JAKE JESSE in the CBI Theater
11th Air Base Communications Detachment

Sgt. Herbert R. "Jake" Jesse

 Here is the part of my life going to and surviving in India...

 It all started when I tried to enlist in the Air Corps, back in 1942. The recruiter told me I had a few important teeth missing and would not pass the exam. Later on, in 1943, I got that well known letter from Uncle Sam that started out Greetings, you have been chosen, etc. Guess what? I was DRAFTED into the AIR CORPS!

 After completing my basic training, I was sent to Camp Crowder, Missouri where I was taught installation and repair of telephones and switchboards in the field. From there I went to Hammer Field California, where I underwent my second basic training. Then on to Camp Pinedale, California, where I learned all about message centers. Next stop was Camp Anza, California and the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation, where we boarded a Liberty ship, The David Gallard.

 The Gallard was a cargo ship with P-38 and P-51 fighter planes lashed to the hatches. Our cargo was beer, ammunition, a contingent of Chinese American soldiers and fourteen other self sustaining Communication Detachments such as ours, each consisting of twenty-eight men. The ship was armed with ack-ack guns and a big cannon on the stern. The crew was Merchant Marine and the Navy operated the armament.

 After leaving port we encountered swells that rocked the ship and found many of us turning green and leaning over the rail. We were served two meals a day consisting of meat and potatoes for one meal, and to vary the menu, the next meal was potatoes and meat. Our choice of meat was Ram, Lamb, Sheep, or Mutton. On a special day we had Spam. To this day, I cannot eat any meat from a wool bearing animal. We ate our meals in a ships hold on picnic tables. One day we encountered exceptionally rough going in the Indian Ocean. The waves were really high and they would slam against the ship sending things flying. Several of us were seated at one of the picnic tables when a big wave hit. It knocked a hatch cover loose twenty feet above us and it landed on our table. Those covers were made of big timbers lashed together with heavy iron bands. They must weigh at least a thousand pounds. The thing landed on it's edge, right on our table. The table was demolished. We wound up with scrapes and bruises. It could have been disastrous.

 That night someone made a moon-light requisition for a few cases of beer from the cargo, and a little party was held to celebrate our luck. While traveling through all that rough water, the screws were out of water a lot, and one was damaged. We pulled into Perth and Fremantle Australia for repairs. That took a few days, and we were allowed to go ashore for a day and a night. Naturally, we headed for the nearest pub. That Aussie beer is goooood. We danced and drank beer throughout the night. It's a good thing our cab driver knew where we were docked, or we probably would still be there.

 That day, the powers that be, told us our destination was Calcutta India. Finally, after about three months living on a Liberty ship, we landed in Calcutta. That was one long voyage. You could smell India as soon as we landed. It stinks! The people there burn their dead and throw the ashes into the holy river. Downstream, people are washing their clothes and farther down they bathe. The cows are sacred and have as much, if not more, right of way on the sidewalks and streets. You can guess what and where those cows do whatever they have to do when nature calls. Some women pick up the fresh droppings with their hands and make patties out of it. They put the patties in a container on their heads and take them home, where they pat them on the sides of their bamboo bashis (huts). After they dry, they burn them in the middle of their bashis' for cooking and heat. More stink.

 I was amazed to see all the red splotches on the sidewalks. It looked like everyone had consumption and spit blood all over. The red splotches are from people chewing beetle nut and spitting all over. Beetlenut is the bark from a tree that is bright red and chewable.

 Calcutta is, at least it was when I was there, a very busy city. But it needed a lot of organizing. Traffic was unbelievable, with all the rickshaws and cab carriages along with the steam driven autos. The autos had a coal burner on the rear that created steam for power. From Calcutta we went to Kanchapara, sort of a staging camp. Most of us now had a bad case of the G.I's.

 From Kanchapara we shipped up to Ledo, Assam Province, India. The Detachment before us went to Myitkyina and they had a rough time of it there. My outfit was sent to Ledo Air Base where we set up radio, teletype and message center operations. Ledo base was home of some air drop units and returning wounded from the front. A hospital was just down the road, with American nurses. Ledo was my home for the next eighteen months.
Jake and the Barking Deer

 I wound up with the 11th Air Base Communications Detachment as Message Center Chief and had the responsibility of receiving, logging, sending, having messages coded or decoded and sent to the proper individuals. All 28 of us in the detachment had our own specialty, from stringing wires overhead to processing coded messages.

 While at Ledo, a few of my buddies and I went on rest leave up in the Himalayas where a camp was set up in a jungle clearing along a dry river bed. That's where I shot the barking deer. They do bark something like a dog. I wanted to bag a sand buck which is much bigger than a barking deer. The sand buck compares to our elk. My deer was very good eating, and it didn't last too long in camp.

 On another occasion, three of us went on leave to Lucknow, India. That's a university town and a much more organized place, although it still had its slums, and they were awful. While there, we had good times at their night clubs dancing with nurses from the Indian Nurse Corps. It is still hard to imagine a country like India with all its' different classes of people and religions, can survive. Probably, after seeing how the Americans lived, they decided to go Western and found a much better life. I often wondered what happened to all the young beggars, the crippled and the infirmed. When we walked down the street in Calcutta, beggars would literally surround us and beg for money. It was a pitiful sight to see all the young ones crawling on their knees and elbows begging for money. "Baakshees," they called out, "American Raja, me poor man". The problem was, if you gave 2 cents to one of them, you couldn't get away unless you just pushed them aside and yelled, "Jildee jow". It really was heartbreaking. Just think, how many young people died because they had no food. I certainly hope things have improved since I was there.

 The main problem - I call it a problem - is the wealth in the country was mostly in the hands of a few very wealthy Rajas. One fat Raja gets his weight in diamonds on his birthday every year. He lives high while the people who scrimp and save to give him the diamonds, live in squalor. It is a problem and hopefully someone will come up with a plan to equalize the wealth so as to save a lot of lives.

 I enjoyed sharing my experiences with all who have an interest in the CBI.

  HERBERT R. "JAKE" JESSE    ( jessebasslake at nnex dot net )
  March 2006

Base Operations

Members of the 11th Air Base Communications Detachment

1st Lt. Ernest Pauuwe T/Sgt. Barry Keeshen S/Sgt. Wilfred Woodiwiss Sgt. Bobby Wright
Sgt. Bernie Best Cpl. Jimmy Hayes Sgt. Boris Lavrov Sgt. Pat Patterson
Sgt. Chuck Doheny Cpl. Jack Powell Cpl. Russ Konsinowski Pfc. Homer Booth
Cpl. Marvey Mack Cpl. Agustus Hewlett Cpl. Donald Hull Sgt. Earl Box
Cpl. Fred Clark Cpl. Ed Passoni Cpl. Angelo Demitri Sgt. Alvin Etheridge
Cpl. Roy Payne Cpl. Ed Malone Sgt. Herbert Jesse Cpl. William Mays
Cpl. Elmo Leach Cpl. Ken Scheoder Cpl. Les Allen Cpl. Jim Prohaska

Jake and a buddy photographed outside headquarters of the 443rd Troop Carrier Group, stationed at the same base.

Jake at home in Ledo

NCO Club

Base Tower

Radio Tower

Beginning of the STILWELL ROAD at Ledo

Ledo Bazaar

Female Tea pickers

It really works

Jake and Putah, the guide.

Cooling off

Jake and Chico

Jake, Jack, Fred and Ken


Jack, Woody and Lt. Pauuwe

Charlie, Fred, Russ and Jake

Charlie, Fred and Jack

The Mole

Les Allen

Fred, Jack and Russ

Russ from Wisconsin

Charlie Doheny

Jack Powell

Fred and Russ

Texan Earl Box

Jake and Buddy

Milwaukean Ken Schueller


"Tiny," an MP


Jake takes a Rickshaw ride

A carriage taxi in Calcutta

Jake with an indigenous native


Local Bearer

Wild natives

Tibetan Natives  "No Picture! No Picture!"

Oxen operate pump for well

Gate somewhere in China

Chinese Soldiers

Unloading wounded

Bad accident

C-46 nose job

C-46 belly flopper

C-117 "Skytrooper" transport version of the C-47

"The Pretender"

Jake and a Mustang

Over The Hump

Jake in a different uniform for his first post-war job

Jake Jesse

Story and photos provided by Herbert R. "Jake" Jesse

Photos scanned by Mike Jesse - proud to have followed in
his father's footsteps by serving 6 years in the Air Force.

Adapted for the Internet by Carl Warren Weidenburner
Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved.

 HERBERT R. JESSE  (1924-2019)