Was Paul Geren Our First Peace Corps Writer? Part Five

Geren’s diary ends with no happy ending. He finishes it on July 30, 1942 in Bamgarh, Bihar, writing:

Our group moving over the mountains is a replica of the world community of sufferers. We were many races and nations: Chinese, Burmese, Indians, British, and Americans. We were hungry together on one meal a day. We were wet together, body, bedding and bread when the elements changed their policy from scorching us to soaking us. We jumped together for joy to see biscuit falling to us from the bomb rack of an airplane. We were banded together for whatever should come.

Within a few months the tide of battle would turn to victory in every theater of the war-at Midway, Stalingrad, and El Alamein. Still Geren’s Diary ends with no guarantee of victory or a “happy ending” for in mid-1942 there was no assurance that the tide would turn, or that even the diarist would survive the war.

Still, Paul F. Geren did survive, one more time.

In Imphal after the retreat, he and the Seagrave unit went to work handling Indian evacuees. “It was pretty bad,” said Geren. “They died so fast they couldn’t bury them. The jackals would dig up the bodies at night.”

Next he moved with Seagrave to Ramgarh where Stilwell set up his Chinese training school. He was offered a commission in September 1942 but couldn’t take it as he was sick with a tropical fever and went to Forman College in Lahore when he taught for nine months until he recovered his health.

Cured and by the fall of 1943, he returned to Delhi and joined the army. He was sent immediately to North Burma and rejoined Seagrave unit. He served with the Chinese 38 and 22 Divisions in the opening of the campaign and then went on two missions with Merrill’s Marauders.

By August 1944, upon the fall of Myitkyina, he was back in Delhi with the rank of corporal, and assigned to the Historical Section. He received his commission on January 23, 1945.

Discharged, he returned home to the United States and became an economics professor at Berea College in Kentucky, and then to a career of nine years, from 1947–56, in the foreign service, before returning to the academic world and Baylor University as a vice president.

After his brief time as Shriver’s first deputy at the Peace Corps, and his final foreign service tour in Salisbury, he was elected the fifth president of Stetson University on  August 21, 1967 while still in the foreign service in Libya and took up his new job on September 15, 1967. He was 54 years of age.

This would be his the job and a sad ending to a life and a career of a man who only tried to do good in the world. 

End of Part Five

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