Bob Bergin

BananaTree Press Author

Adventures in Asia

The highlights of my more recent adventures in Asia are two photo exhibits that I was able to organize at the Kunming Municipal Museum.  Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in Southwest China, was the center of American military activity in China during World War II.  It was the terminus of the famous “Hump” flights over the Himalayas that supplied China and kept it in the war, as well as the Headquarters of both General Claire Lee Chennault and the American Volunteer Group (AVG) Flying Tigers and of the U.S. Fourteenth Air Force.  Over the years it became my base in China, the place that felt like home.  I was privileged to organize two exhibits at the city’s municipal museum, described below.

The Barney Rosset Exhibit

Barney Rosset, the founder of Grove Press, was an iconic figure in mid-20th century American literature and a champion of freedom of expression.  He was also a combat photographer in China during World War II.  Because of Barney’s long battles against censorship in America, Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg called him a publisher-hero, a title we incorporated into the Kunming show. 

Exhibit Barney Rosset Pictures  

The Robert T. Smith Exhibit

Kunming well remembers the American Volunteer Group (AVG) Flying Tigers. By December 1941, Kuming had experienced attacks by Japanese bombers for almost three years.  On 20 December 1941, a group of the newly arrived AVG pilots went into the air to meet the oncoming bombers.  Three Japanese bombers went down; the survivors fled to their base in Indochina, “but never ventured near Kunming” again.  The people of Kunming have never forgotten.  This exhibit of AVG pilot Robert T. Smith’s photographs of the AVG Flying Tigers in Burma and China opened on 20 December 2016, the 75th anniversary of the AVG’s first encounter with the Japanese.  Article

A Literary Adventure in Phnom Penh

Numerous anthologies of Noir fiction are set in some of the World’s major cities.  On 30 November 2012, Phnom Penh Noir was launched at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh.  The 14 stories in the book were contributed by writers brought together by noted Bangkok novelist Christopher G. Moore.  Among them, Roland Joffee, director of the iconic film, The Killing Fields.   John Burdette, known for crime fiction set in Asia is included, as are several young Cambodian writers, and others from the U.S., Australia ad elsewhere.  All the authors share interest and experience in Cambodia. The book launch went on for the entire weekend, with talks, workshops, and even noir entertainment, including the Cambodian band KROM, with noir songs composed by Christopher Minko, whose lyrics and poems became part of Phnom Penh Noir.

My story, A Coven of Snakes, is set in Angkor, the ancient city of the famous temple, and touches on evil, as all these tales do.  Christopher Moore notes in his introduction: “The history of Phnom Penh qualifies it to be placed at the top of any list of cities deserving of a noir anthology.  What other city in modern time was emptied of all its people at gunpoint, abandoned, and left as a ghost town?”  The Khmer Rouge reign of terror “descended into genocide… as the country was turned into a vast gulag and slaughterhouse.”  Phnom Penh Noir is “a lens for viewing” the darker side of Cambodian life that came after. 

I was in Bangkok early in November 2012, before going to Phnom Penh. It was there I was contacted by the Phnom Penh Post to do an interview on the story I wrote. 

Adventures in Chinese Aviation History

In my contacts with Chinese aviators, two pilots stand out and two women:

Yang Guoxiang

A young ethnic minority PLA soldier, and political instructor of the horse and mule transportation unit of the PLA Central Yunnan Division, answered Chairman Mao’s call for pilots to fly for the new Peoples’ Liberation Army Air Force (PLAFF).  He became a leading test pilot, had a role in the development of China’s supersonic attack aircraft, and was chosen to drop China’s first H-Bomb.  His clear thinking averted what could have been a nuclear catastrophe – and made him a hero of the Chinese people. Read Article

Lt. Gen Han De Cai

The youngest ace of the Korean War.  Despite having only a single year of formal education, Han rose to high rank and leadership in one of the most sensitive posts in the Peoples’ Liberation Army.  A capable fighter pilot and a hero of the people.  Read Article

The remarkable women

Doctor Zhu Rongfen

Madame Zhu,” I said.  “I would like to interview you – about your career and how you came to marry General Han.  He must have been like a rock star when you first met him”  Read Article

Madame Gao Li Liang

Daughter of China’s most famous combat pilot.  After he was killed in combat, the young Madame Gao became a PLA soldier to avenge him.  His memory brought her an interest in aviation and a role in preserving the heritage of the American Flying Tigers in World War II China. Article

Adventures in Thailand’s History


Bob’s deep involvement with Thai history included serving as advisor to Thailand’s Foundation for the Preservation and Development of Thai Aircraft (Tango Squadron) and a ten-year hunt to solve old mysteries of the legendary Flying Tigers, the OSS, and the Free Thai.

Tango Squadron

A group of Royal Thai Air Force pilots form a club devoted to preserving aircraft that had a role in Thailand’s aviation history. Read Article

Tracking the Tigers

Bob’s account of a ten-year hunt to solve old mysteries of the legendary Flying Tigers, the OSS and Free Thai operations in World War II Thailand. Book

Looking at World War II

OSS and the Free Thai Operations in World War II Thailand

“The situation in Siam was different from any that had confronted OSS in an enemy-occupied country.  Instead of a resistance movement, there existed in Siam what might best be described as a patriotic governmental conspiracy against the Japanese in which most of the figures of state were involved” 

Read article

Jungle Adventures in World War II Burma

Long Range Aerial Penetration:  A British-American Special Operation in World War II Burma

It seemed an unlikely joint operation – led by a British Army irregular warfare expert in conjunction with two hot-shot American fighter pilots and the “air armada” they created – to invade an occupied country from the sky.  It not only worked but resulted in a new concept of warfare and established combat techniques that today are used by both regular and unconventional forces. Read Article

World War II in China

The Dixie Mission 1944: The First US Intelligence Encounter with the Chinese Communists

Not everything the Americans heard or saw was understood, but they gathered a wealth of information, raw intelligence to be analyzed and pondered by the China experts. . . . But what may have been the most
significant, intelligence on the Chinese Communists themselves, appears to have been disregarded, then, and in the years that followed. Read Article

The Claws and Teeth of the Generalissimo

To get the intelligence America needed in China, OSS had to conceal its operations from Chiang Kai-shek’s spy master and the U.S. Navy. Read Article

And in World War II Vietnam

The OSS and Ho Chi Minh’s Rise to Power

The OSS relationship with Ho Chi Minh is a marker for that can happen when an aspiring and clever politician is used in an intelligence operation. By the time the relationship ended five months after it began, the OSS intelligence operation was a success and Ho Chi Minh was president of the newly declared People’s Republic of Vietnam.  Read Article

In More Recent Times

Defeating an Insurgency

In dealing with the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) insurgency, the government of Thailand first looked to British success in the Malayan Emergency but found that what worked in Malaya did not apply to Thailand.  The Thai then turned to the US way of counterinsurgency that  they had learned in Vietnam and found it counterproductive.  Finally, the Thai devised their own approach and resolved the insurgency in a Thai way.  Read Article