Saturday, November 22, 2008

MEMOIR: What I did during the war

On March 16, 1946 I was discharged from the Army as a staff sergeant after three years of service. For two years, I had been stationed in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. Aside from bouts of amoebic dysentery and dengue fever, I was lucky to come home relatively unscathed. I was 21 years old, but felt at least 10 years older.

I had not seen combat, and except for a depth charge dropped on a German submarine attacking my India-bound troopship off the coast of Brazil, I had not heard a shot fired in anger. Nevertheless, I was treated like a conquering hero by my family and neighbors on my return home.

But I had done nothing that could be regarded as heroic. I had been trained as a Signal Corps Teletype operator and cryptographer. I had also received three months of infantry training prior to being shipped overseas. But when finally assigned to the 903rd Signal Co., which was attached to the Army Air Forces, I was never called upon to use any of these skills.

My accomplishments as a soldier were quite mundane. My outfit supplied and serviced airborne electronics equipment for the 14th Air Force in China, the 10th Air Force in eastern India, and the Air Transport Command, which flew supplies over the Himalaya Mountains to both U.S. and Chinese forces.

The 903rd also operated a major military message center in Bengal and built portions of a telephone line along the Burma-Ledo Road running from Calcutta to China. I worked as a warehouseman, an armed guard on supply missions to Assam, Burma and China, and wound up as the company clerk after it was discovered that I was a skilled typist.

My chores as company clerk were sufficiently heavy that my commanding officer hired a civilian Bengali lawyer as my assistant. His name, as I recall, was either Mukerjee or Banerjee. He was at least twice my age and earned more working as a clerk for the U.S. Army than practicing law in Calcutta. He spent much time turning me into an ardent supporter of Indian independence from Great Britain.

After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, I was promoted to be the company's acting first sergeant, replacing a man who was eligible to return to the States. A few months later, when I became due for shipment home, our new company commander offered me the permanent job of first sergeant and promotion to that rank if I signed up for at least six months of additional overseas duty.

I was eager to return home and turned down the offer. I later learned that the outfit was eventually transferred to Shanghai to disarm Japanese troops and to help restore order in liberated Chinese territory. I began to regret my decision because the new assignment sounded far more exciting than what I did during the war.



Blogger Lydia said...

That's fascinating about your Bengali lawyer assistant. I wonder what ever happened to him.

Fascinating, too, that the offer you turned down evolved into something you would have enjoyed being a part of.

I so enjoy your writings about historical events. You're so honest and don't sugar-coat what was.

Saturday, November 22, 2008 5:36:00 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

I'm glad that your typing skills kept you away from the horrors of war.

As ever, a wonderful story Art!

Sunday, November 23, 2008 5:18:00 AM  
Blogger Sylvia K said...

You always write a wonderful story. Thank you.

Sunday, November 23, 2008 1:11:00 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

My son also gave up a golden opportunity to get out of the service early. His war was Viet Nam, but as a musician in the Navy Band he avoided any combat. He was such a fine musician that the Navy wanted him to travel all around Europe with their show band. It would have meant another four years in the Navy and it simply wasn't worth it to him.

I, on the other hand, would have re-enlisted in a heart beat. I love to travel; especially to Europe.

Sunday, November 23, 2008 4:17:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your stories. It's a treat to read them.


Friday, November 28, 2008 8:37:00 PM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Mort, you served as gallantly as any of those who actually had to fire a rifle or drop a bomb.

I am glad you were spared to come home safely to write about your life.

Saturday, November 29, 2008 1:28:00 PM  
Blogger Rinkly Rimes said...

Being three years younger than you my War memories are very different (evacuation etc). But isn't this blogging business great for those of us who want to leave some sort of mark!

I had a boyfriend who had spent his war in (forgive the spelling) Trinkamalee in India. He had joined up with two friends at the start of the war. One went into the army and was killed in the desert. The other went into the navy and went down in the Atlantic. And he spent the war in India in the Air-force having quite a nice time!

Saturday, November 29, 2008 11:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, it's excellent to see how we all can learn from the experience of the older people.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Home care Dublin said...

You have faced a lot of problems in your life. Hope now you will enjoy happy life. Your juniors will respect you due to such tough life you have spent. There is a lesson behind your story that how to survive in troubles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011 3:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Elderly care said...

I do agree with the statement of "Home care Dublin" which stated that every person left his story which remembered by his/her descenders .

Wednesday, January 04, 2012 3:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Home Care said...

Just one word to say on your act of bravery "Awesome".
Also your writing skills are great.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 12:16:00 AM  

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