The CBI Theater WWII 1943-1945
The Diary of Maj. Charles H. Hamilton
By Charles H. Megarity
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 is taking a bottle of liquor. What a hangover! The Chinese food 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 men's 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 many 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 has 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 not 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 to 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 lace 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 into 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 very 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 men 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 my troop 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 handle the exercise. The monsoons are beginning and will probably slow 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 NCOs, 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 eight 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 operation and maintenance of the Garand M-1 rifle. We also have been giving mortar squads instructions on the aiming and firing 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, not 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,(Gen. Stillwell) 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 don't 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 stuff 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 and 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 traveling 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 known 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 much 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 play 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 any 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 loose. Very touchy situation because Tommie and I can 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 is 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 a new 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 at 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 miles from division headquarters and starting firing. They evidently 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 midew 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 officers have 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 orangy 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 thought 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 seats 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's 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 his 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 than 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 roads 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 it after a while, but for now everytime I get a whiff of Picric Acid, I have to head for the 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 when 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 strafing. When they come in, they are exposed to the concentrated fire from 12 big 50 caliber machine guns and loose 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 drop one bomb near the strip, so they have given up on the big stuff. Thank goodness. Even when they don’t come close they scare the 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 on my 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 two-way 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 strafed 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!