Lovell Butler Pottinger, 1942
Lovell Butler Pottinger, 1942


The time was 1944 and Lovell Burton Pottinger was a buck soldier who had joined the Army “to see the world,” and because he was drafted. LB felt very low about joining the Army because he’d volunteered for the Navy, and that’s where he wanted to be. But they turned him down. About the only thing he remembers telling them when he enlisted was that he sure hoped he’d get to travel.

For Pvt Pottinger, those wishes came true. Within four days when he walked into the induction center, he was in California, then on to Washington State.

LB Pottinger at Ft Lewis, Wash, Dec 1942
LB Pottinger at Ft Lewis, Wash, Dec 1942

After he was trained, he was sent to North Africa. On the way over there, he heard that General Rommel had been defeated. He traveled across North Africa in style called 40 or 8... meaning 40 men or 8 mules to a boxcar.

LB thought his group was headed for an invasion of Sicily after leaving Africa, but as it turned out he arrived in Bombay, India.

The next five months of his life were spent hoofing across Asia with an Army mule, in a campaign to reopen the Burma Road, a major supply route that had been taken over by the Japanese.
LB was in a mechanical outfit; small arms and weapons repairman. One day they sent him to the front and gave him a big black mule to make the trip.

The events of Europe and the Pacific overshadowed the CBI campaign. When you talk about mules and the calvary, most people think you’re going back to WWI.

Without mules, there wasn’t any other way to get across that terrain. There wasn’t enough road for a truck, so LB packed his equipment on mules and what supplies he needed were dropped to him by those old C-47 airplanes.

Troops advancing into Burma, mostly on foot, managed 18-20 miles a day. They had to fight both the Japanese, the rugged mountain terrain and monsoons.

LB Pottinger in Burma, July, 1944
LB Pottinger in Burma, July, 1944

LB remembers crossing the area known as “Hell’s Gate,” fifty miles out of Ledo. It was seven miles of mountains that are part of the Himalayan chain and was an appropriate description of what that was like.

By the time the mission was completed, LB had melted to 110 pounds and even so considered himself lucky. He remembered going to mass funeral services for other soldiers not as fortunate.
Sometimes they stacked up like cordwood. They’d wrap them up in the white parachutes that dropped supplies. Going to those burial services was the saddest thing LB hoped he would ever see.

The very day FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then president of the United States) died, LB was flown out of Burma back to India. But his experiences in Southeast Asia were far from over.

One night somebody came into LB’s barracks looking for volunteers to drive a truck to China. LB was just waiting, killing time and he was still itching to see more of the world so he signed up. Of course there were some selfish motives involved too. By going to China, LB could obtain the five points he needed to be discharged, and out of the Army.

He spent 14 days, traveling 1,082 miles in a truck through India, Burma and into China. Every third driver in the convoy were Americans. The other two were Chinese and they couldn’t drive at all. What a mess that was. But he made it.

Altogether, LB was overseas from September, 1943 until February, 1946, most of the time in Asia.
LB heard about the atomic bomb when he was recovering from an illness in a hospital in Burma. LB didn’t know anything about the atomic bomb, but an Indian doctor came in the hospital with some others and sat down and explained the basic principles of the bomb.

The day LB was flown out of China was one of the most memorable days of his life. LB loved to tell the story about the day he came back. “I had breakfast in China, lunch in India and supper in Burma. Now that ain’t bad for an old country boy.”

The trip back also indoctrinated him as a member of the group who “flew the hump,” as they called it.

LB got to “see the world.” In the Army he made a trip around the world. He left the states from Norfolk, Virginia, and came back thru Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to Seattle, Washington.

Information for this article came from an article written by Bill Medley, Associate Editor, The Kentucky Standard newspaper. (date unknown).

Lovell Butler “LB” Pottinger was the son of Burton Pottinger and Mary Margaret Beeler. He married Mary Ruth Haynes July 12, 1958 and they had two daughters, Mary Arbella Pottinger and Alma Rhea Pottinger, now McCoy. LB died March 12, 1984 and Mary Ruth  died April 27, 1992.

LB and Mary were host of the Pottenger-Pottinger reunions for many years.

Short funny video "US Army Drafts Missouri Mules" (for CBI Campaign).


US Army Drafts Missouri Mules



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