With the escalation
of the war in Europe in the early 1940s, Thompson volunteered
for service in the United States Army, an important
turning point in his life.
During the Second World
War, Thompson was assigned to the Office of Strategic
Services (OSS), forerunner of the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA), a move which offered him an opportunity
to see more of the world.
Thompson as a member
of an OSS group was assigned to work with French forces
in North Africa. His assignments also took him into
Italy, France and Asia.
To prepare for his
mission, Thompson undertook rigorous training in jungle
survival. He completed the course successfully.
However the war ended
abruptly as Thompson and the other OSS men were en route
to Bangkok. A few weeks later, he assumed the duties
of OSS station chief. In late 1946, he received orders
to return to the States to receive his military discharge.
'old' Oriental Hotel
Thompson was confident
that with peace restored and the expansion of air travel,
there would be a significant increase in leisure travel
to the Far East. Upon their arrival in the capital,
these travelers would need acceptable accommodation.
Few hotels in Bangkok
could then even be considered of international standard.
Only one had an ideal location -- the old Oriental,
a former palace overlooking the Chao Phraya River that
flowed through the capital.
It was a meeting
place for travelers and a social center for the
foreign community. Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward
and Somerset Maugham were just a few of its famous
patrons. Excited by the prospects presented, Thompson
became actively involved in the reorganization
of the Oriental Hotel.
By this time,
Thompson had developed a certain fondness for
the country and its people. He began to seriously
contemplate settling down and going into business
in Thailand. He foresaw a promising future for
the country and wanted to be a part of this process.
He decided that upon leaving the service, he would
return and take up residence in Thailand permanently.
||Somerset Maugham Suite
at The Oriental
In late 1946, Thompson
left for the States to get his discharge.