AFRS China – Burma – India
“I was so young. I had no idea what I was doing there. I didn’t understand why the Marines were there. I was just looking to have a good time. I played on all the sports teams that I could try out for. And I ended up also working for the Armed Forces Radio Service in Tsingtao [XABU 1580 AM]. I guess our mission was to guard whatever interest the US had in that town. Exactly what that was, I had no idea.”
Actor Gene Hackman in an excerpt from an interview published in ‘Naval History’ magazine. © US Naval Institute
Almost 50 American Forces Radio Service stations are known to have been on the air from ‘The Forgotten Theater’ of WWII operations ranging from China to India.
This is the most exhaustive list of these broadcasters since published. It includes AFRS stations in Beijing [Peking as it was then known], Shanghai, and many other parts of China and Burma, and Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka [at the time known as India and Ceylon].
Very little is known about most of these stations. If you or your relatives have ever been involved with any of them, or you have memorabilia, photos, images, memorabilia, recordings or any other items relating to them, please contact us and help us tell the stories of these long forgotten stations that graced the airwaves some 60 years ago.
There are probably still some stations and locations missing from this list. If you have any information about them, or more information about any of those listed, you can help us. We especially want to know the names of the personnel who served at them, and details of any visits made by USO entertainers and the broadcasts that resulted.
Era: The Dark Days 1940-1954
|Ref||Location||Call Sign||Year on air||Frequency|
India, Burma, Ceylon
“The war in the China-Burma-India theater [CBI] never got the publicity that the fighting in Europe and the Pacific got. Mostly today what is remembered is the airlift over ‘The Hump’ to supply the Chinese with essential war materials using rickety C-46s and C-47s.
People remember the Ledo Road, scraped through hundreds of miles of jungle and mountains from Ledo in Northern India, across Northern Burma to Myitkyina where supplies could be moved forward to Kunming in China.
Eventually, the ‘network’ in the CBI, which was never an actual network in that the stations all operated independently, served such unlikely locations as [see list]. Captain Lee Black was the theater radio officer, and it’s doubtful he ever learned to spell all the places under his supervision.”
Trent Christman in ‘Brass Button Broadcasters’
|Ref||Location||Region||Call Sign||Year on air||Frequency|
|28||Agra||[North West Province]||VU2ZW||1944||1355 AM|
|30||Bhamo||[North East Burma]||USAF/AFRS||1944||1390 AM|
|31||Calcutta||[West Bengal]||VU2ZU||1944||1395 AM|
|32||Calcutta||[West Bengal]||VU2ZZ||1945||14983 SW|
|34||Gaya||[West Central Bihar]||VU2ZQ||1944||1355 AM|
|38||Lalmahirmat||[East Bengal]||VU2ZK||1944||1330 AM|
|41||Myitkyina||[North East Burma]||USAF/AFRS||1944||1305 AM|
|42||New Delhi||[Territory]||VU2ZY||1944||1305 AM|
|43||Ramgarh||[East Bengal]||VU2ZT||1944||1330 AM|
|44||Shingbwiyang||[North East Burma]||USAF/AFRS||1944||1390 AM|
|45||Tezgaon||[Dacca, East Bengal]||VU2ZJ||1944||1305 AM|
“The station in Myitkyina called itself ‘The Half Way House’ because it was exactly half way around the world from Hollywood headquarters. It was on the Irrawaddy River, on the other side of which is China. It was built under emergency conditions to solve a major morale problem following the battle of Myitkyina in which Allied forces suffered fifty per cent casualties.
Among the listeners in the area were the famed ‘Merrill’s Marauders’, the ‘Mars Task Force’ and the ‘Flying Tigers’. General’s ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stillwell and Dan I Sultan were there along with Flying Tiger Chief, Colonel Claire Chennault.
Allied forces were also listeners including the First Chinese Army under General Chiang Kai Shek and British, Australian and Gurkha troops under General Lord Mountbatten.”
Trent Christman in ‘Brass Button Broadcasters’
During 2017 we received a letter from Marilyn Knowlden after reading our information about XMAG. As a former child star, she had married an Army officer, and then, owing to her radio & acting background, was able to get a job as an announcer on XMAG in Nanking. She was Marilyn Goates, new wife of Richard Goates, at the time.
I love this article because it relates to both me and my first husband, Richard Goates! In 1947 I was the voice of XMAG Nanking!
I auditioned for the job by taking a bucket seat flight from Shanghai. My newly-wed lieutenant husband had been transferred to Nanking, where there were no quarters for dependents! Sergeant Leisure was in charge of the station, and in the evening I was the only one on the microphone, and with assistance of my Chinese engineer, I played transcriptions sent from the US of Lux Radio Theatre, the Hit Parade etc. Plus once a week, I had a program called “Nocturne” where I played classical music with my own commentary. I did receive a fan mail from a State Department employee in Hong Kong who said she liked my programs best of all.
As to my husband, he was a part of Merrill’s Marauders. He was only 18 years old when he joined, but eventually received a field promotion to Lieutenant when all his superior officers were killed off! In 1946 he returned to the States and we were married after a brief courtship as he wanted me to share the Chinese part of his life with him. So off I went to China!
For more on my life, read “Little Girl in Big Pictures” where there is more discussion of these years in post war China. (By the way, on Amazon.com you can download a “sample” of the Kindle edition and read the first five chapters for free!)
As to my present life, I am almost 91 years old, and happily living in Southern California with many WONDERFUL memories of that time. Thank you for preserving a record of early radio!