John Birch and Tao Chu Kwang

I once wrote articles using the name Tao Chu Kwang. Here's why:

I grew up hearing about John Birch, the Baptist Missionary who went to China, since, in his rather presumptuous view, their version of a divine being was inferior to his.

The image was of this devoted man in a dusty village, kneeling in prayer, leading the humble folk into the Paths of Righteousness,when slavering Red Chinese soldiers came in waves and killed everyone who dared to wear the cross.

Oh yeah, he was also an officer working for Claire Chennault and his romantic mercenaries, the Flying Tigers.

Then I met a man who had been there, in China, in Suchow, at the train station. He'd been waiting for the train to come in when a friend of his, a Chinese national told him he'd better leave, find another way of travel but get out of town fast as he could as all hell was about to break loose insofar as Americans were concerned.

The reason?

The train was filled with troops who were coming off years of combat when John Birch and his factotum boarded. Birch singled out two soldiers stretched out on facing seats and told them to get up and give him their seats, that he was an American Man of God, and it was their duty to defer to him.

The two soldiers, having been through the hell the Japanese had inflicted in China, the rape of Shanghai being only the most publicized part of it, laughed.

Whether or not they spoke or understood English, Birch's meaning was clear, and they returned words or gestures to him of which the meaning was also clear. Birch became infuriated and pulled out a pistol and shot the soldier who was flipping him the bird. His buddy raised his rifle and blew Birch away.

The soldier who killed the Uniformed Officer/Missionary?

Tao Chu Kwang.

Birch's aide survived and did a Jim Frey on it, making up images of high-minded heroics and an accidental shot in the thigh and how he'd been beaten and left for dead.

I used the name -- Tao Chu Kwang -- as a jape, to write a weekly column. And every so often, I'd get a message from someone to the effect: "Tao Chu Kwang was the greatest man in the world." Not a bad writer, either.


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