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Tag: Foreign Service

Headhunters and diplomats in the Truman Library

Today’s guest post is from Samuel Rushay, senior archivist at the Truman Presidential Library and Museum, who is featured in our newest “Inside the Vaults” video about the adventure of John Paton Davies.

“…I stood in the open door of that miserable [C-46, Curtis] Commando and decided—`Well, if nobody else is going to jump, I’ll jump.  Somebody had to break the ice.’  So I wheeled out and dove.” John Paton Davies (Excerpt from letter to Flossie [September 22, 1943], John Paton Davies Papers, Truman Presidential Library and Museum).

The date was August 2, 1943.

Twenty-one men, including John Paton Davies, second secretary of the American embassy in Chungking, China, and journalist Eric Sevareid of CBS, were aboard a C-46 transport plane.  Their mission was to carry supplies from India to China in support of Chiang Kai-shek’s forces fighting the Japanese during World War II. They were flying over the “hump,” as mountainous Burma was known, when engine trouble developed, a not uncommon problem for the newly developed C-46.

In The American Journey of Eric Sevareid by Raymond Schroth, when it became clear the plane was going to crash, Davies maintained a calm demeanor and remarked, “Just kids, kids running this thing” (he was 35 years old), and jumped. He was the first person to leave the plane. The others followed.

The plane crashed into the Himalayan Mountains of … [ Read all ]