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"A Civilian Anthropologist Led A Rampaging Guerrilla Army" Topic

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Tango0114 Jul 2021 9:15 p.m. PST

"For a war with "World" in its title, we mostly tend to think about Europe, the Pacific, and of course, the infamous Australian Front. One of the forgotten theaters was the CBI (China, Burma, India, and a couple other countries that apparently would've ruined the acronym), where troops had to deal with monsoons, malaria, and being a low budget priority. Have you ever have an underfunded project at your job? Now imagine that project was to stay alive while fighting the Japanese army.

But while Allied soldiers tried to adjust to life on the other side of the world, Ursula Graham Bower was already experienced. In 1937, the 23-year-old Englishwoman went to visit her brother in India. Her mother encouraged her to pick up a good husband while she was there, but she instead became fascinated by the indigenous Naga culture. By 1939 she was living in remote Naga villages as an amateur anthropologist, winning their trust with modern medicine, the fact that she wasn't a government official and, conveniently, some Naga deciding that she was the reincarnation of a beloved Naga prophet.

The Naga had a complicated relationship with the British. In a classic frenemies situation, sometimes they were happy to receive traders and missionaries, and sometimes they killed outsiders in a ritualized headhunting ceremony. So while the British ostensibly considered the Naga to be under their jurisdiction, they mostly left them alone. Then, in 1942, Japan swept through Burma and threatened to push into India, starting with the mountainous Naga border territory…"

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troopwo Supporting Member of TMP15 Jul 2021 6:33 a.m. PST

You would be amazed at the extant that the British went to in sending and recruiting anthropologists to develop realtionships with tribal groups world wide. Not always anthropologists, sometimes just settlers who learned the language and the culture.

There are countless examples from throughout Africa, the Indian subcontinent and southern Asia.

I once read a book about an Australian SAS officer who spent time among tribes in Malaysia. He was posted to Vietnam quite early in the war and the languages and customs he picked up from tribes in Borneo were near identical to the Montagnard tribes (Dega peoples) that he was posted among in that province of Vietnam. His understanding and ability to speak with the tribes so instantly made him incredibly popular among the lcals to the point that he literally became a pretty big provincial VIP in decision making. It got to the point where the CIA had to literally set him up to remocve him as his protection of the locals got in the way of their programs. I think his autobiography was called "Tiger Force" or something like that.

Legion 415 Jul 2021 7:14 a.m. PST

Another interesting UK Woman – Gertrude Bell.

Tango0115 Jul 2021 3:22 p.m. PST



Nine pound round17 Jul 2021 10:44 a.m. PST

George McDonald Fraser's "Quartered Safe Out Here" contains an entertaining chapter retelling the story of his detachment (with a PIAT) to help a British officer in Burma who was leading a group of local irregulars arrange an ambush against the Japanese. Hilarious in the retelling, and probably one of the many experiential inputs that combined to give us "Flashman."

Tango0117 Jul 2021 3:31 p.m. PST

Thanks also!.


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