William Boardman Kinter (1926-1978) volunteered as an ambulance driver with the American Field Service (AFS), a volunteer American ambulance corps serving alongside the British military, when he was only eighteen years old. He departed New York on November 13, 1944 aboard the S.S. Pomona Victory and arrived in Burma on January 2, 1945.
Kinter had a strong interest in photography, and captured local civilians and scenery, daily life of the AFS men, as well the British and Burmese troops they worked alongside during the entire course of his AFS service, including while in transit to Burma. He printed his photographs (as black and white prints and 35 mm Kodachrome slides) in the back of his ambulance by kerosene lamp, compiling the prints and his observations in a wartime scrapbook.
Posted to the AFS unit IB43, he worked with the British Fourteenth Army During the course of his service, he was stationed or visited various parts of central Burma, including Loikaw, Taunggyi, Meiktila, Chauk, Heho, Toungoo, and Rangoon, though he also spent brief amounts of time in India, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, and Wales in transit to and from his active service in Burma.
In March 1945 the Allied troops at Meiktila resisted frequent and heavy Japanese attacks until Taungtha was retaken. Around the same time, the 2nd British and 20th Indian Divisions were busy clearing the area south and southwest of Mandalay. With control of the railroad, the Fourteenth Army completed the capture of the Mandalay plain, as well as remnants of other Japanese forces in central Burma. Kinter helped evacuate nearly eighty patients along the Toungoo strip during the aftermath of this fighting in April, on a trip from Meiktila to Pagan. He photographed imagesof Japanese prisoners of war taken during this time.
By the summer of 1945, the Allied troops in Burma had been reassigned to create the Twelfth Army while the Fourteenth Army was sent back to India for the next phase of war against the Japanese. On June 1, 1945 Kinter was reassigned to the British Twelfth Army. The Fourteenth Army asked AFS volunteers to return with them to India by mid-July, leaving only twenty-five ambulances (including Kinter’s) with the Twelfth Army still stationed in Burma.
During his last two months of service, there was a strong presence of Japanese soldiers in Pinlaung, as well as in other damaged and evacuated areas. Kinter found a pile of negatives abandoned in a photography shop in Taunggyi in September 1945. He developed the prints, which were used by Field Security workers who were trying to identify Japanese collaborators.Kinter was repatriated on October 13, 1945, and he returned home to the United States. His service with AFS during the war entitled him to a Burma Star and a 1939-45 Star.
In 1947 he married Anne Elder Wilson and began to pursue a career dedicated to higher education and research. He received an A.B. degree in Zoology from Swarthmore in 1950, and, after obtaining a PhD in Physiology in 1955 from Harvard, he remained at the college, becoming an Associate Professor of Physiology in 1959. In 1962 he accepted a position as Professor of Physiology at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center and spent the next decade of his life heavily immersed in research. He worked as a Senior Research Fellow for the U.S. Public Health Service (1960-1962), was part of the Membership Committee of the American Physiological Society (1965-1968), was named Chairman of the Physiological Study Section of the National Institutes of Health (1966-1969), acted as a Director for the New York State Society for Medical Research (1965-1971), was a trustee for the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (1966-1971) before becoming a research scientist for the lab in (1972-1978), and served on the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Physiology and Journal of Applied Physiology (1968-1969) before becoming a Senior Editor for the publication, focusing specifically on Renal and Electrolyte Physiology. In 1975 he began working as a Lecturer in Zoology for the University of Maine Orono.
William B. Kinter passed away in Salisbury, Maine on October 5, 1978 at the age of 52. He left behind his wife, Anne Elder Wilson Kinter, and his their three children: Lewis Boardman Kinter, William Lewis Kinter, and Marion Appleton Kinter.