Ex-CBI Roundup
November 1985 Issue

By Bob Babinec

In Bhamo with the . . .
988th Signal Service Co.

I was with the 988th Signal Service Company attached to the Chinese First Army. Our group supplied radio and code clerk teams with the 30th and 38th Division. We were also broken down to teams in the regiments and battalions of these two divisions. The six man code teams in the regiments and battalions also had some "high" ranking officers (captains and above) with them. It seems as though the Chinese officers would not take orders from any American officer unless he was a captain or higher. I was assigned to a regiment with the 30th Division at Myitkyina and went with the Chinese Army all the way down to Lashio where the campaign ended in Burma. Being isolated with a "foreign body" like the Chinese soldier, we never quite knew what was happening. Messages in and out were always coded, but you always knew when the fighting was fierce. Machine gun fire and artillery shells were coming in close. Then, too, the wounded were being rushed to the portable surgical unit that traveled with us. They had the help of Dr. Seagrave and his nurses. We all have CBI experiences to relate.

One of mine involves the capture of Bhamo. The day after the city was taken by the Chinese, we went in and set up our radio equipment. That involves finding two high trees to string up the antenna and setting up the portable generator. While we were doing this, in some home that was once owned by the British and then the Japanese, out of "God knows where" comes this photographer with a 4 x 5 plate camera to take our group picture. Mind you, he had film and chemicals to develop the pictures as well as this camera on a tripod. While back home film was as scarce as hen's teeth. I had every relative trying to get me film for my camera that I carried with me at all times. I often wondered if this Burmese was working for the Japanese the week before and just traded jobs when we came in. Nevertheless, he took some good groups shots and it's amazing that the pictures he took and developed never faded or turned brown. I wonder how many out there remember this picture and recognize yourself.

988th SIGNAL Service Co. in Bhamo.

We and the Chinese knew that the Japanese no longer had an air force so it was common to see fires and lights all over the hillside where the Chinese army was camped and, of course, our own generator supplying power for our lights and radio. It was about 9 p.m. when all the excitement started. All the Chinese were yelling JING-BOW (air raid) and all the fires were going out and the lights were also being doused. By the time we knew what was happening we could hear the motors of the plane. I ran out with the rest of the guys to a ditch we had dug way back of the house. Right near us was the damn generator going full blast leaving the lights on and penetrating the darkness like a search light. I remember one guy trying to hold the ground strap on the generator to shut it off. He wanted to hold it as long as he could but at the same time his mind was on hitting the ditch with the rest of us. Well, three times he let go of the ground strap before the generator was completely shut off, and three times it started up again. It kept the house lit up like a Christmas tree. Finally one of the "more braver" men of our team saved the day and ran over and held the grounding strap down long enough to shut it off completely. However, what was happening in the meantime was far more tragic. A recon car full of Chinese officers coming down the road with their headlights on did not hear the plane and received two cannon bursts killing all on board. I think he would have come back for our place if our lights would have still been on. It was not until the next morning that we found out what happened. Chinese officers visited our commanding colonel in our headquarters building and demanded an investigation. It seems as though our own night fighter in a Black Widow, went astray. He went north instead of south over the retreating Japanese army. Needless to say, things were touch and go for a long time with the Chinese soldier. We were told to stay near the building until things cooled down. I often wonder if that pilot was reprimanded for that error.

Please send additions / corrections to