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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

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They were all young kids

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Love Company

A Mile in Their Shoes

A Mile in Their Shoes

2014, Aaron Elson


'Don't Ma'am Me'

Clifford Merrill

    Clifford Merrill, of Springfield, Maine, enlisted in the Army in 1936 and retired in 1969 as a full colonel after serving in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1950, he was the provost marshal at Fort Myers, Virginia, where, he recalls, there were 23 generals. That meant that there were also 23 generals' wives.

2014, Aaron Elson

General [Omar] Bradley’s wife was rather an eccentric type. When I took the job as the provost marshal in Fort Myers, Virginia, one of the first tidbits of information was that Mrs. Bradley was to be handled with kid gloves. Well, one day she called the office and the provost sergeant answered the phone, and he handed me the phone quick. He said, "It’s Mrs. Bradley."

    She she said, "Major. There’s a great big dog jumping on my little dog."

    I thought for a moment. I said, "Is that little dog a female?"

    "Yes. But she’s been spayed."

    And I thought, gee, this is a tough one. I said, "Yeah, Mrs. Bradley. No doubt the dog’s been spayed, but you know that big dog doesn’t know that."

    She cackled, and said "You’re pretty smart."

    I said, "I’ll come right over and handle it personally."

    When I went over the dog was gone, of course. But she invited me in to have a Coke. I got along well with her.

    She drove pretty fast. She had a kind of a car that looked like an old, what the hell make of a car was that, it wasn’t a Reo, it looked like an old Essex, I don’t know what make of car it was. Anyway, one time she made the turn around the post exchange building and the car leaned over, it went on two wheels. The MPs were behind her. She called me and said the MPs were harassing her.

    "No," I said. "They reported it to me and told me about it. They thought there was something wrong with your car, and they didn’t know but they might have to render assistance."

    "Ohhh." No more said.

    We had, even among kids, rank was considered. I caught three of those little kids one day, one was a chaplain’s son, another one was General Park’s son, and another general’s, no a full colonel’s son. They had somebody’s hunting bow, and hunting arrows, and they were trying to play William Tell.

    The chaplain’s son was junior, of course, he had to hold the target. And the others were trying to shoot the bow and arrow.

    I put a stop to that. In fact, in the course of doing it, one of those arrows hit them across the ass. That didn’t go over good with Mrs. Park.

    General Park didn’t know about it at the time but Mrs. Park, she called me. She read me up and down. "This is Mrs. Park."

    I said, "How are you today, Ma’am?"

    "Don’t Ma’am me! That’s my son you struck."

    "Oh," I said. "That wasn’t anything. It was just a reminder to him that he shouldn’t be playing with dangerous things like bows and arrows that are steel-tipped." That toned her down a little but not enough to suit me. I didn’t say anything further, but she told General Park.

    General Park called me. He said, "I understand you had occasion to strike my son with an     arrow."

    I said, "I certainly did, Sir."

    He said, "How did it happen?"

    I told him.

    He said, "Good. Now I’m gonna whip his ass in good shape."

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