PFC Ronald Knuth, Battery C 612 Field Artillery Battalion, Gun Crewman T4 took this photo. This is typical of the Marsmen’s humor when leaving the safety of home to face the dangers of war awaiting in Burma. Private Knuth is on board the General H. I. Butner bound for India (the first stop en route to Burma), when his shipmates mocked up this “Domain of the Golden Dragon” initiation pass.
Some of the Marsmen took the Butner, but according to Ken Laabs, others took one of the three Liberty ships: the USS Dearborn, the USS C.W. Fields, and the USS W.S. Halstead. (1) The Liberty ships docked in Calcutta, India. I don’t know where the Butner ended up, but it is possible this is the ship that my father boarded, which he reports docked in Bombay, India.
I love how the men took the experience of heading for an exotic foreign land and made it into a parody, mocking a secret society initiation of a brotherhood sharing the “silent mysteries of the Far East”.
This photo is by courtesy of Ronald Knuth’s daughter, Sue Knuth Bailey, and is gratefully received.
(1) Mars Task Force, 612th Field Artillery Battalion (Pk), Attached to the 5332nd Brigade (Prov). Unpublished memoir by Ken E. Laabs. Photocopied 2017. 9.
© 2019 Jeanne M. Halloran, all rights reserved
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