Late on a June morning in 1942, a message was received by a Chinese military outpost on a road leading north from Mandalay to the key city of Chungking (now called Chongquin) on the Yangtze River.

It was World War II. The protection of the Burma Road was as critical to the Chinese as it was to the advancing Japanese determined to complete a pincer movement on China by gaining control of the upper Yangtze.

As important as this post was to China, an inclination for relaxation prevailed until the message was read.

"Japanese troops rapidly advancing. Estimated distance from your location thirty kilometers. Order immediate withdrawal."

C.H. Chiang, enjoying a pre-luncheon bridge game with fellow officers, swore under his breath. Not that the Japanese were coming, but he'd have to abandon a seven spade lay-down he'd just been dealt. And that was not all. In such haste, he'd have to leave behind a precious case of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch whisky.

As C.H., later to be a business associate of mine, said, "This is my most devastating memory of World War II."