Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gordon B. Enders and Tibetan Gold

Gordon B. Enders, an American, was billed, in the November 1936 issue of Modern Mechanix, as the "only foreigner ever appointed to a high position in the Tibetan government." His mission was to fly an estimated USD $100 million in gold out of Tibet, at the behest of the Panchen Lama.

And nobody has made the movie yet?

Enders, is elsewhere described as the "son of a teacher, who grew up along the India-Tibet border at the turn of the century," and who "eventually establishes a close relationship with the Panchen Lama, becoming an advisor to the second holiest monk in Tibet." He wrote two books about his experiences, Nowhere Else In the World (1935) and Foreign Devil: An American Kim In Modern Asia (1942). Sounds like the stuff of fiction.

Iowa born Gordon Bandy Enders indeed existed, indeed met the Panchen Lama (he met him in Chiang Kai Shek's house in Nanking), and was in fact later the U.S. military attache at Kabul: one of the fathers of the Afghan air force. Beyond that, there is some controversy.

A secret wartime report to "Wild Bill" Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services (seen here), gave this assessment: "Major Gordon Enders, the Military Attache at Kabul and the sole U.S. intelligence representative, is a bag of wind. He is well known in China for that. He thinks or tries to make one think, that he has everything in control; everyone eating from his hand. As a matter of fact, I think everyone from the British to the Japs are fooling him." I also find a reference (in British and Chinese Relations with Tibet 1765-1947, seen here) to a purported 1936 letter signed Panchen Erdeni, refuting passages in Nowhere Else In the World: "Enders' strange statements are entirely without foundation or fact."

Do not let either reference deter you -- they reek of personal agenda (Enders did not care for the British, and the British did not care for Enders), and the truth probably lies somewhere in anguish, alone upon the middle ground.

His story is simply fascinating, and I do not know why it is not better known. Foreign Devil is online and can be downloaded for free. It is the proverbial "good read."

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