"Did you know my father in India?"
During the three years that I have published this blog, I have written extensively about my World War II experiences serving with the Army in India. Those of us who served in what was known as the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations have long been frustrated by the widespread ignorance that there were American soldiers stationed in that part of the world during the war.
I am unaware of any authoritative estimate of the number of U.S. troops that were stationed in the CBI. My best guess is that there were probably about 300,000. In terms of manpower, resources and press coverage, the CBI therefore has taken a historic back seat to the wars waged in Europe and the South Pacific.
Now, as the number of surviving CBI veterans is shrinking, I am discovering that there are countless descendants of deceased CBI vets who are eager to learn about the wartime experiences of their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
I have received dozens of responses to my blog's CBI references making such inquiries about deceased family members. The writers hope to learn whether I might have known their fathers in India. Sadly, I have yet to recognize any of the names provided.
Just the other day, for example, I received an e-mail message from some one identifying herself only as "Connie."
"My father, Robert Vernon Paris, also served in India during WWII," she wrote. "I would love to talk with anyone who knew him."
Obviously, it is very highly unlikely that anyone reading this blog would have known Connie's father. But I have become reluctant to casually rule out the possibility. That's because of my extraordinary experience with a story I told on this blog about a fellow journalist, now deceased, with whom I had traveled to Europe many years ago on a Pentagon press junket.
I was astonished to receive e-mail messages from the man's daughter and son, both inquiring about their father, just as Connie has done about her father. My journalist friend and his wife--both of whom were Soviet Russian emigres--had died when their children were teen-agers.
The son and daughter evidently had only limited knowledge of their parents' backgrounds. My blog posting suggested that I was quite familiar with them. The result of their inquiries was a lengthy phone conversation with the daughter in which I informed them of details about their father's life that were unknown to them.
The situation with Connie's inquiry about her father, Robert Vernon Paris, is far more complicated. Even if I did know her father in India, which was very highly unlikely, I would be unable to respond to her. She is evidently unaware that, unless the person commenting on a blog posting is identified by full name and address, it is impossible for the blogger to get back to the writer. She failed to identify herself more fully.
There are many valuable sources available on the Internet. Google shows at least 80 web sites devoted to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. Many contain official historical data. Others are produced by the children of deceased CBI vets as poignant memorials to their fathers.
Connie would have a far better chance of locating some one who knew her father in India through these web sites than through the wartime memoirs that I publish in this modest blog.
I do hope that she will succeed in her search. Time is running out. There will soon be no one around who could possibly have known her father during a war that has become almost forgotten except by those of us who were there.