MURDEROUS TIGERS, HEADHUNTERS and SLASHED JUGULARS: a travelogue from my grandfather
(the elder Steven Muzik, on the left, about to do something cool)
Recently, I was back in Ohio for Christmas. In the midst of my curious snooping, I came across a bit of a travelogue that my grandfather (by chance also named Steven Muzik) wrote in 1988 for a reunion. It recounts his time in Asia with the military and touches on his travels for his engineering firm.
Writing this, I have now been to many of the places he traveled to. However, with no mention of karaoke, high-speed trains or Macbooks, it’s apparent his time abroad was a bit different from mine.
I’ve transcribed his travelogue. In his own words:
“On January 9, ’45 boarded the USS Gen. C.G. Morton with my unit of 214 men. A “quality” outfit comprised of mostly “jail house lawyers”, four of whom never did get abroad. We crossed the equator the third week of January. Encountered fierce storms rounding the tip of Australia, both troopships tossed about by the 40 to 50 foot waves. In late February disembarked in Calcutta, then proceeded to Kanchra Para, left there for narrow gauge rails arrived at Ledo and saw Mt. Everest. initital duty was with three other Lieutenants and we were to evaluate a new route to China by travelling he Ledo Road Command. In the village of Warazup the excitement and danger was trying to eliminate a man-eating tiger that had aroused not on ly the natives, our troops, but a reporter from our paper “CBI Roundup”. I had to take him on a night hunt, but no tiger. When the tiger’s lair was located, everyone was organized for the kill. Trucks were on the road, over 200 GIs in a semi circle near the den, and all armed to the teeth. You guessed it. He escaped, whizzed by an officer and an EM, and found safety in the jungle. The officer with gun in a firing position simply froze. Nine months later, December ’45, volunteered for plane search and rescue operations with the 24th Jungle Rescue Unit. We were still flying The Hump and losing many in the jungles. By late April we were ordered to Calcutta, ours was the last unit to leave Burma. Boarded the Marine Adder early May, docked in San Francisco the end of the month. A week later I arrived at Ft. Dix, NJ for separation. Made Captain with the CE and in August ’46 took my discharge.
Worst Memorable Duty: With the Ledo Road Command, sheer disaster all the time. Torrential rains, leeches, mosquitos, giant centipedes, mold on everything, tigers; as well as skin diseases, diarrhea, malaria. You name it, we had it.
Best Memorable Duty: Best in the sense this was the most dangerous. Our plane search and rescue unit travelled the jungles of India and Burma, living with the natives when possible and being extremely cautious to avoid the Nagas. They were still headhunters. As well, the roving bands of Chinese nationals and Communists who never hesitated to kill for your possessions. The CID or CIC gave me ten pounds of opium to use as bribe for guides and porters. If caught by the British with opium, it was my neck, the CIC would deny knowledge. I had an evening meeting with three Burmese in the village of Mogaung, the jade center of Burma. We discussed the search missions and a white rhino hunt and I left early for my hut. Turned the flash on, unholstered my weapon when I heard noises but no trouble. Trouble occurred 30 minutes later when the unit was aroused by shouting voices from the servants of my host. The camp was full alert and I took several men back to the house and found (1) a can of petrol by the door, (2) signs inside of a violent struggle, (3) an open safe and ransacked rooms, (4) all three men, hands tied behind their backs, garroted and the jugular vein slashed. When the British arrived in the morning, more trouble as they rounded up the Chinese. Shots from everywhere. It was time to move my unit from the “safety” of the village back to the jungle.
Civilian Life: Returned to the University of Pittsburgh to catch the Fall ’46 semester and using up some of that GI Bill, graduated June ’49, BS in Chemical Engineering. With this degree, worked in the industrial compressed gas industry building plants, training operating personnel and managing plants. In 1970 started my own consulting service in cryogenic gas processing systems. My first client was a Philippine steel company on Mindanao in the city of Iligan. This was an 18 month job. In time, my work took me to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Africa, Asia, South America, Central America, Australia, New Guinea, the Caribbean area, Mexico, Canada and the USA. I married before graduating OCS, in fact, we flew home from Monroe with Lacey and Rosa. Our two boys have provided us with four grandchildren. I’ve had a good life and regret none of the ripples that have occurred. In the fall of 1988 we left the bright lights of Butler and moved to Espyville to get away from the noise, pollution and the airport.”