the seriousness of the following, you will have to remember that in
the early 60’s, the members of the 6912th were still governed by the
WWII Army of Occupation rules. If you were missing from duty for
less than 30 minutes, you were AWOL, more than 30 minutes, you were
a deserter. Pretty serious stuff!
of visiting generals or some highly placed person in the military
decided to visit Berlin and our mission. (I personally always
thought they came to Berlin not out of curiosity about our mission
but to qualify for the WWII Army of Occupation Medal!)
The word came
up from the orderly room that the Brass was coming to visit and the
6th floor had to be ready for inspection. Bill LaChance, Vic
Keithley and I were to shut down the analysis room and get it ready
for THE VISIT!
We moved all
of the equipment to one end of the room, scrubbed and waxed half of
the room and repeated the effort with the other half of the room and
then moved all of the equipment back to its original position. That
took half of the day shift. Remember, we had to use GI mops and
buckets and finish the process with the infamous pink Selb Glanz
Floor wax that that didn’t self-polish. So, we had to manhandle the
electric floor polisher all over the room.
ENOUGH!!! Said the first floor! We want you to take out all of the
equipment and furniture, put it in the hallway and re-do the bare
room, and then move all of the equipment and furniture back into the
room. None of our arguments were good enough. So, we complied with
By the time we
were done a second time, we were hot, stinky, and mad as wet hens.
Naturally, we did what any red-blooded Air Force guy would do. We
commiserated about the cruel way we were treated, brooded and then
climbed in Old Blue and hit the strasse to partake of the elixir of
We ended up
down in an unknown area of Berlin, off the beaten GI path, and
wandered into a small bar. The only other patrons were Oriental, but
they were speaking excellent German! Bill turned to Vic and me and
whispered, “Omigod…the Japs have invaded Berlin!” Vic struck up a
conversation with them and found out that they were part of the
families of the Japanese Embassy in Berlin who were left behind when
the embassy staff left for Japan.
herded Old Blue back to base as dawn was breaking, just in time to
get into our fatigues and get ready for the second day of work
before the three-day break. Something we ate must have made us kind
of sleepy so we laid down in our bunks to rest our eyes.
The next thing
we knew, the whole room seemed to be full of Air Cops, and we were
nearly ˝ hour late for work!!!
escorted to work where we slunk in unobtrusively and attempted to do
our job, in spite of what was the start of a monstrous hangover!
At the end of
the shift, we were all standing tall in front of Sgt. Rufus T.
Standard. For a man who never swore, he sure made us feel small! He
said he understood why we were upset but he was extremely angry
about why we responded the way we did. As I recall, through the fog
of a great headache and a backside that seemed to be a lot smaller
than when I reported for duty, we were restricted to base for two
The next day,
Sgt. Joe Kinel said to Bill, “Hey Chance, Cap’n McEwen wants to see
you!” When Bill came back, we all gathered around and asked him what
happened. He said that the Captain asked him
what Bill thought should
happen. Bill said he clasped his fatigue hat in both hands, fell to
his knees and said, “Oh please sir! Don’t make a day wienie out of
We were still restricted to
base when I got a letter from my stateside girlfriend. She was
working as a nurse at the Frankfurt Military Hospital and was
planning on visiting me in Berlin over our next break!
How Walt Mercer saved my
bacon on that visit is another story.