To celebrate today’s start of the Year of the Monkey, here’s part of an interview we conducted in Sarasota, Florida a few years ago. When Bill found out we worked on the FCPA Blog, he wanted to tell us about “the good bribes,” as he called them.
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Bill, 88, an Italian American from Brooklyn, was still cocky and talked out of the side of his mouth.
“Sure, we bribed everyone wherever we went,” he said. “We always carried two satchels full of Chinese money. It kept us alive.”
He was part of the OSS — the Office of Strategic Services. It was formed during World War Two to operate behind enemy lines. After the war the OSS became the CIA.
Sometime in 1943, the Army Air Corps flew Bill’s three-man team into Japanese-occupied China, near the south west mountain city of Kunming.
“From there we traveled on foot,” he said. “Always on foot. We slept days and moved at night.”
He held up a black-and-white photo of a twenty-man unit standing in front of a Quonset hut in Honolulu. Light colored field shirts and pants, no military insignia. Lots of pencil-thin mustaches.
“The first thing we’d do in a place was find out who was in charge among the Chinese. Then we’d give him a lot of money. That’s how we did it.”
Bill was a radio operator. He relayed target coordinates so American bombers could hit Japanese positions. He could only send messages once a day, at a specific time, using the hand cranked transmitter.
“We were young. We didn’t know how important it was. They picked me because I had a steady hand for the radio dials. If I got it wrong, the Japanese could track us. You get what I mean?”
Bill held up a piece of Chinese paper money. He said it was from one of the satchels of cash. On it, in blue ink, were about a dozen small signatures and best wishes, circa late 1945, from the guys in Bill’s unit who survived the war.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.