the Wanderling



Sometime in or around the year 1959 or so I walked into Max Balchowsky's shop Hollywood Motors with a letter of introduction from his friend Eric Houser arranged for me by our friend race car driver and entrepreneur Mary Davis, which read in part, "Give the kid what he wants, he's OK." What I wanted was to upgrade the power plant in my Ford woody after all these years by having a Chevy Corvette V-8 and automatic transmission installed, and had gone to Hollywood Motors to see if Balchowsky would do it. After reading the note and breaking his stare from a certain admiration aimed at the woody he turned to me. As if hit by a hammer or seen a ghost, uncharacteristically he suddenly and out of nowhere appeared woozy, semi-collapsing, his knees buckling under as fellow shop employees and others close by rushed to block a potential fall, sitting him down and giving him water.

At first I think they thought I stabbed or shot him or something. But that wasn't what happened. The what happened was Balchowsky needed no letter of introduction. Although I didn't know it he had met me before, many years before.

With the end of World War II Balchowsky moved to Southern California almost as quick as the military handed him his discharge. Just as quick, like thousands of others, he jumped feet first into on the growing automotive and hot rod culture that began dominating the California scene. The two things that set him aside from the rest of the pack was his knack for smoothly installing big bore powerful American V-8's into smaller underpowered cars and doing so successfully. With those skills conquered he began transferring his abilities into the 1950's-1960's sports car field by building and racing his own cars. He was known for his bright yellow series of "Old Yeller Junkyard Dog Specials" and their ability to beat the best Europe had to offer. Ferraris, Maseratis, Aston Martins, and Porsche, at one time or the other they all coward under his skills, and if not, gave them a run for their money. In the hands of an extraordinarily skilled driver his V-8 Buick powered specials were a force to be reckoned with.


During World War II Balchowsky was a belly gunner in the turret of a B-24 Liberator. On a mission over Europe his bomber was .hit so hard by fighters and flack the crew had to abandon her. Making it as far back as France Balchowsky, wounded, was forced with the rest of the crew to bail out, France being friendly territory, thus avoiding possible capture by the enemy. Following a short recuperation period he was sent to the China-Burma-India theater, more specifically Burma, where he finished out the war

As discussed fairly well in The Code Maker, The Zen Maker How I Got There (Part 1) as well as Doing Hard Time In a Zen Monastery The Monastery and Beyond: My Arrival, while hanging out waiting to get back over the 'hump' I spent a lot of time on R&R in Calcutta. In the process bumped into any number of G.I.'s, Calcutta being a fairly safe haven for Burmese and China based troops seeking a change of pace. During one of those times, besides meeting Flying Tiger pilot Col. Robert L. Scott, the artist war correspondent for Life Magazine Peter Hurd, B-29 pilot John Noble Cumming, merchant marine come Beat poet Bob Kaufman, and others. I also met a 20 year old G.I. on R&R named Balchowsky that would eventually play a role in my life later on. In conversation Scott related that while with the Flying Tigers he had escorted both daylight and nighttime bombing runs over Hanoi as discussed and described in Fujiyama Foo-Foo. In turn, Balchowsky told the group, without ever mentioning even once having fighter escort, that he had participated in low-level B-24 bombing runs on Japanese ships in the Gulf of Tonkin right off the coast of Vietnam. In a chapter dedicated to Max Balchowsky, author Art Evans in the book so cited, offers the following:

"Logistics and transport in the mountains and jungled area were a nightmare. The B-24 was not only a bomber but also an occasional transport. The B-24 supported the Vinegar Joe Stillwell campaign in Burma. They dropped supplies to Merrill's Marauders and Orde Wingae's Chindits who were fighting in the jungle behind Japanese lines. They also flew dangerous radar-directed low-level night missions attacking shipping in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam."

World War II Veterans in Motorsports

Places like Hanoi, Gulf of Tonkin, and Vietnam didn't mean much to the 1944 Calcutta G.I.s, but for me they took on a whole different meaning. The B-24 bomber in the above quote, especially as to how it applies to Max Balchowsky, was a B-24 given the designation "SB-24D," the S standing for Snooper. SB-24D's were highly modified for their particular mission and only three squadrons total existed in all of the Army Air Forces, and of which, Balchowsky served in one. Footnote [1] or the the link below will take you to more regarding the secret and the then state of the art stealth-like outfit he belonged to:


While in his garage Hollywood Motors in 1959 Balchowsky asked if I had ever been to Burma. I told him about 15 years before, in 1944 as a young boy around six years old, I had been taken to India for several months by a foster couple staying at the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, but was unable to remember a whole lot about it. If Burma had been on my travel agenda I wasn't able to remember it either. He told me in 1944 at age 20 he was in the Army in Burma counting down the days until the end of the war when he went on R&R in Calcutta India. There he met the person he thought was me, and for sure the me he met wasn't six years old, but more like 25, and, although in civilian clothes, claiming to be in the Army and hanging out with other G.I.s.

Of course Balchowsky was right. I wouldn't be age 25 for several more years, sometime around 1964 or so. When I went to to see about a possible engine swap for the woody it was approximately five years before 1964. Which is to say, neither 1964 nor me being 25 hadn't happened yet. And that's the crux of the matter. If it hadn't happened yet how could I have remembered it?[2]


If any of you have read "The Code Maker, The Zen Maker," especially Part V Of Minds and Landscapes: Into Their Interior (see), you would have learned that in 1964 I ended up in a Zen Monastery high in the Himalayas and an ashram of a venerated Indian holy man in India. It was after the ashram, as found in Return to the Monastery, that I ended up in Burma and then Calcutta. Of course, again, in Calcutta, I was around 25 years old. When I was in Balchowsky's shop seeing about the woody it was 1959, four or five years earlier. I was only 21 and 1964 hadn't happened yet, so there was no way I could remember any meeting with Balchowsky in Burma or Calcutta because, as for me, it was yet to come.


As for the Chevy V-8 in the woody it was never done. Uncle Sam's heavy hand of the Selective Service interceded and I was hit by the draft before Balchowsky and I ever finished our negotiations. Instead of a Chevy Balchowsky wanted to put a nail head Buick V-8 in the wagon just liked he used in his Old Yeller's and he pretty much had me convinced to do so after hearing all the pros and cons when the Army got in the way. After I received my discharge I had put cars behind me and never went back.

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As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.





Footnote [1]



SB-24D was a modified B-24D World War II Consolidated built Liberator bomber reconfigured to be used for low level, anti-shipping strikes under the cover of darkness along with cutting enemy supply lines, destroying ground installations and infrastructure such as bridges, wharfs, docks, piers, roads, as well as participating in pathfinder missions. Labelled a "Snooper," the modifications included the underside or total aircraft painted flat black to inhibit nighttime visibility, an extra crew member to serve as radar operator, radar that could identify targets 50 miles out with a certain level of reliability and nearly 100% at 30 miles out. Special radar-sighting devices allowed operation of the bomb-release mechanism irrespective of visual sighting of the target.

During the years 1943 to 1945. there were three Snooper Squadrons:

  • 63rd, one of four squadrons of the 43rd Bomber Group, 5th Air Force. Primary operational area: Philippines, Papua; New Guinea;; Western Pacific; Australia

  • 868th, not attached to any Bomb Group, 13th Air Force, Primary operational area: South and Southwest Pacific.

  • 373th, one of four squadrons of the 308th Bomber Group, 14th Force, Primary operational area: China, Burma, India (CBI).

The "B-24 bombing runs flying dangerous radar-directed low-level night missions attacking shipping in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam" that Balchowsky found himself in was most likely in a SB-24D "Snooper" as part of the 373th Bomber Squadron, 308th Bomber Group, 14th Force. The SB-24D Snooper was a specially reconfigured or at least highly modified B-24 bristling with state-of-the-art electronic gear, radar, and painted a dull flat black all designed for low-level night time attack bombing.

373th BS, 308th BG, 14th AF

In a sense SB-24D's were the U.S. Army Air Force answer to the Navy's Black Cats used in the South Pacific with startling results. The Black Cats used PBY-5A Catalina floatplanes equipped with early Air to Surface Vessel (ASV) radar, all with muffled engines and painted totally flat black. Some were heavily armed in the nose with quad-fifties.

The Army did almost the same thing only used B-24 heavy bombers for the delivery platform. Where the Black Cats would come in attacking ships in the dark of the night at mast high just skimming the water the SB-24D's would bomb at medium altitude and usually against installations. They did have a routine where they searched the Gulf and if they found no vessels they turned toward Haiphong and Hanoi, sometimes bombing ships and harbors along the coast as far south as Saigon and as far north as Hong Kong. The following sortie statistics are found in Air Interdictions In China In World War II linked below and listed therein as happening between January 1943 until the end of the war:

"The total number of sorties flown against harbor shipping and installations was in the neighborhood of 1,400, of which more than 550 were by B-24's, slightly more than 300 flown by B-25's, and more than 750 by P-40's, P-38's, or P-51's."







Footnote [2]


The Balchowsky Paradox circulates around a real life person who in World War II was a belly turret gunner in a B-24 Liberator, Max Balchowsky. When the Balchowsky Paradox is put into motion and paralleled against other time travel paradoxes it comes up similar to what is known as the Time Pill Paradox. However, although a comparison can be made to the Pill Paradox, it is still an almost direct mirror image, a flip backwards so to speak, like a reversal in how it is executed, i.e., starting where the Pill Paradox finishes and going back to where it starts. In the quote below Balchowsky is in Calcutta, India in 1944 at age 20. Later, when he is met in his shop it is in America, Hollywood to be exact, and 15 years later, 1959, and Balchowsky is now 35 years old. The person meeting him is 21 years old and the same person he met in Calcutta in 1944, only that when that person came to Calcutta it was from the year 1964 and he was 25 years old.

"(In) 1964 I ended up in a Zen Monastery high in the Himalayas then an ashram of a venerated Indian holy man in India. It was after the ashram, as found in Return to the Monastery, that I ended up in Burma and then Calcutta. In Calcutta I was around 25 years old. When I was in Balchowsky's shop it was 1959, four or five years earlier. I was only 21 then and 1964 hadn't happened yet, so there was no way I could remember any meeting with Balchowsky in Burma or Calcutta because, as for me, it was yet to come."

Return to the Monastery

For all involved in the meeting at Balchowsky's shop in 1959, 1964 hadn't arrived yet as 1964 was still in the future, so there is no way the person could "remember back" to having met Balchowsky in Calcutta in 1944. For Balchowsky it didn't matter as he "grew" or "aged" into 1959 from 1944 through the normal process of the passage of time. For the person from 1964 who went back to 1944 it was quite different.

The Army's motto, if it isn't, should be, "Hurry Up And Wait." In that what I was doing was not much more than stroking a dog hanging around for a CNAC flight out over the Hump for the OSS and needed a cover for me to do so. The powers that be were taking their time doing it, although I don't think anyone gave a shit one way or the other, the place being such a zoo and nobody knowing what was going on anyway --- the Allies or the Axis. So said, in that I had lots of free time I spent a lot of it in Calcutta hanging out. In doing so I ended up bumping into lots of other G.I.'s caught up the same or similar situation.

Under the same circumstances that I met Balchowsky in Calcutta I also met a merchant marine I knew named Bob Kaufman. Since the meeting in Calcutta was ten years earlier, he was ten years younger than he was when I met him at the home of my Merchant Marine Friend in Redondo Beach. I remember well the day he was at the merchant marine's home. I was in high school at the time when Kaufman took notice of the the necklace my friend was wearing for the very first time. Although in Calcutta his interest was driven by not much more that a general curiosity, because of having learned the background story surrounding the necklace relative to my merchant marine friend, he went over the necklace at the merchant marine's with a heavy duty intensity. It was easy to see as carefully as he looked at the necklace in both cases that in the second case he determined it to be the same necklace, although from his perspective he couldn't see how that could possibly be. Examining the necklace at the merchant marine's and not realizing the context of the "real" flow of events as to how they unfolded, he was totally befuddled how the necklace could have ended up around the neck of my merchant marine friend from some G.I. in Calcutta, when in fact and in "real life," unknown to Kaufman, the actual events were vice versa. For more see:


Now, here's the clinker. Relative to Balchowsky and the Balchowsky Paradox, how it earns a massive amount of credibility besides being substantiated and taking on a life of it's own is because of Balchowsky himself. Apparently he was on R & R in Calcutta the same day that Bob Kaufman noticed the necklace I had around my neck. After some discussion about the protection I was afforded by it, Kaufman was driven by a general curiosity to examined it closely. Balchowsky, recalling the circumstances surrounding the necklace that day in Calcutta and sure I was the same person he saw with it in Calcutta wanted to know if I wore a necklace and if so could he see it. I told him I didn't have a necklace nor did I wear one. It was then he related the above events to me. He remembered the events because he was there. I couldn't remember the events standing in front of him at that moment in Hollywood Motors, even though I was there, because for me they hadn't happened yet. Balchowsky was giving me a window to future events that for him, weren't future events but past events.


Because of being military types, especially American military types, the "city" pretty much expected us to not wend off into the more palatable portions. Except for some minor overlapping there existed a separation between officers and enlisted men as well, although by-in-large most American military types pretty much frequented the same general areas and places. Since Kaufman was a merchant marine and basically a civilian and nobody knew my status I had a tendency to lean toward the officer side of things when I was in Calcutta with the merchant marine. On one occasion we ran across a highly secret group of R & R pilots training for bombing runs out of India into Japan, and of which I knew about and they knew me, at least the by proxy leader did, an officer named Col Robert L Scott Jr..

Early in the war Scott himself had been sent to India on a top secret mission to do the exact same thing, bomb Japan on a flight originating from China, only in those days using a B-17 instead of a B-29. Scott, visiting the B-29 training base took a few of the B-29 officer trainees into Calcutta for some much needed R & R. I just happened to be in Calcutta at the same time meeting with the merchant marine and it wasn't long before we ran into each other. Joining the group into Calcutta was an artist war correspondent for Life Magazine named Peter Hurd who was covering the Army Air Forces' worldwide air transport system. Hurd was on his second assignment after England, Europe, and Africa for Life Magazine and in doing so ended up for a time in India.

My Uncle was a fellow New Mexico WPA artist colleague and friend of Hurd. When Hurd was in India creating paintings he met a friend of my uncle, a 23 year old B-29 pilot named John Noble Cumming. Since we all came together at the same time and same place in Calcutta I met Cumming as well. Before the war Cumming was an artist and muralist assistant for the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and how it was my uncle knew him. So respected was Cumming's work by Rivera he included his image in the 15.75 foot high by 37.5 foot long mural "Man Controller of the Universe" he painted in the museum in Mexico City. Cumming was killed two weeks before his 24th birthday when his Superfortress crashed during a "hump" related bombing run over the Himalayas headed toward Japan in World War II.