The Behavior of American servicemen in Khargpur,
India. Grateful villagers receive cataract eye surgery.
From Chapter 9: In Suspense - December
1942 to March 1943
few of the servicemen who signed the parsonage
guestbook enjoying a musical evening.
now began coming to the Union Church and
social events at the parsonage, and were welcomed by
But when our inebriated fellow countrymen
began noisily cruising the roads at night it quickly
became an embarrassing town problem. And when one jeep
load of merrymakers crashed into a tree near the church,
Khargpur residents decided that these soldiers were
a worse nuisance than the familiar British Black Watch
Regiment, with its reputation for being the rowdiest
removing the cataract, Dr. Whitcomb held two
fingers in front of the patient's face, and asked,
in Hindi, "How many?" The old
man began to tremble. "Two," he
said and realizing that he could see, began fumbling
for Dr. Whitcomb's hand to kiss it.
of the jeep involved in an accident with
a tree near our church in Khargpur.
complaint brought the Base Provost Marshal,
Lt. Stephens, and the Chaplain, Capt. Clare,
to our house. Dad and Mother explained that
twenty years of work creating a good name for
Americans was being undone overnight, so to
speak. There was also the problem of servicemen
boastfully revealing military secrets, which
was even more serious. So Khargpur, along with
Calcutta and Jamshedpur, was put "off limits" for
enlisted men not accompanied by commissioned
officers. At Chakulia there was grumbling about "those
Baptist mission- aries" spoiling their fun.
Attendance at the parsonage by Americans dropped
off somewhat, but not completely. We then began
to have more RAF visitors.
The RAF and USAAF didn't mingle easily. It was interesting
to observe that most of the RAF men who came to the parsonage and attended our
Baptist services were not English, but Welsh, Irish and Scots. Our hospitality
was an effort, while providing religious services, to also set the right social
example and, at the same time, preserve, locally, our national honor.
Get the whole story! Read Stan Brush's
Memoir of His Boyhood in India, "Farewell
|Dr. Whitcomb examing
a patient while squatting on the floor in
the Indian manner.
Whitcomb sent me twenty rupees as a Christmas
gift. It was enough to cover the train ticket
from Khargpur to Tilda, a small place on the
Bombay-bound railway line, where Bill's dad
ran a busy mission hospital. The hospital treated
between 200 and 300 patients a day. Dr. Whitcomb
specialized in cataract removals, restoring
sight to villagers in a way that to them seemed
to be miraculous! I had never seen anything
as moving as an incident which happened in
the operating room one afternoon. An old villager
was on the operating table. His relatives squatted
along the wall, watching. After removing the
cataract, Dr. Whitcomb held two fingers in
front of the patient's face, and asked, in
Hindi, "How many?" The old
man began to tremble. "Two," he
said and realizing that he could see, began
fumbling for Dr. Whitcomb's hand to kiss it.
The family rushed forward to touch the doctor's
feet in a gesture of profound gratitude. I
felt like joining them! Dr. Whitcomb kept all
of the old cataracts, hundreds of them, in
a glass "trophy" jar.
uboats and mighty sharpshooters: Chapter