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Ceylon and the SOE

SOE resistance museum

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) resulted from bringing together the UK’s three secret services for the duration of the War in order to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance. Ceylon was initially a base for SOE personnel operating in South East Asia with headquarters in Kandy and a training facility at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Operatives were inserted into Japanese occupied South East Asia via submarine.

When SEAC moved from Delhi to Kandy so did SOE Force 136 under Head of Mission Colin Mackenzie CMG. According to Ashley Jackson, writing in The British Empire and the Second World War, “Ceylon had been transformed strategically from a relative backwater, a mere operations sub-branch of the India Mission, into Force 136’s main base.”

Capt Freddie Chapman had trained Australian and New Zealand troops in guerrilla warfare at the Special Training School 101 in Singapore. They would remain in Malaya during Japanese occupation to harass the enemy as part of Force 136. Capt Chapman had already forged an alliance with the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) composed of anti-Japanese Chinese. They were armed by the British and instructed to take to the jungles in order to continue the war against the Japanese. The MCP led by the legendry Chin Peng was highly disciplined and were fed, supported and given shelter by local Chinese.

SOE Ceylon/Malaya

In early 1945 Capt Chapman was brought out to Kandy to arrange for weapons and equipment for his guerrilla fighters about half being Britons who had worked or lived in Malaya before the war, the rest Chinese. “Air supplies from Ceylon supported the 3,500 Malayans trained to harass the Japanese when the British mounted their amphibious assault late in the war. Liberators of No. 357 Squadron from Minneriya in Ceylon, for example, flew 249 sorties in June and July 1945 in support of forces in Malaya,” explains Prof Jackson.

In late 1944 Gen Roger Blaizot commander of the Forces Francaises Extrême Orient (the Far East French Expeditionary Forces) arrived in Ceylon along with French troops to establish a Free French Military Mission to the Far East. Gen Blaizot and his troops were inserted into French Indochina where they operated till the end of the War. According to Jackson “Ceylon also became an important (signals) intelligence-gathering outpost of Bletchley Park (the future Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ]) and a regional headquarters for Special Operations Executive.”

In Operation Bunkum launched from Ceylon, agents were ferried by submarine to the Andaman Islands to report back on Japanese forces, a clandestine mission which they carried out successfully maintaining radio contact with Calcutta. In another operation, a group of Thais living in the UK volunteered for a mission for which they boarded the submarine HMS Tactician to be dropped off on the Thai coast. Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) also trained Thai agents at SEAC who were ferried by HMS Tactician to carry out assaults in Phuket and Penang.

In collaboration with the Dutch and operating out of bases in Ceylon, RAF Liberators parachuted agents into Sumatra. And the US Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency) also operated out of Ceylon with headquarters in Kandy, training camps in Galle and Trincomalee and a supply depot in Colombo. “RAF Special Duties squadrons, usually flying long-range Liberators, were used to parachute agents and supplies into occupied territory, and most sorties were flown from Ceylon bases,” writes Jackson.

SOE Force 136

While combat experience in Ceylon was limited, the CDF benefited from training with British and Allied units rotated through Sri Lanka, especially for jungle warfare in South East Asia. Individual officers and soldiers of the CDF also had combat experience in other theaters.

In addition to service in the Cocos Islands, members of the CDF also volunteered for active duty in Burma. Writing in his Sunday Times article Forgotten campaign, forgotten veterans Sergei De Silva Ranasinghe says Brian Kirkenbeek was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion CLI in 1942. In January 1944 he was posted to D Company 4/5th Gurkha Rifles at Arakan where he saw action. On his return to Ceylon he was promoted and rejoined the CLI at China Bay. Ranasinghe goes on to say that some volunteered for service in Europe and experienced combat in that theater.

Three new units of the CDF were raised during the War, the Ceylon Signal Corp and the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1943, and the Royal Military Police (Ceylon) in 1944. At the end of the war the CDF which comprised 645 officers and 14,247 other ranks was demobilized. Col R.J.F. Mendis OBE ED was appointed Commander of the CDF in April 1946 and Lt Col Anton M. Muttukumaru became commander of the CLI which reverted to its peacetime strength.

The British noted that the Ceylonese Board of Ministers did everything within their power to maximize the island’s contribution to the war effort. They channeled personnel and material resources in support of the war effort.

SOE equipment

The only exception being the Lanka Sama Samaja Party which opposed the War and whose leaders were incarcerated or went underground for the duration of the War. However the civilian ministers wholeheartedly supported the war effort and there was total cooperation from the Island’s political, civil and military leadership.

In 1948 this political relationship resulted in Ceylon acquiring Dominion Status within months of India. Prof Ashley Jackson in The British Empire and the Second World War concludes that “this was a result of pressure from senior British military and civilian officials in Ceylon in favor of a significant advance towards full self-government.”

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British Military Humor – 

MI5 playing ‘I spy…’

“Keep your voice down there’s a tap on the phone”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Keigan Baker – Panama City, FL; US Air Force, Airman 1st Class, 24th Special Operations Wing, KIA

Michael Canonico – Chester, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. A/188/11th Airborne Division

Fletcher Derrick – Mt. Pleasant, SC; US Army, Medical Corps, 8th Artillery Div., surgeon / Army Intelligence, Order of the Palmetto (Ret.)

Fred Goodson – Gastonia, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 508/82nd A/B Division / USAR, Colonel (Ret. 39 y.)

Nancy Hookham – Eastbourne, ENG; British Navy WREN; WWII, Bletchley Park

Jesse Irvin (99) – Coushatta, LA; US Army, WWII

Harold Little – Watertown, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Elsie McCurry – Texarkana, AR; Civilian, aircraft manufacture and repair

Carolyn J. Protzmann – Franklin, NH; US Air Force / US National Guard, BGeneral (Ret.)

Clarence Rutherford – Augusta, KS; US Army Air Corps, CBI, WWII

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Canadian-Chinese in the C.B.I. 1944-45

 

Force 136

Force 136

Rumble in the Jungle: The Story of Force 136 is on at the Chinese Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver Canada until the end of 2016.  More information at: www.ccmms.ca

Ironically, while these men were agents for the Allies, back home in Canada they were not considered citizens. Although born in Canada, these soldiers could not vote, nor could they become engineers, doctors or lawyers. Many were forced to live in segregated neighborhoods. In some cities, they were forbidden to swim in public pools and were forced to sit in the back of theaters.

In late 1941, Japan entered the war. It quickly invaded large swathes of Southeast Asia. Many of these areas had been British, French and Dutch colonies.

Britain was desperate to infiltrate the region. They had had some success in occupied Europe when Special Operations Executive (SOE.) trained and dropped secret agents into France, Belgium, and Holland. These agents organized and supported local resistance fighters, and helped with espionage and sabotage of infrastructure and German supply lines and equipment.

Training camp near Poona, India. (another camp was in Australia).

Training camp near Poona, India. (another camp was in Australia).

However, Southeast Asia presented unique challenges to SOE. It was a vast area with many islands, challenging physical terrain and diverse populations and languages. As well, most of the residents of the region resented their former colonizers.

SOE realized that Caucasian agents would stand out too much and would struggle to gain local trust. The British needed an alternative.

There was one glimmer of hope. Scattered throughout the region was a sizeable population of Chinese who were vehemently opposed to Japanese occupation and angry about Japanese aggression in China. The question was how to contact and organize them?

Training by British Intelligence.

Training by British Intelligence.

That’s when the British discovered Chinese Canadians. They could easily blend into the population. They could speak Cantonese. They were loyal to the Allies. And there were lots of these young men waiting for an assignment.

Between 1944 and 1945, Chinese Canadians were recruited and quietly seconded to SOE in Southeast Asia (Force 136). They were told they had a 50-50 chance of surviving. They also were sworn to secrecy.

To do this kind of work would require much more than basic army training. The men would need to learn commando warfare techniques. Over the course of several months they learned skills such as: stalking; silent killing; demolition; jungle travel and survival; wireless operations; espionage; and parachuting.

Originally unsure that Chinese Canadians could pass muster, SOE recruited in waves. The first team consisted of only 13 hand-picked men. Eventually, about 150 were seconded for Southeast Asia with the majority based out of India.

Force 136

Force 136

Some men had been assigned to do short trips into occupied Burma. But 14 Chinese Canadians found themselves operating behind Japanese lines for several months in Borneo, Malay, and Singapore. They endured primitive conditions as well as suffocating heat and humidity. They befriended headhunters and other guerrilla groups in the jungles. To survive, some men were forced to eat monkey and crocodile meat, and even insects.

Fortunately, all the Chinese Canadians in Force 136 survived the war although some came back sick with tropical diseases.

With the war over and the Allies victorious, Chinese Canadians now wanted a second victory – the right to vote. Armed with their war wounds and service records, veterans became part of a chorus that demanded full citizenship for the community.  Their loyalty won out. Two years after the guns fell silent, Chinese Canadians were finally granted citizenship. By 1957, the country elected their first Chinese Canadian Member of Parliament: Douglas Jung, who had served with Force 136.

Veterans from Force 136; Hank Lowe, Gordon Quan, Tommy Wong, Charlie Lee & Ronald Lee, cut their cake, 14 May 2016

Veterans from Force 136; Hank Lowe, Gordon Quan, Tommy Wong, Charlie Lee & Ronald Lee, cut their cake, 14 May 2016

Today, through the Museum’s special exhibition, a new generation is learning how the blood, sweat, and tears of a small group of men, in a secret jungle war, helped change the destiny of an entire community. And how their service helped secure a coveted title: the right to be called a “Chinese Canadian.”

Condensed from information found with the Chinese-Canadian Military Museum, Vancouver, Canada.

Click on images to enlarge.

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CBI Roundup Humor  – Private Louie by Somerville

 

"I guess it's safe to say - he DOESN'T like snakes !"

“I guess it’s safe to say – he DOESN’T like snakes !”

Louie leaving for a change & rest - the bearers have all his change and the railroad got the rest !

Louie leaving for a change & rest – the bearers have all his change and the railroad got the rest !

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Edward Albert – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Kenneth Bailey – Ames, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 pilot, Major (Ret.)

Passing the Colors

Passing the Colors

Joseph Clancy – Durand, MI; US Army, WWII & Korea, Captain

Kenneth Eastlick – Osoyoos, BC, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Beryl Head – Hawke’s Bay, NZ; WR Air Force, WWII, LACW R-T operator

George Keyser – Redington Bch., FL; US Army, WWII/USAF, Korean War

Keith Meredith – Launceston, AUS; RA Army # TX6408, WWII, 6th & 2nd Regiments

Garrett ‘Ray’ Myers – Hemet, CA; US Navy, WWII, signalman

Allen Pellegrin – Houma, LA; US Army, WWII, 109th Engineers/”Red Bull” Division

Karl Zerfoss – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, 397th/100th Infantry Div., T-5 radio operator

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April 1944 (2)

Battle of Kohima

Battle of Kohima

4 April – In the CBI, the Japanese started their offensive towards India by attacking Kohima, India.  This operation would suffer from supply problems and the typhoon season.  Over 30,000 of the enemy would eventually be lost to due to disease and starvation.  Ground troops in Burma received support from the 10th Air Force as over 120 aircraft struck Japanese railroads and supply areas.

5-6 April – the Japanese 138th, 58th and 24th regiments of the 31st Div. surrounded the Allied troops at Kohima into a 10-mile pocket.  The 58th attempted to make a surprise attack at the center, but were thwarted by the Royal West Kents.   Within the circle, dependent on air supply were the 17th Indian Light Div., 50th Parachute Brigade, 5th Indian Div, 23rd Indian Div. and the 254th Tank Brigade.

10th Gurkha Rifles clearing 'Scraggy Hill' at Imphal

10th Gurkha Rifles clearing ‘Scraggy Hill’ at Imphal

6-18 April – the Japanese 53rd in Burma took the Chindit supply base known as “White City.”  The Chindits in northern Burma received glider-borne reinforcements.  They then occupied the Japanese base at Indau and that cut the enemy off from southern Burma.

7 April – in Japan, it was decided that despite the Army being overstretched in the Pacific and Burma, the new offensive in China would commence.  Inchi-Go’s objective was to occupy south China, thereby providing open land routes to their other forces in Malaya and Thailand while crushing US air bases.

7-13 April – in India, the Japanese 138th Regiment encircled the 161st Indian Brigade and took Kohima, but further into the settlement, 1500 troops [mostly the Assam Rifles and 4th Royal West Kents), best back the invaders.

14-18 April – the Allied XXXIII Corps began to try relief operations in the Kohima area.  The 5th Brigade/2nd Div. smashed the Japanese roadblock at Zubza and made a break in the circle around the 161st Indian Division.

18 April – the Allied troops were finally relieved in the Kohima area as the 5th Brigade reached them.  This does not in any way slow the fighting down.  Both sides tried to encircle the other with flanking maneuvers.

Kohima War Cemetery

Kohima War Cemetery

26-27 April – the Allied XXXIII Corps started a major offensive to retake Kohima.  The 5th attacked the Japanese right flank from the north and the 4th Brigade came from the south.  After the British took the road junction, both sides took entrenched positions about 72 feet apart, around the “Tennis Court”.  The following 2 weeks would bring heavy and close-quarter battles.

27-28 April – in New Guinea, the Cyclops Airdrome had limited operation.  With the swift success at Hollandia, plans by generals MacArthur and Kenney began to take form on heading west.

A short gallery of photos of constructing an airdrome in WWII.

Click on images to enlarge.

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CBI Military Humor – 

The CBI version of being sold the Brooklyn Bridge.

The CBI version of being sold the Brooklyn Bridge.

"Corporal Gee Eye" always getting into trouble!!

“Corporal Gee Eye” always getting into trouble!!

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Eddie Agurkis – Newburgh, NY; USMC, WWII & Korea

salutetop

The Salute

Simon Bromley – AUS; RA Air Force

Ethel Gay Carmichael – Leader, CAN; RC Air Force (WD), WWII

Edward Ebanks – Hollywood, FL; Merchant Marine (Ret. 45 years)

Paul Kelly Sr. – Brighton, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 pilot “Millie K”

John McCambridge – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

Samuel Prather – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 1st Lt.

Andrew Repasky – Library, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne, artillery

Robert Segil – Salt Lake City, UT; US Army, WWII, PTO, Lt., tank destroyer unit

Ruth Turner – Knoxville, TN; US Cadet Nursing Corps, WWII

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Lt. Alec Horwood, in the C.B.I. Theatre

Lt. Alec George Horwood, Victoria Cross; Queen's Royal West Surrey Reg., British Army

Lt. Alec George Horwood, Victoria Cross; Queen’s Royal West Surrey Reg., British Army

As the Japanese prepared for a major assault through north Burma into India, the British were attempting a more aggressive approach into occupied Burma. The fighting was conducted in dense jungle where the Japanese strong points were well concealed – and they fought to the death.

As a Sergeant in the 6th Battalion The Queen’s Royal Regiment Alec Horwood had been captured at Dunkirk but had escaped as they were being escorted through Antwerp, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. After being Commissioned he was attached to the 1st Battalion The Northamptonshire Regiment and he now found himself in the jungle fighting of Burma:

Queen's Royal West Surrey Regimental badge.

Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regimental badge.

At Kyauchaw on 18th January 1944, Lieutenant Horwood accompanied the forward company of The Northamptonshire Regiment into action against a Japanese defended locality with his forward mortar observation post.

Throughout that day he lay in an exposed position which had been completely bared of cover by concentrated air bombing and effectively shot his own mortars and those of a half troop of another unit while the company was maneuvering to locate the exact position of the enemy bunkers and machine-gun nests. During the whole of this time Lieutenant Horwood was under intense sniper, machine-gun, and mortar fire, and at night he came back with most valuable information about the enemy.

On 19th January, he moved forward with another company and established an observation post on a precipitous ridge. From here, while under continual fire from the enemy, he directed accurate mortar fire in support of two attacks which were put in during the day. He also carried out a personal reconnaissance along and about the bare ridge, deliberately drawing the enemy fire so that the fresh company which he had led to the position, and which was to carry out an attack, might see the enemy positions.

Lieutenant Horwood remained on the ridge during the night 19th-20th January and on the morning of 20th January shot the mortars again to support a fresh attack by another company put in from the rear of the enemy. He was convinced that the enemy would crack and volunteered to lead the attack planned for that afternoon.

He led this attack with such calm resolute bravery, that the enemy were reached and while standing up in the wire, directing and leading the men with complete disregard to the enemy fire which was then at point blank range, he was mortally wounded.

on patrol in Burma, 1944

on patrol in Burma, 1944

By his fine example of leadership on the 18th, 19th and 20th January when continually under fire, by his personal example to others of reconnoitering, guiding and bringing up ammunition in addition to his duties at the mortar observation post, all of which were carried out under great physical difficulties and in exposed positions, this officer set the highest example of bravery and devotion to duty which all ranks responded to magnificently.

The cool, calculated actions of this officer, coupled with his magnificent bearing and bravery which culminated in his death on the enemy wire, very largely contributed to the ultimate success of the operation which resulted in the capture of the position on the 24th January.

London Gazette
30th March 1944

Information from WWII Today.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

aaa5

 

 

morale

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Farewell Salutes –

Stuart Boze – Genesee, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Vincent Chatfield – Plimmerton, NZ; RNZ Army # 537217, WWII

They all stand together.

They all stand together.

Andrew Clement – Quincy, MA; US Navy, Djibouti (Op. Enduring Freedom), Petty Officer

Donald Morris – Moore, OK; US Army, WWII/ US Air Force, Korea

Francis John Pound – Winnipeg, CAN; Royal Canadian Navy, WWII, KIA

John Quinn – Indianapolis, IN; US Army, WWII, Purple Heart

Harmon Smith – Chester, SC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea

Calvin Tackett – Longview, TX; US Army, WWII

Paul VanLuvender – Scranton, PA; US Navy, WWII, USS Melvin

Raymond Walters – Trenton, NJ; US Navy, WWII

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Current News Links

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Australian in Thailand devotes his life to “Death Railway” POWs ___

http://www.stripes.com/news/special-reports/world-war-ii-the-final-chapter/wwii-victory-in-japan/australian-in-thailand-devotes-life-to-death-railway-pows-1.362248?=&utm_source=Stars+and+Stripes+Emails&utm_campaign=Military+History&utm_medium=email

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Korean War soldier’s remains are identified and buried at Arlington Cemetery ___

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New audio collection from the WWII bombing crews ___

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The Pacific Coast Air Museum is hosting the Canadian Snowbirds!! ___

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HMS Hood in Sydney Harbor

HMS Hood in Sydney Harbor

Bell is recovered from the UK battleship HMS Hood, sunk in WWII

http://www.stripes.com/news/europe/bell-recovered-from-wreck-of-uk-battleship-sunk-in-wwii-1.362328?=&utm_source=Stars+and+Stripes+Emails&utm_campaign=Military+History&utm_medium=email

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Military Humor – 

94d9068dbeab378f56ff40a011841e76

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CBI POW

Des Bettany on the beach

Des Bettany on the beach

Des Bettany

Prisoner of war camps and internment camps were a large part of WWII and many would not have survived without retaining their own unique sense of humor.  One such prisoner was Des Bettany who painted and sketched to retain his sanity.  To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Singapore, he was asked to write this article in 1991.  This is a condensed version…

Bettany hand-written transcript of POW memories

Bettany hand-written transcript of POW memories

“On our arrival in Singapore, in November 1941, we entrained up country to Mantin.  The unit, the 88th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, became part of the 9th Indian Division, and the 3 batteries were sent to where the Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk.  Eventually the battery was sent back over Fraser’s Gap to the west coast, north of Kuala Lumpur, and took part in the fights, skirmishes and battles down the Peninsular to Singapore.  After capitulation we were all marched to Changi, after disabling and destroying our guns.

“What remains clear is that throughout the period of privation, starvation and slavery, hope, faith and confidence in our eventual release remained optimistically constant.  Rumors abounded but I particularly remember the night of the D-Day landings in Normandy.  When the report reached us, the whole camp within and without the jail began to stir and murmur – to the consternation of the Japanese.  This was accepted as fact, but the stories of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs was met with disbelief.

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“Some things remain clear – the never ending struggle to bolster insufficient rations; the treatment of working parties by 3rd class Japanese and Korean privates, some of whom had never seen a European before; the roadside display of severed heads, the lashings and tortures of Chinese and Indian labourers as well as POWs and complete disregard for the sick.

“But there was also the ingenious use of material shown in building accommodation, chapels, theatres and essentials.  The concerts, shows and plays were quite excellent as were talks and lectures by experts.  Many miracles of surgery occurred under very trying conditions.

AIF Theatre program from Selarang

AIF Theatre program from Selarang

“At an early date, working parties left Changi for camps in Towner Road and Sarangoon Road, etc.  We worked at cleaning up the damage in Singapore and the dock area.  Igenious methods of sabotage were used both here and other working parties.  We were forced to clean up transit camps for Japanese fighting soldiers to provide R&R.  They would lace the bedding with bed bugs.  There was nothing better than seeing those men in the middle of the night outside, scratching and stripping off their clothes – NO R&R.

“At the time of the Selarang Square incident in Changi, parties began leaving to work on the Burma Railway.  After returning, we were moved to the jail and surrounds, and from there until repatriation, went to work daily clearing a corner of the Changi area and creating a fighter strip.  This still exists, but has grown into the Changi International Airport.

Liberation!

Liberation!

“My worst personal worst moments came when I had to appear before the Japanese Commandant and an assortment of interpreters to try and explain, to humourless Japanese officers, a book of political cartoons I had drawn.  I had lent the book to a careless person who allowed it to fall into their hands.  This was at a time that the war was going badly for Germany and Japan and this was reflected in the cartoons.  I was extremely lucky to get away with my whole skin.  I never saw the book again. [But he did redraw much of it from memory after his release].

Lance Bombardier Des Bettany passed away in 200 at the age of 81.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Dave Arnce – Brandenburg, KY; US Army (Ret.), Vietnam

Otto Barnick – GER & Medina, OH; US Army, Sgt. (Ret. 22 years), Vietnam, Purple Heart, Bronze Star

Charlie Dewese – Southside, TN; US Army, Maj. (Ret.), Vietnam, Purple Heart, Bronze Starflag

Douglas Grimes – US & CAN; USMC, Vietnam

Jay Kritz – NPalm Beach, FL; US Navy, USS Saratoga

Robert Lindsay (101) – Auckland, NZ; Regimental # 31905, WWII, 2nd Div., Signals

Nick Nishimoto – Hawaii; US Army, Korea, 25th Infantry Regiment

Thomas Y. Ono – Oahu, HI; US Army, WWII, ETO, DSC / Korea, 25th Infantry Regiment, POW

Murray Resk – WPalm Beach, FL; US Army, WWII

Donald Schwartz – Sandy, UT; US Army, WWII

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