Day I Fired Alan Ladd and Other World War II Adventures

Overview

"To perform heroically in a perilous situation is one thing, but I found that, in my case, the real difficulty was in getting myself into a spot where heroism was possible. Nobody on latrine duty ever got the Medal of Honor."

This delightful memoir of A. E. Hotchner’s World War II experiences explores a different side of the troubled war years. Hotchner, who grew up in St. Louis, was a rookie lawyer fresh out of Washington University Law School when the United States declared ...

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Overview

"To perform heroically in a perilous situation is one thing, but I found that, in my case, the real difficulty was in getting myself into a spot where heroism was possible. Nobody on latrine duty ever got the Medal of Honor."

This delightful memoir of A. E. Hotchner’s World War II experiences explores a different side of the troubled war years. Hotchner, who grew up in St. Louis, was a rookie lawyer fresh out of Washington University Law School when the United States declared war. Like many others of his generation, he aspired to serve his country. He tried to enlist in the navy, first as a pilot and then as a deck officer, but he was rejected for faulty depth perception and flat feet, respectively. Drafted as a lowly GI into the air force branch of the army, he was accepted to bombardier school. But on the eve of his departure, he was ordered to write and perform in an air force musical comedy instead. He eventually went to Officer Candidate School and was assigned to the Anti-Submarine Command as a lieutenant adjutant, but just before his squadron’s departure for North Africa he was detached and, despite knowing nothing about moviemaking, ordered to make a film that glorified the Anti-Submarine Command’s role in combating U-boats.

All through his four-year military career, despite his efforts to get into combat, fate and the military bureaucracy thwarted him. The author skillfully recounts the events of those years, describing the encounters he had with many unforgettable characters, including a footsore and sentimental Clark Gable and an inept Alan Ladd—best known as the star of Shane. Ladd, then a GI, did such a poor job reading the narration for Hotchner’s film Atlantic Mission that Hotchner had to fire him. The author also describes his encounters with other well-known people, notably Tennessee Williams, with whom he attended a playwriting class at Washington University, and a wistful, vulnerable Dorothy Parker.

Although much of Hotchner’s memoir is lighthearted, it also provides a unique look at the impact of the war on everyday life in the United States. Hotchner’s fast-paced prose makes this memoir an insightful pleasure to read.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"To perform heroically in a perilous situation is one thing, but I found that, in my case, the real difficulty was in getting myself into a spot where heroism was possible. Nobody on latrine duty ever got the Medal of Honor."—From the Preface
Library Journal
World War II created many heroes who have been the subjects of popular biographies and memoirs. But for every hero, there were hundreds who performed their patriotic duty in anonymity. Author and biographer Hotchner (Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir) clearly falls in the second category, though not for a lack of effort on his part. Like many of his generation, he aspired to serve his country in some grand manner, but, in his words, "Nobody on latrine duty ever got the Medal of Honor." Faulty depth perception kept him out of flight school and flat feet kept him out of the navy. When he thought he had finally found his combat niche as an antisubmarine officer, military bureaucracy intervened. So, rather than an inside look at combat, Hotchner provides a lighthearted look into the stateside military and the home front. In entertaining fashion, he recounts his various duties, including writing a musical comedy, producing an antisubmarine warfare film, and writing for Air Force Magazine, as well as his encounters with noted personalities like Clark Gable and Alan Ladd. The result is an enjoyable and slightly irreverent memoir of an unusual wartime military career. Recommended for all public libraries.-Mike Miller, Dallas P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Whimsical, at times poignant memoir of the WWII. Hotchner (Louisiana Purchase, 1996, etc.) provides an example of an all but vanished "laughter-in-uniform" genre that grew from America's last widely supported war. A St. Louis native and graduate of Washington University Law School, the author eyed his opportunity to get into uniform right after Pearl Harbor. When flat feet and poor depth perception kept him from being a combat pilot, he accepted life as a lowly GI and was suffering his way through boot camp when a commanding officer, noting that Hotchner's resumé included student theater, ordered him to write a patriotic musical to raise money for war widows. For the rest of the war he tried to make his way to the front lines but was thwarted when the military found him useful for writing company rousers, arranging skits, or making a movie about US anti-submarine patrols. Along the way, he comforted Clark Gable, who had enlisted after his wife, Carole Lombard, was killed in a plane crash; fired Alan Ladd as narrator of his anti-sub film; and befriended the acid-penned Dorothy Parker. He'd known Tennessee Williams as a student in St. Louis, and rubbed shoulders with such Hollywood types making films for the war effort as Frank Capra, William Holden, and Ronald Reagan. (Today, Hotchner is a partner in actor Paul Newman's line of food products.) Hotchner's descriptions of 1930s complacency about Hitler, isolationism, attitudes toward the draft, young men's Hollywood-shaped illusions of war and glory, and women's economic and sexual "liberation" as they assumed war-related jobs are all evocative. And he has a good eye for the telling detail, as when he runs his hand over the wooden railing onthe Queen Mary with its scratched initials from the thousands of GIs the ship has previously transported to their uncertain fate. Amusing, readable, occasionally moving account of life during wartime by a frustrated would-be hero.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826214324
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

A. E. Hotchner is the author of a dozen books, including King of the Hill and The Man Who Lived at the Ritz. He is perhaps best known for Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir.Along with his writing career, Hotchner is business partner with Paul Newman. All of the profits they receive from their “Newman’s Own” products are contributed to charities. Hotchner lives in Westport, Connecticut.
 

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