Looking for relatives of people who served with the 20th General Hospital in Assam, India during WWII.

My grandfather, John Gordon Mason, served with the 20th General Hospital.  Would love to exchange photos if anyone has some.

  • I hope our audience grows enough that someone can help you with this!

  • Thanks, Kelly!  Obviously not a unit that would be well covered, but hoping some relatives of those that served with the unit may see this.  

  • Thanks, Tod!  I really appreciate the links.  Most of the photos I've seen (not all), but several of the articles are completely new to me.  Thanks, again for taking the time to post the information. 

  • Hi David,

    We searched the Records of the Surgeon General (Army) (Record Group 112) series, WWII Administrative Records 1940-1949: 319.1 Unit Annual Reports (Entry 54-A), and located a multi-part file for the 20th General Hospital. The file contains mostly textual records, but there are some photographs of the hospital dispersed throughout. The file consists of five folders and spans an entire box (approximately 1000 pages). If you are able to visit the National Archives, we will be happy to make the records available to you in our research rooms. The Textual Reference Archives II Branch (RDT2) is located at 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD, near the University of Maryland--College Park campus. For more information on conducting research at this facility, please visit our website at: http://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/college-park/

    If you are unable to visit the National Archives, you may wish to hire a private researcher to do research for you. A list of private researchers who are familiar with National Archives facilities is available on our website at: http://www.archives.gov/research/hire-help/index.html.

  • Hi Megan,

    Thank you so much for this information!!  I live in the Midwest now, but am originally out East.  On a visit with family I hope to get to the Archives and look through the information you reference.   It's really exciting news.  Thank you again!

  • Hi David!

    My Dad (Walter Theophilus Sondey -- serial number 31 066 870)  was a medic (among other duties) and was in the CBI.  He was attached to MARS Task Force (the reinforcements for Merrill's Marauders....)  At first, he served in Newfoundland, then in the Tunisian campaign, and then finally in the CBI.  He was back in the States in between those postings (believe it or not, I discovered his letters to my Mom --then just an acquaintance -- when we were cleaning out the basement after they both died!!) and was at Camp Picketts in the summer of 1944.  This is what he wrote on 5 September 1944 while still at Camp Pickett "The Collecting Co. which I belong to means that we collect old beer bottled, bad debts and used razor blades, all kidding aside we collect the wounded or the section I am in charge of we go out in the battle field and pick up the wounded, place them on litters and take them to where they get there first aid treatment by real doctor.  I have 40 men under me or ten teams 4 men to a litter, and it is my job as section leader to see that blood plasma, tourniquets or whatever first aid is required is given to them right then and there if needed and see that they are taken care of properly, then my boys carry them to ambulance wherever they are which is as close to us as safety permits them.  It is a duty job with not much glory and plenty of them get knocked off with nothing to protect themselves with.  I don't care for the glory myself all I want is the mess to get over with.  I hope this gives you a fair idea then of what sort of a job I hold in a Coll. Co.  There is also an ambulance section, Hdg. section, and a station section compound with two doctors and their instruments which are not many as we only try to save a life and send them back further where they can get medical attention good care and away from the battlefield, though we are capable of doing a emergency operation if it is a matter of life and death." 

    His last letter from Camp Pickett was posted on 16 October 1944.  In records that I have, he was "reduced to private" per Paragraph 16 on 30 October 1944, apparently still at Camp Pickett.  (My Dad was quite a character and our family saying is, "It's not a surprise that my Dad survived the Army... it's a surprise that the Army survived my Dad!)

    He left for the CBI, apparently from somewhere around Los Angeles on 30 November 1944 and arrived somewhere in India on 30 December 1944.  A V-mail posted in January 1945 noted "The trip so far, uneventful and boring.  Can't say where I am, or going to, to be truthful don't know myself."  I'm assuming this was sent from somewhere in Asia once they arrived?

    I know that he was in the "Second Burma Campaign" and that began on 29 January 1945, so I'm assuming he had caught up with the MARS Task Force around that time.

    The first letter we have from "Mars Task Force, Somewhere in Burma" and dated 2 March 1945, noted "... you can see I have been moving around quite a bit since you last had a word from me."  He describe a bit about the ethnic groups, weather, and that he "had a short visit in India."  He noted "My journey by water land and such was quite a long and tiresome trip.  Have landed by plane some, had a mule ride on the Burma Road...." 

    The next letter was dated 16 February 1945 but not posted in the US until 17 April 1945 and was written on Red Cross stationary.  "The book which you wrote to me of I have never read but as two the character I have talked to him, and seen his work and what sort of a job he does."  My mother had (and I now have) a copy of "The Burma Surgeon," the book about Dr. Seagrave, (she had received it as a Christmas present in 1943) and so I believe this is who is referenced in that comment.

    The next letter was written on 23 May 1945.  At this point, he is complaining about trying to get out with the points that he has.  His 6 June 1945 letter is till from "Burma" but indicates he is with the 18th General Hospital.  He says he is working as a baker [ this seems odd to me! ]  "... and the job is a lot better than my lot as a litter bearer before."  Later he adds, "I have some hope of maybe getting  back to the states on points, we picked up two battle stars which we were with the Mars Task Force."  On 22 June 1945 he is writing from the 142nd General Hospital and writes "Here it's OK with me as I don't think I will have enough points.  I have asked for combat duty again too quiet here, besides by going into combat I can earn five points for each star, so maybe a with a couple more battles under me I may get enough to get out, either way I'll go out one way..."

    On 28 June 1945, still in Burma, he notes "I am now in the hospital.  I picked up what they call amoebic dysentery, most of the boys from the old outfit are in with the same thing, guess I got it while up at the front where we didn't live too clean and there were plenty of flies, and also at times the water we drank wasn't any too healthy."

    On 21 September 1945 he wrote from Calcutta, "The reason you did not hear from me was I have been moved here to Calcutta, was in Mandalay in the host. most of my traveling to Cal was by plane."

    Yes, I do have more information but I am always looking for more.  Once he finally returned to the States, he was hospitalized for a time and had a degree of disability due to mental issues. (His discharge papers say Certificate of Disability for Discharge Section I AR 615-361 11 January 1946 -- I don't know what that means.)  He was discharged from Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, PA on 19 April 1946.   I have some of the names of the places he was hospitalized (by tracing postmarks, etc.).  Today we would say that he had PTSD and continued to suffer from it throughout his life, although he would have been the first to admit that he was the "luckiest guy alive."

    From his discharge papers it said that he had the WWII Victory Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Battle Stars, American Campaign Medal, and European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 Bronze Battle Star.  I do not have any of those medals.

    So, hopefully this gives you a little more information about someone who worked around the hospital area.


  • Hi Meg! 

    Thank you so much for your reply and sharing the story of your father.  It always helps to have perspective of what went on around them.  Thank you for his service.  As a fellow veteran (US Army 1984-1992 including Desert Storm) he has my respect and gratitude.  It's amazing to me the variety that accompanied his service!  PTSD wasn't understood very well in World War II.  Other eras, too I'm sure. 

    Like your dad my grandfather was a bit of a character.  He was in the Naval Reserve in WWI and saw just six months of active duty.  He enlisted for WWII at age 43 and though he was a practicing attorney wanted to go where the fighting was and not be a military lawyer.  He ended up with the 20th and was enlisted until being appointed a Warrant Officer in December of 1943. He never saw the kind of action your dad did, but was in Myitkyina during the battle there as he was the liaison to evacuate the wounded Republic of Chinese (present day Taiwan) soldiers who needed medical treatment.  He was injured badly rescuing a Chinese soldier whose truck had gone off a bridge near the fighting.   I have a picture of him being given a flag by an ROC Colonel with the Inscription "J Gordon Mason - Best friend of the Chinese".  I still have the flag as well. 

    I never met him - he saw me once when I was just born, went in to the hospital and died after a few months there.  It has been a life long quest for pictures and information on where he was and what he did.  I've connected with a few 20th families over the years, but not very many.  We share pictures with each other even if our relative doesn't happen to be in them.  For some reason this makes us feel closer to what our relative did. 

    You can have your dad's medals reissued by the US Government.  They will typically do this for the next of kin. 

    Thanks again for reaching out.  I truly appreciate it. 


  • Hi David!

    Thanks for your very kind note.  I, too, search out anything I can find.  There are some good Facebook groups for Merrill's Marauders and the CBI and I follow those.  My Dad subscribed to "Ex-CBI Roundup" and I kept his collection.  Someone was scanning all of them and putting them up on the internet... don't remember who or where at the moment, but I'm sure a simple search would bring them up.

    And thanks for your service as well!  So many have done so much for us...