India: Impressions & Highlights (selections from the letters):
††††††††††† December 14, 1944: Karachi, India --On the way into town saw Indian road crews building roads. They do it all by hand, carry the rocks in buckets on top of their heads then lay each rock in place by hand. They are also working on an airfield and itís the same, pulling enormous rollers by hand, 50 or 60 Indians pulling each roller. No other machinery only small hand tools to chop stumps etc. Here again there are practically no cars or trucks, camels pulling enormous wagons or burrows pull it little carts or either with loads on their backs, some buffalo with pulling carts or pulling wagons and people with enormous loads on their heads or on poles over their shoulders. There are two types of natives distinguished by their dress. The Hindus and the Moslems. One wears a --------- and the other a turban. India by the way is about twice the size of Texas and has a population of 400,000,000 about 3 times the population of the United States.
††††††††††† When we arrived in town there were 40 or 50 small boys and beggars at the bus stop. The first thing to do is hire one boy to chase the others away. Readinger and I picked up Chatanooja, heís about Greggís size only twice as tough and probably about ten years old. Chatanooja, speaks pretty good English and has a complete vocabulary of profanity. The town has a population of a million and you wouldnít guess that it was over 50,000 because only the rich have any kind of a home. The rest live on the streets day and night. The streets are absolutely filthy, sacred cows walking all over the place -- on the sidewalks, in the stores or anywhere. Better be discreet about who reads the rest of this letter but think you would be interested in some sort of picture. If a sacred cow walks into a store and relieves herself it is considered to be good luck. They are never disturbed, go where they please. The streets are lined with beggars, blind, lepers, cripples, girls the size of Martie Ann with babies a year old in their arms and the babies even hold out their hands. You see mothers sitting in the streets playing with (I mean masturbating) their babies to quiet them. Children two years old are running around by themselves begging. The people relieve themselves in either sense wherever they happen to be. Full grown men squat in the streets and do their business, snake charmers with cobras and mongoose etc. put on shows for a rupee, a mongoose can kill a snake. The shops are not so bad -- mostly ivory, brass, sandalwood, and silver trinkets, and leather goods. I bought some junk, which I will send along in time.
††††††††††† The boot shops here are interesting. In a hole in the wall half the size of our kitchen will be a boot shop with 12 or 15 men working, all sit on the floor, work with their hands and feet and turn out 40 or 50 pairs of boots a day. Custom built boots are turned out in 24 hours and cost 18 to 35 rupees, $6 to $10.
††††††††††† By the way, the natives including the beggars are pretty sharp on their English in some ways. The beggars hold out their hands and plead, ďNo father, no mother, no per diem, no flight pay, give me an anna.Ē Next plea is usually, ďPlease give me one anna and Iíll take a powder.Ē They are also very smart about flattery. They come up and say, ďyou major, you big shot, you boss man.Ē In the stores if you become interested in anything of any value they have you sit down, pass the cigars, and may even bring out a quart of scotch.
††††††††††† When we arrived in town two of us, Hogmaki and I hired a carriage, on horse open-four wheel job with a little skinny horse. Cost 2 rupees per hour, about sixty cents. Drove all around town and did some shopping. Am getting oriented to people and custom. The main people here are Hindus and Moslems. Hindus mostly rich and Moslems have nothing. Hindus usually better dressed and cleaner. They arenít around on the street much. We saw a few very well dressed Hindu men. They usually wear white jodpur type trouser with close cut legs. The Hindu women wear very colorful clothes, long flowing affairs with long pants etc. Women of both casts wear rings in their ears as do many of the men and children. The women all wear a jewel or a ring in their nose when they become engaged. You gradually see more sights of interest.
††††††††††† Yesterday saw barbers working on the streets both barber and customer sit on the sidewalk, facing each other and the shave takes place. Looked like a dry shave as near as I could tell. Mostly trimming of beards, donít believe they use haircuts; at least they donít look it. The street cleaning (such as it is) is done by a certain cast, as is everything else here. As soon as a horse or sacred cow does his business one of the sweepers comes along and sweeps it up and puts it in a basket. They are not paid but sell the manure to a place that airs it and sells it for fuel. Between jobs they carry these baskets on their heads. Human excreta is also sold for fertilizer and that too is carried in baskets on top of their heads. It is not too uncommon to pass a basket of it on the street and judging from the consistency they must all have dysentery.
††††††††††† Went down to the railroad yards where they were unloading box cars. All freight is hauled away in huge camel drawn wagons, and there were hundreds of them around the railroad yards. Went by a crematory yesterday but could see nothing but the little chapel and the open fire, mostly smoke. There are three ways of disposing the dead here. The rich are cremated in open pits, the middle clan are buried and the very poor are placed in burial towers, the buzzards do the rest and the bones are ground up for fertilizer. Donít read this trash unless you want to, but its all truth. Did some shopping and then went to the Officers Club, which I repeat is an oasis in the desert. You really feel like taking a bath when you hit there. Had a couple of Tom Collins and then dinner, fried chicken, potatoes, peas, apple pie and ice cream, coffee, all very good. After dinner hired another carriage and went riding again. On a back street came across an Indian native street dance -- a very wild affair -- music of tom-toms, symbols, and a squeaky wood wind instrument of some kind. The men only dance and they each carry a steak in each hand and jump around in a circle hitting sticks with the ones next to them. Gets very wild but they seemed to be having fun. I donít believe that the women leave the house much except the beggars.
††††††††††† A group of us rode over to an approved Chinese restaurant about 3 miles from here and had an elegant dinner. Fried chicken chow mein, chop suey, French fried rice, egg fu yong, and French fried shrimp and tea. All very good. We all ordered different things and then ate family style. It was the best dinner weíve had here. The only trouble is that by the time you pedal over 3 miles and pedal back the 3 the dinner is about used up.
††††††††††† Yesterday went down to the waterfront and saw the public bath. Itís simply a long wide concrete stairway that leads down into the water. A big high wall separates the men from the women. Only funny thing is that from anywhere on the street you can see into either place. Donít know why they are so modest in the bath because most of them seem to take their baths with their clothes on anyway and also it is not uncommon here to see people on the streets completely nude. Also yesterday saw an old man sitting on the curb looking at the passerbyís, and completely nude. Also saw an Indian train. The engine is about on third the size of our smallest ones and the boxcars are very small, only about one third as long and one half as high. Looked almost like a toy train.
††††††††††† Went into town and attended Midnight Mass at the Church of England. There were about 30 or 40 officers and nurses from our outfit mostly officers who went in for the service. The service was long and very different from Episcopalian although there are some similarities. They served Communion, and it was quite a sight. Many, or should I say a few Indians have adopted the Christian religion and there were probably 30 or 40 of them there who took Communion. A great many Americans, British, Australians, and New Zealand officers and soldiers there.
††††††††††† There is a Chinese pilot here in the hospital who has had excellent results from surgery and thinks that the American doctors and nurses are really something. He wanted to do something for them so invited Miss Lee (our nurse who has spent ten years in China) and some of her friends to have dinner with him. There was this Chinese pilot and three of his friends, another American officer who is a patient, Miss Lee and 3 other nurses. We went to a Chinese restaurant, which caters to the Chinese here, at about 3 oíclock and had tea at which time he ordered the dinner and then we went down to the beach. When we got back and had dinner it was really something. We ate for about 3 hours and they made many little speeches about how they appreciated the American doctors and nurses and how we should always be friends with the Chinese etc. They were all extremely polite. All understand a little English and speak some. Lee did a lot of the interpreting both ways. There was no silverware in the place, so we all ate with chopsticks. At first it is impossible but after just a few minutes you can go right along as well, almost as if you had a fork.
††††††††††† I have never seen such a dinner. I would guess that there were about 15 separate courses and all absolutely delicious. First sliced clams cooked in soybean sauce, then shrimp fried in some sort of candied tomato sauce and then served with a relish of sprouts, onions, peppers, etc. very good. Next they served what they called spring rolls, made of dough, baked, stuffed with meats and vegetables. Next they brought in a whole fish, including the head and tail, baked in very rich sauce. It was the most delicious fish I have ever eaten. Next they brought in a whole duck baked in a very dark, very heavy sauce, also wonderful. The duck too was cooked with the head on including the bill. Looked very pretty on a tray believe it or not. Next they served what they call sweet sour chicken which is good but I donít know what it is, chicken and vegetables in sauce of some kind. Next course was of little dough balls cooked like boiled dumplings and stuffed with meat and vegetable, something like ravioli. Next was chicken chow mien and then they wound up shark fin soup which is considered a great delicacy and really wonderful. Gallons of Chinese tea was served with the entire dinner, both hot and cold.
††††††††††† I went into town with the four Chinese flyers and had another gorgeous Chinese dinner. About the same as last time and just as good. Itís really fine food and the others enjoyed it as much as I had the first time. These Chinese boys decided last night that I should have a Chinese name, so they talked it over and decided on one. One of them, a Capt. Tsa, came over this morning to inform me that my name was Ma Le Ta, which means Establish Morals. Why this meaning I donít know but they said that this was a very fine Chinese name, and that if I ever go to China the Chinese people would like it very much. So now I have a Chinese name but have no reason to believe that I will ever need it and I mean that.
††††††††††† The main reason for going to town today was to get hunting licenses. There is an abundance of doves and partridge here and we have procured some shot guns and shells from the M.P.ís and are going out Sunday to get some partridge. There are ten of us going. Getting the licenses was quite an experience. We had to buy one license for each officer Ė cost 5 rupees. Then one of us had to have a permit to carry the firearms and the other names endorses thereon. That was also 5 rupees. After buying the permit and looking it over, noticed that there was room for hundreds of names on the place for endorsement and started inquiring and found that the permit is a permit to operate a private army or police force and that you can have as many recruits as you want by just having their names endorsed on the permit. Itís in a book form and is really quite a deal. Iíll show it to you when I get back. While I was in the Magistrates office getting these permits and licenses a huge Indian, very well dressed, and very well-educated, came in. After chatting with him for a few minutes found that he was the public prosecutor for this province. He was very interesting and is interested in knowing Americans since he someday hopes to travel in America. He invited us to have dinner with him tomorrow night at a local club, which should be quite an interesting experience. I think that this country will unfold many more interesting stories for us if we can meet a few of the right people so am very pleased to make this contact. While in town we went by the Chinese restaurant and ordered another of those famous Chinese dinners for Wednesday night and eight of us are going to it.
††††††††††† Meant to tell you about a very interesting figure that Rich and I saw in town Saturday. He was a ďSaber.Ē They are holy men who live in Canes in the hills and come into town only once in a great while. They are very colorful, faces pointed hideous colors, hair plastered down with mud, clothes are colorful and very filthy and they have money belts and tassels around their shoulders. They carry a shell in one hand to receive money in and a sort of poker with a ring in it in the other hand. They supposedly sit in front of a fire day and night for months at a time and then bring a sack of the ashes and come to town. They beg and every Moslem who sees them gives them something which is unusual for beggars here. In return the Holy man places a speck of ashes in their hand, which is supposed to bring the giver great luck. Crazy isnít it? Hope you wonít get tired of hearing all of this crazy stuff but it is really interesting to see. Keep the letters and maybe I can elucidate more clearly when I get home.
††††††††††† Went to the club for our evening with the Provincial Prosecuter, Rarmanand Kundanmal. He had the governorís secretary with him and we spent a most enjoyable evening. We sat and talked and drank good scotch whiskey all evening. Didnít have dinner as you usually think of it but had food brought in a couple of dishes at a time all evening. It was all Indian food -- very delicious, on the order of hors díoeuvres. Kabobs, Sambossos, Pakoras, Chapaties, Kofta, all are very highly seasoned. Much hot pepper, garlic etc. Kabobs are made of mutton rolled like sausages, Sambossos are dough stuffed with highly seasoned meat and vegetables, then baked. Pakoras are another dough and vegetable deal. Chapaties are like meat balls Ė very hot. Kofta are like pancakes Ė very tough and highly seasoned. It was quite an experience. We learned a lot abut Indian politics, religion, customs, etc.
††††††††††† We went to a place south and east of Tata on the banks of the Indus River. We made many stops on the way to look at the sights, just before we at Tata, we came to an Indian cemetery which has been used for hundreds of years for the burial of Rajahs and their families. The grounds cover miles and miles and are covered with monuments. The monuments consist of burial temples. Some are enormous, cover about an acre with many domes, arches, etc. All are made of stone with beautiful hand-carvings all over. Inside are as many as 10 or 12 graves each covered with a stone marker. Outside in the courtyard the servants are buried. In my opinion this burial ground exceeds the pyramids for architectural skill and beauty although they are not so large. A few are made of porcelain bricks in many bright colors and are really beautiful. Most of them are very well preserved but some of the oldest are falling down.
††††††††††† The city of Tata is older than Karachi, the present capital of the province. In Tata the streets are all so narrow that our truck would just go through the main streets. After we left Tata we went on south and east about 20 miles or so and stopped at a little village. We stayed at what is known as a Dask House (maybe Dok), the British government has built all over this country for traveling representatives of the government. They are very nice little stone houses with a living room, fireplace, two bedrooms but only one bed. Tyler rated that. The rest of us slept on the stone floor but we all slept well because we were quite tired.
††††††††††† The trip was worthwhile anyway from the standpoint of seeing these natives out away from the cities. They are so terribly poor that it is pathetic. They consider an empty beer or fruit juice can, or an empty ration box a real prize and a dozen will stand and wait for an hour for us to empty a can that weíre drinking from.
††††††††††† Just remembered that Saturday afternoon we passed a native funeral procession Ė body carried head high on a bed. Fifty to one-hundred natives following along chanting.
††††††††††† Donít know that Iíve ever mentioned it but every thing that I have sent is entirely handmade including the boots and lighters. I have watched them make most of the things that I have bought. The tools that they use are practically nil. The shoemaker for instance has nothing but a wire cutters, a tweezers, an engraving tool and a wick in a little bowl for a flame for the soldering. All workmen here sit on the floor. All shops are extremely small. Most of the customers stand on the sidewalk, surrounded by peddlers, beggars, shine boys, cows, etc.
††††††††††† After dinner we piled into the back of a truck and went to the club for the evening. The two Kundanmals had invited us. We had a most interesting evening Ė good scotch and more fine Indian delicacies. It was their regular Saturday night dance. As you know the Hinduís and Moslems do not take their women out but a lot of the higher class Indians adopted the Christian religion and many Western ideas. There were many men there without their wives but there were also many wives there. We saw for the first time what any of us consider as beautiful Indian women. They were all dressed magnificently and wore beautiful jewelry and there were about 4 or 5 of the younger ones who are really stunning. One in particular attracted us. She had a gorgeous ruby in her forehead. I donít know how they fasten them. Dressed in a golden brown silk affair with much gold hand worked on it. Yards and yards wrapped around her from head to foot and beautiful rings, bracelets, ear rings, etc.
††††††††††† They had quite good music and play mostly American tunes. Even played deep in the heart of Texas and Pistol Packin Mama. You understand of course that these people at such a club represent only the cream, probably less than 1% of all the men. Those that we met spoke perfect English. We didnít get to talk to any of the women. They are kept quite in the background. The men are very anxious to meet and be nice to Americans and I suppose that we met 100 or so. Among those we met were the Assistant Premier of this province; the Premierís son, who is a gentleman jockey; the Provincial Defender and many others. We are to go back next Saturday as guests of the Assistant Premier and surely hope we can make it. We were also invited to the next race meet and some other functions. Believe as time goes on they will show us India.
††††††††††† Happened on to a Moslem funeral so followed it. They carry the body on a bed over their heads. Bury in shallow graves. We saw the burial. They have their service at the church. While putting the dirt they pour in gallons of water from pottery jugs. Guess itís to pack the dirt. Went from there to a Hindu Ghatt or Crematory. Here they place the bodies on a pile of wood, grease the body all over and then place sandalwood next to the body and set it afire. When the fire goes out they collect the ashes in a can and they are sent to a the. Ganges River, which is sacred, and there thrown in the river. These Ghatts are very clean and believe this type of burial is the most sanitary thing in India. Burial prices by the way are very inexpensive. They charge 1 rupee, 8 annas for the cremation, an extra 8 annes if they want the body bathed and an additional 8 annas to bathe the body in warm water. So the deluxe job costs 2 1/2 rupees which is less than one dollar.
††††††††††† Out that way we came across an irrigation project (I sent you a picture of it). Two oxen pull a goat skin bag up to the top of the well and then it overflows into the trough. We also saw a large public laundry, which covered acres. Guess you know that they simply wet the clothes and then beat them dry against stone or concrete blocks, then wet them again. Donít know why it gets the clothes clean but that is the way all of our laundry is done, even our woolen clothes. Also went by a big pottery plant where they make the large typically Indian water jugs. All made by hand. No wheels.
††††††††††† Went to the club and washed up, then went to Ernoís and had a fine dinner as usual. Then went to a Moslem Temple. Itís was a beautiful red sandstone building with many domes. Inside there was an enormous ballroom, two balconies, downstairs floor, all marble covered with straw matting, and beautiful chandeliers. The men pray downstairs; the women pray in the balconies behind the screens. Five times a day the priest goes to the tower and calls the people to prayer. When we went in we had to remove our shoes and socks and wash our feet before entering. We simply went in and sat down and watched.
††††††††††† The Moslems came in and laid down a prayer rug, changed their clothes and then squat in rows behind the priest on their prayer rugs. When the prayers begin the priest leads and they all follow. Much saloming and kneeling and bending over so their faces are on the floor. Lasts about 15 minutes. The Moslems believe in God, Allah, with Mohammed as their prophet. Their Holy City is Mecca in Saudi Arabia. They always face Mecca when they pray. A great many arrived late so they came running in, changed quickly and then went through the motions very rapidly to catch up. Quite a sight.
††††††††††† Forgot to mention that this afternoon we went to a Hindu temple. These temples are entirely different. They have two very beautiful altars and you can go in and pray anytime. Also you have to remove your shoes but you donít have to wash your feet. You need it when you come out however since the temples are very open and there are thousands of pigeons around the place. We made one mistake there Ė went into the wrong place. We went in where the women pray. Men and women pray in different places. Priests here are naked to the waist. Heads shaved except for a pigtail at the back of their head. Hindus also believe in God, with many lesser Gods, such as a Fire God and a Sun God.
††††††††††† Also this afternoon was in a Bazaar section and bought a bright colored pair of woven rugs, one for the floor and one to cover the bed. Rooms here are very dull, plain white walls and these rugs will look very good. They cost 11 rupees each. Rich and I had quite a laugh yesterday. We were looking at a very pretty young lady, about 16 or so. She looked very clean and had on a very pretty sari. We were just saying what a pretty Indian girl she was when a sacred cow came along and deposited a big pile about two feet from her. She promptly squatted down and made a nice big patty and went carrying it into the house. That is India. You can look in any direction at any time and see someone squatting down. By the way have I told you that the men squat for both jobs. Also did I mention that while we were up hunting and had the great congregation of beaters along, we were walking along the trail and Tyner and I stepped to the side of the trail. All the Indians started laughing. We asked Moe what they were laughing about. It was because we were standing up. Such is life.
††††††††††† Last night we noticed a very nice looking Hindu woman in front of a rather nice apartment house. Squatted beside her was about a 5-year old doing his duty. When he finished he started making a patty and his mother didnít seem at all concerned.
††††††††††† Went back to the Hindu Ghatts and were lucky this trip. They were burning four bodies when we got there. We also saw two Moslem funeral processions. Went from the Ghatts to a crocodile place, several miles out in the desert. There is a Hindu temple there and a graveyard and then an alligator pit with about 50 in it. They are sacred and are fed goats. They are really big. Went from there to a Leprosy Institution. Itís the largest in India. We looked over the most interesting of dozens of cases. It is not a pleasant sight. Most of them have no fingers or toes, noses missing, etc. Some there are man and wife with children as young as seven months with leprous parents and children are not removed from the parents.
††††††††††† When we first arrived here shopping was not at all satisfactory. The G.I. American has it ruined. However, as time has found we have become acquainted with a few very fine and reliable merchants. In these good stores, which are off the beaten path you go in, sit down and spend the day (also your bankroll). They pass the cigars, very good ones, serve tea, and very fine scotch whiskey flows abundantly, after you are acquainted. We spent the afternoon in such a place -- The Indian Arts. We have a special clerk there, Chandiran G. Sadarangany.
††††††††††† Went down town and attended the races at the race club. Races here are fun in the opposite direction to ours. Betting, etc. is much the same. Believe itís a little bit more of a gentlemenís sport. Gentlemen jockeys, etc. I was quite lucky. Bet the first four races and made 25 rupees. Itís a nice track and best of all was the conglomeration of people there. After the races went to Indian Arts and had one drink and then stopped at Sum Chows for dinner. After dinner three of us went to the club where Mr. Kundanmal gave a party for us. Col. Tyner and Rich were supposed to go too but were not there. He gave a very nice party and had a lot of big shots there. The Premier of this province, C.O. of the Indian General Hospital, C.O. of the air base and many other influential Indians. We had a most wonderful evening. These people are very cordial. C.O. of the Indian General has invited me out to see his hospital and have lunch with him and also to a dinner party that he is giving next Friday. C.O. of the Air base has invited me there for lunch tomorrow and wants me to go with him this week. He has to fly down to Calcutta one day and back the next. Will be a nice trip but I probably wont be able to go.
††††††††††† After writing yesterday noon I took Al Reshman and three other officers out to the crocodile pits and the leprosarium. Also stopped at the burning Ghatts. None of them had been there before. We saw a new deal at the crocodile pits. They feed the things whole goats. They kill the goats and skin them and then toss them in. The fight for food is really something to watch.
††††††††††† The best of this trip so far has been a glorious view of the Taj Mahal, which is really one of the wonders of the world and deserves to be. I expect to be back in Karachi in a very few days.
††††††††††† I left here Wednesday morning, went to Calcutta and returned here last night. On the way we stopped at Agra and Panagahr. I wrote you a couple of notes from Panagahr. I went with Col. Goodrich. He was on business but I was simply seeing the sights of India. After eating lunch in Agra, the Col. was kind enough to fly around the Taj Mahal so that we could see it from the air. I have not as yet been inside of it. The country around Agra and from there on east is very fertile and ever so thickly populated with many canals, rivers, etc. We also went over Jodpur, which is quite a city. All over the fertile parts of India the population is terrific and from the air you can count hundreds of villages from 25 to 100 houses at any time. In India no one lives in a house by themselves, always villages and 90% of the population live in small villages.
The Taj is really a magnificent sight. Its beauty lies in its architectural lines plus the white marble. Originally there was to have been a duplicate across the river in black marble and the two joined by a silver bridge.
††††††††††† We arrived in Calcutta about 3:30 Thursday. It is an enormous place. The present population is estimated at over nine million. We drove part way, then took a ferry, then drove the rest of the way. This is the quickest way to get downtown from the airport. We stopped for while at Air Corps Headquarters so by the time we reached the hotel it was 6:30. We stayed at the Great Eastern, which is an enormous place, about like the Sheppard in Cairo. The largest dining room I have ever seen and a waiter for each table.
††††††††††† Friday Goodrich was busy so I got a car and started early, about eight. Picked up two of the Red Cross girls who have been here and know the town and spent the entire day seeing the sights. Calcutta is enormous, filthier than anywhere I have been, crowded; in fact itís a mad house. Itís warm and sultry there, not as nice as here where it is hot but dry and very pleasant. In Calcutta there are no camels. Chief mode of transportation is rickshaws of which there are 40,000 in the city. Also there are many Gurkas and Sikhs. The Gurkas all carry a knife with a long curved blade. If they draw the knife, they must draw blood even if on themselves. I bought a couple of these knives and sent them in a package that I mailed today.
††††††††††† Fezes are worn by men and boys, not women. Women wear only scarves or the end of the sari. Very few women here are veiled except an occasional Moslem. The Moslem women are however kept very much in the background. Wonít let you take a picture.
††††††††††† The Ganges, of course, is the sacred river. Have I ever mentioned that Hindus living along the Ganges, who cannot afford cremation, put their dead directly into the Ganges and the turtles do the rest. The remains are seen all up and down the river. Have I ever mentioned the Parsees. They are the merchants, mostly wealthy, only about 200,000 of them. They dispose of their dead by placing them in what are called Towers of Silence. The vultures eat the bodies and the bones are thrown in a well within the tower. No one is ever allowed inside of these towers.
††††††††††† Near Assam -- Went to a nearby town with Lt. Beavers and some other officers ĖThis town is entirely owned by an English oil Company Ė all houses, stores, etc. It is out of bounds unless invited by someone there. Beavers knows one couple who invited us all over for the evening and dinner. We went over about five and went to a lake where we went for a boat ride and swim. Had some pretzels and beer then went to their home for a very good dinner. Came home about eleven. The couple was entertaining. They are British and have been here seven years. Seemed very good to be in a home with furniture and such luxuries.
††††††††††† Agra, Taj Mahal -- It is of white marble, exquisitely carved and inlaid with jewels and variously colored marble, agate, etc. The carving is really something, some huge panels carved so thinly that they are transparent, marble screens, etc. The tombs of the Queen and King are in a subterranean room and then above them are replicas which are symbolic tombs. Originally only the family was allowed in the real tomb room and the public was admitted to the replica room. Originally in the kingís and queenís tombs were the greatest collection of precious stones in the world. They all have been removed and placed instead are imitations of the same color and are in themselves gorgeous.
††††††††††† On each side of the Taj is a Mohammedan Mosque and in front the gardens and pools, which are not like India but instead formal and simply beautiful. Many enormous trees with red flowers, also a few banyan trees. It took over 20,000 workmen 22 years to build the Taj. The entire thing by the way is perfectly preserved, looks brand new. Only exception is replacing of the precious stones. It is I believe about 400 years old. After being completely star struck went down to see Fort Agra which is almost the equal of the Taj, and represents much more work and material. This consists of a wall about 150 feet high of solid sandstone and about 1 Ĺ miles around. Inside, are four places built by the grandfather of the king who built the Taj, and lived in by the king who built the Taj. These palaces are white, brown, and red marble inlaid , carved etc. Many, many rooms, enormous marble pools, an area for wild animal fighting, huge stage in front of the main throne for the kinís jester. A huge marble court for playing Parcheesi laid out in colors where the king used the young girls of the court for the chessmen. An enormous series of rooms especially built for the king and queen and the members of the royal family to play hide and seek in.
††††††††††† One of the most gorgeous rooms is a domed room, the whole of which is inlaid with mirrors. They have a red light of some kind burning there and the effect is beyond description. Many places on the outside of the castles have various colored tiny mirrors and any of them that you look into you see the reflection of the Taj as though in miniature. There is another room lined with gold leaves, etc. There are two underground passages, one leads to the Taj, the other to the river where the kingís Hindu wife went to bathe (a holy river). He, by the way, had a Hindu wife, a Moslem wife and a Portuguese wife, hence the 4 palaces, each palace itís own place of worship. Hindu temple, Moslem Mosque, also the kingís private room for prayers. There are many towers and many dungeons for prisoners. Taj Mahal by the way means Crown Palace.
††††††††††† The city of Agra is a delightful place and an old part like other towns of India but also a new modern part. There are hundreds of beautiful homes with big lawns, trees, flowers, etc. The whole city has a heavy perfume odor of hyacinth, which is a revelation for India.
††††††††††† New Delhi -- The capital of India was formerly Calcutta and in about 1920 it was decided to move the capital here because of central location and the enormous number of historic buildings, tombs, palaces, forts, etc. in this part of the country. Instead of the usual thing, they built a new city 4 miles from the old city. The old city is like any other Indian town but the new city is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It is built in the form of a wheel with a hub consisting of a park about a half-mile across, then the streets radiate out. Around the central hub are the shops, every building exactly alike, two-story, yellow stucco with white marble pillars supporting a canopy over the side walk. All of the houses are about the same, all yellow stucco, one story, white marble pillars, wall around and enormous yard, streets are very wide, paved, and a parkway on each side out about two miles is the Viceroys Palace and the government buildings including the Secretarial (Palace of the Prince). The Viceroys Palace, etc. are of red and yellow marble and are the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. You enter through an enormous arch, then there is a road for about two miles to the palace, along each side beautiful parkway with pools etc. The layout is really magnificent.
††††††††††† Went to the Viceroyís Palace. We were able to finagle it so that we could go through the palace proper. It was unbelievable and like going through fairyland. Throne room, large and small dining room, living room, large and small parlor, library large and small ballrooms, many guest rooms, enormous halls. All so elaborately done and decorated, gorgeous gold chairs, velvet upholstering, enormous chandeliers, gorgeous rugs, gold service in dining room, etc. Is absolutely beyond description. Hundreds of life sized oil portraits of Kings and Queens of England, etc. -- even a theatre. Went from palace to gardens which were also so wonderful, pools walks, rose gardens, etc, etc. Beautiful trees must cover 50 acres. Went from there downtown to an India coffee shop, which is a super place to eat. Had chicken sandwiches, coffee, ice cream (2 bowls), iced coffee and pastries Ė all very good. Went from there to Lakshimahri Temple which is a new temple built about 1938, very fine temple, the nicest I have seen in India.
††††††††††† After seeing Delhi, I know weíll all have to come back someday and see India. Itís a land of fabulous wealth and beauty and of poverty and disease of the worst kind.
††††††††††† I took a drive in the jungle. Couldnít get through with a jeep after the rain so walked down the trail for a couple of miles. The spring jungle flowers are now at their best and we turned into Ferdinands instead of hunters. The wild orchids are now really gorgeous and there are hundreds of them. Hundreds of other kinds, some in my opinion, more beautiful than orchids. Also flowering trees such as Habiscus. Jungle is really beautiful since we are getting a few rains. The rains have not yet started in full force but we are getting some rain almost every day. In this locality they have about 400 inches of rain a year, mostly during June, July and August.
††††††††††† (Day before beginning second trip across the Ledo/Burma Road) -- Today is really a scorcher. Water just pours off. The temp is about 100 and the humidity 100%. Hope it will rain tonight and Iíll really be glad to get out of here and soon.††††††††
††††††††††† February 18, 1945 (Near the Ledo Road in the Valley of Assam, India) -- Iím sitting here now in my tent looking out at the most beautiful country Iíve ever seen Ė a wonderful variety of foliage. Enormous trees, vines the size of my arm, many palms, bamboo etc. Beautiful range of mountains in the background.
Many of the boys have caught baby monkeys and tamed them as pets. They are very cute and great pets. I played with one for a while today and they are a riot.
Weíre situated in beautiful country. We are in a clearing but with lots of trees, shrubs, grass, vines, bamboo etc. The real jungle is about 5 miles from us. After supper last night Tyner took us newcomers for a ride into the jungle and Mart it is out of this world. I looked this morning to be sure I hadnít dreamed about it.
††††††††††† In the first place we came across an old Indian Fort. It was abandoned centuries ago, but still standing. The first thing that made my eyes pop was to see a tree swaying wildly to discover a family of monkeys playing in the top. We drove along an impossible road for about five miles and stopped along the banks of a river to discover a herd of wild elephants out in the river having a bath. See why I have to pinch myself to make sure itís me.
††††††††††† Iím enclosing a clipping from Time concerning the Nagas. The tribe mentioned in the article is not near here but in the hills of Burma. However other tribes of Nagas are thick around here. They wear only loincloths have enormous ornaments in their ears and noses and always a small bone in their hair. Men and women both wear long hair. They carry a knife about 2 Ĺ feet long and never draw it except to kill an enemy. They are by the way perfectly friendly to all except neighboring tribes with whom they occasionally have a war.
Iíve watched natives cook their lunch, especially Nagas. They build a fire, get two pieces of green bamboo, bamboo is jointed, cut below the joint, makes a long hollow pipe. They put rice in one and water for tea in the other. Pick a big leaf to eat their rice from, use it like a plate, eat with their fingers. Usually gather up a little handful of jungle leaves for greens and in about nothing flat lunch is served.
††††††††† Was down at headquarters this morning. Had a nice visit with General Pick about the Missouri River project. He is responsible for building the Ledo Road. Gave me a copy of a Congressional report on building the road, which I will send along. The three of us are leaving on the sight seeing trip that I mentioned, tomorrow morning.
††††††††††† It was a very pleasant morning with a full moon and beautiful sunrise. About eight I cooked breakfast, coffee, bread, friend bacon, and melted cheese. There was a tame elephant standing in the field about 100 yards from our camp. I was sitting on the ground frying bacon and Tyner said ďI donít know who that is squatting there by a fire cooking bacon, in the jungles of India with an elephant for a background, but it couldnít be Millett so I must be dreaming.Ē It does so often seem like a dream. It just seems impossible that we could be in the jungles halfway around the world form Omaha.
††††††††††† March 25, 1945 (1st trip across the Ledo/Burma Road) -- We finally got started on our trip. Left our camp about 8 this morning and went where we were to meet the others. Got together and got started about eleven. Rained today so weíve driven slowly and piddled around a lot. Arrived where we are spending the night at about three oíclock. We are stopped at an army camp which is what we will do every night. This ambulance is very comfortable to ride in and to sleep. We have two liters hung up and one will sleep on the floor. Itís a regular traveling hotel. Itís a better deal really than the house trailers in the States. Our party has grown to Ė about a dozen other officers and enlisted men heard about our deal and are going along, so it is really a cookís tour. The people with us are all very swell. All interested in travel and most of them were in geology and such before the war so it is very excellent company. Today has been a very beautiful drive through dense jungles up toward the mountains. The road is a military road Ė two lanes and pretty good. This type of scenery here is entirely different from anything we see in the States. The foliage is different, very pretty and extremely dense --bamboo, enormous trees, bananas, enormous vines and ferns.
††††††††††† I canít tell you about our route but the country we came through all day yesterday was mountainous and more beautiful scenery than I have ever seen anywhere.
††††††††††† Yesterday morning came across an accident on the road. A Chinese driving an American truck ran off the road. I got him up and took him to a nearby dispensary.
††††††††††† March 29, 1945 -- We got into Myitkyina about 4:30. This is very pretty country but the town is bombed into absolute rubble. The Japs were driven out of here about a year ago. There are not more than 2 or 3 buildings standing in the entire city. We saw one Buddhist Temple pretty well preserved. There are Jap skeletons lying all over the place with helmets over the skull with a big hole in it. This is the first I have seen of the destruction of war. Drove out about 15 miles to a spot along a beautiful river, the Irrawaddy, where the rest are camped for the night.
††††††††††† Had a good chance to see the Burmese people in town yesterday. They are just migrating back in here from India to where they fled in 1942. They are just beginning to rebuild. They build their houses up in the air on stilts out of bamboo and with thatched roofs, but they build very neat and quite substantial looking houses. The people themselves are small but very clean. The women wear very colorful clothes. A skirt wrapped around very tightly, ankle length, bright colored silk, mostly white net-like tops, lots of jewelry, big straw hats. Men mostly wear shorts and skirts. Kipling wrote of the moon over Burma as have others and fortunately there is now a full moon and it is truthfully by far the most beautiful moon that I have ever seen.
††††††††††† We drove all day yesterday through beautiful mountain country and arrived at Bhamo last night. This town, like Myitkyina is bombed absolutely flat from when the Americans chased the Japs out last year. Not more than about a dozen buildings standing in the entire town.
††††††††††† Yesterday drove all day through the most beautiful mountain country. These Burmese hills are really rugged. Passed many Buddhist temples and villages that have been destroyed. Arrived in Namhkam last night and spent the night there. Camped beside a nice little stream and had a good bath. We just happened along at the right time last night to see the last rites for a Buddhist priest. They had the body wrapped in beautiful colors, decorated with tinsel and flowers and a huge rope of bamboo tied to each end and several hundred loyal subjects were having a tug of war. After the tug of war, women came from nearby houses, carrying trays of food as a sacrifice. When we got up this morning, went up to the Seagrave Hospital. Dr. Seagrave is the author of Burma Surgeon. You must read it now. I looked up Seagrave and had a very nice visit with him and took some pictures. His hospital was bombed out by the Japs but he now has it practically rebuilt.
††††††††††† In Namhkam there is an enormous Buddhist temple. Buddhaís of stone and wood ranging from seven or eight inches high to 30 feet -- very beautiful.
††††††††††† After leaving Namhkam yesterday we came to the junction of the Ledo and Burma Roads. Soon after we came onto the Burma Road we entered China. The battle line is over 400 miles from any point that we will be near so donít get excited about that. The character of the people and towns immediately changes after entering China. The towns are all demolished just as in Burma. The Americans of course are the ones who demolished these towns when they captured them. Demolished by means of bombers and artillery fire. Every town is loaded with wrecked Jap equipment, huge bomb craters, etc. We drove all day through very beautiful mountain country with an occasional valley. In the valleys are huge rice paddies, banana groves and the type of plant from which hemp is made.
††††††††††† We are going through country this morning that is true China as we have read about it. Flooded rice paddies everywhere with Chinese plowing with wooden plows and buffalo. Women with bound feet, many full-grown women with feet not over 4 inches long. Houses are mud and straw brick with thatched roofs. The towns are being rebuilt on the site of the old ones. All along the roads are women, children and men on the road to market. All carry baskets slung on the end of a pole across their shoulders. All along the roads especially in towns are old men sitting smoking their opium pipes. The percentage of opium smokers must be very high. The markets are filthy places Ė even worse than India, with meat hung up, millions of flies and everywhere you look is the worst kind of filth.
††††††††††† The countryside here is very pretty Ė everywhere are Dog Wood trees in bloom and very colorful. All along the roads the kids stand thumbs up, yelling Ding How (everything good) or OK.
††††††††††† Early yesterday morning we came again into the foothills of the Himalayas and they are the most magnificent sight that I have ever seen. We wound up and up, hairpin curves by the hundreds. Drove in low or 2nd gear most all day, then wound down into the Salween River gorge, which is really a sight. This country is more beautiful than any scenery in the States, and one thing you can be sure of, is that never will more than a few hundred Americans ever see this country. About noon we came out of the teak wood and bamboo country and then gradually came into evergreen country. The evergreens look like Austrian pine predominantly. There is a huge suspension bridge across the Salween. We crossed this and then climbed to the top of the next slope and camped for the night. At the point where we camped for the night, the Chinese and Americans were dug in and the Japs were across the river. This was one of the fieriest battles of the war -- the battle for the Salween Gorge. There are hundreds and hundreds of wrecked trucks strewn all over the place. Looks like a junk dealerís heaven.
††††††††††† Left the Salween River Gorge yesterday and drove until about noon. The drive coming out of the Gorge was most magnificent. Road winds up and up the side of the mountain, in many places during the morning we could look across to where we had been the day before.
††††††††††† We arrived in Paoshan about noon. This city is a very ancient one. Is entirely walled with stone and earth about 30 feet high. Buildings are very old, much brick with tile or thatched roofs, narrow streets with bazaars and restaurants lining both sides. It is dirty here like India but not as bad because they do not have the d--- sacred cows all over the street and I believe personal hygiene habits are a little better.
††††††††††† The country we are now in is more beautiful mile by mile. Wonderful mountains on all sides with terraced valleys below and very pretty mountain streams. All trees are evergreen here and it is one of the nicest forests that I have seen. In this part of China the people are extremely poor Ė exist and that is all. I would estimate that 90% of adults and 25 to 50% of children have goiters. I have seen thousands and thousands of goiters just driving along the road. Many goiters are as large as 3 or 4 grapefruit. Along with this are hundreds of typical cretins (thyroid dwarfs). The older women in this part all have bound feet but the practice has been discontinued. The way it was originally done was when the child was 2 years old the bones of the feet were broken and then bound and kept bound throughout life. They walk exactly as though walking on stumps and that is what it amounts to. Seeing this part of the country, as in India and everywhere else, makes one feel among the chosen few to be an American.
††††††††††† Yesterday the country that we came through was much more prosperous. People looked better fed and dressed Ė not so many goiters and better type of buildings. The answer I believe is that we were in a wide fertile valley where food is more plentiful. In the valley they raise very fine oranges. It is very high and quite cool. Donít see how oranges grow but they were for sale all along the road and we bought dozens of them.
††††††††††† We are just ready to start another day on our journey and today should bring us to our destination. It really seems like a long time out on the road and it has actually been only 16 days now. The country we passed through yesterday was very beautiful. High mountains, evergreen forests, wide fertile terraced valleys and quite a few villages with impossible names Ė all with 30 feet high stone walls and an earthen bank 20 or 30 feet thick. The people are a little better class. We stopped at a Chinese temple and went inside. At the altar was a huge ferocious looking black-faced idle holding a huge club as though ready to strike. On either side of him was a very peaceful idle of a woman.† In front of the idles was a crude bench like altar with pots and sticks of burning incense. On the altar was a bowl containing hundreds of carved bamboo sticks each carved differently and with an inscription on it. You select a stick from the bowl and give it to the priest. He takes the stick, looks at the inscription and then goes to another room and selects the corresponding printing block, inks the block and prints the inscription onto a piece of parchment. You then take the parchment to the altar and burn it. That is the way to pray. We got a prayer stick and the corresponding parchment.
††††††††††† We saw another interesting thing yesterday. All Chinese are buried in stone tombs above the ground. They save all their lives to build this tomb. The survivors from time to time feed the dead. They take trays piled high with food and go to each tomb with the trays.
††††††††††† Iíd better not go into detail, since it might not be acceptable as far a Chino-American relations are concerned, but when I get home remind me to tell you of an example of Chinese barbarism and brutality in regards to the recruiting and discipline of men for the Chinese army.
††††††††††† April 10, 1945 -- After driving all day we stopped last night just about four miles short of our destination and are now at the outskirts of the city awaiting our reception committee (the M.P. escort). The country here is really beautiful. It is similar in most respects to the country around Denver.
††††††††††† We had the most unbelievable experience last night. There was a small camp near where we stopped and we asked some boys if there was any place to take a bath. They directed us to a hotel about 10 miles away and said it was very good. We expected the usual mud brick flop house with public shower. When we arrived we found a very small city, modern in every respect with paved streets, running water, sewers and electricity. Every building was pink stucco with tile roofs. One beautiful house was owned by a Chinese general. The town is located on the site of a warm natural spring. The hotel is pink stucco, 4 stories high, built around a beautiful patio. We asked for a bath and they took us each to a room about 12 by 25 feet, all tile with little steps that led down to a pool filled with clean, warm water. Also in the room was a bowl and a shower with shower heads pointing from all sides. We were a pretty dirty lot so it really felt like we had arrived in Shangri La. We spent about an hour lounging in the pool.
††††††††††† It is actually a resort and most of the people staying there are very wealthy Chinese. We saw many families there, apparently who have evacuated some other city and are staying there for the duration. Looked like very high class people.
††††††††††† May 19, 1945 Ė second trip across the Ledo/Burma Road Ė The road is quite a bit better now than when I went over before and the stops are well established with good camp facilities including tents, etc. We have our own kitchens with us and are eating like kings.
††††††††††† We will also have to lay over a day at another stop so we will be twelve days on the road. Came through Namhkam yesterday and then on into the valley where we are now. This I believe is one of the prettiest valleys I have ever seen. There is a little town back about 8 miles with quite a big bazaar but nothing in it except what the natives use. The natives here are mostly Chans. They are pretty good people. Keep themselves and their houses clean. Women wear white skirt waists with light long wrap around skirts. Men wear short pants and jackets, all straw hats, very large. A few of the people here are Ca Chins who are not so clean. They wear colored leggings -- pretty dumb looking. The Ca Chin however are very good soldiers and have been about the best in chasing the Japs out of Burma. The Japs were chased out of this part late in January, just before the first convoy went through. Hills here are studded with foxholes, bomb craters, shells, etc. Both sides had quite a few casualties here. Stopped at Seagraves yesterday. He has his place pretty well rebuilt. The temple in Namhkam is also being pretty well restored. There is a lot of difference in the towns now then when I went through in March. They are pretty well repopulated and houses are being built very rapidly. The people are apparently pretty well back to normal living.
††††††††††† The outdoor theatre at Bahmo is a natural bowl, which seats 7,000 people. Itís the largest theatre in the army. Every one on the trip is having a swell time and morale is very high. Everyone glad to get out of Ledo and the Monsoons. It was getting pretty unbearable. The only relief was when it rained. Over here climate is wonderful. The last two days Iíve warn my overcoat until noon and sleep under 3 blankets at night.
††††††††††† Weíll still be about 3 days on the road before we reach Kunming. The road on this end is very rough. It is rice-planting time here so all of the coolies that should be working on the road are planting. It is very interesting to watch them. All of the paddies are flooded. They plant a seedbed and then transplant each plant. Yesterday saw a Chinese drawing the silk out of cocoons. They put the cocoon in a big kettle, boil them, stir around with sticks until the little silk strands catch on the sticks, then they fasten it to a strand which is wrapped around a large wheel where the silk drips. When dry, it is a bright yellow color. Where they go from here I donít know but it looked as though the thread was ready for use.
††††††††††† We are now in very interesting mountain country. We passed the highest point today Ė about 9,300 feet. Weather is very lovely Ė nice during the day, cool at night. Three blankest are not too many.
May 31, 1945 -- Arrived here about nine last night, filthy dirty and plenty tired. I came in one day ahead of the convoy to get things set.
††††††††††† The trip from Ledo to here is a most wonderful experience and I wouldnít take anything for it, but it is really a rough go. You can get some idea when you consider that it takes from 12 to 23 days to travel 1,079 miles even with brand new vehicles and good drivers. Just for example, I believe that the best time any one could make, if by yourself with a jeep, would be ten days. You really cross 5 mountains from 7,000 to 9,000 feet high. It is a beautiful trip, no scenery like it in the world.
††††††††††† June 2, 1945 -- Saw our hospital site yesterday and it is swell -- on a hill with mountains in the background and a big lake about a mile in front of the site. It is by itself away from all other army installations and about 8 miles from town (Kunming, added later).
††††††††††† Spent all day today with the architects and engineers on our buildings then went this afternoon to see a site for a convalescent camp which will operate in connection with the hospital. This convalescent camp will be a tent city centered around a mansion built by a Chinese General. It is brand new, never been lived in. Itís built on a peninsula extending out into the lake, surrounded by orchards, lawns, flower and vegetable gardens, enormous patios, etc. I will tell you more about it later but it is grand. After leaving there stopped at the home and laboratory of Dr. Fong. He is an American educated physician who spent 5 years in post grad work at Harvard. He and his wife are most charming people and very gracious hosts. We had orange juice with wine in it, tea and rice cakes. They have a lovely home and a cute little boy about 19 months old.
Still have had no time to look around but have gathered a few impressions. This city proper is like all of the other walled cities. It has narrow paved streets and is not quite as dirty as the towns in Southern China. People of course are swarming everywhere. Rickshaws are the common mode of transportation and there are hundreds of two wheeled carts drawn by tiny little mangy horses. They also have a sort of two-wheeled, milk wagon carriage drawn by these tiny horses and haul nine people.
††††††††††† The convalescent camp, located at the beautiful estate on the lake in China, is coming very well. I will command that until our place opens. Believe I told you about looking it over. Itís a brand new mansion owned by a Chinese General, built on a peninsula extending into Lake Kunming. Wonderful location away by itself, good boating, close to the Hot Springs Hotel.
You ask about the hospital being tents. No, the hospital will consist of 96 buildings with concrete floors, brick walls and tile roofs. Inside plumbing, showers, etc. 3 messes, 3 recreation halls Ė one for patients, one for E.M. and one for officers. Our buildings complete will cost Uncle Samuel $100,000,000 in U.S. gold and that does not include equipment. Itís a terrific amount of money but building in China is extremely expensive. That is more than $1,000,000 per building. At the convalescent camp, mess, recreation, office and nurses quarters will be in the mansion; officers, E.M and patients will, as far as I know, be housed in tents, preferably with concrete floors. Will give you more details later, but it will be a wonderful set up.
(June 2, 1945, two days after the hospital convoy crossed the Ledo/Burma Road and set up a temporary camp outside of Kunming) -- The weather here is delightful -- wonderful warm days, bright sun, and cool nights Ė 3 blankets. The mountains completely surround this wide valley and we look out on a lake, which is 4 or 5 miles wide and about 60 to 80 miles long -- very picturesque with hundreds of tiny fishing boats with Venetian blind type sails.
††††††††††† There is a grade school near here.. All the children are clean and well dressed. They are the only Chinese that are near us. We are about nine miles from the nearest town.
††††††††††† Gathered up my belongings after writing this morning and moved out to the convalescent hospital. A steep mountain comes up to the foot of the lake and then a peninsula about two blocks long extends out into the lake. A stonewall separates the camp from the main road. There is a gatehouse and archway. You then drive down the driveway to a 4-car garage with living quarters, guard house, etc. here there is another archway which leads into the grounds proper which are enclosed again in a stone wall. The grounds proper cover about a square block, nice gardens, huge veranda, and from the veranda, a path leading to the edge of the lake and then steps down into the water. The house itself is of gray sandstone, brand new tile, tiara and inlaid floors, many fireplaces, paneled rooms and 3 baths. Rooms consist of a huge hall, circular open stairs, huge kitchen, pantry, dining room, living room, den and four other rooms downstairs which I suppose were parlors of some kind. Upstairs is divided into two separate suites each consisting of two bedrooms and a bath. One has large enough hall to be a sitting room. The officers use one suite and Red Cross the other. Electricity was already in and the army put in the plumbing.
††††††††††† I went down the road about 4 miles to a silk mill. They extract the silk from the cocoons, weave the cloth and make it up and embroider etc. They make some very nice things and the prices were the best I have seen in China. All of the work is done by hand.
††††††††††† Guess I told you about Dr. Tong when I was here the first time. He was educated at Columbia and spent 5 years in P.G. work at Harvard. He runs a laboratory about a mile from here. Makes all of the vaccines etc. for U.S. army in this theatre. He and his wife are very charming and good people to know. They always come here for our shows. We have all been invited there for dinner next Tuesday and Iím looking forward to it a lot.
††††††††††† Last night was a real occasion. As Iíve told you, we (the staff) went over to Dr. Tongís for diner. Also there were a Dr. Dickinson and another officer and another Chinese girl who worked at the SOS surgeonís office. Dr. Dickinson and his wife are quite an institution in Central China. He is a Canadian who for 26 years has been professor of Agriculture at the University of China. They have a very large home and it is open to all American travelers for food and lodging. All American officers going that way usually stop over for a meal or two and the night. They keep a guest book in which are registered over 10,000 Americans who have stayed with them. The Tongís have a very modern home -- even flush toilets. I used the toilet and moved the handle. The gush of water scared me to death. Itís the first Iíve heard since I left Miami. There is something about these silent toilets. You just donít feel like the job is quite completed without that flushing sound.
Iíve told you about Dr. Tong, but want to tell you more about this wife. She is the daughter of the governor of the province of Hunan, a beautiful woman, about 5 ft. 2 inches, olive complexion, cold black hair, nice figure. I imagine she is in her early thirties but it would be hard to guess. She is very timid, or retiring, but at the same time radiant. Last night she wore a Nile green satin dress with jade earrings and dinner ring surrounded by diamonds. They were really gorgeous and she admitted that they were practically priceless. The Chinese womenís dresses are all of the same cut. They have a high neck, short sleeves, form fitting, real tight around the legs, length about half way between knee and ankle and then each side is split up to about half way between the knee and hip. The cut is the same whether Nile green satin or blue denim. The real poor women wear trousers, always rolled up.
††††††††††† The main idea at a Chinese dinner is to get everyone high as kites, especially the guest of honor. I was guest of honor because of my rank. They served 3 or 4 glasses of mulberry wine before dinner and then Saki (rice wine) all during the dinner. At the end of each course, and almost any other time that an occasion arises, the host or hostess says Gom Boy or (bottoms up). The guests can say Sway Bien (as you like it). Then you can take only a sip, but the host usually repeats Gom Boy. Then you have to empty your glass. When you empty the glass you show it to the host and, with it turned upside down, tap it against your thumbnail to show that not a drop is left. They laugh and talk and drink and make little speeches and toasts all through dinner. We were at the table for about 3 hours.
††††††††††† Dinner consisted of salad, candied pork and chicken, bamboo sprouts, chicken livers stewed in rich sauce, then a whole fish about two feel long, cooked in ginger, then a whole chicken cooked in anise, then a whole duck cooked in ginger. Next course was octopus tentacles with bamboo sprouts. Then for the next course a bowl of soup which was out of this world and five dishes Ė rice, corn, a vegetable like spinach (but much nicer taste), preserved cabbage and fresh mushrooms. The last course was fresh strawberries and toddy and cookies, mints and more tea. Funny part is that after all the food you donít feel very full because it takes so long plus the wine and tea. Doesnít that sound like a wonderful dinner? It was really an experience of a lifetime. We were all seated around a round table with the food in one big platter in the center. Only the rice was served in individual bowls. Each person serves himself from the main dish into a little bowl. The very nice Chinese use two pairs of chopsticks, one to eat with and one to serve yourself with. They had a white ivory pair for eating and redwood for serving. A spoon is the only other utensil and used for soup only.
††††††††††† Parts of China are absolutely beautiful. I donít know about the coastal country or the north but all of southern China is beautiful and where we are located is, I believe, the most beautiful country that I have ever seen anywhere. We sit and look out across the lake by the hour and never tire of the view. We are entirely surrounded by mountains and the color of the setting sun across the lake is beautiful. There are some very swell homes and some nice buildings but the towns in general are not nice. They have stone streets, mud buildings, tiny shops, masses of people everywhere clog the streets, people carrying huge loads on poles across their shoulders, usually a funeral procession, rickshaws everywhere, plus pony carts, ox carts, bicycles, cars. Streets and people are in general filthy and smelly. I have been in town once and that is enough. All army installations are built outside the walls of the city. All cities are walled. All of the land is terraced and continually under cultivation. Now is rice season, after that wheat and cabbage, etc. Men, women and children work in the rice paddies from dawn to dark, standing knee deep in cold water, bending over planting rice. I donít see how they stand it. Life is very cheap. Believe I told you about a woman who was brought here a week or so ago. She had been shot 3 times because she was chasing someoneís ducks. I took care of her and sent her to a Chinese hospital. It is not uncommon to see Chinese soldiers dead along the roads. They march until they drop and then no one bothers to pick them up. Their army doesnít amount to much. They are only the trash of the country -- not examined or anything, poorly clothed, usually no shoes, no medical care to amount to anything except what the Americans give them in combat. Trouble is that if we give them medical supplies they sell it to the Japs so we donít dare give them much.
††††††††††† To give you a pretty good idea of the wealth of the average Chinese, one acre of land here supports 4 to 5 people. That would mean 200 to 250 people living on our farm, and out of that they pay taxes and itís their only means of livelihood. Of course the rich here live like kings and I suppose extract it from the poor the same as everywhere else in the world.
††††††††††† Iím enclosing a little bud, which the Chinese sell on the streets. One of the collies, who works here, brought it this morning. I think it is a gardenia bud and I believe they dip it in oil to preserve the fragrance. They seem to last a long time without drying out. Guess Iíve never mentioned flowers here but in the yard we have hundreds. Carnations and I donít know what all. This is the rainy season here but itís not like Assam. It rains a good deal but mostly at night of for an hour or so in the daytime and then the sun come out. Usually it rains quite hard when it rains, but today was different, and drizzled most of the day.
††††††††††† A few days ago one of our enlisted men told me of a Sgt. downtown who was going back to the States and who had a Chinese boy that he had had for two years. He wondered if I would take them and I said Iíd give it a try. They brought him out today and for good measure he brought another boy. One is 9, Lu and the other 14, Chao. Both are orphans and very cute. We fixed the tent to live in and let them eat in the kitchen. They are both very smart but have had no education. I worked with them both all morning and they learn very rapidly. It started with spelling and numbers. They know a few English words but not many. I had some wool socks, which had shrunk, and got some field shoes from Capt. Morvat. The nurses all have G.I. shoes but hardly ever wear them. The girls are going to make them some clothes. They were barefooted and in rags, but clean, and after we had them take another bath for good measure and got shoes and socks on them, they looked very smart and were so proud of themselves and so very appreciative. Think it will be a lot of fun to fool around with them and after awhile I can probably learn some Chinese from them.
††††††††††† Have been comfortably busy today but had time to spend a couple hours with Lu and Chao this morning and about an hour after supper. They really pick things up in a hurry. They learn pretty well about a dozen words a day. They like the idea of taking baths and take two a day. They really sparkle.
††††††††††† Went over to the Chinese Tennis Club for dinner. Had a fair dinner but a good visit and the club was very nice. The people there were apparently pretty much the cream of Chinese society Ė men and women Ė both very well dressed. One thing that was a riot was their orchestra. A Chinese orchestra with Hawaiian instruments and they were playing all American tunes, mostly hillbilly type, ďDeep in the Heart of TexasĒ and so on. Their rhythm was terrific. I left about 10:30 and stopped at hostel 5 to take a look in at the club but just as we arrived they were looking for medics to take care of some accident cases Ė 4 people Ė pretty badly messed up in a jeep Ė 2 G.I.s and 2 Chinese girls. We patched them up a little and sent them to the hospital.
††††††††††† Chaoís doing beautifully with his English. Sometimes it takes a lot of contortions and explaining to get over to him the meaning o a word. Heís learning about 25 words a day and they seem to stick. He still takes two baths a day and is very proud of himself.
††††††††††† The Tongs are very wealthy. They have a home in Shanghai and came here 8 years ago. Theyíre very anxious to return. Their home is very nice Ė furniture purchased locally, American style, not very good, and they are terribly ashamed of it but can get no better here. Probably have a magnificent home in Shanghai. They have a couple of house servants. He runs a large modern biological laboratory and has many working there and on the grounds. They do not sit on the floor. Only the peasants do.
††††††††††† It is summer here now and the rainy season. We are quite far south but the altitude is over 6,000 feet, so it really makes a delightful climate year-round. Summers are wonderful and in the winter the temperature goes down only to about 50 above. So it is really a perfect climate, supposed to be one of the finest climates in the world and I believe it.
††††††††††† We just came in from a most enjoyable evening with the Tongs. There were four of us there and the supper was simple in comparison with last time, but so very good. We had rice, a pork dish, a beef dish, bamboo sprouts, preserved cabbage with pork in it, fish and cooked cabbage, saki and green tea. After supper we played bridge. I played with Mrs. Tong and she plays a very good game. I had excellent cards all evening and we ran up a score of 3,700 to the good. I bid and made a grand slam. Mrs. Tong had on a jade dinner ring, beautiful thing. We were admiring it and she brought out all of her jade jewelry. She has 3 or 4 gorgeous dinner rings with earrings to match. Her good jewelry is all in a vault in Shanghai and she doesnít know if the Japs have it or not. There she has a brooch, which she described to us of jade and diamonds about 3 Ĺ inches across. Must be gorgeous from description.
††††††††††† Just got in from the dinner party at Mrs. Wongís and it was some affair. There were two U.S. Generals and four Chinese Generals; about 5 Colonels; 10 Lt. Colonels, myself, 1 Captain, 3 E.Mís and about ten civilian Chinese couples. Never saw so much food in my life. Course after course until I thought Iíd bust and Gom Boy all evening. Madam Wongís husband is not here now. He was the Chinese representative to the San Francisco Conference and went from there to London and is now in Moscow.
††††††††††† In one area, the other side of town where it is quite low, there was about a mile under water last night. The water covered several coolie villages and it was really pitiful to see them with all of their worldly possessions sitting along the road. They donít really have enough stuff to fill a coaster wagon.
††††††††††† August 11, 1945 Ė I suppose that I am about the happiest person in the world today. The news of Japanís surrender came to us over the radio at about 9:30 last night.
††††††††††† Censorship regulations were lifted today so I can tell you more about the hospital. We are set up about 5 miles from Kunming. Buildings are brick or mud brick plastered inside and out with tile or tar paper roofs. We have 25 wards open now and will open two more this week. We opened on the 28th of July with 800 patients who were transferred to us from a station hospital, which moved out when we came in. Weíve been very busy, over 900 patients all the time since a few days after we opened. We are the first and only General Hospital in China, which is some distinction and gives this theatre a better type of medical care than they have ever had before.
††††††††††† Late last night we got in a number of patients who were just released from a Jap Prisoner of War Camp. The whole group had been captured on Correigidor and have been in prison for over 3 years. Last night was the first time they had slept in a bed or eaten with silverware since their capture. They are really happy to be in American hands. It almost makes one cry to see them. We are giving them almost anything they want -- candy, ice cream, best food we can fix and the best of medical attention.
††††††††††† Still getting a lot of prisoners. Have had some of Doolittleís flyers.
††††††††††† The end of the war for us has meant only one thing and that is work and I do mean work. We are working like mad but it is a real pleasure because the patients that we are getting now need medical care so badly and are so appreciative of everything that we do for them. They are very interesting to visit with and so happy to be here.
††††††††††† Yesterday we got in two loads of most interesting patients and they were just as appreciative of our efforts as the others. In one load there were 15 Generals; in another load there were 11 Colonels. All of these men at one time were headline material and will be again soon. It is really fascinating to be around them and hear their stories. They have been very badly treated and will not be apt to forget soon.
††††††††††† Was busy all day yesterday. Got in over 80 released American prisoners of war. Was down visiting with all of them this morning. Last night the Col. and I went downtown to a big victory party given by a Chinese general. There were dozens of Chinese Generals and Americans too, many speeches, etc. All of the speeches were in Chinese so they didnít mean much to me, however, the streets were a sight. It was the official Chinese celebration of V.J. day. Parades in every direction, dragons, snakes, funny men on stilts and fireworks everywhere. I have never seen such mobs of people. Could hardly get through in a jeep.
††††††††††† Last night we had a Chinese Bishop over to the club to talk to us. He was on the staff at St. Johnís University in Shanghai for years and until 1943. He says that there are new modern buildings and a beautiful campus and that Shanghai is a beautiful city. He talked to us about Chinese religions and was very interesting. There are 3 main religions in China, Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Taoism is the oldest religion and goes back to about 300 B.C. About 50% of Chinese are Taoists, 50% Buddhists and the educated classes are Confuscianists. However because Taoism is so old it plays a very important part in Chinese life. Their religion is based on two influences, opposites, 5 elements (minerals, wood, water, fire and earth) and Twelve Cycles (an animal representing each cycle Ė dragon, snake, tiger, rat, cat, dog, chicken, pig, cow, fish and some others). They believe in fortune tellers and if you were born in the cycle of cat, for example, you wouldnít dare to marry someone whose cycle was dog, etc. They go to the fortune tellers to get OK for long trips, which direction to face their house, set dates for weddings and anything else they do. They have a kitchen god, a figure on red paper, hangs over the stove in the kitchen. This god is supposed to know everything that goes on in the household. They change them once a year on New Years. At this time they have a ceremony, offer dishes to the god and then send him back to heaven to report on the household by burning the paper. The foods they offer to the gods are fruits and sticky candy, so that the god will have pleasant recollections of the household, sticky so he canít talk too much.
††††††††††† Our patients come from all over China. We are the only general hospital in China. We take care of Americans only -- no Chinese. There have never been very many Americans in combat here; only supply and liaison work with the Chinese, so we get practically no battle casualties. All that we get along those lines are accidents and pilots once in a while. Other surgery is usually hernias, appendices, etc. Medical service has about twice as many patients as surgery. Their work is largely amoebic dysentery, malaria, pneumonias, typhus, flu and the usual run of things. We have no tropical diseases here and they mostly come from outlying places in the field. All of our cases are flown in and we are set up only about one mile from the airport, which by the way is the terminal for hump flying and is the busiest airport in the world. Since the end of the war we have had hundreds of Americans who were Japanese prisoners. Most of them captured in the Philippines plus a lot of flyers who have bailed out in enemy territory and been captured. We have also had five Doolittle flyers.
††††††††††† October 2, 1945 Ė I am so happy today that it is difficult to write. I have been released from the China Theatre for return to the States. We have a Doolittle flyer here as a patient who has to have a medical attendant. Rich and I are taking him back to the States and fly all the way. I canít tell you how happy I am to be on my way home to my Mommy and babies. Iíll never ever leave you again. I do love you all so very, very much. Meet me at the airport.