The road to Mandalay
In striving to outlaw discriminatory practices, are we in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? The Burma Star Association is a grouping of servicemen and women who served in the Burma Campaign of World War II.
Every year, their dwindling numbers gather together at London's Royal Albert Hall for the National Service of Remembrance for those who never returned from what was arguably the most bitterly contested campaign of that war.
The members of General (later Field Marshal) Bill Slim's 14th Army who fought in the retreat through Burma, to the monumental struggle at Kohima, which turned the tide in favor of the Allies before pushing the Japanese back until they were defeated, often referred to themselves as "the forgotten army."
They waged a war thousands of miles distant from the European theater, combating an unforgiving climate, a cruel terrain and rampant disease as well as a fanatically determined enemy.
For those who have little or no idea of the primal struggle of the campaign, the autobiographical books by two great novelists, George MacDonald Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here and John Masters' The Road Past Mandalay, provide remarkable insights for the uninitiated.
The melody for the song "The Road to Mandalay" was written by Oley Speaks to a poem by Rudyard Kipling. It was a favorite marching song of the 14th Army's soldiers.
For that very reason, the song has always been a feature of the annual Burma Star Association's Reunion at the Albert Hall.
But this year, to the dismay of the association's members, the song has been excised from the program, apparently because the performer, a famous operatic bass-baritone, who was invited by the British Broadcasting Corporation to sing it considered that one line was "derogatory to people of color."
The performer's manager declined to say whether he voiced