Kathleen Dillon (March 1915 - December 2004)

NOTE:  I was approached by Mr. George Luedeke to include this tribute on this website. It is my pleasure to add this tribute and to recognize the American Red Cross (ARC) and their contributions to the war effort.

I encourage all to visit the American Red Cross Overseas Association website for more on the ARC's efforts during WWII.

This web page is dedicated to the memory of Kathleen Dillon (March 1915 to December 2004). She was an articulate, enlightened and compassionate woman who loved life and lived it to the fullest all of her days. A born and bred New Yorker. Manhattan was her home; she loved the "Big Apple."

In June 1940, when she was young and just starting out to make her mark in the world, she was interested in a theatrical career and played summer stock at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey.

1940 Summerstock pic 1950 Home From Europe pic

A decade later, she had set new sights and become a highly successful entrepreneur and business owner who often traveled to the far corners of the world.

Between those happy years, however, World War II had intervened. The free nations of Europe and Asia were afire attempting to ward off conquest and enslavement by the fascist leaders of Germany, Italy, and Japan. In December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor awakening America from its isolationist slumber. The peaceful lives of its citizens --- including Kathleen Dillon --- changed in an instant. Drawn into the global conflagration, the entire country joined together and mobilized to fight to win.

Red Cross Uniform pics

Kathleen answered the call in 1943 and joined up as an American Red Cross (ARC) worker.

Ordered overseas, she was soon on her way from New York to far off India to support our armed forces who were fighting the Japanese in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of operations. Kathleen first arrived at Calcutta, India in January 1944. In February, she reported to the 97th Station Hospital in Agra, India, and was there through November 1944. In October 1944, she and others from the 97th went to Shrinagar on Dal Lake in the Kashmir for a brief leave. In December 1944, she traveled to Dacca, India reporting for duty with the 198th Station Hospital adjacent to the Tezgaon airbase. She was there until November 1945 when she returned to Calcutta to ship out on the USS General Greeley and return to the states. The map shows her travels in India.

Map of India

Compared to the war we waged on land in the heart of Europe and on the sea across the broad Pacific, the CBI theater is often referred to as our "forgotten war." To the surviving CBI veterans and to their friends and families, however, it is far from forgotten. It was the place where --- early on --- the volunteer Yankee "Flying Tiger" pilots led the way, and took on and beat the vaunted Japanese. It was also the place where cargo planes were flown over the dangerous Himalayan "hump" to bring vital war material to our ally China and where the famed "Lido road" was built through the impassable jungles of Burma to assure victory.

In Uniform pic

With her trusty Kodak box camera in hand, Kathleen managed to save on film priceless images from that long past struggle. She was an avid recorder of scenes at the military hospitals and nearby military airbases where she served. Many wer also of exotic places and sites she visited with the friends she had made. Her photographic record dealt with a backwater area of military activity far from actual front line combat, yet no less important. Her images addressed the mundane subjects of healing and recovery and of a much needed --- bit-of-home --- respite for the troops.

More important, however, was the written record she left on the backs of those many snapshots and on the pages in her photo album identifying her fellow ARC co-workers and the military medics, nurses, patients and GI's she had encountered and come to know during her years of wartime service. She put names, nicknames and military ranks to the myriad faces. For some, she even recalled their hometown connections. She also put names to the faces of the many Indian nationals --- men and woman --- who as our allies during WWII had served along with her and others at those military bases.

Her photographs have been grouped into sections, they are:

  1. Arrival in the CBI theater of operations, Calcutta, India.
  2. Duty at the 97th Station Hospital, Agra, India.
    1. 1st Quarter 1944.
    2. 2nd Quarter 1944.
    3. 3rd Quarter 1944.
    4. 4th Quarter 1944.
  3. Excursion to the Kashmir.
  4. Duty at the 198th Station Hospital, Dacca, India.
    1. 1st Quarter 1945.
    2. 2nd Quarter 1945.
  5. 1081st Quartermaster Company day-room and ARC club at the Tezgaon and Kurmitola airbases in Dacca, India.
  6. Return home to the United States aboard the USS General Greeley.

In October 1945, shortly before coming home to America, Kathleen received a light-hearted, yet sincere letter of appreciation from a patient at the 198th Station Hospital in Dacca, India. This was Kathleen's last WWII duty station. A portion of the letter has been extracted for brevity. This is what that patient had to say about her healing efforts:

A TRIBUTE to Miss Kay Dillon, ARC

In my estimation and for reasons I will enumerate later, the greatest salesman and most lavish entertainer since Diamond Jim Brady. It is generally known that Miss Dillon sold India to the Americans for $24 and a handful of Dacca pink pearls. In addition to dishing out ice cream, donuts and a cool purple punch, she conducted in her spare time, a USAFI course in advanced salesmanship stressing the two axioms: (1) get the sick and blind first and (2) wake up two wards and save ten men.

Following the biblical injunction, "--- the Dillon finds work for idle hands", this latter-day Jeanne d'Arc relentlessly pursued the demon idleness with craft work. With true evangelical fervor, she routed the sick out of bed, scourged the lame and accentuated the impossible all with her little square-knot braided pistol, appropriately called "Excalibur .32".

I had originally entered the hospital on the supposition that I was afflicted with some oriental rot in the pleasant expectation of a long vacation trip with pay on spring beds, under fans, and with meals served in bed. The doctors promptly pulled out my tonsils. Boy, will they be sorry when one of my toes falls off later and they discover what a foolish mistake they've made.

But Miss Dillon had other plans for me. With her exquisite technique she persuaded me into attempting a gentleman's white 20-string belt, with round knot and patch pockets over the side. This indeed was a formidable piece of salesmanship, when you consider that I am congenitally unhandy. When I attempt to fix my silk foulard in a snappy wide Windsor four-in-hand, I usually end up with my right index finger firmly tied into the knot.

Well anyhow, I started on my project, whistling happily and following instructions carefully and in a short time I succeeded in binding myself flat to the bed. Hapless, my mouth shut tight in an intricately tangled cat's-cradle of string and the free ends of six strings being plucked by Eddie Condon in a jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. I was quickly rescued by a strange band of tiny people who kept calling me Gulliver (they probably meant gullible). Out of gratitude, I resolved henceforth to devote my life to faith and good works, to spread among the poor miserable heathen in the hospitals of India the divine doctrine of, "cleanliness is next to godliness". This entails the establishment of a laundry next to every church and mosque in India.

So I leave the hospital to enter on my righteous labors, l'envei! Miss Dillon, the great little woman without whose ever-helpful hand and smiling good cheer I would have been out of the hospital in half the time.

Gratefully inscribed this second day of October, 1945 at the 198th Station Hospital, Dacca, India.

Sgt. Bob Saffron

(Remember me? --- the model for Dali's masterpiece, "The Face on the Psychiatrist's Floor")

Please note:

If the text accompanying a picture is in bold typeface then they are her own words either on the back of the snapshots or immediately adjacent to them in her photo album.

Where the pictures were taken by a signal corps photographer, the official typewritten commentary on the back is shown in regular typeface in italics. This also applies to any of the snapshots sent to her by others where the sender --- not Kathleen --- made a notation on the back.

Text in normal typeface noting the identity of an individual was assumed accurate because Kathleen had specifically identified that person in another picture taken by her.

A (?) mark --- also in normal typeface --- highlights some uncertainty regarding an individuals actual name or rank because snapshot notations had either faded too badly, or her handwriting was illegible.