There are 365 days in a year but only one day is your birth date. Mine is June 16, what is yours? I have spent every birthday celebrating with my family except for two. Those two were when I was in military service in WWII. I was in India (1944) and in China (1945) on my special day and have a scar for each to help me remember.
In February 1944 I went overseas with the 20th Air Force-B-29 Super Bombers. We went by troopship from California to Bombay, India (33 days) and then by train across India from Bombay to Charra, India. (8 days). On June 11 about 10 of us were trucked to Calcutta to bring back vehicles for our command.
Prior to our going to Calcutta, several of us were moved from our thatched roof barrack to a tent near the office. It really rains in India during the monsoon season and in order to keep the water from entering our tent, we dug a trench around the edges using a pick and spade. I developed a blister on my right hand but it never broke and dismissed it as a simple blister. We went to Calcutta but my hand continued to get redder and started to swell. I went to a medical unit in Calcutta and the doctor gave me some ointment to smear on it, wrapped it up and told me to soak it in warm water several times a day, which I did. The next day we prepared to return to our base (90 miles) and I was assigned to drive a weapons carrier. The driver's seat was well protected but also very hot. The temperature was over 100 degrees and the inside of the weapons carrier was even warmer. I suffered through that day but after we stopped for the night I told my sergeant about my hand. I went to the nearest American military camp, stayed that night and transferred to the 30th General Hospital near Asansol, India.
The right hand was really hurting and swollen by then so they administrated sulfa (before penicillin which didn't appear until fall of 1944) and heat. Several days after I was admitted to the hospital they operated. The doctors put me to sleep and the first thing I did upon waking was to raise my right and count my fingers and thumb; thank God they were all accounted for. I was in the hospital a month and on my birthday, June 16. Five of my buddies drove up to see me and brought a package from home. Wow! I have a large scar on my right hand to remind me of my 19th birthday in India.
The B-29s left India in the fall of 1944. They moved to the Pacific Ocean and left many of us in India. I was reassigned to the 51st Air Service in Assam servicing C-47 that flew over the "Hump" to China.
In February 1945 I was reassigned to a Quartermaster Truck Company and we drove from India to China via the Ledo-Burma Road. After we arrived at Kunming we drove first to Chentu then to an airbase near Chungking. On June 15, another soldier and I were assigned to drive a 2.5 ton GMC and a water tank from that base to Liangshan, China.
Vestal Wells, from Tyler, Texas, and I left our base. Several miles out, we had to be ferried over a river. The ferry held our truck and trailer and we crossed the river. We had a map but were on our own to get to Longshan. The journey was about 150 miles, so we had to stop overnight someplace and there were no motels so we pulled off to the side of the road to prepare a meal, make some coffee and sleep. A fire was needed but the only cutting implement we had was our trench knives. In the process of cutting some wood, I brought the trench knife down on the forefinger on my left hand and really did a number on it. Being out on the road with no first aid kits we did the best we could with what we had available. All military personnel carried a pouch on our cartilage belt that contained sulfa powder which we opened and poured on the cut than wrapped it with a handkerchief I carried.
That night we stopped to eat and sleep at an isolated spot but within an hour we had 20 or 30 Chinese people standing on the other side of the road just whispering, pointing and looking at us. We felt very uncomfortable we so packed up and drove down the road several miles. The spot we chose had an open area to the right and on the left was a little hill and we could not see a person around the area. We slept on top of the canvas roof of the truck between the hoops holding it up and it was very comfortable.
I slept like a log, but when I woke up felt strange about something. When I looked over at the hill there were about 15 or more Chinese just looking at us. We were probably the first Americans they had ever seen. We packed up and hightailed it out of that situation and finally arrived at Liangshan. We turned in our truck and water tank, stayed in a straw-thatched roof barracks where I celebrated my 20th birthday. I went to the medics, they cleaned my cut and told me they couldn't put any stitches as it was too late. I told my buddy Vestal it was my birthday. He wished me a happy birthday and that was it. The next day we flew back to our Air Force base near Chungking. Two days later the whole 2459 Quartermaster Truck Company Aviation convoyed up to Liangshan where we spent the rest of our time in China.
I finally left that base to come home in early November. After a C-47 flight to Kunming, C-52 flight over the Hump to Calcutta and a troopship voyage from Calcutta to New York, I finally arrived back in Milford after going completely around the world.
I have two scars to remind me that I was in India and China on my 19th and 20th birthdays. What memories do you have of your birthdays?