Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book 'em, Danno

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at the St. Louis County Library headquarters. I want to add a little more color to a few of the areas in dad's book. I selected several nonfiction books about WWII to peruse. I struck gold with the first one, a short autobiography by one of the Hump pilots. The China-India-Burma campaign was involved with ensuring that troops and supplies got to China, which had basically been cut off by the Japanese. Utilizing air bases constructed in India, the pilots had to maneuver short runways quickly to gain enough altitude to clear the Himalayas in planes loaded with cargo. Hence the description of "flying the Hump". It was very dangerous, especially during the monsoons, and casualties were high.

My dad was not a pilot, but was the field supervisor at Chabua, the largest and most active air base in India. In reading the pilot's book, he really helped me picture the area and conditions these men and women lived in. He also took a couple of side excursions to villages my dad had taken photographs of, so that was interesting to read as well. It was disappointing to discover, though, that this pilot made no references to anyone else at the base during his long stay there except for the other pilots. I have to imagine that they all rubbed shoulders somewhere along the way on the base. It was in the middle of tea plantations, not a large metropolitan area. Nevertheless, the book was a nice find.

The other books on the CBI Campaign and the history of the Army Air Force were not as useful (or as interesting, for that matter). None of the books mentioned the particular unit my dad was in. I'm having little luck learning about the 1333rd unit.

I feel the need to comment briefly on a couple of the other patrons at the library. I sat in the reference section, because silence is golden in that area. While that does include cell phones, apparently bodily noises aren't covered by the sign. There was an elderly man with a runny nose a couple tables away. Sniff, sniff....crinkle, crinkle (his newspapers), sniff, sniff, etc. Seriously pal, go into the bathroom and blow your nose! But his annoyance factor was usurped by the oriental guy who plopped down at the table next to me. All of a sudden the silence was broken by the sound of a fart hitting the wooden chair. I about broke my neck swinging my head around. But no one else was looking, guilty or otherwise. I went back to my reading and shortly there was a repeat performance, and I knew it had come from the table next to me. I have to give the guy props for his demeanor. He kept his head down and went on reading. Seriously, pal, go to the bathroom if you need to do that. And take old man sniffles with you!

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