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"The guy looks at me and says, 'Would you be willing to join this organization if you knew that there was a 50-50 chance that you were going to die?' I said, 'Yeah, I would.'" (Video Interview, Part 1, 40:10)

   John Vanden Berg
Collection image
John Vanden Berg [2003]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps
Unit: Detachment 404, Southeast Asia Command
Service Location: Ceylon; Burma; Kashmir, India; Malaysia; Indonesia; Australia; China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater
Rank: Technical Sergeant
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John Vanden Berg's Army career during World War II was divided into two chapters: two years of training that included nine months of intensive study at Yale in the culture of Southeast Asia and the Malay language, followed by a stint in the Special Operations branch of the Office of Strategic Services. Based in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), he helped train Malay natives to slip back into their occupied country and work as saboteurs against the Japanese. Just as he completed training to participate a full-scale invasion of Malaysia, the war came to an end.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (15 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) | 
Download: video(3) (163 min.)
»An Oral History of John Vanden Berg
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»Intel:In Harm's Way
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (15 items)
Vanden Berg was drafted in January 1942. (00:25) A quick rise through the ranks of his new outfit. (01:47) Receiving notice that he was transferred to the Army Specialized Training Corps. (01:08)
After a battery of tests, Vanden Berg went to Yale to study the Malay language. (04:41) Despite the risks, he readily joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). (01:13) Extensive training before he was finally accepted into the OSS. (00:51)
Training with Malay natives recruited by OSS in New York City. (02:19) After training in Ceylon, deploying his team of Malay natives on a small island. (02:27) OSS training included nighttime demolition and hand-to-hand combat. (01:23)
OSS was an independent service unit, with a wide variety of clandestine activities. (02:53) OSS logistics required incredibly detailed planning. (00:12) He thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities for travel and adventure which OSS provided. (00:17)
Specific mission took place on an island off the coast of Sumatra. (04:44) Malay natives set up camp on the island, and would report enemy ship movements. (02:23) Believes that despite their training, security breaches resulted in the death of the Malay natives from his team. (01:57)

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  October 26, 2011
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