Silk King Jim Thompson
January 18, 2012 by staff
Silk King Jim Thompson, James Harrison Wilson Thompson (born March 21, 1906) was an American businessman who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. A former U.S. military intelligence officer, Thompson mysteriously disappeared from Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands while going for a walk on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967.
Many hypotheses have been advanced to explain his disappearance. Theories range from his committing suicide to his being carried away by aborigines.
Jim Thompson was the youngest of five children of Henry and Mary Thompson. His father was a wealthy textile manufacturer; his mother was a daughter of James Harrison Wilson, a noted Union general in the American Civil War.
Thompson spent his early years of education at St. Paul’s boarding school. He graduated from Princeton University in 1928. Post-graduate studies followed at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture, but he did not complete his master’s degree because of his weakness in calculus.
From 1931 to 1940, he practiced in New York City with Holden, McLaughlin & Associates, designing homes for the East Coast rich and a band shell in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
He led an active social life in the 1930s and sat on the board of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. He also became politically active, but his liberal politics alienated him from his conservative family.
In 1941, Thompson quit and enlisted in the Delaware National Guard. He became a commissioned officer shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
At the height of the Second World War, Thompson was recruited by William Joseph Donovan to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (which in 1947 was disbanded in place of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency).
His first assigment was with the French resistance forces in North Africa. He was then sent to Europe. After Victory in Europe Day (May 7-8, 1945), he was transferred to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He was assigned to contact the pro-Allied Seri Thai or Free Thai Movement, which was planning an uprising against the occupying Japanese Army. In August 1945, Thompson was about to be sent into Thailand, when the Surrender of Japan officially ended World War II. He arrived in Thailand shortly after Victory over Japan Day and organized the Bangkok OSS office. In the spring of 1946, Thompson went to work as military attaché at the United States legation for his former Princeton classmate Charles Yost, the U.S. Minister to Thailand. Thompson used his contacts with the Free Thai and Free Lao groups to gather information and defuse conflicts on Thailand’s borders. Working with him in the Legation was Kenneth Landon, an American missionary whose wife was the author of Anna and the King of Siam, the inspiration for The King and I.
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