Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Rambo in Kashmir, 1947



Life Magazine. 16 Feb, 1948.

An american construction company employed a 25 year old ex-G.I. from Brooklyn named Russell K. Haight Jr. who during World War 2 had been a non-combatant in France fighting for Canadian Army. After a fall from a cliff, he decided to head back home.But a chance encounter with officials operating the war in Kashmir took him to the Poonch front in southwestern Kashmir where he took part in fighting for two months. At that time all he knew was that Kashmir had a Dogra king and he didn't like that.

With his american no-fuss attitude he was soon promoted to brigradier general in the tribal army, a rank he later claimed was given to him as a joke by British army officers. On the front he learnt to handle the maundering and looting tribals by playing upon their vanities and tribal rivalries.

But his big american dream of action-adventure did not last long. He got into a fight with Pathans over some machine guns recovered from a downed Indian Air Force place. He killed the guys and became a fugitive. After arriving back in America via Karachi, in an interview with  Robert Turnball for New York Times*,
he created a few ripples by claiming that the fighting in Kashmir was managed by Pakistan Army, that the land proclaimed as Azad Kashmir was managed by a puppet of Pakistan. That there had been assasination attempts on his life for criticizing the way the war was being handled. And yet he remained sympathetic to the "cause".

After the news spread, a communist paper in India claimed him to be an american spy and proof of American meddling in internal affairs of other countries.Around the same time an american author from New York named Nicol Smith (Golden doorway to Tibet, 1949) claimed there was some pro-Russia activity happening in Leh, that the Yarkhandi traders in Leh may be Russian agents. He claimed that there was a chance that the king of Leh may seek help from Russia and seek a separate way out. The old great game just kept going on with old and new players.

In 1967, Russell K. Haight retired from U.S. army as a sergeant-major after a long career of fighting in Korea, Germany, Bolivia and Vietnam.

After he passed away in 2006, there was small news item in an Indian paper on the american man who fought for the other side.

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*The Limits of influence: America's Role in Kashmir by Howard B. Schaffer (2009)


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