THE PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER



AND THE ASIAN WARLORD


DON SJOSTROM 1940-1967


"For a vast number of young men growing up around the same time I did, after reaching a certain age, they were uprooted from whatever they were doing by the then in place friendly Selective Service System, otherwise known as the draft, and plunked down into the military. And so it was for me. Following a crowded ruckus-filled overnight 400 mile train ride from the induction center in Los Angeles to Fort Ord I, along with several hundred other potential GIs, at 4:00 AM in the morning, was herded into one of a whole line of cattle trucks and taken to what they called the Reception Company Area. Then, after being issued two pairs of too large boots along with several sets of too large olive drab shirts and pants, and having the good fortune of completing eight weeks of basic without incident I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia to attend the U.S. Army Signal Corps School for what they called Advanced Individual Training, or AIT."

WASHOE ZEPHER, the Wanderling


the Wanderling


Young men of similar ilk as me as described above, apparently smarter than I was, sought avoidance of that same draft I was caught up in by going off to Canada, seeking out college deferments, or, if already having received degrees, going on to graduate school or joining the then newly formed Peace Corps --- although it must be clarified here that the person I will speak of later in no way did any of those things, either implied or in reality. He was, albeit unsung, a true hero by any definition.


Because the Peace Corps has been in the public consciousness for so long most people have a general idea what it is and does, although the program itself hasn't been around forever, being basically a product of the sixties. Programs similar to the Peace Corps had been advocated on-and-off seemingly forever, but it wasn't until under President John F. Kennedy's watch that on March 1, 1961 the actual government run program was officially established through executive order. It was fully authorized about six months later by Congress on September 21, 1961, with passage of the Peace Corps Act (Pub.L. 87–293). The act declares the Peace Corps purpose as follows:


"To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower."


Within a year of the Peace Corps being established I received my draft notice, shortly thereafter heading off to U.S. Army. I clawed and crawled my way through boot camp (literally) and the AIT training as outlined above --- the former life-long civilian I was --- and then with absolutely no background, preparation, or comprehension of such a happenstance even remotely occurring, was thrust into a personal situation that I was unable to sidestep quick enough, interacting face-to-face with a couple of major Asian warlords.[1]

In both cases, my arrival at their compounds was transitional in nature --- that is, I was actually in the process of going somewhere else or doing other things and, as far as I was concerned, relative to them, just passing through. For me and the people I was traveling with, the warlord compounds were at least semi or quasi safe harbors carved out of the otherwise surrounding highly hostile environment. Take a shower, get something to eat, maybe an American beer, and possibly a good night sleep.

In that I was transitional, especially compared to the needs, wherefores, and whys of any mission the warlord's military contingents might have, I had upon arrival, no real part to play. The longer I stayed the less I had to do.

At the first warlord's compound, with time on my hands, even though other low-ranking members I was traveling with were off trying to trade cheap hand-mirrors and pocket combs for favors with the local tribeswomen, in that we were all Sheep Dipped and I was in civilian garb, I had gone off on my own volition easily passing myself off like some Peace Corps volunteer rather than a heavily armed GI, to lend a hand in repairing and building an irrigation ditch and fresh water conduit that supplied drinking water to one of the villages. An advisor to the warlord, a shaman, informed the general of my actions and the general invited me join him for dinner.

What is laughable about it all is my youthful naivete. Here I was, being said by others (and possibly thinking so myself) I was like some Peace Corps volunteer lending a hand building a fresh water conduit to supply drinking water for one of the villages --- when actually it came out later that the increased water supply offered by the conduit was just exactly what was needed by the warlord for the successful operation of a rudimentary refinery being put into place and tested for the commercially viable manufacture and production of a highly illicit and addictive drug, including the ability to increase the output level of the product.




A rather interesting part, if one overlooks my youthful naivete, is what happened in the process of working on the water conduit. I did in fact meet an actual real-life Peace Corps Volunteer. Even though I had vaguely heard of the Peace Corps, it was the first time I ever met a PC volunteer, which wasn't unusual considering the Peace Corps had only been founded the year before I was drafted. So this guy had to be one of the very early volunteers and I have to admit there was something about him that deeply impressed me. We were about the same age. He had already gone off to college, graduated, and joined the Peace Corps, an organization I had barely heard of, doing great humanitarian things by teaching barely educated indigenous folk, and here I was standing there with my face hanging out and hadn't done shit with my life.

The volunteer's name was Don Sjostrom, from Washington state and like me, pushing age-wise toward his mid-20's. He taught English somewhere in the center hinterlands of Thailand at a place called Yasothon. He was going to finish his Peace Corps tour of duty soon and was being recruited by USAID. They had brought him up to Laos to show him around a little to see if he might be interested when we crossed paths. Even though he had been in Thailand for many months I'm sure even then the early wild west Terry and the Pirates like beginnings of Long Tieng was a shock.[2]


Several years after receiving my honorable discharge from the Army I was traveling on Highway 41 out of Fresno, California looking to take a ride on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. After spending a good portion of the day doing train stuff I stopped to get a cold drink at a grocery store in a small community not far from the railroad called Fish Camp. Sitting in the shade outside swigging down my drink I met a group of people who invited me to join them for a night or two at a campground they had set up on the floor of Yosemite valley.

On one of the nights a young couple passing through joined us around the campfire. It came up that the man of the couple, although anglo, spoke Spanish fluently and the reason he said was because he had been in the Peace Corps in Bolivia or Peru or some such place and learned the language first under their auspices then by being immersed in the culture of the country. I told him about the volunteer I met from Thailand and asked if the Peace Corps had any system in place that might know were he was now. He said he might be able to find out. I gave him all the relevant info on how to contact me and basically let it go at that.

Then, one day, out of the blue I received a no return address letter from the guy. He started out saying it wasn't good news. Don Sjostrom had in fact gone over to USAID in 1965 and, according to Sjostrom's parents, who he contacted, was killed in Laos sometime in 1967. Other than that, that was it. A blanket of secrecy overshadowed him from finding out anything more. It was years before I became privy to the complete story.

The following is just about the best commentary on Sjostrom's death I have run across, as found in the Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Foreign Assistance Series and written by his best friend in Laos, Ernie Kuhn:


Don Sjostrom's Death, 1967 (Page 42)

It was the morning of January 6, 1967 that we got a call a little after 6:00 in the morning from Long Chieng saying that site 36, Na Khang, was under attack and they had just gotten word that Don Sjostrom had gotten killed in the attack. At Na Khang there was a airstrip with kind of a kidney shaped hill just to the north and the friendly positions and the CIA bunkers and radios were located on the slopes of that little kidney shaped hill ridge line. On top of the ridge line there was a 75 pack howitzer and a 50 caliber machine gun. The 50 caliber machine gun was facing away from the airstrip. Well, when the Vietnamese attacked they came in and got up on top of the ridge line where the 50 caliber machine gun was located and apparently were trying to get it turned around so they had a field of fire to sweep the airstrip and basically sweep the areas where the troops were located and where the CIA radios and bunkers were. In order to prevent that, the forces there...I should at this time say there was a mixed element at Na Khang. There were elements of SGUs but many of the main forces were FAR troops. Colonel Phan Syharat was the governor of Sam Neua and his battalion, I believe, was BV 26. At any rate, there were mixed Meo/ Lao and other tribal troops defending Na Khang.

Apparently in order to try to keep the Vietnamese from getting the 50 caliber machine gun turned around on the runway, they were going to try to hit the position where the gun was. There were three groups of troops involved. One group would come in from the left, one from the right and one right up the center. For some reason, Don, instead of staying in the bunker where he would have been perfectly safe, but also totally keeping in character with him, was in the center group and the reports say he was actually leading the center group up the hill to where the machine gun was when he took one round right between the eyes. All accounts were that he was dead instantly. But that did not deter the friendly groups from coming up. They overran the 50 caliber machine gun position and prevented the Vietnamese from staying on the ridge line.(source)


Don Sjostrom was not a military man or a trained soldier in the art of war or combat. He was a former Peace Corps volunteer and USAID worker and a major inspiration for me joining the Peace Corps.[3]


As is easily learned, the experiences of Peace Corps Volunteers run the gamut. Any internet search will turn up thousands of examples. Sjostrom's and mine are just two and any comparison will find that ours are miles apart, both in time and place and experiences --- although it must be said, as made clear previously, at the time we crossed paths it was only he that was a Peace Corps Volunteer, my service coming many years later.

The same is true of another PCV I make mention of quite readily in my works, Edwin Bernbaum. Bernbaum is the author of THE WAY TO SHAMBHALA: A Search for the Mythical Kingdom Beyond the Himalayas (1980), one of most well-received and influential non-fiction books related to the mysterious hermitage that is said to exist somewhere beyond time in a remote area of the Himalayas known under a variety of names such as Gyanganj, Shambhala or Shangri-la.

Interestingly enough, the strength of Bernbaum's Shambhala related expertise stems initially from his volunteer experience in the Peace Corps serving in Nepal. Although as near as I can tell, in that he and I were both in the Peace Corps and we seemed to have served within a few years of each other, our experiences were worlds apart, yet still similar in some areas. I served in the sultry sea level tropics of the Caribbean --- wherein I ended up apprenticed under a Jamaican man of spells called an Obeah --- while Bernbaum served under almost totally opposite climatic and cultural conditions found in the high altitude and mountains of Nepal. From my own experience unfolding as it did between the Obeahman and myself while I was a volunteer, I can vouch that any number of doors or opportunities could have easily opened or been made available to Bernbaum during his service, adding, at least for me, a depth of credence to what he has to say that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.


THE WAY TO SHAMBHALA



(please click)

MOLLIFYING THE NAYSAYERS



OPERATION WHITE STAR: LAOS, 1959 - 1962


DOING HARD TIME IN A ZEN MONASTERY


THE SAIGON TEA GIRL


RALPH A. MULTER
GUNNER'S MATE 3rd CLASS, U.S. NAVY




PEACE CORPS ZEN



CLICK
HERE FOR
ENLIGHTENMENT

ON THE RAZOR'S
EDGE


E-MAIL
THE WANDERLING

(please click)



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]


THE WARLORD:


"I was at one time in the military a notorious code sender of some repute, thought by some of my superiors to have been on par with the infamous Confederate guerilla telegrapher George A. Ellsworth or, just as equally if not more so, thought by the Army Security Agency as ready for the stockade. So said, on par or ready for the stockade, after hearing about the Morse code being heard I wanted to spend a night on the plane, an idea that was easier said than done."

AS FOUND SO SOURCED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS FOOTNOTE


Following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in March of 1954, in order to ensure western interests would continue to be maintained in the general greater southeast Asian sphere, the U.S. and/or allies or closely allied mercenaries or surrogates continued to keep their hands in the pie at some level or the other.

One of those closely allied mercenaries relative to American interest was an otherwise minor Laotian warlord that through his association with the U.S. grew much more powerful than otherwise would have been ordained. Through a series of events I found myself in the court of that same warlord, as so pictured below. The downstream outflow from that encounter, an encounter of which was put into place by others well beyond my control, later found me miles and miles away high in the mountains of the Himalayas outside the confines of any warlord, in one of those ancient monasteries truly beyond the reach of time.



MAJ. GENERAL VANG PAO
1960's LAOTIAN WARLORD

The quote below is found at the source so cited. It is actually an almost direct follow-up paragraph to the opening quote at the top of the page:


"Following completion of Basic Training and then Advanced Individual Training (AIT), except for a short detour to Fort Benning, Georgia, I was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. From Riley, on TDY, I continued participating in an never ending series of so-called covert related training activities. During Christmas of 1963 I was enjoying my first two weeks of well earned leave, intended to last thru to New Years and beyond, staying mostly at my grandmother's in Redondo Beach, California. Not long into my time off than my First Sergeant called and told me go get my ass back to base. I told the Top that I had a roundtrip ticket and it would be days before I could use it. He said, "Fuck the ticket, there will be a guy at the door any minute with a new one." After my return to Riley and basically being kept in isolation for four to six weeks, sometime into the second month of 1964, traveling light and wearing my Class A uniform per verbal orders, I boarded a train to Needles, California, with the luxury of my own sleeping compartment and eating in the dining car before the hoi polloi got to. From Needles, in the dark of the early morning hours, after shedding my uniform, I was taken by civilians as a civilian to Norton AFB near San Bernardino and from there flew to Travis AFB. A short time later, after rout-stepping around Tan Son Nhut Air Base for awhile and visiting Saigon a few times, nearly always by myself and never having been officially assigned to a unit, found me in Long Tieng, Laos, thanks to my puppet master Richard M. Bissell, Jr., with nobody knowing I was there and having bypassed basically all military paperwork and protocol --- albeit at first in the early days at least, sometimes, depending on the situation, in fully sheep-dipped fatigues with no patches, names or identifying marks. "(source)



AIRFIELD AND SECRET CITY OF LONG TIENG, HDQ AND MAJOR OPERATIONS CENTER OF VANG PAO.


Although Special Forces are sometimes a special animal when it comes to things clandestine, being fairly routine and all, becoming a civilian while still in the military does happen to others as well, and not always so routine. In relation to the above and found in Sheep Dipped, records are pulled from Army Personnel Files and transferred to a special Army Intelligence File. Substitute but nonetheless real-appearing records are then processed, and the man 'leaves' the service. He is encouraged to write to friends and give a cover reason why he got out. He goes to his bank and charge card services and changes his status to civilian, and does the hundreds of other official and personal things that any man would do if he really had gotten out of the service.

Sometimes records pulled from Army Personnel Files and transferred to a special Army Intelligence File are never transferred back, being conveniently misplaced if not lost in the shuffle --- oftentimes with a look the other way official sanction. For sure, the special Army Intelligence File is nearly always found to be missing or, if not, scrubbed clean. The thing is, even when a person's regular personnel records are in fact transferred back as they are supposed to be, in that they had been held in limbo all during the time the secret operations were in place, when they are returned nothing is in them reflecting any participation thereof.

A man using the name James E. Sutton, also known as James E. Files, who claims on occasion as having connections back to my ex-stepmother's longtime acquaintance, big-time mob heavyweight Johnny Roselli, also claims being a onetime White Star operative. Robert Clayton Buick, in his book Taking Out the Garbage (2010), in a Chapter titled "Who Is Jimmy Sutton," presents the following:


"Jimmy Sutton joined the United States Army in 1959, entered the Eighty-second Airborne Division, and was sent to Laos as part of the Operation White Star. Sutton did intelligence work and was among the first U.S. covert troops sent into Laos in 1959.

"There is much debate and confusion about the Sutton/Files military service record. Jimmy has stated that his military service records have been erased by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and that this is why the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and private investigative agencies have been unable to find any trace of military records.

"However, in 1995, John C. Grady, the official historian of the Eighty-second Airborne and the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, located Sutton's Army serial number and a Veterans Administration claim number in an 'inactive' file in a remote region VA office and through the VA computer in St. Louis. After an eighteen-month search Grady verified that Sutton had indeed entered the U.S. Army in 1959 and went into the Eighty-second Airborne before being sent to Laos on July 10, 1959. One year later, in early 1996, Grady checked the service records on Sutton/Files again. No records were found, and all the files under the name James E. Files were marked 'no further information available.'"(source)


The question is, in the overall scheme of things, why the big deal relative to me specifically and the Army's need for my code making ability? In other words, throughout forever there has had to have been hundreds if not thousands of G.I. radio operators and code senders that have been trained and could send and receive Morse code quite adequately if not more so, so why me? Re the following regarding my skills as found in the link just below the quote:


"I was at one time in the military a notorious code sender of some repute, thought by some of my superiors to have been on par with the infamous Confederate guerilla telegrapher George A. Ellsworth or, just as equally if not more so, thought by the Army Security Agency as ready for the stockade. So said, on par or ready for the stockade, after hearing about the Morse code being heard I wanted to spend a night on the plane, an idea that was easier said than done."


THE GHOST AND THE HAUNTED B-29



KHUN SA, THE SHAN-STATE
BURMESE DRUG WARLORD

KHUN SA: THE SECOND WARLORD


MEETING WARLORDS, ET AL


OPERATION HAT
THE CIA IN TIBET AND THE HIMALAYAS


















Footnote [2]


"Within the members of the relatively small search team, Chinese all, was a Buddhist or Zen Buddhist. When they came across me, not knowing if I was the one they were searching for or not, the Buddhist amongst them noticed the small Chinese symbol hanging around my neck. The team was just going to abandon me, but the Buddhist, after seeing what I had around my neck told them I was under protection of the Lord Buddha and to leave me in such a state and in such surroundings would be bad Karma --- that nothing but bad fortune and and bad luck would follow them if they did not take me with them."(source)


Not many days following my meeting with Sjostrom, and unrelated to him or any efforts in building the conduit, found me arriving in the then wide-open railhead city of Chiang Mai located in the far northern reaches of Thailand and, because of extenuating circumstances, having armed members of the warlord's military contingent on my trail not far behind in full pursuit.

Somehow after arriving in Chiang Mai I ended up separated from my comrades and, unable to execute a viable escape because of the previously mentioned extenuating circumstances and not knowing the city, I inadvertently met a Buddhist monk from China who immediately grasped my predicament. Without words passing between us he, along with a few of his fellow travelers, secreted me out of the city just footsteps ahead of the warlord's contingent. Then the two of us, on foot and sure of not being followed, continued north high into the mountains through Laos, Burma, and on into the even higher mountainous regions beyond that nobody knows who they belong to.




After days and days of walking, we ended up going our separate ways, he turning toward wherever he was going, me being left outside the ruins of a somewhat ancient dilapidated monastery perched precariously high up on the side of some steep Chinese mountain situated somewhere along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. To continue, return to the main text.

For more regarding the results and outcome of the above, please come back or go to:


THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER

SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN



















Footnote [3]


I went to see Sjostrom's parents twice. The first time was about ten years after their son's death and within days of having learned I had been accepted into the Peace Corps, albeit some months before I was deployed.

At the time I had a friend who lived in Spokane, Washington, of which she and I had been very close at one time --- but had since long gone our separate ways. There was however a special date between the two of us that on the 15th anniversary of that date, out of the blue, she called leaving a message with my brother to pass on to me as having done so. Some days later I caught up with her by phone and told her among other things that I had been accepted into the Peace Corps and would be leaving soon. She expressed an interest in the two of us crossing paths prior to my departure, so I co-joined a trip to see her with a trip to see Sjostrom's parents in Bothell, Washington. During the meeting with his parents I told them how and what I knew of their son and that it was he that inspired me to join the Peace Corps.

Sometime in 1997, twenty years after having met with Sjostrom's parents, I was given the chance to slip in on the sly and observe the 9000 year old remains of the Kennewick Man. In that the location for doing so was not far from the Sjostrom home and, even though so many years had elapsed, I still made the effort to see them. Unfortunately, both parents had since died, Sjostrom's mother Lilly having passed away only a few years before. I went by the cemetery to pay my due respects to both as well as to their son who is buried close by.


AND NOW THIS:



THE AINU PEOPLE, NOW THOUGHT TO BE THE
CLOSEST RELATIVE TO THE KENNEWICK MAN

------------------------(please click)


As for the Kennewick Man, those of you who follow my works know there is no way I would have passed up the opportunity to see him once offered. Those who know may recall my visit to the so-called Ice Man site as found in Footnote [3] of the Mayan Shaman and Chicxulub or as found in Critical Concerns With Awakening 101 going to see the 3.2 million year old skeletal remains of the Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy. So too, the same in accepting and going when offered the chance to observe in an undisturbed prehistoric setting the Caucasoid-like elongated skulls and red ochre painted bones of the original inhabitants of the Baja Peninsula the Pericú while working on a marlin boat operating out of Cabo San Lucas owned by David J. Halliburton Sr.

However, although quite a bit off topic here and with absolutely no connection through to Sjostrom other than my second attempt to see his parents as mentioned above, there is more to the Kennewick man for me personally than might otherwise meet the eye. Although not directly related specifically, the existence of the Kennewick Man and those similar such as the Peñon Woman, leans heavily toward the quote below from the rather unusual source so cited at the end of the last paragraph:


"(I)n a remote section of the desert southwest, bordering along the upper reaches of the northern mountains, an artifact of deep concern and value to certain segments of the long established indigenous population had been stumbled upon by a ragtag group of grave-robbers and, inturn, stolen from a heretofore unknown to outsiders sacred site. The artifact, although nondescript under almost any layperson's observation, was said to be a potential mind-changer in Native American lore if it surfaced among the general public."


Without the knowledge of the object having any major significance, it, along with most of the other spoils it was intermingled with, passed quickly from the hands of the looters into the hands of a more professional retailer of stolen relics. Shortly thereafter, interested parties, hearing some of the loot surfaced and wanting the return of the specific object without creating undue attention or raising suspicion as to the relic's value, sent a person posing as a spokesperson for a collector to negotiate with the retailer for possible purchase. A bottom-line figure was agreed upon. When the spokesperson for the collector returned with the money the retailer said he had since received offers from two other interested parties and the price was now doubled.

A month later the retailer was found rotting at the bottom of a deep ravine with his eyes poked out with sticks. The missing object was said to have been returned to it's original resting place without the needed exchange of any money, only to be sealed to the outside world forever. It is not clear if any members of the ragtag group of grave-robbers ever made it to the point they would be able to collect social security.(source)


PENON WOMAN


PALEOLITHIC CRO-MAGNONS IN AMERICA