Early Years

Becoming a Soldier

Detachment 101

Kachin Troops

Personnel and Supply

Jungle Fighting

Jungle Survival

Field Interactions

Returning Home

Postwar Career

Reflections

Annotation

Samuel Spector was born in Manhattan, New York in July 1924. He worked as a delivery boy for furriers. He also worked at a soda fountain and sold sodas at bingo games. His dad owned a laundry store. His dad had a car that he used to pick up laundry. Additionally, his mother and dad developed a cloth cover for the protection of barroom mirrors. That provided extra money. His parents were resourceful to make extra money. Life for young Spector was fun. He had good buddies growing up. There were few fights with other ethnic groups. They played sports together and it was fun growing up in Manhattan. That was before he went into the service. He heard about Pearl Harbor when he was working behind the soda fountain. He worked long days and was hard working. He had a brother who became a lawyer and later became an officer in the Army. The news of the Pearl Harbor attack made Spector wonder how it would affect him. He was nearing 18 years of age. He went to work full time after two years of high school. He was naive when the war broke out. He decided to enlist because he wanted to help fight the war. He joined the service when he turned 18 in early 1942 even though his parents did not like the idea. They did not object because he would be drafted anyway. 

Annotation

Samuel Spector joined the United States Army Air Forces as a pilot trainee but he did not pass the advanced pilot flight training requirements. He then went into radio school. He was inducted in 1942 in Lower Manhattan after passing the physical, which was not too stringent. The requirements were only to be young and healthy. Spector went to Atlantic City, New Jersey for basic training in the Army Air Forces. He was then transferred to Syracuse, New York for basic Air Force training. He flew in an airplane for the first time at that point. Next, he went to Courtney, Alabama. In Alabama, Spector flew a two seat biplane with the trainer in the front and the trainee in the rear seat. When he went to more complicated aircraft, he washed out. Although he soloed in the biplane, he did not do so in the more advanced aircraft. He was upset about not succeeding. Next, Spector was sent to Scott Field, Illinois for six months where he learned radio communication requirements including Morse code. Afterwards, he volunteered for overseas duty. Before being transferred overseas, he received more radio and self defense training in Virginia. Afterward, he was sent to New York City prior to shipment overseas. He made several friends who were shipping out with him. The Army forgot about them, and they spent two months in New York City until being assigned to their overseas duty. They had to call headquarters to find out their assignments.

Annotation

Samuel Spector was shipped to Burma and its jungles. He was among the first individuals to carry into action the handheld generators and transmitters. Spector entered the action after Merrill's Marauders [Annotator's Note: the 5307th Composite Unite (Provisional), also referred to as Merrill's Marauders] and was assigned to the MARS Task Force [Annotator's Note: the 5332d Brigade (Provisional), known as the MARS Task Force, continued the legacy of Merrill's Marauders in performing long range penetration operations in Japanese held territory]. Spector was in constant contact with MARS Task Force and did scouting and patrolling with them in Burma. The Kachin companies would radio back to Spector where the Japanese were located. Spector would then transfer that information to the MARS Task Force for their action. When the MARS Task Force was transferred to China, Spector was assigned to work with five companies of Kachin fighters. While in the jungles, Spector developed knee problems and had to go to a hospital for treatment. Shortly after he left the hospital, Spector was sent to headquarters, but then the war came to an end. Detachment 101 was disbanded at that time. When Spector was shipped overseas, he had already been assigned to Detachment 101 of the OSS [Annotator's Note: Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA], but he did not know it. When he arrived in Calcutta, India, he knew he would be with the OSS, but he had no idea of what that meant. Even in Virginia before he shipped out, he was in the OSS. He had received a small amount of hand to hand combat training in Virginia along with radio and Morse code training. The use of the code book was an important thing to learn. He shipped out for Burma in 1943 and spent most of 1944 there. He was at Myitikyina in Burma with Kachin forces fighting against the Japanese. There were small villages and jungles that they fought and travelled through during this time. Villagers and Japanese would often leave prior to the arrival of the Americans and Kachins. After the major battle of Myitikyina, the Japanese were being chased south. The Japanese fought a rear guard fight in small groups, and did their best to slow down the Allied advance. Some of the abandoned supply dumps were captured and blown up. Some of the materials were useable but had to be carried out. It was difficult to carry so very little of the Japanese supplies were salvaged.

Annotation

Samuel Spector thought the Kachin people were diverse. They were from various areas. Some were very smart and others were not. Spector met school teachers and interpreters who were very bright. Others were rural and not particularly well educated. Some of the Kachin officers had been organized by the British and were disciplined. Some of the troops were very young children and just wanted something better than their village life. The Kachins were more military minded compared to other ethnic groups in that region of Burma. Some of the groups in the region were headhunters, but there were only a few among the Kachin who practiced that. Few of the Kachins spoke English, but they showed affection for the Americans. They never questioned American authority. The Americans were lucky to have the Kachins from a fighting and survival standpoint. Training of Kachins had occurred before Spector's arrival in Burma. They were ready to go when he first saw them. Spector learned how to survive in the jungle and how to fight the Japanese from the Kachin. Kachins were very helpful in locating and coordinating supply drops in the jungle. The accuracy of the airdrops was very good. With a few thousand troops to cover several acres of drop zone, the drops were mostly successful. Mountains of parachutes would be left in the jungle after the drops. Spector would sometimes line his foxholes with parachutes. Different color chutes indicated the supplies being dropped. Tents were also made of the parachutes. K-9 dogs were often there to protect the troops from Japanese infiltration. Spector became very friendly with his Kachin assistant. When he returned home to northern Burma, he carried two large bags of items he had acquired. He must have been wealthy when he arrived at home. Following mission after mission of stress in the jungles, Spector would say to his comrades that it was time to head on to the next saloon. This was a motivator to keep them going and was reminiscent of the unplanned extended stay in New York City Spector had with his buddies before they shipped out for overseas.

Annotation

There were just a few Americans assigned to Samuel Spector's OSS Detachment 101 outfit. Some came and went, but there were never many in place at one time. He particularly remembered Dick Dunlap who subsequently wrote a book about his service in Burma [Annotator's Note: Richard Dunlap authored Behind Japanese Lines, published in 1979]. The Kachins would augment the Americans to support and protect them. His first six to eight months was with the MARS Task Force [Annotator's Note: the 5332d Brigade (Provisional) was known as the MARS Task Force]. He made good friends with the intelligence officers in the Task Force. When MARS Task Force was sent to China, Spector went back to OSS headquarters. Prior to MARS Task Force, Merrill's Marauders [Annotator's Note: the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), also referred to as Merrill's Marauders] were in Burma until they were decimated by the Japanese and disease. During Spector's assignment with the MARS Task Force, they were constantly on the move. Spector carried a .45 caliber automatic pistol at first. He got rid of the heavy pistol for a lighter .32 caliber pistol. He also carried a .30 caliber carbine. The Kachins had pistols and rifles. They also carried hand grenades with them. The Kachins carried a wide variety of weapons, so the air drops were important to supply whatever weapons they carried. It was Spector's role to make sure the troops had the necessary diverse ammunition. Supply was very good. The only problem was if air drops were missed. The radio equipment including transmitter wire was carried by the Americans and by the Kachin porters. Mules were used for the heavy equipment. Spector also carried maps on his person plus any sundry information he would need to send messages back to headquarters. Even though he did not know where Burma was on the map, Spector could always tell where he was in Burma with his maps. He operated in the central portion of Burma. Spector always walked, so it seemed they covered a lot of territory. For practical purposes, they stayed on trails close to villages. Occasionally, they operated in the mountains. Most villages were vacated by the time Spector's group arrived.

Annotation

Samuel Spector and OSS Detachment 101 had a main mission of gathering intelligence and destroying the Japanese. They also rescued a number of pilots who went down while flying over the Hump [Annotator's Note: the Hump refers to the Himalaya mountain route used by Allied cargo aircraft to supply forces fighting the Japanese]. Several of the rescued pilots joined the Detachment 101 reunions in later years. For the young men operating in the jungles, there was a job to do and worries about survival were limited. Duty was better than face to face combat in the infantry. Most action was hit and run. Merrill's Marauders [Annotator's Note: the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), also referred to as Merrill's Marauders] and the MARS Task Force did most of the face to face combat. Detachment 101 only had limited face to face action. The success of Detachment 101 with the Kachin Raiders was similar to that experienced in Europe when the fighting was hit and run rather than face to face. This was a matter of picking the time for attack. This was similar to Korea and Vietnam. The Japanese could not be assessed as troops because they were just the enemy. As a people, Spector had no feelings about the Japanese except that they were the enemy. The young American troops had no knowledge of the good or bad parts of the Japanese. When Detachment 101 did their hit and run attacks, they were largely unplanned. Spector did not know of the importance of why they would take a town. Most of their advances were under orders, and he knew little of the intelligence behind the destination. When Americans flew planes over them, they would sometimes duck into the jungle. Sometimes the planes would wave their wings at them. Spector arrived in Burma after the battle of Myitikyina. The Kachin troops were outstanding soldiers.

Annotation

Samuel Spector was always hungry in the jungle with Detachment 101. The food that was airdropped would not last long so that it had to be eaten quickly after receipt. As a result, the unit was often hungry. Rice was a staple. It was often available when they arrived in a village where they were not expected. Most food eaten was air dropped to them. Detachment 101 did manage to get some rice and rice whiskey while they were on the road. The jungle had an abundance of insects. All the troops tied their pants into their boots in order to keep insects off them. Leeches were a problem and had to be removed from the skin each night. The jump boots Spector wore helped control the insects and leeches. The weather was very rainy. The jungle was very hot so the sunset was welcomed. The unit took the conditions in stride. On one occasion, five Americans and three companies of Kachins were ambushed. The American officer was shot but the rest of the troops chased the Japanese away. An aircraft flew out the wounded officer and he survived. The officer did not return after his recovery. After over a year in Burma, Spector returned home. Spector never knew how important the Burma Road or his job was. He only knew he had a job to do. Spector evacuated with his leg problem prior to the next ambush. Of the five Americans in the patrol, one was killed and one was wounded. With the leg problem for Spector, that made three out of five Americans out of action for the unit.

Annotation

Samuel Spector felt that the Kachins were on a friendly basis but not strictly military disciplined. It was more a team attitude. It was built on trust and the knowledge that the Americans were the bosses. The military discipline among the Americans was not based on rank but on being comrades. It was more of a friendly basis since they were isolated in their world. The officers and sergeants gave orders but it was not overly disciplined. Spector sent home a captured Japanese rifle. It was from a dead enemy soldier. He forgot the circumstances under which he obtained it. He merely slung it over his shoulder and took it. He shot the rifle toward a tree to see how deep the bullet would penetrate the tree. The rifle was shipped home but along the years, it was lost after one of Spector's moves. Spector shipped the rifle from Myitkyina. That was the only souvenir he sent home. When Spector captured anything, it had to be carried, but because of the difficulty of carrying souvenirs, most everything left behind by the Japanese was destroyed. It was an exciting thing to receive something from home. A cake from home was a very exciting thing to receive and enjoy.

Annotation

Samuel Spector returned home from Burma by troopship. From Myitkyina, Spector went to Calcutta, India and shipped out for the United States. It took 31 days, including transit through the Canal [Annotator's Note: Panama Canal]. He returned home in December 1944 [Annotator's Note: December 1945 is mentioned later by Spector as his return date]. The ship anchored off the Statue of Liberty after he entered New York City. It was cold. The next morning, the troopship went up the Hudson River and was saluted by other ships which blew their horns in recognition of the veterans returning from overseas. Spector had reached the rank of corporal at the time. His billet was forward on the ship where the space had bunks stacked five high. Compared to jungle living, the conditions aboard the ship were not bad. The excitement of returning home was high on the troopship as they arrived in December 1945. The name of the troopship was the Buckingham [Annotator's Note: USS Buckingham (AP-141)]. From New York City, Spector was transferred to an OSS [Annotator's Note: Office of Strategic Service, forerunner of the CIA] camp near Washington, DC. It was a country club that the OSS had taken over for training purposes. Spector had to sleep outside but they used a building for mess service. Shortly after arrival at this camp, he was shipped to Camp George Meade, Maryland for discharge as a T5 [Annotator's Note: Technician 5th Grade]. He took a train to upstate New York where his parents lived. He was home for Christmas, but it was snowing and difficult to walk to his parents' home. Someone at a local bar drove him home. There was a nice celebration with his mother and dad. His brother was still in the service at the time. Homecoming was fantastic for him as well as his parents.

Annotation

Samuel Spector recalled hearing of the war in Europe ending and the atomic bombs being dropped. He was in Burma when he heard about the atomic bomb. The word came out that it meant that they would be returning home. He was at a sizable camp where there were several Kachin companies. At that point, they left to return to Myitkyina. Spector felt that the use of the atomic bomb had saved their lives. He had no regrets about the use of the bombs. On returning home, the GI Bill meant that he could return to school. Prior to getting home, Spector had signed on to work for the OSS [Annotator's Note: Office of Strategic Service, forerunner of the CIA]. He took an OSS job as a record keeper in Washington, DC. The records he dealt with were extensive. It was his duty to organize them but not to declassify or archive them. After the record keeping job with the OSS, Spector took a position as a Watch Officer for the OSS. There were three other Watch Officers sharing duties with Spector. Those four Watch Officers covered after hours information receipt and communication within the OSS. Spector was provided with a car and driver to get to the Pentagon. He worked two days a week for 24 hours each day. He was pleased with this job, because he was able to attend school on his off days. He received his high school diploma through a veterans program. He then went to George Washington University for two years. Spector then went on to get a law degree from American University after three years. It was a good opportunity for Spector. He took the bar exam in Virginia and passed. His father-in-law offered him a job as a homebuilder in Georgia instead of being a lawyer. Spector took that position as a homebuilder. Eventually, he received his doctorate in business administration from Georgia State. He took over a business school in a college for nine years before continuing his career as a homebuilder. He was not recalled for service during subsequent conflicts like Korea or Vietnam. He did do a two year stint in the CIA in London. Spector had no issues with bad memories from the war because of his ability to forget the past. He had no issues with not being able to find housing after returning home. He learned homebuilding through on the job training. That was before the London assignment for two years.

Annotation

Samuel Spector's most memorable experience of World War 2 was growing up from 18 to 20 years of age. His expectations for himself grew with his maturity in the armed forces. He wanted to get a better education after his service in the Army. The job in Washington gave him the momentum. His education was on the GI Bill where he lived on the 75 dollars a month. He had savings from the overseas service and that helped with his decision to get married. The GI Bill covered his expenses for college plus some living expenses. The United States did well for Spector. Spector fought in the war because it was the thing to do. There were no men of his age group on the streets of the United States unless they were sick. All the young men were supporting the country. All those that Spector knew did not mind going into the service. That was different than during the Korean War. Spector feels that his service made him the person that he became afterward. He was lucky to meet the people he came in contact with during those years. He was lucky to come out of the service alive. He is proud of his accomplishments as a result. America is one of the most significant countries in the world. The United States allows for individual growth and opportunities. It is a great place for young people to grow up in and achieve good things in life. Spector is proud of the country.

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