Read an Excerpt
[ FOUR ]
U.S. Army Reception Center
Fort Dix, New Jersey
Monday Morning October 7, 1946
On Phil’s first day in the Army, he was issued about fifty pounds of uniforms and given inoculations against every disease known to medical science. In the morning of his second day, he was given the Army General Classification Test, known as the AGCT, to see where he would best fit into the nation’s war machine.
In the afternoon, he faced a Classification Specialist, who took one look at Phil, his AGCT score, and then arranged for him take the test again.
“Secondary school dropouts” are not supposed to score 144 on the AGCT Test. All it took to get into Officer Candidate School was an AGCT Score of 110. The second time Phil took the test, this time under supervision to make sure no one was slipping him the answers, he scored 146.
The next morning, he faced another Classification Specialist, this one an officer, who explained to him the doors his amazing AGCT score had opened for him in the nation’s war machine. Heading the list of these, the captain told Phil, was that he could apply for competitive entrance to the United States Military Academy at West Point. If accepted, he would be assigned to the USMA Preparatory School, and on graduation therefrom be appointed to the Corps of Cadets at West Point.
That suggested to Phil that he was being offered the privilege of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. He had had experience with a military academy, specifically the Bordentown Military Academy, and it had not been pleasant. He had been sent home after seven weeks of military service, so to speak, after having been found guilty of having talked a fellow cadet, PFC Edwin W. Bitter, into stuffing three unrolled rolls of toilet tissue down the muzzle of the saluting cannon. When the cannon had fired at the next morning’s reveille formation, it looked for a minute or so as if Southern New Jersey was experiencing a blizzard in early October.
On the Greyhound bus back to north New Jersey later that October day, ex-Cadet Private P.W. Williams had been enormously relieved that his military service was over.
Another option, the captain explained, was for Phil to apply for the Army Security Agency. The ASA was charged with listening to enemy radio communications, copying them down, and if necessary, decrypting them. Personnel selected to be “Intercept Operators,” the captain said, had to have the same intellectual qualifications as officer candidates, that is to say an AGCT score of 110 or better.
Reasoning that places where radio receivers were located were probably going to be inside, and that Interceptor Operators would probably work sitting down, Phil selected the ASA for his career in the nation’s war machine.
He was given yet another long form to fill out, this one asking for a list of his residences in the last twenty years, and other personal information. He had no way of knowing of course that ASA Intercept Operators were required to have Top Secret security clearances, or that the form was the first step in what was known as the “Full Background Investigation Procedure,” which was necessary to get one.
The next day, Phil was transferred from the Reception Center to a basic training company.
There he and two hundred fellow recruits were issued blankets, sheets, a pillow and pillow case, a small brown book entitled TM9-1275 M-1 Garand Manual and an actual U.S. Rifle, Cal. 30, M-1 Garand.
They were told that until graduation day, when they actually became soldiers, they would live with their Garands. And, yes, that meant sleeping with it. And memorizing its serial number.
The idea was for the recruits to become accustomed to the weapon. They wouldn’t actually fire it until the sixth week of their training. Until then, they would in their spare time, after memorizing the serial number, read TM9-1275 and learn how the weapon functioned.
The first indication that Phil had an empathy for Mr. Garand’s invention—or vice versa—came that very evening at 8:55 p.m., or, as the Army says that, twenty fifty-five hours.
At that hour, Sergeant Andrew Jackson McCullhay, one of Phil’s instructors, walked down the barracks aisle en route to the switch that would turn off the lights at twenty-one hundred.
As he passed the bunk to which PVT WILLIAMS P had been assigned, he saw something that both surprised and distressed him. PVT WILLIAMS P had somehow managed to completely disassemble his U.S. Rifle, Cal. 30, M-1 Garand. All of its many parts were spread out over his bunk.
In the gentle, paternal tone of voice for which Basic Training Instructors are so well known, Sergeant McCullhay inquired “Expletive Deleted!! Head, What the Expletive Deleted!! have you done to your Expletive Deleted!! rifle?”
“Sergeant, sir,” PVT WILLIAMS P replied, “I have disassembled it.”
“So I see,” Sergeant McCullhay replied. “Now show me, Expletive Deleted!! Head, how you’re going to get your Expletive Deleted!! Garand back together before I turn the Expletive Deleted!! lights off in four minutes and fifteen Expletive Deleted!! seconds.”
“Yes, sir, Sergeant,” PVT WILLIAMS P replied and proceeded to so with two minutes and five seconds to spare.
“I’ll be a Expletive Deleted!! !” Sergeant McCullhay said. “Expletive Deleted!! Head, you’re a Expletive Deleted!! genius!”
“Yes, sir, Sergeant,” PVT WILLIAMS P said.
He had already learned the most important rule of all in the Army: Never Argue With A Sergeant.
Sergeant McCullhay was genuinely impressed with the speed with which PVT WILLIAMS P had reassembled his stripped Garand, especially after he timed himself at the task. When, that same night, he told his buddies at the Sergeant’s Club what he had seen, they didn’t believe him.
One of his fellow non-commissioned officers made a challenge: “I’ve got ten Expletive Deleted!! dollars that says your kid can’t completely disassemble and reassemble a Expletive Deleted!! Garand in less than five minutes.”
As a result of this challenge—it was a challenge, not a “bet” or a “wager,” as betting and wagering are violations of Army Regulations and those who do so are subject to court-martial—PVT WILLIAMS P was awakened after midnight by Sergeant McCullhay.
He and the Garand rifle with which he had been sleeping were taken to McCullhay’s room in the barracks where five non-commissioned officers were waiting to challenge Sergeant McCullhay’s assertions vis-à-vis the speed with which PVT WILLIAMS P could dis- and re- assemble a Garand.
After PVT WILLIAMS P had done so, which made Sergeant McCullhay fifty dollars richer than he had been earlier in the evening, the sergeant was in a very good mood.
“You can get in your bunk now, Expletive Deleted!! Head,” he said. “And you can skip the Zero Five Hundred Roll Call and Physical Training. I wouldn’t want you to hurt your beautiful Expletive Deleted!! hands doing Expletive Deleted!! push-ups.”
[ FIVE ]
U.S. Army Reception Center
Fort Dix, New Jersey
Monday, November 18th, 1946
During the next five weeks, whenever and wherever Sergeant McCullhay could find gullible souls wishing to challenge what he claimed for PVT WILLIAMS P’s dis- and re-assemble times for the Garand, PVT WILLIAMS P did so.
On the side of three different roads during fifteen-mile hikes. Half a dozen times in the Regimental Mess Hall. Once in the back of the Regimental Chapel while the chaplain was warning the trainees about loose women. And once while wearing a gas mask in the tear gas chamber.
But then it was actually time for the trainees to fire the U.S. Rifle, Cal. 30 M-1 Garand.
This took place on one of the 100-yard KD ranges. Some weeks later, PVT WILLIAMS P learned that KD stood for “Known Distance.”
There were twenty firing positions on the range and, 100 yards distant from them, twenty bull’s eye targets. The targets were on frames that rose and fell on command from behind an earthen berm.
The procedure was explained in detail before the trainees were issued the one round of ammunition, Cartridge, Rifle, Cal. .30, Anti-Personnel, w/168 grain projectile with which they would fire their first shot.
Once twenty shooters were in the prone position, with a Strap, Leather, Rifle attaching them firmly to their rifles, and had a cadre-man laying beside them, the Range Officer would issue over a loudspeaker several commands:
“The flag is up!”
Whereupon a red flag in the target area would be hauled to the top of a flagpole.
“The flag is waving!”
Whereupon another flag, this one checkered, would be waved in the target pit, and the bull’s-eye targets would be raised.
“The flag is down! Commence firing !”
Whereupon the checkered flag would drop out of sight and the shooters were free to fire.
This required that the cadre-man hand his shooter the one cartridge he was trusted to have, and for the shooter to then insert the cartridge into the chamber of his Garand, and then to close the action of the Garand, which would make the Garand ready to fire once the safety on the front of the trigger guard was pushed out of the way.
The trick here was to get one’s thumb out of the way after depressing the magazine guide in the open action of the Garand before the bolt slammed closed.
PVT WILLIAMS P had no problem with this, but eleven of the twenty shooters on the line already had what was known as “M-1 Thumb,” a physical injury, the symptoms of which were a black (or missing) thumbnail, and smashed tissue in the thumb-nail area.
After the cartridge was chambered, the shooter was to disengage the safety by pushing it forward in the trigger guard. Then he was to align his sights on the bull’s-eye, take a deep breath, exhale half, check his sight alignment, and then slowly, gently squeeze the trigger until the weapon fired. He then, after inspecting the now-open chamber of his rifle to make sure it was indeed open, would lay his weapon down and wait for further instructions.
When the sixty seconds allotted for the firing of the trainee’s first shots had expired, the range officer would announce, repeating the command twice, to make sure everyone heard him: “The flag is down! Cease firing!”
Whereupon the red flag would come down from its pole, and the targets disappear downward into the berm, where they would be marked.
If the bullet had struck any part of the target at all, including the frame, a “peg” would be inserted in the bullet hole. This was a ten-inch black dot exactly the size of the bull’s-eye in the center of the target. When the target was raised, the shooter could see where his bullet hit.
In case the target pullers could find no bullet hole anywhere, they would raise and wave a red flag, called “Maggie’s Drawers,” to tell the shooter he had completely missed the target.
When the range officer completed the series of commands ending with “Commence fire,” the cadre-man next to PVT WILLIAMS P handed him the cartridge he was to fire with a little paternal, or perhaps brotherly, advice: “Expletive Deleted!! Head, if you Expletive Deleted!! up your Expletive Deleted!! thumb loading this, I will kick your Expletive Deleted!! from here to Expletive Deleted!! Trenton.”
Sergeant Andrew Jackson McCullhay feared that “M-1 Thumb” would keep PVT WILLIAMS P from being able to manipulate M-1 parts with the extraordinary facility that was making him so much money.
PVT WILLIAMS P loaded his rifle without harm to his thumb, lined up the sights and squeezed the trigger. The recoil, while not pleasant, was not nearly as bone-shattering as Sergeant McCullhay had led him to believe it would be. He checked to see that the action was indeed open, and then laid the rifle down.
The sixty-second firing period expired.
The range officer proclaimed the flag to be down, and ordered “Cease Fire!”
The targets dropped down behind the berm.
One by one, they rose again.
The first several to rise had pegs on them, which showed where the bullet had stuck. Some were actually within a foot or so of the bull’s-eye, but most were scattered all over the target. Two marksmen had shot the frame.
PVT WILLIAMS P’s target rose, but he could see no peg on it, and he braced for the shaming Maggie’s Drawers which would soon flutter to announce his lousy marksmanship to the world.
No Maggie’s Drawers fluttered before his target, although they proclaimed the shame of seven other marksmen.
“What the Expletive Deleted!!?”Sergeant McCullhay asked rhetorically, and then raised his voice. “Tell the Expletive Deleted!! in the pit to mark Expletive Deleted!! Number Seven.”
A minute or so later, the Range Officer appeared at Firing Point Number Seven.
“The pit reports Number Seven is in the X Ring,” he reported. “Obviously a fluke. Have your shooter fire again.”
This time PVT WILLIAMS P had the entire flag-is-up-and-down procedure all to himself. He was given a cartridge, loaded it without damage to his thumb, lined up the sights, etcetera, etcetera, and in military parlance, “squeezed off another round.”
This time the pit again reported “In the X Ring.”
PVT WILLIAMS P had no idea what the X Ring was, but he was shortly to learn that it was sort of a bull’s-eye within the bull’s-eye, a three-inch circle in the center of the ten-inch bull’s-eye.
“I’ll be a Expletive Deleted!!” Sergeant McCullhay exclaimed.
“Very possibly, Sergeant,” the Range Officer said. “But let us not jump to a hasty conclusion. One in the X Ring may be a fluke. Two in the X Ring may indeed be an extraordinary coincidence. But we should investigate further. Give your shooter another round, Sergeant. No! Give him a clip.”
“Yes, sir,” Sergeant McCullhay said, and handed PVT WILLIAMS P a metal clip holding eight cartridges.
PVT WILLIAMS P loaded the clip into his Garand and squeezed off eight rounds.
“I don’t Expletive Deleted!! believe this,” the Range Officer said, when the pit crew had marked PVT WILLIAMS P’s target and reported what they had found. “Bring the target to the line.”
The target was removed from the frame and brought to the line. It showed beyond any question that PVT WILLIAMS P had fired a total of ten shots. All of them had gone into the bull’s-eye. Six of them had gone into the X Ring.
“Son,” the Range Officer said, “I predict a brilliant career for you as an Army Marksman.”
[ SIX ]
1000 Scharwath Road
South Orange, N.J.
December 13th 1946
During the sixth week of his Basic Training, Phil turned, depending on which birth certificate one looked at, either eighteen or seventeen.
And eight weeks and five days after getting the boot from Saint Malachi’s School, Phil finally made it home to South Orange.
On his sleeves were the single stripes of a private first class, to which rank he had been advanced the previous day after being adjudged the “Distinguished Graduate” of his Basic Training Company.
And on his chest was a silver medal, looking not unlike the Iron Cross of Germany. It was the Expert Marksman Badge. Hanging from it were three small pendants, one reading Rifle, a second Sub-Machine Gun, and the third, Pistol.
He saw his mother on that Saturday. On Sunday, he went to New York to see his father. His father took him to lunch at his favorite watering hole, which was on West 52nd Street not far from Radio City Music Hall.
Jack, one of the two proprietors of the establishment, on seeing the marksmanship medals on Phil’s chest, said, “I wish you’d seen me before you enlisted, Phil. I’d have steered you to the Corps. They really appreciate good shots.”
It was well-known that the proprietors of what the cognoscenti called “Jack and Charley’s” bar had served in the Marine Corps and had never quite gotten over it.
Phil didn’t argue with Mr. Jack, as he had been taught to call him, but he thought he was better off where he was. From what he’d heard of Marine Corps recruit training, he didn’t want anything to do with it.
After lunch, he went to Pennsylvania Station and took the train to Trenton, where he caught the bus to Fort Dix.
The next Monday morning, Phil learned that rather than being shipped off to a remote corner of the world to fill an empty slot in the manning tables of an infantry regiment, he would be retained at Fort Dix as cadre.
He was just the man, Training Division officers decided, to teach the dis- and re- assembly of the U.S. Rifle, Cal. 30, M-1 Garand to the stream of recruits that flowed incessantly through the battalions and regiments of the division.
This training was conducted in three two-hour periods over as many days. On Monday mornings, Phil would go to the Basic Training Company where this training was scheduled, do his two-hour bit, and then have the rest of the day off. He would do this for the next two days, and then have the rest of the week off.
During the week, Phil spent most of his off-duty time on the KD ranges. It was like Coney Island for free. He didn’t get to win any stuffed animals, of course, but on the other hand the Garand was a much nicer weapon than the Winchester pump-guns firing .22 shorts at Coney Island, and instead of five shots for a dollar, he had all the ammunition he wanted at no charge at all.
His weekends were free. He spent most of them in Manhattan, in a relentless but ultimately failing attempt to get a tall, thin, blond seventeen-year-old named Alexandra Black, who lived in the apartment directly above his father’s, to part with her pearl of great price.
Close, but no brass ring, so to speak, which caused Phil to suspect that he and Alexandra were the only seventeen-year-old virgins in the world.
On the Thursday of his fifth week as the dis- and re-assembly cadre instructor, one of the officers, Captain Barson Michaels, head of the Fort Dix Skeet and Trap Shooting Club, needed someone to operate for him the “trap” at the Post skeet range while he practiced, and his eye fell upon PFC Williams.
The “trap,” Phil learned, was an electro-mechanical device which, when triggered, would throw a frangible clay disc into the air at great speed. Captain Michaels showed Phil how to load stacks of the discs, which were called “birds,” into the trap, and handed him the trigger.
“When I call ‘pull,’ Hotshot,” Captain Michaels ordered, “you push the button, which is the trigger, whereupon the trap will fire, the bird will fly, and I will shoot at it. Got it?”
“Yes, sir, Captain Michaels, sir.”
Perhaps forty-five minutes later, during which time PFC Williams had flawlessly carried out his orders, and most of the carton of birds had flown, Captain Michaels, perhaps because he had heard a probably Expletive Deleted!! story that the kid was some sort of Annie Expletive Deleted!! Oakley in pants with an M-1, decided he could afford to be a nice guy.
“You ever fire a shotgun, PFC Hotshot?”
“Let me show you how it’s done, and then you can have a try at it.”
Captain Michaels then handed Phil a shotgun. It was the first shotgun he had ever had in his hands. He later learned that it was a Remington Model 11, but at the time all he knew about it was that it was a semi-automatic weapon into which one fed—through the side, not the top—shotgun shells.
He was given a sixty-second course in its operation—“Drop the shell in, push that little button and you’re ready to go.”
Captain Michaels put Phil in position.
“Any time you’re ready, Son.”
Phil called “pull.”
Captain Michaels pushed the trap’s trigger. The bird flew. Phil fired. The unscathed bird kept flying.
Captain Michaels then imparted to PFC Williams the First and Great Commandment of Skeet and Trap Shooting, to wit: “Shoot where it’s going to be, Hotshot, not where it’s at.”
The second bird at which Phil fired disappeared in a cloud of dust.
And the third and the fifth—not the fourth—and the sixth, and the seventh, und so weiter until the twenty-second, which he also missed and then the twenty-third, -fourth and –fifth, which were also reduced to puffs of dust.
“You sure you never did this before, Hotshot?”
“No, sir. I mean, yes, sir, I’m sure I never did this before.”
“I’ll be a Expletive Deleted!! ” Captain Michaels said, his mind full of images of the greenbacks he was going to take from his pals at the next skeet shoot after betting this innocent young enlisted man could beat them.
“Get another box of shells, my boy, and we’ll have another go at it.”
Phil went “straight”—that is, broke all of the twenty-five birds—in his second “round” of twenty-five birds.
Phil repeated the feat the next Saturday morning—in fact went fifty-two straight—at the weekly competition of the Fort Dix Skeet and Trap Shooting Club, following which Captain Michaels handed him two twenty-dollar bills with the explanation he’d made a small bet for him. As PFC Williams was being paid fifty-eight dollars a month at the time, this was a small fortune.
Phil blew just about all the forty bucks that same night on Alexandra Black in Manhattan. But to no avail. Worse, that night as she gave him a friendly kiss on the cheek goodnight, Alexandra told him that she had met a very nice boy from Yale and didn’t think she and Phil should see each other any more.
Even worse, the next Monday morning, Phil was summoned by his first sergeant.
“How come you know General Schwarzkopf, PFC Expletive Deleted!! Head?”
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr., who invented the New Jersey State Police and later returned to the Army for service in World War II, was a pinochle-playing crony of Phil’s grandfather, the corporate counsel for the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey. The other General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, his son, the one who would win the first Desert War, was at about this time a second lieutenant.
“First Sergeant, sir, he’s a family friend.”
“Well, he got you a Top Secret security clearance. I never saw one of the Expletive Deleted!! come through so Expletive Deleted!! quick.”
Why in the world, Phil wondered, would General Schwarzkopf get me a Top Secret Security Clearance?
And then he remembered that early in his military career he had opted for the Army Security Agency to avoid going to West Point, and that he had been then required to fill out a multi-page form wanting to know every detail of his life. The form had asked for references, and as he was hard-pressed to think of any, he had given General Schwarzkopf as one of these.
“Just as soon as you pass the Morse Test, PFC Expletive Deleted!! Head, you will pack your duffle bag and head for Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, for Army Security Agency training,” the first sergeant said.
“The what test, First Sergeant, sir?”
“There are three requirements to get into the ASA PFC Expletive Deleted!! Head,” his first sergeant explained. “You have to type thirty Expletive Deleted!! words a minute, hold a Top Expletive Deleted!! Secret clearance and pass the Expletive Deleted!! Morse Test. You know, Dit Expletive Deleted!! Dot Expletive Deleted!! Dit?”
“Yes, sir, First Sergeant.”
“You got two out of Expletive Deleted!! three, and as soon as you take the Morse Test, you’ll have all Expletive Deleted!! three. And then sayonara, PFC Expletive Deleted!! Head, don’t let the door knob hit you in the Expletive Deleted!! Expletive Deleted!! on your way out.”
Phil saw a problem concerning a military career as an Intercept Operator in the ASA. He had learned that while such personnel did in fact perform their duties indoors sitting out of the sun, snow, and rain, they did so while wearing earphones for eight hours at a stretch, day after day.
That didn’t seem like much fun compared to working three half days as a week and spending the rest of his duty time on the KD and skeet and trap ranges. Besides, there was a possibility, however slim, that Alexandra might become disillusioned with the nice boy from Yale she had met.
Before the Expletive Deleted!! Yalie had appeared on the scene, Phil had been tantalizing close to achieving what was the greatest ambition of his entire seventeen years.
“First Sergeant, do I have a choice in this?”
“Indeed you do, PFC Expletive Deleted!! Head. You can get the Expletive Deleted!! out of my sight now, or delay doing so for thirty Expletive Deleted!! seconds, after which I will shove my boot so far up your Expletive Deleted!! that you’ll have Expletive Deleted!! shoe laces coming out of your Expletive Deleted!! nose.”
After giving the subject a great deal of thought, Phil purposefully failed the Morse Test. Failed it twice, as the tester suspected he wasn’t really trying on his first try. And then a third time when his failure came to the attention of various officers in the change of command.
Phil saw for the first time in his life the unexpected ramifications that can occur when there is a bureaucratic misstep. This took place immediately after he failed the Morse Test for the third time.
Captain Barson Michaels, who looked kindly on Phil as a result of their time together on the skeet and trap ranges, turned to him, and said, not unkindly, “What the hell are we going to do with you now, Phil?”
“Make him take the Expletive Deleted!! Morse Test once an hour until he passes the Expletive Deleted!! thing,” another officer in the room suggested.
“There has to be another option,” Captain Michaels said. “I know this young soldier, Lieutenant. He’s given the test his best shot, so to speak.”
He winked at Phil, which suggested to Phil that Captain Michaels understood and sympathized with Phil’s reluctance to become an ASA Intercept Operator.
“The regulation is clear,” the lieutenant argued. “Complete background investigations, which cost a Expletive Deleted!! arm and a leg, are not to be initiated until all testing has been satisfactorily completed. It’s the same with the CIC. No background investigation until the soldier passes the tests. Do you want to tell the Inspector General who Expletive Deleted!! that up here?”
Phil had never heard of the CIC.
“What are the tests required for the CIC?” Captain Michaels inquired.
“Two years of college. PFC Williams has two years and two months of high school. I thought of the CIC, Captain,” the lieutenant said.
“The U.S. Army moves on a trail of paper, Lieutenant,” Captain Michaels said. “You may wish to write that down. That suggests to me that the CIC may have clerk-typists to care for its Special Agents.”
“They call them CIC administrators.”
“And what does the CIC demand, education wise, of potential CIC administrators?”
The appropriate regulations were consulted. Nothing was mentioned at all about minimum educational standards for potential CIC administrators.
“Permit me, PFC Williams, to wish you all the best in your CIC career,” Captain Michaels said.
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Sir, what’s the CIC?”
[ SEVEN ]
The CIC Center and School
1019 Dundalk Avenue
0845 Monday February 3rd 1947
PFC Williams stood at the position known as Parade Rest—feet spread, hands locked behind his back—before the desk of the company commander of Company “B.”
The company commander, a captain who had been sitting behind the desk when Phil had first been taken into the office by Company B’s first sergeant, was now standing against the wall next to the first sergeant.
The captain had given up his chair to the major who, after the first sergeant had brought the problem at hand to the captain’s attention, had brought it to the major’s attention, whereupon the major had announced, “I’ll be right there.”
The problem was that there was indeed a minimum educational requirement for CIC administrators, although it had not reached Fort Dix. It clearly stated that high school graduation was a prerequisite. And, as first the first sergeant and then the captain had learned—and the major was now learning—from the classified SECRET Final Report, Williams, Philip Wallingford III, Complete Background Investigation of—Phil’s formal education had ended after two years and seven months of secondary school.
“That’s as far as you got in school, son, is it?” the major asked. “Got kicked out again, did you? And ran off and joined the Army? With a forged birth certificate?”
“Yes, sir,” Phil confessed.
He had visions of himself blindfolded and tied to a stake, as he waited for the firing squad to do its duty.
“We’ll have to send him back, of course, sir,” the captain said to the major. “But I thought I’d better check with you first, sir.”
The major ignored him.
“Tell me, son, did you get the boot from Saint Malachi’s School for academic deficiency? Or was it something else?”
“Sir, it was something else.”
“What else? Every detail of what else.”
Phil confessed to stealing the intimate undergarments of Miss Bridget O’Malley, a student of Miss Bailey’s School who was visiting Saint Malachi’s as captain of Miss Bailey’s School’s Debating Team, from where they had been hung out to dry, and then hoisting them up Saint Malachi’s flag pole. And then cutting the rope.
“I see,” the major said. “And tell me, son, where did you get that Expert Marksman’s Badge pinned to your tunic? You bought it at an Army-Navy store, to impress the girls, right?”
“No, sir. I got it from the Army.”
“You expect me to believe that in your brief military career, you have become an expert with the rifle, the pistol and the sub-machine gun?”
“Yes, sir, and also the shotgun.”
The major then rummaged through Phil’s records.
“I’ll be a Expletive Deleted!! ,” he said, softly. “Very interesting,” he went on. “First Sergeant, take PFC Williams to the Education Center and see that he is administered the GED Test. When it has been graded, bring him and it to my office.”
Phil had no idea what the GED Test was. On the way to the Education Center, the first sergeant told him. GED stood for General Educational Development. It had been developed to see if an individual’s life experiences had given him knowledge equivalent to that of someone who had actually finished high school or gone to college for two years. If one passed the test, the Army considered that as the same thing as actually having graduated from high school, or having been exposed to two years of college instruction.
Phil took the test, spending about an hour and a half with it.
“You’re quitting?” the test administrator, a captain, said. “Give it another shot. You have three hours to take it. Don’t give up!”
“Sir, I finished the test.”
The test administrator graded Phil’s GED Test.
When he had finished doing so, he said, “I’ll be a Expletive Deleted!!” and then said, “Congratulations, PFC Williams, you have scored in the 95th percentile.”
Phil didn’t know what that meant and confessed his ignorance.
“That means you have scored better that ninety-four percent of all others who have taken the test.”
I’ll be damned, Phil thought.
I am now the legal equivalent of a high school graduate!
He was wrong.
This was brought to everyone’s attention ten minutes later when Phil was again standing at Parade Rest before a desk, this time the major’s. The major barely had time to open the envelope containing the Certificate of GED Test Results when the administrator sought and was granted access to the major’s office.
“What?” the major inquired.
“Sir, there’s been a little mix-up,” the administrator said. “We gave PFC Williams the wrong test.”
“We gave him the college level GED Test, sir. Not the high school level.”
“According to this, he scored in the 95th percentile.”
“Yes, sir. He did. But he wasn’t supposed to take that test. He’ll have to be retested.”
“He scored in the 95th percentile on the college test and you want him to take the high school test? What the Expletive Deleted!! is wrong with you? Dismissed!”
The major then turned to PFC Williams.
“Welcome to the Counterintelligence Corps, son,” he said.
So that’s what CIC stands for!
“Thank you, sir.”
“I think you’ll like Fort Holabird,” the major went on. “There’s all sorts of things to do here. We even have a skeet team which competes against other governmental investigative agencies in the Baltimore-Washington area. The first sergeant will show you where the skeet range is on Saturday morning.”
“Sir,” the first sergeant protested, “on Saturday morning, CIC administrators in training have a barracks inspection.”
“Not if they’re on the Fort Holabird Skeet Team ,they don’t,” the major said. “I intend to kick the Expletive Deleted!! out of the Expletive Deleted!! Naval Intelligence Team at the Sunday shoot, and I want PFC Williams to get all the practice he can. Have him there at oh eight hundred.”
Phil did like Fort Holabird.
He learned a great deal in the CIC Administrator School, including how much of a threat the Soviet Union posed to the world in general and the United States specifically, and how they did so—subjects which previously had escaped his attention.
He learned what the Counterintelligence Corps did, and, presuming he completed the training, how he would fit into the Corps.
Put simply, there were three kinds of laborers in the CIC’s fields. At the very bottom of the totem pole were CIC administrators, and their major contribution was to prepare the final reports of CIC special agents and CIC analysts.
His instructors impressed upon him the cardinal rules for preparing reports: One, there were to be no strike-overs, misspellings, grammatical errors, and, most important, reports could contain absolutely no ambiguities.
“If something can be interpreted in more than one way, it will be.”
He learned there were two kinds of people senior to ordinary CIC special agents. One of these categories was supervisory special agents, and the other was CIC analysts. It got a little confusing here, as analysts could be pure analysts (that is, neither CIC agents or supervisory special agents) or they could not.
Analysts analyzed what the agents had discovered in the course of their investigations, and reported their analysis to their superiors, aided and abetted by CIC administrators who prepared—not just typed—such analytical reports.
This was an important distinction.
Any Quartermaster Corps clerk-typist could type a report, many of them without a single strike-over, but a CIC administrator was expected not only to type a report without a single strike-over, but was also expected to inspect it for ambiguities and grammatical errors and then to seek out the author of the report and get him (or her) to fix the ambiguities and errors.
Phil suspected this might cause problems when he “got into the field” over what was and what was not really an ambiguity.
He also learned that the CIC—in addition to denying the Russians and the Cubans and a long list of other “un- friendlies” access to the secrets of the U.S. Army—had two other roles.
One of these was investigating the misbehavior—usually the sexual misbehavior—of field rank and above officers and their dependents. That meant majors through generals and their dependents. Sexual shenanigans of captains, lieutenants and non-commissioned officers and their dependents were dealt with by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Corps of Military Police.
Phil thought preparing the special agent’s reports of the sexual shenanigans of majors and up—and their dependents, which he had learned meant their wives and offspring—might be very interesting and quietly hoped he would be assigned to a CIC detachment in some hotbed of forbidden sexual activity.
But he thought of himself as a realist, and the reality was that he was probably not going to wind up assigned anywhere interesting, but instead wind up in some place like Sunny Lakes, Wisconsin, preparing the reports of CIC special agents who spent their days working on complete background investigations.
This was known somewhat disparagingly in the counterintelligence community as “ringing doorbells” because the CIC special agents conducted these investigations by going to the neighbors of those being investigated, ringing their doorbells, and then when the door was opened making a presentation from a script they had memorized along these lines:
“Good afternoon (or morning) ma’am (or sir). I am Special Agent (Insert Name) of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps. (Show CIC credentials folder).
“Your neighbor, John (or Mary) (Insert Last Name), who is now a PFC (or second lieutenant) in the U.S. Army, is being considered for assignment to duties which will give him (or her) access to classified information.
The U.S. Army would be very grateful for your opinion of John (or Mary) and whether or not you think it would be safe for us to entrust him (or her) with the nation’s secrets.
We are especially interested in what you may have heard (or suspect) about John’s (or Mary’s) character flaws, such as, but not limited to, tendencies to write “Insufficient Funds” checks, imbibe intoxicants to an excessive degree, or engage in abnormal sexual activity either within or without the bonds of matrimony.
Your answers will of course be held strictly confidential.
Phil, who had by then accepted the CIC premise that the worst scenario of any situation was nine times out of ten the one right on the money, saw himself spending the foreseeable future in Sunny Lakes, Wisconsin, or some similar bucolic metropolis in the middle of the corn belt, preparing the reports of CIC Agents who had spent their days ringing doorbells.
He was wrong.
When graduation day from CIC Administrator School came, and with it both his promotion to corporal and his assignment orders, the latter read:
17. CPL Williams, Philip W., 142-22-0136 detchd Co B CICC&S trf in gr wp XXXIII CIC Det APO 09237. Tvl by CIV AT in CIV clothing dir. 10 DDERL Auth. PP Auth. CIV Clothing Allow of $350 auth. Approp. 99-99999999903 (Secret).
Because he had paid attention while a CIC administrator in training, Phil had no difficulty at all in deciphering his orders. He was a bit surprised to see that Sunny Lakes, Wisconsin, or whatever bucolic village in the Great American Midwest he was to be banished had its own Army Post Office (APO) number, but the rest of his orders he understood.
He was being detached from Company B, CIC Center & School, and transferred in grade and would proceed to the 33rd CIC Detachment (for reasons never explained, the CIC used Roman, rather than Arabic, numbers on its CIC detachments). Travel by civilian air transportation in civilian clothing was directed. Ten days of delay en route leave were authorized, and so were a passport and a $350 allowance to buy the civilian clothing. The money was to come from Congressional Appropriation 99-99999999903, which was classified Secret because Congress didn’t want the Russians and the other un-friendlies to know how much they were willing to pay to keep the U.S. Army’s secrets secret.
As soon as he could, Phil found the book listing all APO numbers and the physical locations thereof. With a feeling of great foreboding, he ran his finger don the list of numbers until he came to 09237.
When he found it, he exclaimed, “I’ll be a Expletive Deleted!! ! I’m not going to Expletive Deleted!! Sunny Lakes, or any other Expletive Deleted!! place in the Expletive Deleted!! Midwest! I’m going to Berlin! Berlin, Germany! Not the Berlin in Expletive Deleted!! New Hampshire!”
“Watch your mouth, Corporal!” a stern voice chided him.
Phil turned to see that he was being addressed by a second lieutenant who was wearing the identification badge of a CIC agent in training.
“You’re in the CIC now,” the second lieutenant went on. “We of the CIC do not use obscene language such as ‘Expletive Deleted!! New Hampshire, which is one of the United States we are sworn to defend from undue Soviet and other unfriendly curiosity.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. I will endeavor to remember that.”
“See that you do!”
Over the next few days, as he waited for the administrative wheels of the CIC Center to slowly turn, Phil wondered if his assignment to Berlin was possibly a sub rosa award for his having been a member of the Fort Holabird Skeet Team, which not only had kicked the Expletive Deleted!! out of the Navy Intelligence Skeet team the very week he had joined it, but on other occasions during his time as a student had inflicted similar defeats upon the skeet teams of the National Park Service and the Pentagon Police Force in Washington, D.C., and the security forces of the National Center for the Control of Venereal Diseases in Baltimore.
In the end, he decided it was just a coincidence, as he had been told again and again there was no room for personal favoritism in the CIC.
As soon as he got the $350 check to buy civilian clothes, his new passport—which identified him as an employee of the U.S. Government—and his airline tickets, Phil started to faithfully execute the orders laid out in Par. 17 above.
Well, maybe not faithfully.
If he executed them absolutely faithfully, he would have gone on leave—he was headed for New York—at his own expense.
Ten days later—if he faithfully followed his orders—he would have taken the train back from New York, again at his own expense, and upon his arrival in Baltimore gone to Baltimore-Washington Airport and taken an Eastern Airlines flight to Newark using the Army-provided ticket. From Newark he would have taken the shuttle bus (ticket provided) to JFK Airport, where he would board the Pan American flight to Frankfurt.
He decided it would make more sense to skip the Go Back To Baltimore et seq elements of this agenda, and instead take a cab to JFK from his father’s apartment in Manhattan when his leave was over.
In the club car of the train carrying him to New York City, to which, having no civilian attire, he was traveling in uniform, he picked up a discarded copy of the Sunday edition of The New York Times.
In it was a society section story informing the world that Mr. and Mrs. T. Jennings Black III of New York City and Rowayton, Connecticut, announced the marriage of their daughter Alexandra to Mr. Hobart J. Crawley IV, son of Mr. and Mrs. H.J. Crawley III of New York City and Easthampton. The story went on to relate that the ceremony had taken place in the Yale Club of New York City, with the Rev. K. Lamar Dudley, DD, of Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, presiding, and that the groom was at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, where the couple would reside following their return from their wedding trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.
Phil was understandably distraught.
Alexandra had married another.
After all of my efforts, she married a Expletive Deleted!! Yalie!
And that Expletive Deleted!! Yalie was going to get—by now had probably had gotten—her Expletive Deleted!! pearl of great price.
Which leaves me not only desolate but the last Expletive Deleted!! seventeen-year-old Expletive Deleted!! virgin in the world.
He decided he would drown his sorrows.
He caught the waiter’s eye.
“Bring me a double Famous Pheasant, no ice, please.”
The waiter leaned close to him.
“No Expletive Deleted!! way,” the waiter said softly, so that no one else would hear him. “How old are you, boy? Eighteen?”
Following the theory that when all else fails, tell the truth, Phil shrugged his shoulders and confessed, “Seventeen,” and then blurted, “The love of my life has married a Yalie.”
He held up The New York Times as proof.
“Well, that would tend to make a man turn to drink,” the waiter said. “But this is the Pennsylvania Rail Road and you have to be old enough to vote to buy a drink in a PRR club car. Which you ain’t. Sorry.”
“I understand,” Phil said.
The waiter left only to return several minutes later with a teapot and cup.
“Drink this, boy. It’ll make you feel better.”
“Thank you kindly, sir, but I don’t drink tea.”
“This is special tea. They make it in Dungaress, Scotland. I understand Her Majesty the Queen herself really likes to sip it. Try a little sip, why don’t you? See for yourself if you think it’s worth the ten dollars a cup market forces require me to charge for it.”
By the time the train reached Manhattan’s Pennsylvania Station, Phil wasn’t feeling much of the pain he had been feeling since learning of Alexandra’s nuptials. Or much pain at all.
When he entered his father’s apartment, his sire was there.
“I would say ‘welcome home,’ ” his father greeted him, “except it’s Wednesday, and my own military experience has taught me that privates are rarely, if ever, given time off in the middle of the week. Which makes me suspect that you have had experienced more of the rigors of military life than you like, and have, as we old soldiers say, ‘gone over the hill.’ ”
P. Wallingford Williams, Jr., having taken ROTC at Harvard College, had entered military service as a second lieutenant of artillery and gone to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where in the sixth week of the Basic Artillery Officer’s Course he had dropped the trail of a 105-mm howitzer on his left foot while attempting to set the cannon up for firing. Army surgeons saved the foot, except for the big toe, the loss of which caused Lieutenant Williams to be medically retired from the service with a five-percent disability pension. He later became quite active in several disabled veterans organizations.
“Actually, Pop, I’m on my way to Berlin.”
“I have to tell you, son, that it won’t do you any good to go to New Hampshire. The military police will run you to earth no matter where you try to hide. My advice is that you go to Penn Station, or Grand Central, whichever you prefer, and surrender yourself to the military police who patrol there. Perhaps, considering your youth, the courts-martial will temper your sentence with compassion.”
“I’m not AWOL, Pop. I’m en route to the Berlin in Germany.”
“And why are you wearing corporal’s chevrons? In my day in uniform, impersonation of a non-commissioned officer was nearly as serious an offense as impersonating a commissioned officer. You’re never going to get out of Leavenworth.”
“I’m wearing corporal’s chevrons, Pop, because I am a corporal. Here, have a look at my orders.”
On doing so, Second Lieutenant P. Wallingford Williams, Jr., Artillery, Medically Retired, announced, “I can’t make heads or tails of that gibberish. Why don’t we start over?”
“Hello, Philip. What brings you home, wearing corporal’s chevrons, in the middle of the week?”
Phil told him.
“Obviously, I owe you my profound apologies,” his father said when he had finished. “I can only offer in extenuation that on the last seven occasions on which you appeared unexpectedly at my door in the middle of the week, it had been because you had been booted from the finest boarding schools on the East Coast. And each time that had happened, it cost me an arm and a leg—I shudder to remember what it cost me to get you into Saint Malachi’s—to get you into another one.”
“I understand, Pop. No apology is necessary.”
“But I must tell you, Philip, that even when I so unthinkingly thought, ‘My God! Now he’s Gone Over The Hill’ I also thought, ‘Well, at least he didn’t do to me what Hobo Crawley’s boy did to ol’ Hobo.’ ”
“Pop, are you talking about Hobart J. Crawley IV?”
“Indeed I am. The son of Hobart J. Crawley III.”
“And what was that, sir?”
“I ran into ol’ Hobo at the bar at the New York Athletic Club. Actually, I picked him off the floor of the bar at the Athletic Club, where he was curled in a fetal position and weeping piteously. When I got him into an armchair in the lounge and got about a quart of black coffee into him, he confided in me his shame.”
“And what was that, Pop?”
“That idiot son of his, the one they call ‘Little Hobo,’ couldn’t keep his You Know What in his pocket and instead used it to get another mental deficient in the family way. You may have seen her around. They live in this building. Tall blond with a vapid face and no bosom worth mentioning. Anyway, these two are now going to contribute to the further degeneration of the gene pool, and poor ol’ Hobo’s stuck for the tab for the whole operation for the foreseeable future. Little Hobo is now on his third try to get out of the freshman class at Yale. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, son, for not doing anything like that to me.”
“You’re welcome, Pop.”
“I do have one question, Philip, about your orders.”
“That $350 clothing allowance. What’s that all about?”
Phil told him.
“And how long are you going to be in Berlin?”
“I enlisted for two years. I’ve got about seventeen months left to go.”
“That’s outrageous!” the elder Williams said indignantly. “How the hell does the Army expect you to spend seventeen months in Berlin with only a sports jacket and a pair of slacks—well, maybe two pair, one wool, one khaki—to wear?”
“I thought I would go to Brooks Brothers in the morning, Pop, to see what they might have on sale.”
“Tomorrow, my boy, we will go to J. Press—I thought you understood, God knows I’ve told you this often enough, that J. Press serves gentlemen and Brooks Brothers the less fortunate others—we will go to J. Press and get you enough clothing to spend seventeen months in Berlin.”
“On my nickel, of course, in the hope that you will find it in your heart to forgive me for what I thought—My God, what’s it going to cost me to keep him out of Leavenworth?—when you came home just now.”
On the tenth day of his son’s delay-en-route-leave, P. Wallingford Williams, Jr., loaded CPL Williams Philip W III—and the three leather suitcases containing the corporal’s new wardrobe—into a taxicab on Park Avenue and waved goodbye as Phil headed for JFK and the Pan American Flight to Frankfurt.