The CBI From A to Z- October 2009

By Robb Edmonds

Over the many years that the Ex-CBI Roundup was published (64), Letters to the Editor have been printed from new readers that had finally discovered our unique magazine. Heavy with praise, many wished "it will go on forever". Little did anyone know the final issue would be July 2009- and even fewer dreamed (including me) of an internet address where it now looks as if Ex-CBI Roundup will, indeed, live for almost forever. A dream come true, so to speak.

We almost got used to hearing the beating of wings drawing nearer behind us as Pariah Hawks swooped down to rob our open mess kits of anything- to them-edible. I still reacted when I heard that familiar sound. I turned quickly. Thank God, it was only Dracula.

That's an untrue falsehood. I made that up.

In an article from India Post, Fremont CA: Amrish, a movie actor, explains why he won't stoop to appearing in serials on Indian TV. We won't bother copying the Hindi words, but the translation makes his reasoning clear: "Apples will rot, but will not be sold at the price of potatoes." Honest, that's what the Post said he said.

My parents were members of the Concology Club of Southern California and collected, classified and mounted sea and land shells and fossils for display. At the informal club meetings, specimens were examined and traded.

On our way to CBI by way of a stop in Oran, Algeria, I found some snails in the underbrush, boiled them as I'd seen Dad do to remove the deceased occupants and I mailed their former homes home. Lt. Bebout, out CO, wearing the cap of the Censor, was puzzled until I explained the contents of my package. It passed. As it turned out, the snails were identical (and unwanted) to those found in our backyard at home. They were labeled and mounted under glass anyway.

Came leisure time at Camp Kanchrapara, Bengal, India. I explored a small lake and found half a dozen colorful freshwater snails, unlike any back home. They became the pride of my folk's larger collection.

Why I didn't send any from China I don't recall, but possibly because I didn't see any specimens and had other things to occupy my attention.

You probably never gave it a thought. I didn't. The first C-46 Curtiss Commando planes, FOB your nearest airfield, cost $341,831 in 1940. By 1945 the price declined to $221,550 (each). That was still three times the price of a C-47. There were 3,144 C-46's delivered during WWII. The original source of this data is not credited but comes from "Flying the Hump; Memories of An Air War", by Otha C. Spencer.

Some Yanks, in Europe, the Pacific and CBI, Burma mostly, had contact with enemy POW's. My first was at Camp Patrick Henry, waiting for the convoy to form at Hampton Roads. Three of us from our detachment were assigned the clean-up detail at the post theater. When we arrived two other groups-of-three had completed the chores. One trio was Italian POW's, one of whom was a New York native but was drafted into the Italian army when he was visiting relatives in Italy in 1939.

During our 19-day layover in Oran, North Africa, three of us were delegated to remain aboard the Leland Stanford to oversee the unloading of our equipment. Next morning a six-by arrived, driven by an Italian POW to take us to a transit camp south of the city. He drove us a block, stopped and went inside a building, leaving us standing in the hot morning sun. Eventually, he came out, licking his chops. The so-n-so had had breakfast. We spoke harshly to hum, but he looked through us as if to say, "I don't understand American".

At the camp, a short distance from the village of Fleures, we had more Sons of Italy in blue coveralls working there. We had contact with four of them when we were assigned KP. They did the "heavy work" and we served the rations. One of the again spoke perfect English.

And finally, German POW's, not yet repatriated, obviously, were working on the serving line in the mess hall at Fort Lawton, Washington. None appeared eager to go home to devastated cities, town, and farms.

Working (I called it) at AFRS KJOY, Chengtu (Hsinching, but who knew….or cared?)...a few minutes past five in the evening, a six-by went past on the road in front of the station building and the driver would lean on the horn, apparently hoping I had the mic open for talking. I finally figured their roommates had us tuned in on their Halicrafter and these blokes- maybe just the driver- would ask on arrival, "Did you hear me as I passed the station?"

Harmless enough, but after awhile annoying all the same. One evening I went to the doorway while a V-disc was entertaining the multitudes with music. When the truck passed silently he saw me, I held a piece of paper against the wall and pretended to write down a truck number.

No more blasts.

OK, call me "Killjoy..."Sore Head"...whatever.

I went on sick call (fortunately, rare for me) with a hitch in my get-along. On KP I picked up a loaded GI can and sprung my rump spring. The Doc gave me two aspirin, which didn't help, but upheld an Army tradition and gave me something else to think about for awhile.

More "GI logic". The two rooms were separated by a wall of thin Chata matting. Woven strips of bamboo. The fella ahead of me being examined had a head-al gash at his hair line. I heard the Doc ask if the GI had been to the town establishment of negotiated affection.

I was dumbgasted and flabberfounded. Was that a dangerous place to go?

At A-5, Kiunglai, Chengtu area, China, waiting for my turn to head for Stateside, I was fortunate to have been assigned to Armed Forces Radio Station XJOY. The other "staffers" were Marv Dintenfass, Noel "Johnny Noel" Schram, from KOMO, Seattle, pre-war.

Our shifts varied from 6 a.m. sign on to midnight. When I had the morning shift I tried (read, "almost succeeded") to be humorous and played as many novelty records between 15-minute transcribed programs as I could get away with. Then I went to late breakfast at the Line Mess where other shift workers dined and sometimes I'd hear them discussing my programming, occasionally repeating jokes or one-liners. They didn't know who or what I was and that was OK by me. Actually, most of their comments were of a positive nature.

Back home, on the GI Bill, I got my First Class FCC Radio Telephone Operator's License (which I still have, still valid) and worked small town AM stations as Announcer/Engineer (Disc Jockey) in California, but quit in order to make a living.

As a youth I thought unpleasant sights would cause me to be squeamish. I remember while we were in convoy on the Atlantic, George Gordon and I were at the rail of the Liberty ship, Leland Stanford, destination unknown, but I must have had an inkling of the sights, sounds, odors and experiences we'd encounter because I admitted I was a bit of a wimp. (That's today's sobriquet. I don't know the word I used then.) And I'd appreciate it if he'd "go on pass" with me and not ridicule my distaste for the unpleasant.

First stop, Oran, North Africa. Not so bad. No problems. Then India, testing ground for weak stomachs. ("Hell, Sir, I can heave it just as far as anybody!") By the time our initial train trek, Bombay to Calcutta, had ended we had been subjected to a variety of new experiences. I even took the Red Cross tour and we were allowed to walk around the burning funeral pyres. Even take photos. This was followed by lunch at the Red Cross Club. Never gave it a thought. But, just in case, I still avoid accident scenes.

One a possible wimp, the malady lingers on.

I was up at dawn to go shame-shame and saw my only jackal "in person" during our stay on the SubContinent. He was a short distance away, trotting through our area after a night out, having a howl of a time with the boys. We heard lots of them. In fact, one night, as we were dozing off, one of those furry fiends cut loose with a distinctive yelping cry. The deep voice of Tony Budzinksi in a tent down the row, shouted, "Shut up, you moldy barstid!"

Our laughter was added to the disturbance.

Recently I noticed three kids running down the sidewalk and it triggered the memory of watching Indian kids, in groups or solo, running across fields or rice paddies toward our train. By the time the first of them had reached the tracks we had passed and were disappearing into the distance. They had been hoping for "Baksheesh", a handout. Money or food.

I also remember commenting to my seatmate how much some of the landscape reminded me of Southern California. No, not Bollywood and Vine...oh, I don't know, though.

An interesting note by Neil Maurer, Co-editor of Ex-CBI Roundup in the 50's and 60's (and "Full Editor" during the 70's and early 80's...CSK, "ex-editor"...). he cites the view of Indian (India Indian, not American ones) doctors that chances of contracting cancer of the throat from hookah smoking are far less than from cigarettes or cigars. Why? Because they opine that cancer-producing agents are absorbed by the water in the hookah.

If you have a CBI souvenir water pipe you can...

No. The best way to break a to drop it.

Remember the definition of SNAFU? A West Pakistani government official was granted four weeks leave on "Average pay". So? That was thirteen weeks after he died of heart failure!

Go Figure. No, don't bother.

Should this be filed with UFO and ET facts and stats? A human skeleton allegedly was unearthed in 1958 in 1958 in the Garo Hills. It was said to be 11 feet long (sic) and the finger bones are as large as a man's ulna (arm bone). The skeleton was found 4 feet deep in a big stone bed, its head facing east.

Is any American touring basketball team missing a Center?

Interesting info you can use when you next visit Karachi (again?); if you can locate it. Patronize the Haj Pilgrim's Camp, where you can sleep and find food for your camel. We're quoting their advertisement. Do they have petrol for your Stutz Bearcat? That information is not included. Phone SIlchar 3902.

Thank Heaven! It has been determined that it is not possible to create a new form of music by combining Eastern and Western systems. American and British rock bands copy? Knock it off! Quit trying! Your attempts (if that's what's causing it) are similar to experiments carried out by the now defunct League of Nations to evolve a common world language with a collection of vocabulary from all languages.

Was that espeantu?

In a Letter to the Editor, Roundup, 1959, a writer claims he sailed to CBI on the USS George Washington that left Santa Ana, California in September 1943. We believe his wording is in error because Santa Ana was inland. Disneyland is a good reference point. His ship would have had to have wheels.

I know, "Picky, picky!"

A photo which appeared many times in Roundup and other books and magazines is "The 21 Steps", where the roadway zigs and zags up a steep mountainside. It was on the only route, often labeled the Ledo Road, in error. It led East from Kunming to Kweiyang, China near the small town Annan, at the head of those "steps". It was constructed by hand by Chinese coolie labor.

Faster than some of our freeways, I mean.

Are you gifted with a name with which gentle folk have a problem pronouncing or remembering? Bret Favre comes to mind. With that spelling I would think he'd prefer "Favor", but I digress.

The late Maharajah of Burdwan was ready? - Maharajadhiraj Uday Chand Mahtab Bahadur.

I tried to pronounce it and the roof of my mouth caved in.

The Corps of Engineers- or Latrine Maintenance Squad- was lax in their duty and on one India base, the 12-holer was in need of replacement. One midnight dreary a hapless GI fell through the mildew-plagued plank floor and we heard faint, desperate shouts of "FIRE! FIRE!" Emergency responders found no flames but followed the plaintive cries and rescued him. Naturally, he was asked, "Why did you yell "Fire?"

His logical reply, "Would anyone come if I'd yelled, "Dung!"?

OK, it's an Oldie, but within the realm of possibility, no?

And it's a slow news day.

CBI Vets that spent some war time in and around Karachi may have seen the gigantic hanger on Drigh Road that was constructed in 1932 for the ill-fated British airship R-101. It (the hanger) has been dismantled and sold for scrap metal. The R-101 crashed in France during WWII on its inaugural flight to Karachi.

I'll bet a lot of people said, "Oh, DRAT!"

A post-war dispatch in the Calcutta Statesman newspaper concerns a swarm of locusts two miles (!) long and one mile (!) wide that invaded some villages in the Ferozepore District. (I don't know. Look it up.) That's a big gang of bugs and where did they come from? Aside from mamma and poppa locusts.

"Holy moly!", as Wonder Boy spake.

Many times we've read in Roundup stories and other CBI lore that the Naga headhunter tribesmen of Northern Burma thankfully were on our side but collected Japanese soldier trophies. After the Nipponese had been driven out, 14 years later, Naga tribesmen had caused 1,897 deaths and 1,723 injuries during the first eight months of 1958. Most were among the Nagas.

Nothing better to occupy your time, fellas?

Recently the subject came up about what names we Yanks- Brits, too- used in referring to the natives, mostly male. My halo may slip down and choke me but I don't recall being guilty of using derogatory labels. The point? What did they call us "round eyes", or whatever, that we didn't recognize because we didn't understand their language? I'll bet some of them were pretty raunchy but we never got angry- or hurt- or insulted. Are there any Hindi, Mandarin or Burmese-speakers out there in Reader Land that can enlighten us?

If it will make you angry or insulted, disregard.

O.J. Taylor, Editor of the 1905 Aviation Engineer Battalion Newsletter, which included the unit's daily diary, their history of constructing a long section of the Ledo Road in Burma, for October 19, 1944:

Quartermaster people around Myitkyina are really happy to see the Chinese troops move out for their drive south of Bhamo. It seems the Chinese "borrowed" everything not nailed down. This included a large number of pipe joints flown in for the pipelines to use in rushing their gasoline line all the way from Ledo to Mitch. Engineers say buildings under construction have been repeatedly dismantled by Chinese soldiers. No one knows that they do with the stuff. Wonder if they do this in their own country?


The first and last revisited:

The first (troop) ship to leave Karachi after VJ Day was the General McRae (9/29/45), bound for New York. And the last Karachi ship was the General Morton (1/28/46), off to San Francisco.

If you were aboard either one, did you see any tears shed for the good ol' CBI?

At a "I forget the name of the base", a platoon of non-coms marched past en route to wherever. All had at least two rockers (Technical Sergeant) under the three striped on their sleeves or three rockers (Master Sergeant and First Sergeant). In addition, multiple "hash marks", one for each four year "hitch", on their lower sleeves. One irreverent PFC (Personal Friend of the Chaplain) commented loud and clear, "Hey! Look at all the zebras!"

Jack St. Clair Kilby served in India as a radioman, where his job was to repair radios, although there was a dearth of spare parts. The resourcefulness that experience taught him proved useful post-war.

He distinguished himself by changing the world. Never heard of him? He became an engineer and invented a tiny chip. He won the year 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention in 1958 of the integrated electronic circuit which made personal computers, satellite navigational systems, cell phones and the $200 Billion (with a B) filed of electronics possible. He also invented the hand-held calculator, which commercialized the microchip and he held more than 60 additional patents.

Sadly, he passed away in 2005.

Once, when asked what was the worst application of any of his inventions, he said, "The singing greeting card."

Thanks to Joe Shupe in CBI Sound-off, Summer 2005, for passing along this story about a man who ranked right up there with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brother, names a few of us recognize.