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Headhunters and Diplomat John Paton Davies

This Inside the Vaults video short examines one of U.S. diplomat John Paton Davies' papers, showing primitive, childlike sketches whose meanings were unclear. It was later discovered that he drew them to try to communicate with indigenous Burmese tribal members known as the Naga, believed to be headhunters. The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum recently acquired Davies' papers from his family. Davies, who died in 1999, was one of the State Department's "China hands" assigned to China in World War II. The drawings on the featured document appear to date from August 2, 1943, when Davies, CBS News correspondent Eric Sevareid, and 19 other men boarded a C-46 transport plane in India. Their route took them over the Burma "hump" to the Chinese city of Chungking, where they were to meet US wartime allies. As they crossed the mountains, one of the plane's engines failed and all 21 men parachuted out. Twenty survived. They were met on the ground by the Naga, and the rest is history. Inside the Vaults includes highlights from the National Archives in the Washington, DC, area and from the Presidential libraries and regional archives nationwide. These shorts present behind-the-scenes exclusives and offer surprising stories about the National Archives treasures. See more from Inside the Vaults at
Length: 03:25


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