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Military Biography WWII Captain John M. Birch Part 2

About the World War II Captain John M. Birch, hero and namesake of the fiercly anti-communist John Birch society.

ROLL CALL: A MILITARY WHO'S WHO

CAPT. JOHN M. BIRCH (U.S., W.W. II)

Birch's guerrilla friends informed him that the Japanese were not only using the Shihweiyae iron mines for a major source of supply, but had constructed a huge munitions dump near Hankow. B-25 bombers destroyed the mine but could not locate the dump, so Birch filtered back far enough to be picked up and ride in the nose of the lead B-25 to point out the site for the bombardier. As initial bombs struck the target and the munitions exploded, a volcano of smoke and fire erupted. Guerrillas later told Birch it took 30 trucks to haul away the Japanese dead.

In spring, 1944, Birch was ordered to northern China to collate information with the Chinese underground regarding targets for American bombing operations against the enemy's railway system. In one isolated sector, while trying to evade two Japanese armies marching down a railroad bed, Birch encountered a large Chinese army cut off by the enemy advance and put them to work rebuilding airfields with runways long enough to refuel fighter planes for sorties as far north as the Great Wall. American planes used these fields for many months without the Japanese catching on.

On Aug. 14,1945, V-J Day signaled the end of hostilities, but China was still in ferment, with armed bands of Red Chinese guerrillas pillaging the countryside. It was during this violent period of unrest that Capt. John Birch undertook his final mission.

According to General Chennault, "It was while pressing north...to reach Allied personnel in a Japanese prison camp that Birch was shot and killed by Chinese Communist troops near Soochow."

Almost a decade passed before the true circumstances surrounding Birch's death became known. He had volunteered to lead a party of Americans, Chinese Nationalists, and Koreans on the rescue mission. On Aug. 25, 1945, they were stopped by Red Chinese guerrillas near Soochow.

One of Birch's men said the captain had argued with the Red Chinese leader when asked to surrender his revolver, and after further harsh words and insults passed between the two, Birch was shot and then bayoneted to death. One other person was wounded, and the rest of the party were imprisoned but released a short time later.

Capt. John M. Birch wrote a prose poem four months before his death, wherein he stated his vision: "I want to reach the sunset of life sound in body and mind, flanked by strong sons and grandsons, enjoying the friendship and respect of neighbors...and retaining my boyhood faith in Him who promised a life to come."

Alas, it was not to be.

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