Praise for James A. Michener
“A master storyteller . . . Michener, by any standards, is a phenomenon.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Sentence for sentence, writing’s fastest attention grabber.”—The New York Times
“Michener has become an institution in America, ranking somewhere between Disneyland and the Library of Congress. You learn a lot from him.”—Chicago Tribune
“While he fascinates and engrosses, Michener also educates.”—Los Angeles Times
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:February 3, 1907
Date of Death:October 16, 1997
Place of Death:Austin, Texas
Education:B.A. in English and history (summa cum laude), Swarthmore College, 1929; A.M., University of Northern Colorado, 1937.
Read an Excerpt
On April 4, 1952, I shot down my sixth and seventh MIGs. It happened up near the Yalu River and when I returned to base at J-10 I was excited. The Air Force doctor took one look at me and said, “Gruver, you’ve had it.”
Boy, they were sweet words. They meant I was through flying for a while. But since I’m a West Point man I felt obligated to appear eager before the flight surgeon who had been called back from civilian life, pot belly and all. So I frowned and said, “Nothing wrong with me, Doc. A bottle of beer’ll fix me up.”
“That’s right,” the doc agreed.
He had taken my eagerness seriously and for a minute I felt a little sick inside. I didn’t want to fly any more. Not just then. I wanted to appear rough and ready but I also wanted some solid chairborne duty.
But the doc was smart. He laughed and said, “Don’t turn pale, Gruver. I was only kidding. I never take this hero stuff seriously.”
“I relaxed and said, “Thanks. I could use some Korean sleep.”
“It’s even better than that,” Doc said, putting away his stethoscope. “You’re going back to Japan!”
From the way he said this you knew he thought Japan was paradise, but I’d been through the place and it never impressed me much. Dirty streets, little paper houses, squat men and fat round women. I had never understood why some Air Force people got so steamed up about Japan.
I said, “If you go for Japan, I suppose it’s good news. I’d just as soon rest up right here at J-10.”
“Doc said, “You mean you never tangled with any of those beautiful Japanese dolls at Tachikawa?”
I said, “I’m a four-star general’s son. I don’t tangle with Japanese dolls, beautiful or not.”
Doc looked at me sorrowfully and said, “Chum, you’re sicker than I thought.”
I hadn’t meant to sound stuffy, but when you know your outfit sort of has you ticketed for fast promotion right through to colonel and maybe one-star general by the time you’re thirty-five, a lot of the ordinary razzle-dazzle connected with military life doesn’t impress you. On the other hand, I had always tried not to act superior to reserve officers just because they were civilians at heart.
I said, “I’ll think of you, Doc, when I hit those clean Tokyo sheets and that good Tokyo beer.”
He shook his head with a tricky little leer and said, “For you, Chum, it ain’t gonna be Tokyo. For you…special orders.”
“Like a warning flash and without my actually thinking the word I blurted, “Kobe?”
“Yep, Chum! You made it.”
Instinctively I put my left hand on my hip and felt for my wallet. I said, “About these special orders? Were they from General Webster?”
“Yep, Chum! You’re in.” He gripped his hands in a tight little ball and winked at me. “Why wouldn’t one general look after another general’s son?”
I had always known the doc to be a second-class sort of guy and I refused to be drawn into an argument. I played his game and said, “It’s what they call the West Point spirit.”
“That’s what I mean,” the doc said. “Kelly has your orders.”
“I’ll go see Kelly,” I said, glad to get away from this know-it-all civilian.
But as I left the medical tent and started down the gravel path to squadron headquarters where Kelly worked, another civilian called me: “Gruver, could I speak with you?”
I turned and saw the chaplain and since he almost never spoke to anyone except about trouble I stopped short and asked, “Kelly again?”
“Yes,” he said almost sorrowfully. “Kelly.”
I waited on the gravel path while he picked his way across the brown Korean mud. J-10 was almost all mud. When he joined me I asked, “What’s he been up to now, Padre?”
“This time it’s serious,” he said sorrowfully. He led me to his tent, a beat-up affair with Bibles, crucifixes and the special silver gadgets for conducting Jewish ceremonies.
“Kelly face another court-martial?” I asked.
“Worse. He’s appealed to his Congressman.”
“I’d always been disgusted with enlisted men who write letters to Congressmen. The Air Force had a sensible and just way to handle any problem. Congressmen weren’t needed. So I asked, “Why don’t you advise the colonel to throw this guy out of the service?”
“Under the new rules…”
The new rules! I was always forgetting the new rules. Starting in 1945 a lot of soft-headed do-gooders in Washington had revised the basic rules for military conduct and as a result you now saw enlisted men writing to Congressmen. I had always agreed with my father. Knock such stoops on the head and throw them in jail. Then the do-gooders could really sob.”
“So under the new rules, what happens?” I asked.
“So Kelly gets his way. He goes back to Japan.”
“Ridiculous,” I said. “The Air Force is becoming a kindergarten.”
“And when he gets back to Japan, he marries the girl.”
This was too much. I sat down in one of the padre’s rickety chairs and asked, “You mean that in spite of all you and the colonel have said to this kid he still gets permission to marry the girl?”
“Why doesn’t somebody bust him in the head?”
“That’s no solution. I want you to talk with him.”
“Nothing more I can say.”
“Does the boy realize that if he marries this Japanese girl he can’t possibly take her back to America?” the padre asked.
“Sure he knows. I made him sign the paper proving that he knows. He signed and told me what I could do with it.”
“You must talk with him once more, Gruver. He’s a misguided boy.”
“He’s a dead-end criminal, Father, and you know it.”
“Not a criminal! A tough boy who’s had trouble in the Air Force. He’s just hot-headed.”
“That’s not where the heat is, Padre.”
He laughed and said, “You’re right. That’s why we mustn’t let him make a fool of himself.”
“I was tired from flying and said bluntly, “Look, Padre. Kelly belongs to your church. You’re the guy who’s got to save him.”
Chaplain Feeney became very serious and took my hands in his. It was a trick he used when he wanted to make a point and it accounted for much of his success with the squadron. He was never afraid to plead with a man. “You must believe me when I say I’m not trying to save Kelly for my church. I’m trying to save him for himself. If he marries this Japanese girl it can lead only to tragedy. In ordinary times such a marriage would be unwise, but under the new law…when he can’t even take her with him to America…What’s to happen, Gruver?”
He spoke so passionately that I had to give in. “All right. What do you want me to do?”
He was embarrassed at what he was about to suggest and hesitated a moment. Then he said, apologetically, “You’re engaged to a fine, good-looking American girl. You showed me her picture one night.” He smiled as I automatically reached with my left hand for my wallet pocket. “When you’re flying and things begin to get rough you pat that picture for good luck, don’t you?”
I said I did. It was a gimmick I had picked up when I shifted from propeller planes to jets. Like most pilots, I was scared of the jets at first so whenever it looked like trouble I would pat my wallet for luck, because Eileen Webster had been good news for me ever since that special weekend I met her in San Antonio.
“Chaplain Feeney said, “If the opportunity presents itself, show Kelly your girl’s picture. Let him remember what a fine American girl looks like.”
I said, “I’m not selling anything.”
The padre was a smart man. “Who asked you to?” he said. “When he says he’s determined to get married tell him you understand. Tell him you’ve seen some really wonderful Japanese girls.”
“Trouble is, Padre, I haven’t. They’re all so dumpy and round-faced. How can our men—good average guys—how can they marry these yellow girls? In ’45 I was fighting the Japs. Now my men are marrying them.”
“I’ve never understood it. Such marriages are doomed and it’s my job to prevent them.”
“Then you’ll speak to Kelly?”
“Wouldn’t it be simpler for the colonel just to order him not to get married?” I asked.
Chaplain Feeney laughed. “Some things can’t be handled that way. We’ve investigated the girl Kelly wants to marry. She’s not a prostitute. She’s not subversive. As a matter of fact, she got a good recommendation from our investigators. Used to work in a library. Kelly has a right to marry her.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is so good. It kept me glued to it once I got into the first chapter. Its a must read book for romantics at heart.
After having read several of Michenor's books, I really enjoyed this short, but sweet book.