The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Walter L. Mess

"It gets to be you're really living on the edge. It's a time of your life when you're really alive." (Video Interview, Part 1, 20:46)

   Walter L. Mess
Collection image
Walter L. Mess [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Other
Unit: Office of Strategic Services (OSS)
Service Location: China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater
Rank: First Lieutenant
View Full Description

Sailor Walter Mess was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to run power boats out of Trincomalee Harbor, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Mess and his team navigated the Indian Ocean in secret, installing operational groups on the beaches of Burma and Thailand, picking up downed Allied fliers, and running intelligence for their section of Southeast Asia, which also included ground operations. With only two hundred some OSS men in the theater and limited resources, Mess learned to make do and think on his feet.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) (105 min.)
More like this
»China, Burma, India
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Taking a ship from San Diego all the way to India for operations along the shore of Burma; transferred to ground operations; recruiting the Chins, doing intelligence work for Merrill's Marauders and General Stilwell. (05:42) His various duties aboard his boat; offloading intelligence agents to locate emplacements and then getting a destroyer to shell it; he ran the boat; it was his agents who did all the dirty work. (03:42) Dissecting the war in Burma; Japanese looking to control the coastline; one of his jobs was to blow up Japanese, controlled trains that were the same as he had ridden on as a boy in Washington, DC. (02:09)
Getting the locals to support intelligence operations; do not fool around with their women, food, clothing, or religion; with only 200 in the field, you had to lead the natives to apply their manpower toward eliminating the Japanese. (04:01) First time around in Burma we failed because we came in undersupplied; at beginning of war, effort was being applied in Europe and in the Pacific; dealing with the British; bartering with other ship captains. (05:52) Until he was 26, he had spent all his life in school; he was an overeducated fool; he decided that he would do intelligence work to prove himself and for the money to support his wife and child. (01:43)

Home » Walter L. Mess
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us