inch pony tale in the center of the back of their head. Somebody told us that was for their god to yank them up to Heaven when they bought the basha in the sky. Not true. More logically- and I hope this is true- it's to show they are Hindu. About the second day of our train trip from Bombay to Calcutta, at a lengthy stop at a remote station, there was a sidewalk barber. (No, he trimmed hair, not sidewalks). One brave escapee from a looney bin from the coach ahead of ours jumped down to the platform and availed himself of a haircut, complete with the 4-inch tuft. Done with a straight razor, honed on the bottom of the barber's bare foot. Don't try that unless you've gone barefoot all your ever-lovin' life. Lather? What's lather? Dry. OY! We never saw him after our journey ended, but it was a safe bet that was the one and only time he went "native".
The tune is "Far Out!", but dig that cra-zy music stand!
Smoke and debris fill the air following an accidental explosion in an ammo dump at Hankow, China, November 1945. Photographer unknown.
We were allowed to take cameras overseas, but they were to be packed with our communications and other equipment in the hold until we arrived at our destination. Just what we could photograph that would be of any use to our enemy we couldn't guess. So, I used some of 14-16 hours of daily leisure time to pen-and-ink sketch. Oh, see the barrage balloon above the ship on the right. (sketch by Robb Edmonds)