Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Reading

Our tall Memorial poppies bloomed early this year, but my research book shipment arrived just in time for this particular holiday.  I am spending it  in the CBI (China-Burma-India) theater, immersed in tales of "Det 101", the first WWII OSS Unit to see combat. Detachment 101 (so named because Detachment 1 sounded rather weak and wimpy) harassed the Japanese army throughout Burma, often from behind their own lines.

Colonel Carl Eifler, the C.O. of the unit, was a Paul Bunyan character, larger than life in both the literal and figurative senses. He bent rules, broke a few in the process and never asked anyone to attempt something he himself wasn't willing to do. He is best known for training and equipping the Burmese hill tribes to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Japanese conquerors, but the depth and breath of his  accomplishments extended far beyond that. Tom Moon, a former member of the detachment and author of This Grim and Savage Game: The OSS and U.S. Covert Operations in World War II, has written an eminently reading book, rich in details that could only have been known to someone close to the action.

My dear forum friend, Merlin, was a young pilot in this same theater, flying supplies "over the hump" from the base at Assam in India, into Burma and China. With the Japanese ability to attack these supply flights by launching Zeros from hidden jungle bases, I can't imagine that there were ever many routine deliveries.  Our generation and all those that follow us will always owe you and yours a huge debt, Merlin. We won't forget.

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