By:Bill Goodman
World war 2 B-17 bomber follow the story of this world war 2 B-17 crew, as told by a man who was there

click image for large version 57k
Author at upper right

The attached letters were written to my sons, Richard and Bob, and to two of my grandchildren, Brant and Margaret Jane, now in college. I wrote the first one fifty years from the day I flew across the North Atlantic Ocean, .......................<snip> ..............................All I write is from memory, notes I made at the time of the event, and talking to David Hutchens and Hilbert Braun, the tail gunner who saw a lot from another view. I remember a lot dimly and some vividly............... -Bill Goodman-

September 30, 1994

I was graduated from Flight School at Hondo, Texas, a remote place that time forgot, on April 1, 1943, All Fools Day, and I kind of felt like one. The day before, we received our 2nd Lt. clothes, and discarded a lot of Aviation Cadet clothes. We had a nice new uniform made by Hart Shaffner and Marx with gold 2nd Lt. bars, new low cut shoes instead of G.I. boots, an officer's hat instead of a cap, new shirts and ties instead of grungy olive drab fatigues. I did not pay for all of this from savings from my $75.00 per month Cadet pay which I had spent on riotous living but from a $200.00 U.S. Army grant. I retained my olive drab short coat, and think Jane is now wearing it- anyway, she has acquired it. Surprisingly, cadets and soldiers now saluted me which at first gave me quite a start. Once, when one passed me from behind, he saluted me and said "By your leave, Sir!" as he passed.

I had received orders to report to the 381st Heavy Bomber Group at Blythe, California. As a hint, the orders included a bus ticket. I packed all my gear, and departed by bus to Blythe. I looked forward to seeing the beautiful Emerald Valley and all the movie stars. I was nineteen years old, and felt fearful for the Odyssey I was beginning.

Two days later, by traveling all night, I arrived in Blythe, and a G.I. in a jeep was waiting at the bus station to take care of me and he did. First was quarters assignment, then to the quarters- a tar paper covered shack. I was amazed at the number of scorpions in the barracks. I learned to shake out my clothes before wearing, and to quickly take off my clothes when I felt a scorpion crawling inside my shirt or pants. You undressed quickly when you felt a scorpion inside your clothes no matter where you were. Blythe was a desert, hot, sagebrush, sand, and no movie stars.

I always liked to look at airplanes, and I hiked down to the airfield to look at the airplanes. I was overwhelmed with the size of a B-17. As I was examining the nose, a second Lt. came over and said " I am expecting an officer to join my crew. You don't know a Lt. Goodman, do you?' I replied "You're looking at him." He was David D. Hutchens, and this was the beginning of a close 51 year friendship. I feel I owe my life to him, and he says the same thing to me. He was a superb Aircraft Commander, pilot, and friend. I completed his crew, and I was the youngest.

We shook hands, and he introduced me to Lt. Cecil Clore, another Aircraft Commander. Lt. Clore was short and stocky, and I judged him to be a two cushion man, and he was- needed two cushions behind his back to reach the pedals.

That night at sleep time (10 PM taps) a B-17 taking off at max power cleared the roof by about two feet. I got up and repacked. I was moving to another building. I don't like to sleep at the end of the hot runway. But David met me in the hall and said " That takeoff was from a taxiway. This won"t happen again". And it didn't. I unpacked and went back to bed. I had survived the endurance test of the two day bus ride, and it had been a long day. I thought as I lay there that there was no excuse for this takeoff on a taxiway. Runways have a white center line, white center line lights, and large numbers indicating the compass heading of the runway, ie, a runway with a compass heading of 200 degrees would be runway 20. Twenty is a bad number, incidentally. {because the other end (180 degrees opposite) is runway "2", and people get confused- bob} Taxi ways have yellow center lines, yellow center lights, and no numbers.

However, it still happens. Recently, at the Anchorage Airport, an experienced pilot nonchalantly tried to take off a 747 cargo plane on a taxiway instead of the runway. He never left the ground. A little smoked bridgework was all that they found.

After breakfast with David and Cecil Clore we sat around and talked. Cecil was a farm boy from Indiana and had little to say, but I was impressed with both of them. I strongly felt they were intelligent, dependable, prudent, and knew well their limitations and the B-17's limitations. It would seem that a four engine plane as heavy as the B-17 would be very stable but it was not. We lost a lot of planes because of the inherent qualities of the airplane. For instance, going from twenty per cent power to max power was very slow to have any effect.

After mid morning coffee (I was beginning to like this officer business- mid morning coffee served) I asked "When do we fly?" The answer was "Only at night- the asphalt runways are too soft when it gets hot to support a B-17." And it was hot.

It turned out that at Palm Springs, a small town forty miles away, there were movie stars. I never got to go there, but a Captain Howard went enough to meet and marry Dorothy Lamour.

The next day we packed up and took a troop train to Walla-Walla, Washington. We went through the western part of California and Oregon and saw the beautiful west coasts of the two states, and they were fabulous. The trip took three days so we had Pullman cars to sleep in. I took an upper because only one person slept in an upper but two were assigned to a lower berth and I sure didn't want to sleep with anyone. In these three days I came to know David and Cecil very well.

Walla-Walla was an oasis after Blythe. Cool, permanent buildings instead of tar paper covered shacks, nice tarmac and runways, green trees and snow covered mountains in the background, a nice officers club, and next to a big town.

After breakfast the next morning, I went down to the flight line and watched a B-17 taking off. The pilot lined up on the runway, released the brakes, and advanced the power to Max. At about 120 MPH he rotated upward not to five degrees but to 10,20,30,40,50 degrees. The B-17 then stalled and fell back to the runway in a total crash and slid about 1000 feet. There went $250000. Here I am, assigned to fly for two weeks now , haven't been in an airplane, and have seen one total crash and one near miss on the only two flights made- what am I into?

It turned out on investigation that the pilot had failed to unlock the controls. As a matter of interest, I was in a B-17 when this happened. One day in England after lunch, Col. Hall, The Group Operations Officer, said "Hey Bill, come fly with me." I was glad to go. After the checklist, after the runups, and on the runway, Col. Hall lined up, released the brakes, and advanced the throttles to max. When we reached an indicated airspeed of about 60 MPH Col. Hall jerked the four throttles to idle an applied maximum brakes.

We stopped at the end of the runway, and Col. Hall reached down and unlocked the controls. He looked me straight in the eye for a full minute, then taxied back to the other end of the runway and we made a normal takeoff. I never said a word of this to anyone until today.

At Walla-Walla, we initially flew a practice bombing flight in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night. On each flight we dropped twenty four 100 pound practice bombs, flying at various altitudes. Corrected to 15000 feet, the best we ever did was a circular error of thirty feet at night when the air was completely calm. With flak and fighters leaning on us, we missed the target two miles at Schweinfurt

I had one bad experience. I commonly entered the nose of the B-17 through the front escape hatch by opening the hatch, jumping up and grabbing the edge of the opening and going into the plane feet first and upside down. This saved a long walk from the rear door. (When Margaret and I visited Wright- Patterson Air Force Base in1992 , I told Margaret I was going in their B-17 that way. She laughed and said "You'll fall on your butt"! She was right.) On this particular occasion I cut all four fingers of my right hand deep enough to need stitching. I went ahead and flew, but I got terribly airsick. I had gotten airsick many times before, but this was the worst. I decided to give up flying. When we landed, I hiked over to the hospital, and went inside. There was a Sergeant sitting there, and I told him, "I want to see the Flight Surgeon." He replied, "He's at supper." I told the Sergeant, "Go get him." He disappeared, and came back in a little while and said, "He'll be here shortly." He did not come shortly, thank goodness, and I took this time to go to the latrine and wash my face, hands, and arms real good and drank a lot of ice cold water. I sat there waiting, relaxed and feeling better. When the Flight Surgeon came with a worried look he addressed me and asked, "How can I help you?" I replied, "I need some cuts sewed up," and showed him my cuts. He said, "Is that all?" "Yes," I replied. He said, "The sergeant said you looked pretty bad, and thought you probably intended to quit flying." I said," I couldn't do that." He sewed up the cuts, and I never got airsick again and always enjoyed flying after that.

What a dope I was. I should have shared my problem with such a good friend as David and I know he would have helped me. By myself, what would have happened if the doctor had been there and I had quit flying? It would have changed my whole life.

October 31, 1994

To go back to an earlier time, on Sunday, December, 1941, I was working as a staff photographer for The Birmingham News, earning $100 per month, and had to furnish my own camera. With the news of the Japanese attack on our fleet at Pearl Harbor, I was called to come down to the News. There was nothing I could do in the way of taking a picture, but prior to this, I had spent a lot of time doing publicity for both the Army and Navy recruiters. I knew them well, and I made a prompt visit to them early Monday morning.

Working at the News, I had been immersed in war talk, and realized that regardless of any personal feelings, I would be a part of this war. With this as a background, I consulted the Army and Navy recruiters to pick a desirable assignment. I had thought of being a photographer. My newspaper buddy Draighton B Colley had already picked this and it sounded so glamorous. However, both recruiters advised me to try for the Aviation Cadet program which was now available to me, but prior to this time all cadets were required to have completed at least two years of college. I signed up for both services with the understanding that I would go with the first service that called me up. The Army took me first.

I departed Birmingham from the old Terminal on May 10, 1942. Alex and Mildred Lemon came to the train station to see me off. I think this was my first trip on a train This train took me to Ft. McClellan ( named after General McClellan of Civil War fame) and was turned over to a Sergeant for directions. We were soon issued Army fatigues, boots, and some clothing. Our civilian clothing was taken from us and mailed to our next of kin. We were then marched to a building across the street from Headquarters and sworn in. It went something like this: " I swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, so help me God." The swearing in was done on May 12, 1942, by a Mr. White, and I understand that he swore in about 40,000 soldiers during the war. Incidentally, I went back to this same building on May 12,1982, and had no trouble finding it.

The next day, about two hundred of Air Corps types and about six Cadet types ( we were not Cadets yet ) took the train to Fort McPherson ( named after General McPherson of Civil War fame ). Nimrod William Ezekial Long had had ROTC, so he carried the papers of the to- be Cadets, and was in charge of our small group. Nim lives in Birmingham, and still calls me "Billy". He was really a great friend to me while we were together. At Fort McPherson, we were given the rest of the clothes we needed, and unlike the earlier clothes , these clothes fit much better. We also had drills in shoe polishing, cleanliness, a GI haircut, military appearance, marching, and Army customs including saluting. I decided the best thing for me to do was to salute anything that moved. The sergeant was tough on these things. For instance, one GI from the hills had never had a bath in his life. At every formation, the sergeant called him and two other soldiers out of the formation with instructions to scrub- brush him with GI soap. GI soap is like Octagon soap, and after a few days he looked and smelled a lot less grungy.

After a few weeks of this , a group of about two hundred Army Air Corps types and six Cadet types with Nim carrying the papers and supervising the six Cadet types, departed for Keesler Field at Biloxi, Mississippi. The train went through Opelika, Loachapoka, Notasulga, Tuskegee, and similarly named other small towns. The Air corps types were from downtown New York City, and did they give the Southerners on the train a hard time about such names. I kept quiet - those names were hard for me too.

We arrived at Keesler Field late in the afternoon, and were promptly introduced to the Sergeant who would rule us while we were there. I think these Sergeants are made from a mold - loud, imperious , profane, and dumb. The Sergeant commanded " Count off!" The first man said loudly,"One!" The second man was silent - frozen in absolute fear. The sergeant walked slowly over to the man who by now was about to faint, put his face about one inch from the man's face and shouted, " You're two, damn you, t-u-e." Absolute silence. The sergeant then marched us to our assigned quarters, and we went in, found a bed, and unpacked. The sergeant never got a count of how many men were there. Incidentally, the word " sergeant" originally meant " servant," but not any more.

Keesler was a very large operation, and its mission was the testing, classification, training, and assignment of the recruits to the proper school. Also, probably twenty percent of the recruits at Keesler Field were waiting for a school opening or an assignment to the proper MOS.

At Keesler Field, Air Corps and Cadet types went through testing and classification together, and I probably would have been assigned to aircraft engine school but I opted to take the test for photographer. I passed, and was placed in waiting in the assignment pool, but I was really waiting for a Cadet slot. While waiting, I attended a formation every morning at which announcements of orders for anyone selected to attend a school or transfers to another organization. At one formation, the Sergeant asked if anyone wanted to make a flight on the China Clipper. The China Clipper was a four engine flying boat which flew from San Francisco to Hawaii then to China and back. This sounded real glamorous, but almost anything was better than what I was doing. I immediately volunteered, and in about ten minutes I was loading china dishes on a rack which went into a dishwasher. This mess hall fed about ten thousand soldiers every day and my work was hot, dirty, long, and tiresome, and if the dishes were finished, I got to peel potatoes, crack eggs, or stack milk bottles. I comforted myself with the thought that I was learning a trade and earning twenty one dollars per month. I worked all night, and one night the Sergeant came by and asked," Well, what do you think of the old China Clipper? But your time here is finished. Tomorrow afternoon be on the train to Kelly Field. You are being sent to Aviation Cadet Selection. I hope you do well. You took this job and handled it like a man."

You can be assured I was on that train early, and I was happier than I had been in a long time. There were five other cadet types including Nim.

Since we had departed in late afternoon, we stopped in the New Orleans train station for breakfast the next morning. I had not yet received my twenty one dollars less deducts pay for my time in the military and had spent what little money I brought from civilian days and did not have a penny. So I asked Nim for a loan of five dollars. He gave it to me but he also gave me a Government meal ticket and said," You won't need any money .You have a meal ticket". As I went through the "IN " door, I saw a girl I had met in Washington,DC, coming out. Both of us turned around, each surprised to see the other in the train station in New Orleans. Grace and I enjoyed a long, talkative, and excellent breakfast. I introduced her to the other cadets and carried her suitcases out to her train, told her "Goodbye" and never saw her again. It was five dollars well spent. I got on our train, and we headed for Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. Grace was really a beautiful, poised, charming, and well dressed young lady, and my stock with the other Cadets had gone up 500%.

The permanent part of Kelly Field was classic pre - war design with a large and beautiful grassed parade ground with large two story brick houses for senior officers on three sides. The fourth side was open, and across the street was Headquarters. In front of Headquarters was a flagpole supporting a large US flag whipping in the breeze. The day was hot but the humidity was low, and with a cobalt blue sky and a nice breeze, it seemed like a great place to be. However, the temporary part was all pyramidal tents for Cadets and for offices. We were greeted by the ubiquitous sergeant as we unloaded, and marched to our quarters. After a talk on where things were and the more important rules by the sergeant, we moved into our quarters with five men to a tent. The classification would begin right after breakfast the next morning.

We marched ( we marched a lot. Sometimes we sang as we marched) to the classification building which was a permanent structure. The first day was spent in a series of written tests. The next day was a test of reflexes under stress. Bedlam reigned as we operated a number of devices, and accuracy and speed both counted. Several soldiers stopped under the pressure which meant failure. The third day was a class 1 physical for flyers. The eyesight exam included acuity of vision, and 20-20 vision was a must. Eye balance was also measured and it was pass-fail. If you failed you were out. One of my buddies failed this, and he was distraught- I thought we were going to lose him. The next test was depth perception, and I did real good on this. The color blindness was next, and I did real good on this. The last test in this area was the Barony Chair. You sat in the chair, the chair was spun, then stopped, and you tried to walk to the door. You had to do it. Everything was tested, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.

The fourth day was being interviewed. One interview was strange. I was standing in line in my skivvies when my time came to go in this office. I peeped in, and the Doctor was sitting at his desk. I walked in, stood at attention, saluted, gave my name and serial number, and gave him the exam packet. He took the papers out of the packet, studied them, laid the stack on his desk, and said, "If a battleship is made of steel, why doesn't it sink?" I thought that this was the dumbest question I had heard this year but answered, "The entrapped air plus the steel is lighter the displaced water." He wrote something on my file and handed the packet to me. I saluted and departed The tests were over, and I was glad, pass or fail. I had walked around that building for two days in my skivvies with nothing but an envelope to hide behind. Civilians, clerks, nurses, and others walked up and down the halls where we were waiting in line to be examined, and I did have some modesty.

In 1944, when I returned to the US, I happened to see this strange Doctor sitting at the bar in the Officers Club. He was still a Captain. I went over to the bar, sat beside him, and ordered a drink. He was looking into his glass and never looked up. I asked him, "What is the significance of the battleship question?" He took a swig of his Bourbon and said, "I'm a psychiatrist, and the US Government is not going to permit a crazy person to fly a combat aircraft. I asked you that question and decided by your facial expression, your body appearance, and your speech and answer that you were not crazy. We have a perfect record in this. Some flyers have committed suicide, some have gone to padded cells, but none have harmed anyone else.

The next day while we were in Retreat formation, our grades and pass-fail were given to the group. There were cheers and tears. I had an excellent grade- one of the best. I was surprised when the Squadron Commander came over and congratulated me on the excellent grade. This meant I had my choice of three careers- Pilot, Navigator, or Bombardier. I needed to think on this.

November 30, 1994

Now that I had passed all the tests required to become an Aviation Cadet, I had to decide which discipline was best for me to pursue. As I saw it, the factors involved are listed below.

1. With pilot training and my size, I would be a bomber pilot, and probably the Aircraft Commander in charge of a crew of nine or more. Did I have the coordination required of a pilot? I did not know.

2. Could I acquire the leadership skills required of being an Aircraft Commander? I did not know. I was only eighteen years old.

3. Could I become a proficient Navigator? With the navigation accent on mathematics and my proficiency in mathematics, yes.

4. I did not want to fail and end up being a soldier in the Infantry.

5. I would be in the Navigation School sooner than in Pilot Training because of the particular scheduling at this time.

After deliberating on these factors as well as some others, I choose to follow in the shoes of that great navigator Nathaniel Bowditch and become a navigator. I formalized the choice in writing the next morning.

The next day the great move began. Those who had washed out (failed the tests) left Kelly Field and went to those assignments determined by Classification at Keesler Field - Gunnery School, Aircraft Mechanic School, or if you were a truck driver you became a cook. Of course, if you were a cook, you became a truck driver.

Those who had passed moved to another section of Tent City, and began the wait for the school of their choice. First, we were given Aviation Cadet types of clothing which was designed to become officer type clothing upon graduation. For instance, the khaki shirts had shoulder straps suitable for officer insignia. The hat had a cadet insignia which could be easily replaced with the eagle of officer's insignia. We also got a nice warm coat called a "short coat", and low cut brown shoes. All the clothing I received fit me very well. I now felt good about all that had happened at Kelly Field. This was the first time I had been treated with respect and as an individual. I was now called "Mister" instead of the names the Sergeants used such as "meathead."

The facilities in the tent city were not bad. This was the summer of 1942, and while the weather was hot, the humidity was low. It was only a short walk to the latrine which was equipped with showers, and there was always plenty of hot water. The pyramidal tents were placed on wooden platforms of about ten feet by ten feet size with a wooden railing built of two by four lumber all around except at the entrance. There was a center pole supporting the tent, and ropes attached to wooden stakes and the edge of the tent kept the sides of the tent taut. There was a slit in the side of the tent, and at the top end of the slit was a hole for a stovepipe. The slit had large snaps to close the tent. Five of us were in my tent, and the all seemed very nice. I got along particularly well with one Cadet who was Russian born and lived in Russia until he was twenty. He seemed particularly sophisticated.

All of the Aviation Cadets were assigned a work duty of some kind. I was assigned to a group which was erecting tents to increase the available accommodations. There were five men in each group, and my group was very cordial . I had the misfortune to step on a nail, and was excused from duty for one week, then back to work. Back to work was back to erecting pyramidal tents, and I had the job-- among others-- of snapping the tent around the stovepipe and snapping the slit shut. I think I was pushed into this because of my height. I was the tallest man in the Squadron. I knew this because when we marched-- and we marched everywhere-- we lined up according to height, and I was always in front and on the right.

One day we were working on an end tent, and I was standing on the railing reaching to snap the tent around the stovepipe, became overbalanced, had nothing to hold on to, and fell through the slit. That was bad enough, but there was a desk in the tent, and I landed on it. This was bad enough, but there was a second Lieutenant Tach Officer sitting at this flimsy desk. When I fell crashing through, I scared the bejeebers out of him. He was sitting quietly at his desk in his office bothering no one, and KABOOM! his desk and papers were totally destroyed. Both of us jumped to our feet. With heart pounding and body hurting, I stood at Attention. He looked me over slowly from head to toe and he wasn't laughing-- not even smiling. He was mad! He said," What is your name, Mister?" I replied, "Aviation Cadet William L Goodman, Serial Number 14227431, Sir." He looked at me slowly and thoughtfully, still thinking, and wrote my name on a piece of paper he found on the floor and said " Report to your quarters until we decide what to do with you!" I saluted, did an about-face, and went to my tent. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in my tent wondering what they would do with me -- prison, expulsion, wash out, I had no idea what would happen. I did a years worth of worrying in that short afternoon.

Retreat is at 5:00 PM and all work stops. There is quite a ceremony associated with Retreat. All the troops march in formation to the parade ground and stand at attention as the bugler sounds Retreat. When the bugler ends Retreat, a cannon is fired, and the bugler plays "The Star Spangled Banner" as the flag is lowered. I can still whistle Retreat.

I listened to the distant bugle notes and wondered if I would ever hear them again. At this time, my Russian tent-mate came in and said to me, " You will never guess what happened today." I said, "I know. I fell on the Lieutenant's desk today." " Not that," the Russian said, " The Lieutenant and the Sergeant were talking about promoting someone to Corporal so there would be someone to do bed check at Taps and do Roll Call before breakfast.. Both of them live in San Antonio and have families. Neither knew any Cadets, and they were both fishing around for a name when the Lieutenant discovered on the floor a piece of paper with Aviation Cadet William L Goodman's name on it." Post this Cadet to Corporal immediately!" the Lieutenant said to the Sergeant." Now we can leave "." The Russian continued, "It's posted on the bulletin board!" I looked, and it was.

Thus began my rapid rise to leadership. I was now the highest full time Officer in the Squadron. The Sergeant gave me a whistle, flashlight, the list of names, and told me what to do. I had no problem blowing the whistle for "Fall Out" , bed check at Taps, but at Roll Call the next morning I could not pronounce one forth of the names properly. I would call a name like Rabinowitz or Tiahnybic and Rabinowitz or a friend would cry out, "You dumb Rebel! Can't you pronounce a simple name!" I would always say," See me after Roll call. I will wait right here for you." Rabinowitz, and his friends would approach me cautiously shuffling their feet and looking apprehensive. I would always apologize for my incompetence, never having met a Rabinowitz before, and ask for their help in pronouncing their name correctly. Then I would engage in some small talk to get them in my mind. I always asked them what they did before the War, and talk from there. They quit calling me names, but continued to come up and help me to properly pronounce their names.

December 31, 1994

I spent several weeks at Kelly Field - long enough to build a forest of tents but I never saw an airplane. I still called roll in the morning and did bed check at night. Why I did these things I don't know. Each Cadet was looking forward to becoming an officer and an airman wearing silver wings with lots of beautiful girls flocking around the hero. It was very unlikely any Cadet would run away. We were all waiting for a class to open, and all were anxious for a move to Pre-flight.

The move came for the navigation group in August, 1942, and I was one of the lucky ones to be one of the first of those qualified to receive orders. Packing one duffel bag was easy and quick, and a group of us took the train to Ellington Field at Houston, Texas.

Ellington Field had permanent new two story barracks. We were issued foot lockers ( a partitioned trunk placed at the foot of the bed ) and a wall hangar for hanging clothes. There were about forty men on each floor, with a large latrine on the first floor. I was on the first floor and had a lower bunk - I was afraid of heights. Present was the ubiquitous Sergeant. He was pleasant but tough. I guess you can be pleasant when you are really tough.

The Sergeant set high standards, and immediately set the ground rules. The first rule was that the barracks was always neat and clean. All Cadets were scheduled for their turn at cleaning the latrine, and it was always spotless for inspection. After the latrine was pronounced clean, no one could use it until after inspection regardless of the pain or the fear of bursting. "You can't come in here. Go to another barracks, " the latrine orderly would say. Throwing a cigarette butt on the floor was not permitted, and any violation of this rule brought swift and unpleasant consequences. A cigarette butt thrown on the ground led to a the casual butt thrower having to bury the butt in a hole six feet long by six feet wide by six feet deep, and this hole was in sandy soil.

We immediately began training, both officer training and airman training. Military courtesy rules were covered again. The rules on appearance were a short haircut every week, a bath and shave daily, and polish all shoes daily. Clothes must be clean every day, bed made with hospital corners with the top blanket tight as a drum. All hanging clothes were to all hang the same way with footlocker clothes neatly folded.

We had one problem. Bill Smith would not make his bed. He said ,"That's woman's work." We would make it up for him, but one day the Sergeant caught us making Bill's bed, and he asked Bill, "Why aren't making your bed?" Bill replied, "That's woman's work." In about ten minutes two soldiers with rifles put handcuffs on Bill and carried him to the stockade for two weeks of hard labor. It wasn't really hard, just picking up a little litter. When Bill came back, the Sergeant met him at the door: "Are you ready to make your bed?" Bill said, "It ain't fittin" I think he intended to say more, but two Military Police hustled him away. Bill was a nice and pleasant guy, and we hated to see him go. This time, however, Bill was sent to a psychiatrist who interviewed Bill, and sent Bill back to the Sergeant with a note to the effect that Bill had very firmly encapsulated ideas of male and female roles, but he had the potential to be an excellent airman. Don't send him back. When Bill returned, the Sergeant met Bill at Bill's bunk and asked, " Are you going to make your bed?" Bill replied, "It ain't fittin." The Sergeant, showing a world of patience, said, "OK, I'll make your bed every morning." and began making Bill's bed. "Sarge? "Bill said," It's OK for me to make your bed. I'll make your bed every morning. "And every morning the Sergeant made Bill's bed, and Bill made the Sergeant's bed.

Eating rules were a special case as few of us had previously taken eating manners seriously. Properly, we were to sit with backs straight with your napkin and left hand in your lap and eat slowly. Don't ask for someone to pass you something until all the food had been passed. When you wanted something which was out of reach, you quietly asked the person beside you, "Pass the grits, please." You must eat all on your plate. If you thought something was steak that you put on your plate and it miraculously turned to liver, you sat there contemplating the liver until you ate the liver, no matter how long it took. Friends couldn't help, either.

(this story is and remains the sole property of the author, Bill Goodman. It is presented here with with his gracious permission. All rights are retained by same)

[part VIII]



LinkExchange Member