let's see... the thompson family of wilmington delaware. i recall stories of guests and youth, partying at the US Embassy in the Phillipines in the 1920's, sliding down the stairs on silver paltters after dinner.... Elinor (who was my step-mother) was visiting her ambassador uncle there at the time. i recall too, Elinor (was Jim Thompson's sister) recommending that the Dulles airport be decorated with Siamese Silk (Thaibok) to the head of the FAA. then... Najeeb Haliby (recent head of PanAm, father of Queen Noor... Elinor's god-daughter) .... so much for the context.
after OSS in europe. he volunteered for service in asia. he and a group of OSS and Free Thai members were over target for their jump into northeast Thailand to begin the resistance against japanese occupation... when the pilot called back "the war is over". jim thompson then was attached to the US Embassy in Bangkok as political officer. as his tour ended he was part a group that raised money to buy the then run down Oriental Hotel which had been used as Japanese headquarters barracks. his relationship to that project didn't work out, but he decided he'd explore the possibilities of organizing the silk weavers and finding a market for the material. he now had the opportunity to continue to explore the country and collect thai art. there is of course a great deal of controversy as to where this collection came from. and there are many sides to the stories. though i recall having heard tell that his old buddy .. now, General Ed Black (from OSS days... now certainly CIA... and my father's executive officer while with DoD) would get a coupla Huey's and go off to the countryside and chopper out all sorts of buddhist stuff. "previously undiscovered" .... but the Fine Arts Department of Thailand seized much of the booty. so his 'collection' now includes little if any religious statuary. he then began collecting pottery and painting. the silk business grew enormously. and stimulated many other similar businesses to create similar material. he was, though, 'the' American in bangkok and managed to entertain a continual flow of guests day and night. and remarkably enough his house is now a major tourist attraction. but as one clairvoyant observed " he just went off to the jungle to die... like an old elephant" well, no one really seems to have a better answer, though there are many bizarre possibilities. but given what has become of his most beautiful and magical Bangkok of fifty years ago, it is understandable that he just simply wanted out....
Ayuthya. the ancient capitol of siam
and Ayuthya, a 46' ketch built entirely of teak. with the exception of the frames, which were rosewood. the masts, Manchurian pine. the transom was the largest piece of teak know in Siam at that time... 1938. bought by my brother Robert in 1959.
i recall also the family's two siamese cats. named after Thailand's military dictators... the two generals that the US installed in the late 50's. the english newspapers, while we were there, were continually filled with articles of corruption and fraud and bribery. the dictatorship is still in place after the millions and millions of dollars that were poured in during the vietnam war. (called the American War by the Vietnamese) Bangkok is now trapped in a poisonous fog of venture capital... or 'joint ventures' ...