The local veterans will continue to meet informally.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- A bugler played taps as members of the local China-Burma-India campaign veterans' organization gathered here for their final official reunion.
"We draw to a close a most precious chapter in our lives," said Tom Waldron of Jefferson, as he gave the Benediction for the 27 remaining members of the local chapter of the China-Burma-India Veterans Association of World War II.
"It has been many decades ago that we served our country with special pride in a time of great threat to our nation. Those memories are safely tucked away in a very special place in our hearts," said Waldron, the group's chaplain.
Saturday marked the final reunion of the Mahoning Valley Basha of the China-Burma-India Veterans of World War II, which, at its peak in the 1970s, had about 60 members. A basha was a hut soldiers lived in, often made of bamboo. The final gathering of the local chapter was held at A La Cart Catering.
The national CBI veterans' association will disband after its national convention in Washington, D.C., next month.
"We're kind of sad it's coming to an end. We're friends of many years," said H. Marvin Wilds, 84, of Canfield, local Basha commander and former superintendent of Liberty and Newbury schools.
"It's been a wonderful group to be associated with. Everybody's your friend. They're not just an acquaintance," said Otto Larsen, 88, of Vienna, the local group's senior vice commander.
The group was close-knit during World War II and has been close-knit ever since, he said, adding that he knew all 300 men in the Army Ordnance Corps unit, in which he was a staff sergeant.
"We repaired everything from locomotives to surgical instruments," to motor vehicles, working from dawn to dusk in intense heat, Larsen recalled. "By 10 a.m., you had nothing but your shoes and shorts on," he said.
A major purpose of the CBI campaign was to transport supplies from India to China over the Burma Road and by air over the Himalaya Mountains, which were known as "The Hump."
At first, his unit made harnesses for mules that carried supplies as soldiers walked. Initially, he said: "There was no road. It was just a trail."
The organization is disbanding because its national constitution calls for it. The aging veterans are increasingly unable to travel to national meetings, Wilds explained. Attendance at the group's national reunion dropped from 1,500 people 16 years ago to 450 last year, he added.
In the closing ceremony, members of American Legion Post 177 of Canfield and VFW Post 9571 of Ellsworth retired the CBI group's colors, which will be displayed in the War Vets Museum of Canfield. Bugler Harry L. Faucett Jr. of Post 177 played taps.
Although the local and national CBI organizations are disbanding, CBI veterans will continue to gather informally at 2 p.m. the third Saturday of each month at Denny's Restaurant on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown.
How they served
"We kept about 25 Japanese divisions busy [fighting in China] so they couldn't go elsewhere to fight," said Wilds, who was a first sergeant in an Army Air Corps unit overseeing airplane maintenance.
Larsen, a tool-maker in civilian life, said the campaign helped to prepare for and sustain a possible invasion of Japan, which never materialized because the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war. Larsen said he'll stay active in VFW Post 3515 in Vienna.
Cornell Corsatea, 85, of Warren, a retired Ohio Edison engineer, was a flight engineer for the Air Transport Command who flew in a B-24 bomber that carried gasoline from Calcutta, India, to Ku'n-ming, China, for Gen. Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers. He said he'll stay active in the Romanian-American Veterans of Youngstown.
Corsatea, the local CBI group's provost marshal, said he wants future generations to "be more respectful to the military -- all branches -- because those people sacrificed their lives in order to accomplish whatever military action was in progress at the time."