Gordon Enders was born in rural Iowa, but from age 6 to 13 he grew up in India, as the son of a Presbyterian missionary. His family lived at the base of Nanda Devi, one of the highest mountains in the world. Gordon was a chela (student) to Jowar, his Hindu guru, and Chanti, a Tibetan spy. He learned from them, like the fictional boy-hero of Kipling’s “Kim,” to be a spy — and he continued, secretly, to be an “American Kim” for the rest of his life.
Enders returned to the U.S. to finish high school, but he left college to volunteer for service in the Great War. He was an ambulance driver for France; a fighter pilot for the French; and then a U.S. Army pilot, flying alone in a bi-plane bomber. After a disastrous plane crash in November 1918, Enders was nursed back to health by Betty Crump, an American Red Cross nurse. The two married in France the next year.
Gordon and Betty were stationed in China from 1931 until the Japanese invasion reached South China in 1937. After they returned, briefly, to the U.S., in 1935, Gordon published a book about his life as a boy, growing up in India, and about his later life as a soldier in World War I, and as a diplomat for the Panchan Lama of Tibet. His book, “Nowhere Else in the World” (1935) was a best-seller, and copies can still be found in used book stores. After they returned to the U.S. In 1937, he wrote a second memoir, “Foreign Devil: The adventures of an American ‘Kim'” (1942). The two books by Gordon Enders provide much of the background for the movie, Khyber Pass, up to the beginning of World War II.
In September 1941, Enders was commissioned as a Major in U.S. Army Intelligence. He was immediately sent to Kabul by the State Department as the military attache for the non-resident minister – his mentor, Ambassador Louis Dreyfus. At the highest possible priority, Enders flew west across the pacific in November 1941, passing through Pearl Harbor and Manila to China, and then to India. Gordon Enders’ letters to Betty, who was in Indiana, tell of his trip back across India on the grand trunk road from Delhi to Peshawar. En route, he passed by the grave of his father, who died in india in 1910. He crossed the Khyber Pass in a jeep and entered Afghanistan just as Pearl Harbor was being attacked.
In November-December 1943, Major Gordon Enders and two other intelligence officers were dispatched to Peshawar. It was the first time that Americans had ever traveled along the Durand Line, which had been created in 1893 by the British to separate India from Afghanistan. It is probably the only time that Americans have ever, before or since, traveled along this route, openly, in uniform, armed and under official orders. A secret document states that the purpose of the trip was to show Americans what problems the British had with the tribes along the border, and how they dealt with them. But there were undoubtedly also other purposes for the trip — to look for possible Soviet activities along the border, as the U.S.S.R. continued the “Great Game”; to carry “tribute” to the new Mehtar of Chitral; and to introduce American officials to local rulers — so they would be prepared for the U.S. to enter the “Great Game” after the war ended.
The story of Khyber Pass delves into an arena of history that is now being revealed as vastly significant. Our hero Enders is an inspired archetype who displayed compassion for all people and exhibited superb physical and mental strength. Following him through the intricate and dangerous crevices of history proves not only thrilling, but enlightening too. The story of his life tells volumes about a world and a region as it was, and much about how it continues to be.