Copyright 2005 by J. Alan Burdick
Summer that year in New York City was perfect. James had found his true love, finished his analysis, and had just finished a winning entrance interview with Dean Pinkston. True, his analyst had smoothed the way with her old friend “Pinky”, but James thought he had really made it on merit. The world was good and medical school was next as he opened a letter.
“Greetings, a group of citizens and neighbors have selected you to represent them…..” What! No, I can’t believe it! I’m 25years old…over the draft age.
It was no mistake. James went through the medical thinking about acting queer, but worried that they would call him on it. Classified 1-A., he returned for induction and was forthwith bused out to Fort Dix for basic training with a group of other unhappy draftees.
At the first formation a lean and muscular sergeant looked them over with obvious disgust. A brief but clearly heard “orientation” was given as he walked though the ranks, trying not to step on the shit he saw. At last he said, “OK, I heard that some of you have been educated. Who are the Princeton graduates?” Two hands went up. “Good, we need all the bright people we can get. You two are assigned as permanent latrine orderlies”. He violated the personal space of four of the larger draftees (one of which was James) and said:” You four are squad leaders. I will hold you responsible for the actions of your squad. I am to be addressed as ‘Sergeant Smith’ not ‘sir’. I work for my living.”
“I didn’t hear you”
The weeks passed. Sit ups, squats, and chin-ups in order to get into the mess hall. James got to understand “friendly fire”. It was how things like Sergeant Smith were removed from units. James was a killer. He would kill. A bright spot in his life was when he was allowed leave. His true love was really pleased with his new muscles.
James grew up with what he thought were middle class ethics. The ethics that he used in the army were not those that he had been taught. The army experience was a priceless lesson. Take care of number one and don’t get caught! Near the end of basic, there were a couple of days of testing. James, hungry for anything that seemed to take a little thought, put a good deal of energy into them. A week later, an officer went through the results with James, in order to place him into a unit. “Hmmm , very high scores. What did you think you might like to be assigned?”
“ Well, I have a BA in chemistry. How about the chemical corps?”
“ I don’t think you would like that very much.”
“I guess you are right”, said James, thinking about going into the gas testing chamber without his mask, and the frequent gas attacks during training with tear gas. “What do you suggest?”
His higher power breathed a gasp of relief, as the officer replied:
“How about crypto? You have the skills for it?”
“Sounds good” said James, not knowing what crypto was, but having been trained not to ask questions…esp. from an officer.
James took his orders, and boarded the bus that took him to the train that headed for Fort Gordon, and training in cryptography. Fort Gordon was hot but the place was better than Fort Dix! At least there was a little thinking allowed! Clearances would needed, and a polygraph test given too. When James asked (in the polygraph test) what he believed about communism, he started to review the communist manifesto, and the constitution of the USSR, that he had purchased in the UN building in New York. At last the tech stopped the test and called in a high-ranking officer. James started sweating. Down-outs from here were sent off to pole climbing school! It was all sorted out again, and then James was asked where he would like to be stationed.
“Since I have been in London, and Paris “ (the places that all the rest were asking for) “I’d like to be sent somewhere in Africa or Asia.”
Several weeks later, he boarded an airplane to his new home, Bushy Park (next to Hampton Court Palace) near London. When he arrived, he found out that he needed top secret, crypto, and cosmic clearances to work within a bunker that had a huge vault door for an entrance. He sat out in the office, with a fat, but pleasant Master Sergeant waiting until they came. Sarg taught James the art of using A.R.s. There were all sorts of things you could apply for! All you needed to know was the proper A.R. to use, and submit the paper work.
So, James applied to get a drivers license in the UK. The first two weeks were the rules and regulations of driving. James was at the top of the class and the instructor, a retired bobby, smiled upon him. Then the last day came….a driving test on the roads.
“Er, Mr.King, I’m afraid I don’t know how to drive a car.” (well, no one asked did they?)
Mr King looked at James with a little smile. “Well, would you like to take a little extra time and learn?”
So the two drew a sedan from the car pool, and James spent a week and a half driving Mr.King to all the points of interest around London, and paying for tea time.
All the enlisted men (about 27) were trained on 38s (pistol), Thompson submachine gun, and “grease gun”. About once a month, although at irregular times, mysterious small boxes, wrapped in plain brown paper were brought out of the vault and piled in the office. Six men (one was always James) were armed with one automatic weapon and a 38. An unmarked van appeared with an English driver. James and the a couple other men loaded these boxes while two others stood guard at the door and van. With men and boxes loaded and armed, the van went to Battersea Park. Now the English were still divided into two classes, the upper class and the working class. The working class was quite “pink” at that time. They didn’t like seeing Yanks armed in their streets. Battersea Park was an area held by the working class. It was to the power generating plant that the van went. At the plant, a furnace door was opened and the path to it cleared of all personnel. The men would secure the area, and the boxes were taken to a point 12 feet from the small opening that blazed light and heat. A roaring came from within, and the boxes were thrown at the door, and swept into the furnace from the draft. We were ordered to shoot anyone who tried to get a box. I think we would have liked to do so,
James also got to stand guard duty, which he really enjoyed. The vault of course was locked and secrets were secure behind thick walls of concrete and steel that had withstood Hitler’s Rage. The outer office could only be locked and unlocked from the inside. James had a cot to sleep on, some weapons to clean , and a good book to read until the unit was opened again in the morning. Ah…but the best thing was the personnel records of all the enlisted men were in the office, and all the men knew how to open them. The records contained the information gathered for clearances, the test scores, etc. Wonderful reading and everyone knew everything about everybody! Perhaps that was why although the air corps army band was stationed in the same barracks, no one in the unit had anything to do with them. It had been 3 months , and still the clearances had not come through. The problem was that James had lived in and out of the country (in the records), so each had to be checked. It was somewhat uncomfortable sitting out in the office, esp. when the rest of the unit would go in. Still…not too bad. James went to London often, and took life and still life at the Kingston-Upon-Thames Art School.
He was cleared just before his leave back to the states, where he was to marry his true love.
Back at the unit after his marriage, he used his
skill with the A.R.s once more. He got an early separate to enter
medical school. He had a choice, either SUNY or The University of
London at the first M.B. level. He had been in the army for less than
one and a half years, had cost the nation more than $30,000 in
training and clearances, and had worked for about 3 months. The
control group he was assigned to needed no cryptographic person, so
he was not required to serve in it. In separation, the officer again
suggested a reenlistment, this time to officer training school. James
laughed at the idea. As he walked alone through the gates, he knew he
no longer knew that his next meal was a fixed event. He knew that
every time things were well planed one way, another seemed to be
thrust upon him.
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