Posted by: SJS | April 27, 2011

Frank Morris in Burma

Frank and Kachin fighters take a smoke break

Frank gives Camels to Kachins

While Red Stahley and his fellow PT sailors were fighting the war in the Mediterranean and the South Pacific, other members of the family were serving elsewhere.  Ed O’Neill, the future brother-in-law of both Red and Frank Morris, was in the Army and participated in D Day.  Following the invasion, Ed was wounded by a German sniper and lost part of  his leg.

Frank Morris was in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations (CBI), a chapter of WWII that never received the attention or publicity it deserved.  The occupation of Burma by the Japanese in 1942 cut the last supply line of communication between China and the outside world.  A military airlift was begun since it was vital to keep China supplied and in the war.  America’s role in CBI was to support China by providing war materials and the manpower to get it to where it was needed.  The Flying Tigers fought the Japanese in the air over China and Burma.  The Army Air Forces flew supplies over the mountains (“The Hump”) from India to China.  Merrill’s Marauders fought through the jungles of Burma.  Army Engineers built the Ledo (aka Stilwell) Road to open up the land supply route.

The American forces were  under the command of General Joseph W. Stilwell, known as “Vinegar Joe” for his acerbic personality.  Yet, Stilwell was also known as “Uncle Joe” because of his concern and support for ordinary soldiers.  Assigned to the security detail guarding General Stilwell, Frank had regular contact with one of the most distinguished military leaders in the war.  The investment of time, resources, and manpower used by Japan in fighting Vinegar Joe and his troops in the CBI theater was enormous.  The crucial American role in this region during  WWII was pivotal to the ultimate Allied triumph. 

One of the lighter moments of Frank’s Army career occurred as he was coming off evening guard duty for General Stilwell.  As Frank describes it in his book “The Eight-Toed Octogenarian,” a war correspondent thrust a pack of Camel cigarettes into his hand, asking him to give them out to some nearby Kachin fighters.  The Kachin people, indigenous to the Kachin Hills in northern Burma, were fighting alongside the Americans and the British.  Known for their fierce independence and disciplined fighting skills, the Kachin excelled in hand-to-hand combat. 

This photo of Frank dispensing the smokes later appeared in the Saturday Evening Post as well as the Philadelphia Daily News.   I hope they paid him royalties!

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