Murder One in the 17th Airborne

How two ignorent and inebriated troopers almost murdered Bill Tom, a Chinese-American paratrooper, of the 17th Airborne Division.

In the cool early morning hours of March 1944, an army truck pulled up at the Company C barracks of the 194th Glider Infantry area at Camp Forrest and dumped off a truckload of ASTP boys who had been assigned to the first platoon for field duty. These new men were fresh out of college transfers from the Army Specialized Training Program. The ensuing commotion of foot traffic and bed assignments at three in the morning woke up the entire barrack, but eventually everyone was bedded down for a few remaining hours of sleep.

Too soon, reveille sounded, and it was quickly noticed that one of the new guys did not exactly fit the description of the "typical airborne trooper image" of the time. The new man, Bill Tom, was born in California of Chinese parents and many of the troopers, especially those from the hills, had never seen the likes of him before. Within a short while, a rumor was circulated that Bill was actually a "Japanese spy" who had infiltrated their ranks. Too many John Wayne movies, perhaps. While doing the town one Saturday evening, two inebriated troopers formulated a plan to dispose of Bill while he was asleep. After they returned to the barrack, they each grabbed a bayonet and told the rest of the guys that they were going to "kill a Jap" that night. Fortunately, Henry Ciesielski overheard the plan and alerted Sgt. Waterloo. Henry and Waterloo disarmed the bayonet-wielding troopers and put an end to the thought of spilling Bill's blood all over the barrack floor.

At every reunion since the war ended, Bill and Henry would get together to reminisce about that incident that occurred over 50 years ago and to renew the special bond that had developed between the two men.

Source: Bill Tom, 17th Airborne Division.