The CBI Theater WWII 1943-1945
The Diary of Maj. Charles H. Megarity
By Charles H. Megarity (1905- 1994)
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.
Our goal is to publish his diary one month at a time in the month that we happened be in, so our readers see what was happening at this same time during the War. We begin the diary when Major Megarity, then a Captain, was stationed at a British Miliarty base in India preparing for combat in the Jungles of Burma.
The diary is a day-to-day journal of what it was like to be in the service, United State Army, 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.
Sine this is April, we will start with April 1944. At this time Major Megarity was a Captain and was at Camp Angus in India preparing for combat in Burma.
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 like 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 boots 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 our time is our 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 things 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 son 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 is completed. Sounds like 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 are 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 live in the ground and are very tiny. The support members of our 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 last 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. Gen. 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” forces, 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 rupees 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 we 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.