PORTLAND, Ore. --
With Christmas approaching and the holiday season underway, thoughts of home come to mind. This phenomenon is the same through time, both now and when American Airmen deployed to the Far East back in December, 1944. There deployed in China was the 35th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, a unit created in 1943 from the Oregon National Guard' s pioneer aviation outfit, the 123rd Observation Squadron. The 35th flew the Lockheed F-5 photo-reconnaissance version of the famous P-38 Lightning fighter in combat aerial reconnaissance operations from September 1944 through August of 1945 in the faraway China-Burma-India theatre of military operations. The distant CBI was about as far from the United States as anyone could be in World War II, and some Oregon Guardsmen probably felt they had been jinxed to end up serving so far from home.
But thankfully, since the troops couldn't come home during the war, home went overseas to them, as it has now for the last 70 years, in the form of United Services Organization (USO) - organized entertainment troupes. And so it was the fate for the Oregon Guardsmen and other members of the 35th PRS to experience what it was like to be "Jinxed" in the CBI.
This particular Jinx was none other than the famous model, entertainer and tennis player Eugenia "Jinx" Falkenburg. She and movie star Pat O'Brien co-led a grueling, two-month, 42,000 mile journey to the CBI, the "world's toughest theatrical circuit," to entertain the troops.
Jinx was enthusiastic about her mission with the USO to the CBI where the terrain and the weather were quite daunting. She had entertained the troops in the States and overseas several times already, and knew what a hectic USO schedule was like. Her troupe was scheduled to perform 54 shows, but she constantly received requests from the troops for more, which were not refused. Jinx said "Once you get going out there and see the guys, you want to stop and do a show everywhere, for everybody...The men were wonderful to talk to and easy to talk to, and we tried to talk to everyone that wanted to talk or take a snapshot or play ping-pong." Jinx and her gang gave many extra performances, completing a total of 84, exclusive of hospital shows.
Mr. Hank Larsen, then a Sergeant and Photogrammetry Specialist originally from Brookline, Massachusetts, remembers one of those stands, when Jinx came to visit the 35th PRS. "I saw Jinks in a display of tennis with a Chinese girl. Wow, she was beautiful! She was moderately famous - those of us in the east saw her more often as a model. The Public Relations people moved her around a lot, but I was able to get a photo of Jinks and I together." And that photo eventually found its way to the front page of the January 11, 1945 edition of Sergeant Larsen's Massachusetts hometown newspaper, The Brookline Citizen. Under the magazine clipping of the photo Sergeant Larsen sent to the paper he wrote tersely, "That's us!"
It was a hard schedule to sustain, with the brief planned and ad hoc stands in so many locations, but worth it. Said Jinx "...The reception you got everywhere was enough to turn your head, but, looking at the way the men were living and the roughness of it all and how far they were from home and how they were staying there when you were going back, your head didn't turn. You felt like cheering them instead of being cheered." Living conditions were definitely rustic, as she recalled, "Once us girls had a huge rat under one of our beds in China. It just sat under the bed going 'Chomp, chomp, chomp' like Bugs Bunny. We squealed at first but we got used to it, and it was still chomping when we fell asleep." All in all the tour was a great success and a real morale booster. The senior Flying Tiger himself, General Claire Chennault, lauded Jinx and her troupe for their "Wonderful job."
The dedication of the USO and enthusiasm of America's entertainers for our troops is a tradition that lives on today. At times like this, as Christmas approaches, Oregon Air National Guardsmen and other servicemen and women deployed far from home may not be jinxed, but will be lucky to be entertained, and reminded in a cheerful way that the folks back home are thinking of them as they serve our country on distant shores and seas and skies. And for that, we give our humble thanks to the USO and those who troupe out today.
Hellis, Lori, TSgt, Oregon ANG, Editor, Guardians of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon Air National Guard, A Commemorative History, 1941-1991, (Oregon ANG, Taylor Publishing Co., 1990), page 19.
"Jinx Recalls Her Far East Gallivanting," Yank, the Army Weekly Magazine, CBI Edition, 16 February 1945 edition. Accessed 5 January 2011 at:
"Jinx Returns from the War," Life Magazine, Volume 18, Number 1, 1 January 1945, pp 22-23. Accessed 5 January 2011 at:
"New York Drama Critic Surveys the China Scene And Reports the Travels of Pat, Jinx & Company," CBI Roundup, Volume III, Number 10, November 16, 1944. Accessed 5 January 2011 at: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~cbi-theater-1/roundup/roundup111644.html
"The Name is Jinx," CBI Roundup, Volume III, Number 10, November 16, 1944.
Accessed 5 January 2011 at: http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~cbi-theater-1/roundup/roundup111644.html