CBIVA Sound-off
Spring 1998 Issue

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter about the 21st Field Hospital which had three platoons stretched out on the old Burma Road from Kunming to the Burma border at the Salween River. I am getting up in years, now 86, and would like to share with your readers my memories of what the forgotten 21st Field Hospital did near the walled city of Paoshan in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains.

We were at a camp used by the Flying Tigers before they became part of the U.S. Air Force. I kept a diary and have dates and places of the journey to get there. Thanks to Homer Cooper, I heard for the first time in over 50 years anything about CBI. I receive SOUND-OFF and the Ex-CBI Roundup and enjoy reading both very much. They bring back old memories.

I haven't heard from anyone in my outfit in 50 years and I'm hoping that if anyone is around they might respond after reading my story.

A Col. Fish was our Company Commander and Maj. Oltman was the officer in charge of the second platoon - both medical men.

Achilles Savvy Savinelli
Palm Desert, CA

History of the 21st Field Hospital

By Achilles Savvy Savinelli

Entrance to the 21st Field Hospital outside Paoshan, China.

After leaving Ft. Devens, MA, August 6, 1942, I went to Camp Grant, IL, for two months basic training and was then sent to Camp White in Oregon. It was there that the 21st Field Hospital with Chinese-American enlisted men and officers. After some extended medical training, our three platoons left Camp White by train on June 14, 1943, destination China.

We arrived at Camp Shanks, NY, near Staten Island, June 19, 1943, and sailed July 10 on the USS West Point with about 10,000 troops on board. Our first stop was Rio de Janiero for supplies on July 23, 1943. Our second stop was Capetown, South Africa, for more supplies on August 1. We left Capetown the same day headed for Bombay, India.

After 32 days at sea, we arrived at Bombay, August 12, 1943. We left Bombay by train, August 14, for Camp Monroe in Deoali. We left Deoali for Dhubri where we boarded two river boats, the Sikh and the Vulture, on the Jamuna River on our way to Bandui, where we arrived August 29.

We left Dhubri by train on both narrow and wide guage rails and arrived at the Polo Grounds in Chabua, September 21. Here we boarded C-47s that took us over "The Hump" to Kunming, China, a three and a half hour flight. We left Kunming by trucks November 24, 1943, and traveled about 300 miles on the old Burma Road until we arrived at a small, walled city, Paoshan, November 30, 1943.

We set up a field hospital above the Burma Road at the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains and next to a Chinese cemetery in an area formerly used by the original Flying Tigers before they joined the U.S. Air Force. There was a long, narrow building there that we converted into a hospital.

While all personnel slept in British tents, four to a tent, on army cots. The second platoon was headquarters, the other two were along the Burma Road, one at the Burma border near the Salween River, about 32 miles from headquarters.

We first had patients from the 70th Chinese Army, additional ones from the Flying Tigers and Merrill's Marauders who were left behind plus all the GIs in our area. We spent two years in that location.

I was a sergeant in the motor pool and convoyed to Kunming for gas, mail and some food for patients plus hospital equipment. For food for our personnel, we lived off the land. We had to borrow trucks from the Chinese until our trucks arrived. They were 1-1/2 ton Studebaker chassis that our government had given the Chinese on Lend-lease in 1939.

They built the truck bed and cab out of wood. We drove those "klunkers" on the Burma Road to Kunming until ours arrived and we flew to Kunming to pick them up. After one year, they built an airstrip near us and they were able to fly supplies in to us.

An aerial view of the 21st Field Hospital installation three miles from the walled city of Paoshan,
site of an early Flying Tigers base.

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