During World War II, an imperative of the Allied war effort was to support Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist forces as they battled the Japanese occupation of their country. Initially, the Allies were able to deliver war material from India to China, via the so-called Burma Road. However, from April 1942 this route was blocked by the Japanese.
The Allies were faced with the daunting task of delivering aide to China by air, flying over “The Hump”, the troops’ term of the Himalayas. The overstretched British Royal Air Force would not have resources to lead the task, a role that was taken up by the U.S. Air Force. Originally, base out of the Calcutta area, from December 1942 the India-China Wing, a special unit for flying supplies to china, went into action. The unit’s name was changed to the India-China Division (ICD) in June 1944. The operation set up air bases in Assam at Dinjan and Chubua, and eventually came to be manned by 34,000 airmen as support staff, operating 640 planes. By the end of the war, the ICD had delivered over 650,000 tonnes of supplies to Chiang’s forces, greatly boosting the war effort and wearing down the Japanese occupation.
After the final victory of the of the Allies over Japan in August 1945, the matter remained of repatriating the members of the ICD – and this is where the present archive comes in.
Our archive, which is complete and coherent, concerns a group of U.S. Army officers from the ICD, who were ordered to redeploy from India for the United States (and the presumably discharged from the army). It commences with a letter (Part A, below) from the Headquarters of India-China Division, Air Transport Command, dated September 26, 1945, ordering them to prepare for redeployment. The present archive was collected by one of the officers named in the letter, Captain William Kotler (1917 – 2009), who subsequently lived in San Francisco, where he worked as pharmacist (Kotler’s name is signed in manuscript on Part D).
Kotler and his brothers in arms went to Karachi, one of British India’s busiest ports (now in Pakistan), where they waited for ship to take them stateside. Part B includes ‘Information Concerning Karachi’, illustrated with a city map, featuring all the advice that would, if followed, keep an American serviceman out of trouble in what was, in places, a rough city.
The party of servicemen in question was to leave Karachi for New York aboard the USS General A.E. Anderson, and Part C is an interesting information sheet on the Suez Canal, illustrated with a World map.
Part D features the ‘Special Orders’ that were handed out to the officers once they boarded the USS Anderson, and outlines their duties during the voyage, and includes an interesting illustration of the cross-section of the ship, showing its various compartments with statistics.
Part E is the highlight of the archive. During and in the immediate wake of World War II, it was common for troops stationed abroad, or travelling on long sea voyages, to make improvised, often mimeographed, magazines and newspapers. However, the survival rate of such periodicals is extremely low; many issues of serieses that are recorded are today not known to exist in even a single example.
Present here is a complete run of the Anderson News, the ship’s newspaper, printed on board almost every day of the voyage, and written and edited by the vessel’s Information and Education Office. It consists of 18 mimeographed issues, dating from October 22 (just after the departure form Karachi) to November 8, 1945 (shortly before arriving in New York). The issues are full of news and the kind the humour one would expect from servicemen unwinding after a long conflict.
The present archive is coherent and self-contained, in that it features all of the seminal documents from all stages of Captain Kotler’s journey home. It is extremely likely that Parts A to D are today unique survivors. As for Part E, we have found some vague refences to the Anderson News on the internet but cannot trace the current whereabouts of any examples. Like all such ephemeral, mimeographed works of its kind, it is assuredly extremely rare, and some of the issues many be unique survivors; while encountering a complete series of such works is extraordinary.
The details of the Archive are as follows:
HEADQUARTERS, INDIA CHINA DIVISION AIT TRANSPORT COMMAND (U.S. MILITARY).
Special Orders, Number 269 Extract, ‘Restricted’.
September 26, 1945.
2 pp. on single quarto sheet (26.5 x 20 cm), mimeographed in black (Good, spotted with old folds, chip in upper left blank margin).
This is an official letter addressed to six listed U.S. Army officers stationed in India in the immediate wake of World War II, summoning them to return stateside. The list (which includes Captain William Kotler, the original owner of the present archive) notes the officers’ names, rank, age, race, service number, unit, and the locations (U.S. Army base) where they originally enlisted in the service.
[U.S. MILITARY COMMAND, KARACHI].
‘Information Concerning Karachi’ and ‘Guide to Karachi’.
[Karachi, October 1945].
2 pp. on single tall quarto sheet (33 x 20.5 cm), mimeographed in black, including a the ‘Guide’, a full-page map (Very Good, slight toning and chipping to upper margin but no loss).
This is an interesting guide to Karachi, one of the main ports of British India (today in Pakistan), that was the marshalling point for many American servicemen returning home from the India-China Campaign, including the present named officers who were set to board the USS Anderson. It provides an overview of the city, and it gives advice on what to “avoid”, including “any association with prostitutes” or “voicing any opinions on local politics”. It recommends clubs, cinemas, churches, transportation options, and warns that the military curfew was 1 AM.
On the verso is the ‘Guide’ a full-page map of downtown Karachi, labelling the port, major roads, the U.S. Army headquarters, the U.S. Consulate, clubs, cinemas, hotels, churches, and all the key sites relevant to off-duty personnel. The map notes that the areas to the north of the Bunder Road were ‘out of bounds’ to U.S. servicemen.
[U.S.S. GENERAL A.E. ANDERSON INFORMATION AND EDUCATION OFFICE (U.S. NAVY)].
‘The Suez Canal’ (Including World Map).
2 pp. on single tall quarto sheet (33 x 20.5 cm), mimeographed in black, text on front, map on verso (Very good, clean and crisp).
This is an engaging description and history of the Suez Canal, the nexus between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the transit through which would give the USS Anderson’s Karachi to New York voyage a distance of 8,200 miles, taking 18 days, as opposed to a route around the Cape of Good Hope, which would give a voyage of 11,500 miles, taking 28 days! The two alternative routes are showcased upon a full-page World map, on the verso.
USS GENERAL A.E. ANDERSON TRANSPORTATION OFFICE.
Special Orders, Number 33.
[At Sea, October 22, 1945].
3 pp. on 2 tall quarto sheets (33 x 20.5 cm), mimeographed in black, text on first leaf, ship diagram on second leaf (Good, slight chipping to upper and lower margins with very minor loss).
The USS General A. E. Anderson (AP-111) was a U.S. Navy troop transport ship that served during the period of World War II and the Korean War, having been launched in 1943 and decommissioned in 1958. With a displacement volume of 11,450 tons, it was 622 feet, 7 inches long and was designed to carry a maximum of 5,142 passengers and crew. It made numerous long-haul voyages, transporting troops between Asia and the United States.
This document, issued by the Transportation Office of the USS Anderson assigned various duties to the passenger-officers aboard, including as commissary, mess, and police officers, etc.
Additionally, a full-page cross-section of the USS Anderson is attached, giving a fascinating view of large U.S. naval transport. Carefully labelled, are the various cabins and holds, with statistics as to the number of passengers per section.
USS GENERAL A.E. ANDERSON INFORMATION AND EDUCATION OFFICE (U.S. NAVY).
Anderson News, Volume XIII, Nos. 1-18 (October 22 – November 8, 1945).
A Complete Set of 18 newsletters, each 2 pp. on single tall quarto sheets (33 x 20.5 cm), mimeographed in black (Very Good, some issues with slight fraying to upper or lower margins, but not real loss).
This is the highlight of the archive, being a complete run of 18 issues the Anderson News for this Karachi-New York voyage. It is labelled ‘Volume XIII’, referring to the fact that distinct runs of issues were produced on different voyages, such as the present set, which is a complete, self-contained run.
The newspaper was issued by the USS General A.E. Anderson Information and Education Office, the bureau in charge of giving the passengers news aboard ship, as well as organizing their entertainment during long periods at sea. Most large U.S. navy vessels had such offices, and many produced similar mimeographed newsletters, although few survive.
The present run of the Anderson News had its first issue, dated October 22, 1945, appearing shortly after the ship left Karachi, and its final issue coming out on November 8, 1945, just before its arrival in New York, with the paper appearing almost daily. Each issue is printed on 2 pages (on a single sheet), and follows a set format, announcing current events, including in ‘Shangri-La’ (slang for the USA), and well as, often humorous, missives on sports, cinema and social affairs. Many illustrated vignettes adorn the text, and interestingly every issue includes a map depicting the USS Anderson’s daily progress along its voyage.
The tone of the work is generally one of sarcastic or whimsical humour, of the type that one can imagine as appealing to a group of soldiers who were unwinding after three years of tension and, in many cases, trauma.
Some of the more memorable headlines include: ‘We’re Super…Says Japs’; ‘Six Million to be Home by May ‘46’; ‘Hitler Search Continues’; ‘Atomic Bomb Control’; ‘Quisling Bumped Off’; ‘It’s Hirohito who Pays’; ‘Nazi Conspiracy’; ‘Jap Blood Orgy’; and ‘Buffalo’s Barmaids’.
The Anderson News provides a valuable insight into the humour and interests of the greatest generation of Americans as they returned home from heroic endeavours.