Category: burma

P-40 fighters, members of the “Flying Tigers,” near the border between China and Burma in 1942. Credit: R.T. Smith

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The photograph of 3rd Squadron Hell’s Angels of the American Volunteer Group was taken by R.T. Smith, probably from #47, on May 28, 1942 as they headed northeast toward Pao Shan near the Salween River Gorge. The shot includes #68 flown by Arvid Olson, #46 flown by Bob Prescott, #49 flown by Tom Hayward, #24 flown by Ken Jernstedt, and #74 flown by Link Laughlin. R.T. Smith remembered Bill Reed flying #74, but Ken Jernstedt, the only pilot associated with the shot still living in 2010, says Bill Reed was not in the area at the time. However, there are two photographs taken on the same date during a refueling stop at Yunnan-yi, one taken by Erik Schilling, the other taken by Tom Haywood, that include both Link Laughlin and Bill Reed as well as Ken Jernstedt, Bob Prescott and Arvid Olson.

R.T. Smith told how the photograph was taken in a letter to Terrill Clements, author of American Volunteer Group Colours and Markings. R.T. seldom took his camera on combat missions, he explained, because “there was no place to stow it in the cramped space of a cockpit, which meant having to carry it on my lap secured only by a leather strap around my neck. Obviously the last thing a fighter pilot needs while frantically maneuvering in a combat situation is a camera flying around in the cockpit….

"It was a beautiful spring day, with a layer of strato-cumulus just above the mountain tops at about ten thousand feet off to our right. We were headed northeast near the Salween River which marked the China-Burma border, and although the air was relatively smooth I soon learned that taking a picture of this type was no easy task. It required trying to fly my plane on a steady course by holding the control stick between my knees, twisting back to my right while holding the camera with both hands, and waiting impatiently for the guys to stop the inevitable ‘yo-yo’ing and get into proper echelon formation. There was the added requirement, most important of all, of scanning the surrounding sky every few seconds to make sure no Jap fighters were about to ambush us. The resulting exposure, as I recall, was made about f8 at a 200th of a second.”

Young women smoking cheroots, Burma, 1906

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WWII: Japanese troops at the Shwethalyaung Buddha in Pegu, Burma, 1942

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“Sack Time” and shark teeth nose art, B-24M in 374th Bomb Squadron, 308th Bomb Group, 14th AF, China-Burma-India missions, 1942-45 timeframe.

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What amazing courage those missions required!

American and Chinese soldiers share cigarettes in Burma, 1943

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Kuthodaw Pagoda is a Buddhist stupa, located at the foot of Mandalay Hill in Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar). It was built during the reign of King Mindon Min who had the pagoda built as part of the traditional foundations of the new royal city of Mandalay, which he was building in the 1850s. He was concerned that the teachings of Gautama Buddha would be lost, due to an ongoing British invasion and their lack of support for Burma’s traditional religion.

So King Mindon came up with a giant, amazing, and extremely unique way to preserve the entire text of the Tipitaka Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. He had it inscribed in huge stone slabs, 730 slabs in total. Each slab is a meter wide and a meter and a half tall (3.2 ft by 5 ft), and 13 centimeters thick (5 inches). Each stone has 80 to 100 lines of inscription on each side in round Burmese script, chiseled out and originally filled in with gold leaf. The slabs are big enough, but King Mindon wasn’t done yet. Each slab was housed in its own shrine, called kyauksa gu, with a precious gem on top. Again – that’s 730 shrines with 730 giant stelae. Finally, the shrines were arranged around a central golden pagoda. Maybe King Mindon figured that the British wouldn’t want to destroy such a large, expensive complex.

By the way, about the title of this post. Because they technically can be read, these 730 slabs of marble are figuratively called the “world’s largest book.”

Royal Airforce Dakota over Burma. 1940’s

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The Last Photograph of the Last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II during his Exile in Burma After the failed Indian Rebellion of 1857. Rangoon 1860

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A young Chinese woman sits on a stretcher at a liberated “comfort station” as she is interviewed by a British Flying Officer of the Royal Air Force following the Allied victory in the Battle of Burma. 8 August 1945.

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