The CBI Roundup was a freely distributed newspaper founded by Captain Fred Eldridge, the first and only editor of the paper. He was an ex-reporter for the Public Relations officer on General Stilwell’s staff and of The Los Angeles Times as well. The newspaper was published by and only for the members of the United States Forces servicing World War II China Burma India Theater.
The origin, value and development of The CBI Roundup are simply too vast to be covered up in the written word. However, this brief article will make many things clear about the Roundup.
Roundup Idea and Reality
There isn’t any authentic evidence about how Roundup was ever conceived. However, findings suggest that it was in April 1942 at Maymyo, Burma when Eldridge shared with Mrs. Clare Boothe Luce his dream of initiating an Armed Forces newspaper in the Far East. Just before leaving for Chungking early on a June morning, he expressed his desire of starting a paper to Colonel Frank Dorn, the general’s aide. After two months, he wrote a 2000 words letter to Frank Dorn which resulted as a radiogram from General Stilwell. He authorized, ‘Let Eldridge have his paper.’ Consequently, China Burma India Theater Roundup took birth. It took a long time to turn the dream into a concrete reality and before that time the captain had to walk out of Burma with Stilwell.
Purpose of the Paper
The words of Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, the China Burma India Theater’s first Commander could be the best authority in describing the Roundup’s inception in its second issue on September 24, 1942. According to Stilwell, to keep the command well-informed of what was going on at home and in the other war theaters was the primary purpose of the paper. Soldiers were a long way out, all censors were crabby, and the mail was slow and time-consuming, so Roundup could help significantly in filling the gaps. It was their paper, so they had the freedom to contribute to it. If they had any complaint, they were asked to write a letter to the editor. If they could run the China Burma India Theater Roundup paper better, they were encouraged to tell about it to him since he was already looking for ideas. However, they were cautioned to be careful that the editor didn’t put them on the staff and made them prove it. The Roundup wouldn’t be exactly what Stilwell wanted it to be (the most readable sheet in the Far East) if the editor couldn’t find ideas.
First and Last Publication
It was September 17, 1942, when the first issue of Roundup was ever published. Thereby, a total of 188 issues were published over the following three and a half years while the culminating printing of The Last Roundup was made on April 11, 1946. However, a smaller newspaper also referred as Chota Roundup, continued as substitute for the original Roundup for the few men left in China Burma India Theater until the end of Theater operations.
In the first edition of the paper, Eldridge stated Roundup’s several policies. Some of those were as follows:
- The CBI Roundup is your newspaper.
- It is produced for you, by you and completed with news and relevant pictures all of those have been either obtained originally or edited by Army personnel.
- Your stories, ideas and pictures are sought.
- Your letters of praise and criticism are eagerly solicited.
Roundups were typically preoccupied with laughs and the lighter things of life to be passed on to every American soldier serving in China, Burma and India as quick as they were initially received. Though some stories might have featured propaganda yet simultaneously very newsworthy information, all news columns were kept neutral.
The news for the China Burma India Theater Roundup papers was obtained from all ends of their theater: Office of War Information (OWI), radio monitors of the 10th Air Force, the US war correspondents and their small body of chosen men. All content was initially put together into a 5-column, 8-page paper. The 3rd issue jumped to 12 pages with 15.5 inches column length.
Distribution was a tough job. Bullock cart, jeep, civilian mail, truck, river barrage, boat, train, rail, air and even combat cargo air drops had carried Roundup to the fighting of GI behind the lines. It was in 1945 when the circulation reached its peak with 120,000 copies weekly – 100,000 in the Calcutta area and 20,000 in the Delhi area. So far approximately 6 million copies have been published. As the circulation increased for China Burma India Theater Roundup, additional members were hired to the staff.
Photos of lovely ladies in stunning, eye-catching poses were one of the most famous and identifying features of Roundups.
Staff members, professional news agencies, soldier correspondents and Army and War Department news services used to provide the content for the weekly newspaper. Roundup gained massive reputation and recognition as one of the world’s best soldier-written newspapers of World War II.
Initially, the paper was printed by The Statesman in New Delhi, but later it was also printed in Calcutta. It was dispensed by all means possible throughout the China Burma India Theater and every two soldiers were issued one paper. The peak circulation was approximately around 140,000 to 150,000 copies for an issue.
Nathu Ram Jain, a civilian employee of Delhi was an invaluable assistance to CBI Roundup whose attendance to clerical concerns and an assortment of other details saved many worries and troubles.
Starting with its February edition in 1945, the paper was renamed as India-Burma Theater Roundup in response to the split of China Burma India Theater into two in the late 1944s. Consequently, the Roundup was regarded as the newspaper for India-Burma Theater and The China Lantern eventually happened to be the theater newspaper for the China Theater.
CBI Roundup was the result of Eldridge’s vision of producing a fascinating real storybook in the form of a newspaper covering the story of bloodshed, tears and sweat to make people in the CBI smile, wonder, laugh, cry, think, speculate, be informed and entertained.