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"The soldiers were getting reports from their loved ones: 'What are you doing there?'" (Video Interview, 19:52)

   Abel Kessler
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War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army
Unit: 441st Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Battalion
Service Location: Camp Stewart, Georgia; Camp Davis, North Carolina; Pentagon, Washington, DC; India; China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater
Rank: Captain
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Brooklyn native Abel Kessler rose through the ranks to become a reporter at the New York Times. His background in journalism led to his assignment as an information officer for the Army in India. The sparse numbers of U.S. troops in the CBI made his newsletter an important lifeline for the men who were so far away from each other and so disconnected from events going on in the rest of the world. Kessler's appreciation for the Indian people is exceeded only by his deep admiration for the men he served with.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (50 min.)
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»China, Burma, India
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
How he wound up in an artillery unit; commissioned as an officer; becoming a public information officer; his duties; avoid sending out photos that might reveal anything sensitive to the enemy; flying to India rather than taking a ship. (07:23) His base in northeastern India; the C-46 aircraft was nicknamed the flying coffin; at the end of the war, there were 397 men unaccounted for from the flights over the hump; very few combat troops to stop Japanese entering India. (03:36) Not much reporting on what was going on in the CBI and soldiers were hearing from home: What are you doing there?; working with British and Australian allies. (02:28)
On leave to Darjeeling in the Himalayas; he could not eat any "native" food; when in Calcutta on assignment he would go to Firpo's, a fine European restaurant that was off-limits. (02:20) Morale problems; threat of going in to China hung over their heads; hazardous conditions for driving; "more soldiers killed by jeeps than Japs; processing a group of soldiers to go home; they were all killed when their plane hit a mountain. (02:31) 

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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