Thompson Document 02: Introduction to Jack Belden
Jack Belden was an American war correspondent, famous for his reports on the Sino-Japanese War written in the late 1930s. In China, he often worked closely with General Joseph Stilwell. When, in 1942 Stilwell was sent to Burma and soon after decided that he would lead a group of civilians and soldiers who were escaping Burma on foot, Belden decided to follow him. In Retreat With Stilwell (1943) Belden gives his own version of the events of the Walkout. Belden’s best-known work, China Shakes the World, was published in 1949. When Henrietta Thompson contacted him in 1972, Belden was living in poverty in Paris, and was reluctant to grant her an interview. Their meeting was clearly of great personal importance to Thompson, as is made evident by her many attempts to recreate their meeting in her notes and marginalia. In Thompson's file labeled “treasures” the three onion-skin typed letters she received from Belden have been carefully maintained. The following passage is taken from the description of meeting Jack Belden in Paris in Thompson’s Master’s thesis:
“When I arrived in the afternoon of the next day at his hotel in a modest quarter of Paris, I was effusively greeted at the door by a wonderful French concierge in the traditional stiff black dress of all French war windows. She told me how happy she was that someone had come to see M. Belden. He had no friends, she said, and he seemed so very triste. She took me to my room located discreetly one floor above his, then led me down to meet him in his room.
The room was quite small, furnished with a narrow bed, a huge armoire, a desk, and one chair. After we had shaken hands, he offered me the bed to sit on, and took the chair himself. A huge French window was open to the street noises just below so that sometimes I could hardly hear what he said. When I explained that I was not there to make him bare his soul, as he had said in his letter, he became friendly…”
Burma, Myanmar, Jack Belden, Henrietta Thompson, War correspondent, Retreat With Stilwell
Asian History | Military History | Oral History | United States History
Thompson, Henrietta, "Thompson Document 02: Introduction to Jack Belden" (1992). Henrietta Thompson Papers. 2.