the Wanderling

In at least a half a dozen places in a half a dozen of my works scattered throughout the internet I mention Terry and the Pirates, some in conjunction with the Curtiss-Wright P-40, some not. Generally, however, any mention by me of Terry and the Pirates is typically made to draw an analogy to whatever I am writing about and the exotic-like underbelly-type milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere Terry and his companions, pirates or otherwise, operated in. I have always carried a certain fondness for that type of milieu and because of that fondness have been drawn to such odd-ball fictional characters and stories like Dan Duryea in China Smith and of course Terry and the Pirates as well as real life places such as Rangoon, Burma; Bangkok, Thailand; and Chiang Mai.[1]

The biggest draw for me to Terry and the Pirates besides the milieu and perhaps being in love with the Dragon Lady, was that the characters were eventually drawn into the events surrounding the China-Burma-India theater during World War II --- and especially so the Flying Tigers and the use of the Curtiss-Wright P-40.

In the below scenario a person that was thought to be a male French military officer named Captain Midi is discovered in reality to be the onetime circa 1938 female Axis spy Sanjak in disguise, now feeding information to the Japanese via secret code. Former Red Cross nurse turned Army nurse Taffy Tucker, caring for Midi in lieu of a doctor, learns the secret of the French pilot, the result ending in a duel between P-40s. As the story picks up below Captain Midi --- come Sanjak --- has eluded those in her pursuit and is shown in the first panel just getting into the cockpit of a P-40:

The above mentioned Army nurse Taffy Tucker was the romantic interest for another Terry and the Pirates character, Flip Corkin. Corkin was based on a real life pilot of then Major Philip G. Cochran. Milton Caniff, the artist that created and drew the Terry and the Pirates comic strips and comic books, in a tribute to Cochran hand-produced the following watercolor depicting him as his alter ego Flip Corkin. Please note the aircraft in the background as well as the two in the air are P-40s. As the Japanese occupiers of China moved more and more into the area known as Indochina with all of it's European dominated territories and it looked more and more as though the Americans would be drawn into the conflict, especially so as had been done with the A.V.G., the American Volunteer Group, more commonly known as the Flying Tigers, the Terry and the Pirates story line shifted accordingly --- hence the dominating allied fighter aircraft in the strip became the P-40.

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While it is true I followed the adventures of Terry and the Pirates a lot during the period P-40s were a major part of the strip, I was aware of and knew about P-40s starting from a very early age. However, most of my heavy duty interest in P-40s stemmed from three specific incidents. First, while the war was still raging, my interest set in solidly from as expected, a comic book. The comic was given to me by a man in a train station well before I even reached eight years old. Inside the comic book was a story called "The Goose Shoot" wherein a group of 46 P-40s shot down 77 German planes in a single outing as they were fleeing North Africa.(see)

Secondly was right after the war when I read a hard cover book published during the war written by Olga Greenlaw, the wife of the second in command of the Flying Tigers, titled The Lady and the Tigers (1943). And third, also after the war, the 1942 black and white movie staring John Wayne titled "Flying Tigers."

I remember perfectly my very first formal introduction to the Flying Tigers on an intellectual non-comic book reading level. As stated above, it was just a few years after the war. I was around 8 maybe 9 years old and for the very first time just met the woman who would eventually become my Stepmother. I was waiting to meet her in what I would call her library when I came across the book "Lady and the Tigers" that had on its cover a picture of Flying Tigers. When my soon-to-be stepmother came into the room she was so impressed that I was reading she let me take the book with me when I left until the next time. I must have read that book a hundred times.

Of course, then there is the movie "Flying Tigers." Almost everybody I know who has any sort of an interest in P-40s or Flying Tigers mentions that the movie was a major co-factor in their interest.

However, with newspaper comic strips like Terry and the Pirates, all kinds of comic books along with a few hard cover books tied in with World War II movies of all types, there was still one other major impact, at least for me. That impact was learned much later, not unlike the Flying Tigers movie and Greenlaw's book, a learning that came upon me after the war. The funny part it all was that the impact directly involved a comic strip cartoonist just like Milton Caniff and the Flying Tigers --- however the cartoonist involved was a real life fighter pilot for the Tigers --- and was killed in a strikingly foul way because of it.

The cartoonist's name was Bert Christman. Before the war he drew a comic strip called Scorchy Smith. The plots and drawings of Scorchy were similar in execution to that of Caniff's Terry and the Pirates, with Scorchy being a pilot and having many of his adventures circulating around China, Southeast Asia, and warlords. Christman, to learn more about aviation, took flying lessons then joined the Navy becoming a pilot and serving on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger all prior to World War II. When the AVG, soon to become better known as the Flying Tigers, started recruiting flyers, Christman resigned his commission and along with two other Ranger flight-mates, Ed Rector and David Lee "Tex" Hill, joined the AVG. When it comes to the history of the Flying Tigers, Tex Hill, and rightly so, gets the lions share of credit. Nobody mentions Bert Chirstman to any degree.

But, when it comes to Christman, what goads me the most involves Olga Greenlaw, a major Flying Tigers heroine of mine. I say above that I read "The Lady and the Tigers" by Greenlaw over-and-over, so many times actully that for me it almost became like a bible or handbook on the Flying Tigers during my formative years. However, in the end, much to my dismay, she mentions Christman only twice, both times glossing over him in a brief few-word sentence, and neither time using his first name, only initials. The thing is he died a horrific death in the line of duty flying for the Tigers and I didn't learn about his death and how until years later, especially so, he being a cartoonist and all. Christman had his P-40 basically shot out from under him over Rangoon right in the middle of a serious dog fight with the Japanese, and on the way down, still in the air and in his chute, they machined gunned him to death, killing him dead bigger than shit:

"On Friday, January 23, 1942, 72 Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon. Christman was one of the 18 planes that were launched to intercept them. He would never return. Christman's plane had come under fire and been hit in the engine. He was forced to bail out once more. This time, however, as he hung in his parachute and decended to the ground, a Japanese pilot strafed him. Bert was hit in several places and probably died as a bullet passed through the back of his neck. He was buried the next day at the church of Edward The Martyr in Rangoon. His remains were returned to Fort Collins after the war, where he was laid to rest on Saturday, February 4, 1950."

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Shown above, as found in Terry and the Pirates, is a rendition by Milton Caniff of the Dragon Lady, also known as Lai Choi San. She made her debut in the first Terry and the Pirates strip in 1934, inspired it is said by the 1930s American movie actress Anna May Wong. In the early days of the strip the Dragon Lady was presented more or less as a stereotypically beautiful, seductive and evil Asian woman, but as the strip became more realistic those stereotypes faded as the character grew more complex. In the years leading up to and during World War II, always, cunning, clever, intelligent and dangerous, she became more of a heroic figure, forming an alliance with Terry and his companions as well as supporting the Nationalist Chinese resistance against the Japanese invasion of China --- hence the Nationalist Chinese insignia on her cap.[2]

The name given the Dragon Lady by Caniff, Lai Choi San, was not given by chance, having been adopted by Caniff for use from a notorious female Chinese pirate during the 1920s through the 1930s. Lai Choi San was said to have owned 12 heavily armed Chinese junks not to dissimilar to the one pictured below, all under her direct personal command, and as well, a fleet of several thousand buccaneers independently operating other junks all with sworn allegiance to her authority. Loosely based in and around the Portuguese colony of Macau just outside of Hong Kong her realm covered the Pearl River Delta and coastal shipping routes to all of the South China Sea as far away as Palawan in the Philippines Islands.

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As infamous as Lai Choi San was at onetime, neither she herself nor her notoriety has never seeped into popular lexicon, nor do people ever really think of her when conjuring up thoughts of pirates or piracy. However, interestingly enough, even though the use of her name may have come up in some vague fashion in my life relative to Terry and the Pirates and the Dragon Lady, the knowledge of the real pirate Lai Choi San came into my life from a person I knew that of all things, knew her.

When I was a teenager just entering my third year of high school I was living with my grandmother in what was then an otherwise family oriented Southern California beach community. During that period of time, and unusually so, a single older man bought and moved into the house next door. A good portion of the rooms in his house had been finished floor to ceiling with natural color knotty pine --- which, apparently unattended over the years, was strongly in need of refinishing. The man decided to tackle the job himself and in doing so, after observing how well I meticulously maintained the wood on my early 1940s Ford Woodie Wagon, approached my grandmother, who he had become friends with, asking if, upon my return from my summer long stay at the ranch of my Stepmother, would it be OK to hire me to assist him in sanding and prepping the surface of his knotty pine. Always in need of money and with my grandmother's approval I accepted the job enthusiastically.

Near the end of summer following my return from my stepmother's ranch located in the high desert not far from Edwards Air Force Base, my neighbor and I sanded, bleached, and eventually clear varnished the wood. During that time, the man and I, who I now call my Mentor in all my works, after a slow start began talking about all kinds of things. Mans place in the universe, philosophy, existentialism, religion, his travels and his life. As it turned out my mentor was the primary role model used by British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham as the main character in his book The Razor's Edge. In the novel Maugham calls his main character Larry Darrell, and although not my mentor's real name nor not even coming close, the following refers to Larry, thus then my mentor:

"In his novel Maugham pretty much focuses on Larry's travels in Europe and India. However, in the spring of 1931 Larry's former fiancee' Isabel mentions she knew the bank manager in Chicago that handled his account and he told her '...that every now and then he got a draft from some queer place. China, Burma, India.' My mentor told me he had been to China, Japan, and the Philippines, even mentioning he had a son in the Philippines."(source)

And that's how I came to know about the real life Chinese pirate queen, Lai Choi San. My mentor, in his travels from China to the Philippines in the mid to late 1920s, got hooked up with her in some fashion, either working in some capacity in exchange for transportation or paying his own freight. Now, while it is true my mentor's interaction with Lai Choi San was never really our only or single major topic of our ongoing conversations during that summer, she did take on a life of her own and a lot more meaning with me later in life when I discovered and read a book completely outlining her life. While reading the book I continually came across any number of things that refreshed my memory and totally paralleled what he told me he had experienced. Those so similar life and adventures related to Lai Choi San are covered quite extensively in the book written by a man of the same era named Aleko Lilius, who, under similar circumstance and time period, traveled with her as well. Lilius' book, linked below in PDF format, besides all the inside dope and adventures traveling with the pirate queen, is as well, loaded with a whole string of photographs of the pirates, their haunts, and ships. See:


The female bodhisattva Kuan Yin, known throughout Buddhism for being a compassionate saviouress for the downtrodden and those caught in unsurmountable situations is often depicted dressed fully in white riding the rough seas on the back of a dragon as shown below. So said, as cast in that role, those whose lives and livelihoods depend specifically on the sea, i.e., sailors, fishermen, the shipwrecked, and even if left unsaid, pirates et al, turn to her as their savior during times of duress.

In his book I Sailed with Chinese Pirates, Lilius writes about sailing with the most merciless gang of high-seas robbers in the world on in an armored junk commanded by Lai Choi San. Conjuring up images of, or at least in tribute to Kuan Lin, speaking of Lai Choi San, Lilius writes:

"What a woman she was! Rather slender and short, her hair jet black, with jade pins gleaming in the knot at the neck, her ear-rings and bracelets of the same precious apple-green stone. She was exquisitely dressed in a white satin robe fastened with green jade buttons, and green silk slippers. She wore a few plain gold rings on her left hand; her right hand was unadorned. Her face and dark eyes were intelligent – not too Chinese, although purely Mongolian, of course – and rather hard. She was probably not yet forty.

"Every move she made and every word she spoke told plainly that she expected to be obeyed, and as I had occasion to learn later, she was obeyed."








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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]


At the end of the summer of 1953, just as I was about to start the 10th grade or so, the August - September #6 issue of the comic book Mad came out. Inside #6 was a story, drawn by my all time favorite non-animator cartoonist Wallace Wood, that spoofed or satired big-time the long running comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and that Wood, in his spoofing, called Teddy and the Pirates.

Although I had followed Terry and the Pirates a good portion of my life, and knew how Milton Caniff, the artist-cartoonist of the strip presented Terry and the world he and his so-called Pirates lived in, Wood's top-half opening drawing below, showing his version of an underbelly far east like milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere along with the rest of the story hit me like a hammer, with me, the teenager that I was, sucking up his version as my version and as my version, the real version. Ten years later, thanks to Uncle Sam and his friendly Selective Service, found me Rangoon, Saigon, and Chiang Mai, as well as other such places, and in those ten year later years, especially in and where I traveled, having gone from a high school teenager to an almost mid-twenties GI, my vision not only didn't wane, but was bolstered and grew. Notice the tommy guns, stabbings, hand grenades and exotic women. So too in the second panel, i.e., lower left hand corner, the two crashed P-40 Flying Tigers.

"Any mention by me of Terry and the Pirates is typically made to draw an analogy to whatever I am writing about and the exotic-like underbelly-type milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere Terry and his companions, pirates or otherwise, operated in. I have always carried a certain fondness for that type of milieu and because of that fondness have been drawn to such odd-ball fictional characters and stories like Dan Duryea in China Smith and of course Terry and the Pirates as well as real life places such as Rangoon, Burma; Bangkok, Thailand; and Chiang Mai."

A lot of people who read the above paragraph in reference to Terry and the Pirates say I have not much more than a pretty romanticized view of the Asian atmosphere and the milieu that I imply exists. To them I say they most likely have never been to Mong La or read my account on Mong La.

In writing about the movie and TV actress Phyllis Davis and the two of us being in Thailand together, I make reference to that same city, Mong La. I visited Mong La along the Chinese Myanmar border, comparing it to the wretchedness of the Star Wars city of Mos Eisley. I do so by including a section on her page titled MONG LA: Mos Eisley Spaceport or Mayberry, R.F.D.?. That same section also shows up on my Khun Sa page. Although I don't give specific dates as to when the events in the section actually occurred, it is implied quite clearly that they happened after Hurricane Ike, i.e., September 1, 2008 – September 15, 2008, but before Ms Davis' death September 27, 2013, many years after the mid-60s encounters between Khun Sa and myself. In the section I write:

"Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Luke Skywalker that he’d never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in the whole galaxy than Mos Eisley spaceport."

Then I write that I guess neither of them ever heard of Mong La. Later, after leaving Mong La I go on to say:

"Not long after that we were in Panghsang with me introducing myself to Wei Hsueh-kang. He asked if I had the 'item.' I opened my phone and handed him the SIM card. He praised me for a job well done, saying everything he heard about me was true. Then he asked how it was I knew Khun Sa. I quickly explained to him the whole story saying I felt he was instrumental in saving my life."

Wei Hsueh-kang is probably the most notorious Southeast Asian warlord and drug kingpin around, with a $2M dollar FBI bounty on his head. Yet I sat there on a veranda with him along the Chinese-Burma border sipping drinks together. Next thing I know I am at the 140-million-baht Casino Club operating under the flagship of the Myawaddy Riverside Resort Complex on the Thai-Burma border meeting with Khun Sa's son.




Footnote [2]

Below are four separate panels from the daily Terry and the Pirates newspaper strip that linked together form a tightly interrelated four day series circulating around the Dragon Lady and how, four years after the strip was developed, she began taking on the more complex character she became. The four panel series, dating from Wednesday March 30, 1938 through to Saturday April 2, 1938, well before any entrance into the war by the United States, clearly show the Dragon Lady setting into motion the early stages of a formal pirate-based resistance group to fight against the Japanese invaders:

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The original of the above watercolor was created specifically for actor Orson Welles by Milton Caniff and signed and dated by him with "New York, October 1939." Welles had initially came into the public eye one year earlier following his infamous October 30, 1938 Mercury Theater radio production of H.G. Wells' 19th-century science fiction novel War of the Worlds. The results of Welles' broadcast, which was presented over the air in the format of a "real newscast" was, as shown in the headlines in the New York Times below, actual panic in the streets with people actually thinking there was a real Martian invasion.


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The Best of The Maugham Biographies:

As mentioned in the main text above Milton Caniff created a fighter pilot for the strip he called Flip Corkin and as well, that Corkin was based on a real life fighter pilot with the then rank of Major, Philip G. Cochran. Most of the Corkin character's adventures in the strip circulated around the use of P-40s in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II with the planes so illustrated carrying all the markings of the Flying Tigers. The real life pilot, Philip G. Cochran, however, before any CBI affiliation, earned his reputation as the squadron commander of "J" Squadron also known as the Joker Squadron flying P-40s in North Africa as part of the 33rd Fighter Group. He also flew P-40s for the 57th Fighter Group as a member of the 65th Fighter Squadron known as the Fighting Cocks.

Hardly anyone ever puts P-40s and aircraft carriers together. However, Cochran's P-40 equipped "J" Squadron, arriving off the coast of North Africa flew from the deck of a flattop as well as being the first to catapult P-40 Warhawks from the deck of a aircraft carrier and recover them in Casablanca. Re the following from the source so cited:

"While the idea of catapulting the P-40s may have been a cutting edge idea, the actual execution of the plan would prove to be less than simple. Although the ship was equipped to accommodate aircraft operations, the P-40s were not able to operate off a ship because they were too heavy. After stripping the Warhawks of ammunition, navigation equipment, and excess fuel, Major Cochran (squadron commander) and his deputy flight lead were catapulted from the ship, breaking both the catapults in the process, thus leaving 34 pilots to determine how they were going to launch. Throughout the remainder of the day, all but three aircraft were able to make it to Casablanca; two aircraft went down where the pilots were recovered and one went down without the pilot being recovered.

"The invasion was in its early stages, and organization systems were fragile if not nonexistent. Finding no assignments and no place to go, Cochran decided to keep the group together and headed off in the general direction of the war. By inquiring locally as they flew short hops, they eventually found an Army infantry unit at a flat spot in the desert who were more than happy to have their own air cover.

"Cochran immediately set up a training schedule for his recruits, commandeered infantry trucks to find supplies, fuel, and ammunition from wherever they could be borrowed or pilfered, and in a few weeks had a cohesive fighting squadron. Being formed outside of Air Force jurisdiction and having no official number, they dubbed themselves the 'Joker Squadron,' and adopted bright red scarves are their symbol."(source)

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Below is a full page click-through comic panel that links through to a page about a renegade World War II P-40 pilot called The Lone Tiger. The page shows the Lone Tiger meeting for the first time the person that would become his main protagonist, the warlord Wu Fang.

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The comic panel above as well as the panels on the page so mentioned depicting the adventures of the Lone Tiger were drawn by master artist-cartoonist Wally Wood. Although the Lone Tiger and the P-40s are drawn and presented in a serious tone, Wood was a one-time major cartoonist for Mad Comics. One of his most famous stories is a spoof on Terry and the Pirates called Teddy and the Pirates. See:

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In the above cartoon Woods draws my all time favorite visual presentation of the Dragon Lady he calls the Dragging Lady and drawn not too different than I have always depicted her myself. In later years, staying in a similar but serious theme Wood turned his artistic talents toward a person he called The Infamous Madam Toy as shown in the graphic below:

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In 1962 Wood also contributed his creative abilities to a series of baseball-like collectable cards called Mars Attacks. Relative to me, one of those Mars Attacks cards played heavily in what I have written about the possibility of a Roswell ray gun. See:


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For more on the Dragon Lady and others of similar ilk that have impacted my life for both fact and fiction please see:


Although the dates and times are such that it could not occur, and NOT a Dragon Lady in any classical sense of the word, Woods could have modeled his 'Dragging Lady' almost directly off of the wife of the former Vietnamese Air Vice Marshal and onetime vice president of Vietnam, General Nguyen Cao Ky. To wit as found in:




Below are the original newspaper comic strips used to create the above book. The strips appeared October 23 1936 through October 27 1936:

"As we traveled along, drawing from my heavily injected academic background brimming with in-depth encyclopedic and intellectual knowledge, information and data --- all garnered from comic books of course --- I told him about a great story I read in a Gene Autry comic called 'The Ship in the Desert' (issue #52, June 1951) and an even better one in an Uncle Scrooge comic called 'The Seven Cities of Cibola' (issue #7, September 1954) wherein wrecked Spanish galleons had been found in the desert in both stories. As near as I could remember, as far as the ships were concerned, the punchline for both stories were associated with an old Colorado River channel covered and uncovered over the centuries by flash floods or some such thing leading to the Salton Sea."


Near midnight of July 3, 1944, found me as a very young boy riding as a passenger on the all first class Santa Fe Chief headed out of Chicago toward the city of Los Angeles.

On that same night, because of running behind schedule, in an effort to make up time the Chief's engineer had pushed the throttle to a near wide open position. The locomotive, with it's 80 inch drive wheels cranking out at over 90 miles per hour on a downhill run across Arizona between Flagstaff and Williams hit a clearly marked 55 mile an hour curve, and without a whole lot of other options at that speed, derailed. The 225 ton engine slid off the tracks tipping heavily on it's side, easily shoving rocks, gravel, scrub brush and boulders alike all out of its way. Prior to uncoupling most of the rest of the railcars followed suit, after which the engine, cut loose and without the weight of the attached cars, continued on it's side nearly two football fields from the tracks before losing its forward momentum.

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Some of the cars were a mangled mess and some, although off the tracks still remained fairly upright and undamaged, with two actually staying on the tracks without a scratch. The fireman and three passengers were killed. 113 passengers along with 13 train employees injured, among them the severely injured engineer.

I ended up without a scratch, but the adult or adults I was traveling with were among the injured, injured to such a point that they were hospitalized, in turn leaving me without adult supervision. My uncle, who lived in not so far away Santa Fe, was contacted. He got in touch with a Native American tribal spiritual elder he knew who lived close by asking him if he would oversee me until he, my uncle, could come get me.

Sitting in the waiting area of the train station with the spiritual elder it was quite obvious he was Native American and I was not. A lot of people seemed concerned with me, the young boy that I was traveling with an old white haired Indian, that is, except for an older white man who seemed concerned that I might be bored, re the following from the source so cite:

"He came over and sat next to me and asked if my dad was in the war. I told him no that he worked in the shipyards. Asking if I liked comic books he opened his suitcase and pulled out one called Blue Bolt. All the while he was thumbing through the pages like he was looking for something he was telling me he had a son in the war and that his son was a pilot. After he reached a certain spot he folded open the pages and pointed to a story about a group of American pilots that shot down 77 German planes in one outing. Then, carefully reading the story page by page and pointing to the different pictures he told me that his son was one of the pilots. My uncle told me with that I took the book from the man's hands completely fascinated, so much so I read the story over and over without stopping or setting it down. The man, seeing how much I appreciated the comic and the story, said I could have it. After that my uncle said I continued to read it again and again all the way back to California and months afterwards."

While waiting for my uncle to pick me up at the depot, which took a day or two longer than expected, it is fair to say the spiritual elder sitting around inside of a train station all day and night began to show signs of what I would call itchy feet. At the end of the second day, the elder had enough and with no sign of my uncle showing up any time soon decided he needed more open space around him. A little after sundown of the second full day, with still a slight red glow left from the now gone sun along the western horizon we went outside and in doing so I remember seeing the full moon, or nearly full moon, slowly rising just above the eastern mountains. We walked east along the tracks toward the rising moon some distance then, for no specific reason I could discern, we turned south into the desert, eventually after some distance, making camp along some river.

That night, out of nowhere, three seemingly lost non desert types came into our camp hoping for some warmth from the fire and a little food. We accommodated them the best we could sharing both the fire and what little food we had. As it turned out the three men were actully German POWs only recently escaped by a few hours from an unknown to us prison camp not far from where we were.

Although I get into the story a little more in depth in the Spiritual Elder link below, briefly, after learning the three were POWs and members of the German military, actually submariners, and I still had the comic book with me that had the Goose Shoot story in it the old man gave me the night before, I got it out and after stoking the fire for a little more light, began reading the story. All the while I was reading one of the men who could speak English interpreted what I was saying with both of us pointing out page after page of the graphic drawings of the event. Needless to say, even though the POWs eventually were caught up in what I was showing them, in that they had not received any substantial amount of news from anywhere let alone the battlefront, they just were not up to giving any truth or validity to the story, especially so coming from a kid and a comic book. As I got older I deciphered the attitude they displayed that night stemmed basically from a still strong or lingering belief in the infallibility of German superiority.




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