Posted by: SJS | August 25, 2011

Frank’s panda in Burma

As it turns out, Red Stahley wasn’t the only member of the family who had an interesting pet experience during the war.  My uncle, Frank Morris, serving in the Army in Burma was the proud owner of a panda–at least for a few days. 

Frank relates the story thus;  “Our US Army unit may have been the first to capture a panda.  We found a young one chewing on bamboo in our area.  We fashioned a rope harness and leash for him and he was with us for several days before chewing his way to freedom.”   

As we were recently discussing this episode, Frank made the point that after the panda cub had escaped, he and the other soldiers came to a stunning realization.  Since pandas regularly dine on bamboo, a rope harness was not much of a challenge, even for a cub.  Telling the story caused Frank to erupt in laughter which always becomes quickly contagious.  “What the hell were we thinking?” he said.  “And to think that part of our job in Burma was to guard Japanese prisoners!”  At this point, he had everyone in the room laughing to the point of tears.   

Frank (left) with Chinese soldier & US Army buddy

Frank (left) with Chinese soldier & US Army buddy

During his time in Burma as part of a Military Police (MP) unit,  Frank was frequently assigned to the security detail guarding the legendary General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell,  one of the most brilliant commanders in the Allied forces.  

 One day, after seeing two fellow soldiers request Stilwell’s autograph and then receiving it, Frank asked the general for his John Hancock.  Stilwell agreed.  It turned out that the only piece of paper Frank had on him was a dollar bill in his wallet.  He presented his greenback to General Stilwell who promptly signed it.  Frank still has that autographed dollar bill; it is one of his most prized possessions.

The panda story, the Stilwell autograph story, and loads of other fascinating details about Frank’s long and distinguished life are contained in his recently published book, The Eight-Toed Octogenarian,  published by iUniverse.  It is available through the publisher or on Amazon.  It’s a great read about a remarkable person who just happens to be my Uncle Frank.


  1. Love this story.

    • Darren,

      My Uncle Frank was delighted to learn that you enjoyed his story about the panda. His book is chock full of anecdotes like that one. Thanks for your continued support.


  2. Steve,

    Great book. I am really enjoying reading your Uncle Frank’s book.


    • Aneise,

      My Uncle Frank was so thrilled when I told him that you’re enjoying his book. He’s getting started on Volume II and I’m going to serve as his editor again. Thanks for your continued support and those great PT resources that you gave me.


  3. Steve’s uncle, Frank, gives us a human-interest story of the CBI Theater.

  4. Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    Steve’s uncle Frank gives us a human-interest story of the CBI Theater.

  5. Excellent inside look at a bit of Military Humour during those dark times of the War, Red Stahley sounds like a man with a very humourous colourful background.
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading of his escapades.

    • Aussieian, Thanks so much for the great feedback and sorry for the long delay in responding. Through my research on my father’s navy career and the army career of my uncle, I discovered that–for both of them–their WWII experiences sharpened their keen sense of humor and gave them a powerful, ironic approach to life. And the military experience served them both very well as they married sisters in a large, competitive Irish Catholic family in Philadelphia. Red and Frank forged their own Army-Navy alliance in the face of the “outrageous slings and arrows” that the O’Neill family dished out with intense regularity. Thanks for your kind words! Steve

  6. […] Source: Frank’s panda in Burma […]

  7. What a great and funny story, especially since I go out of my way to visit places that have panda bears. Also great story about the autographed dollar bill. True stories like this make fiction pale in comparison.

  8. This has got to be a great book 🙂

  9. This wonderful story is much like the story of Winnie, the bear who became part of an Army unit in WWI, and later was given to the London Zoo. One young boy who often visited the zoo was the son of A.A. Milne. Of course the boy and bear are the characters in Winnie the Pooh. We all love these ‘real’ stories, like the panda in Burma!

  10. Good story. Thanks for sharing it!

  11. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner.

    • Thank you so very much for reblogging this post from my blog–I am deeply appreciative for the support. Steve

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