Critical Mass—

Earlier I described the Midway as being like a one-fifth mile long chunk of the United States. Now I would like to tune in on the compressed life that buzzed within. Life on board ship could be likened to that within a hypothetical, irregularly shaped detention building measuring 1,001.5 feet in length by 258 feet wide. Except for supplies needing to be brought in from the outside, this building would be self-supportive as to most services and functions. Sorry, no elevators for personnel use. In this hypothetical building the inmates would work and play on the premises, pressed together by commitment, necessity of day-to-day activities, requirements of teamwork, and a moat that just wouldn't quit. Only the executives would have private or semi-private quarters. All others would live and sleep in dorm areas of various sizes and human density.

The people living aboard the Midway were a multiracial mixture of diverse human beings. We carried with us a complete assortment of typical human idiosyncrasies. These included generous portions of humors, interests, habits; likes, dislikes, passions; moral/ethical standards; religious convictions; regional pride as to school, home town, state, even family's Civil War affiliation; and ideological/political beliefs. In this melting pot (another change of metaphors) could be found vices including hypocrisy, prejudices, and bigotry, even shades of criminality. Add to this soup the fact that all inmates were male, sealed into a controlled environment where outside news could be (and often was) severely limited and adjusted. Then turn up the heat and humidity and let simmer for the greater part of six months (the typical length of time for a Westpac cruise). The natural yield was not homogeneous.

The tendency on board ship was for the various elements to separate out and each person align with others of his own kind, whoever he decided that to be. Thus, subgroups would be fostered. The process and result of separating created constant tensions between, and even within, subgroups, since there were so many categories that a person could fall into more than one. However, the greatest tensions were between subgroups. Each clique became like a living entity, feeding on that difference around which it formed. At some point, after a new person came aboard, he would be recruited and absorbed by at least one, sometimes more. There also were loners who either rejected or were rejected by subgroups.

The older the vessel, and the longer since its commissioning, the stronger and more indelible were these cliques. They did not differ widely from ship to ship, except they were larger and more intense on the carriers because of the concentration of such a large number of men. The difference between the sway of subgroups on the Midway, which had a brand new crew, and that of her sister ship the Coral Sea, for example, was apparent. The Midway's cliques were in their forming stages when we put to sea for our first Westpac cruise. They did not have much opportunity to grow or solidify when we were mostly in ports. When on liberty our freedom of movement and outside interests allowed each of us to go our own way for much of the time. Thus unencumbered by strong cliques it was easy for us to meld into a fully cooperative state when necessary for drills, exercises or battle maneuvers. In comparison, though I did not know how well the Coral Sea responded to drills and exercises, I knew, from scuttlebutt, that one of her subgroups, the criminal element, had so entrenched itself that members of her crew were advised not to travel the passageways alone because of roving gangs of hooligans.

Tensions within and between the subgroups were bad enough, but in the military all these groups had to pull together and function as parts of the whole. Thus the military created its own, adhesive tension that constantly battled the separatist tensions of certain subgroups. Some cliques had as their object the hatred of certain other cliques, races, philosophies, religions, etc. Unfortunately, as the military needs forced members of these "anti-" cliques to continually come into contact with their opponents, the resulting bad feelings tended to build. Consequently, if not sublimated these feelings would seek to explode into some form of negative activity.

Four of the greatest of these sets of hatred cliques consisted of: 1) certain blacks who hated whites; 2) certain whites who hated blacks; 3) pro-Vietnam War advocates who hated war protesters; 4) anti-war advocates who hated those who espoused the military cause. When there was violence it usually had to do with extremists from these four sets. The Midway's officers were exemplary in their sensitivities toward these sects, so the amount of trouble we had on board, or even ashore, was small. However, we sometimes heard of riots and other incidents involving other ships.

Dwelling in the midst of these tensions, both on ship and ashore, it seemed that Armageddon was just around the corner. In my mind's eye the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were approaching on the horizon. It was a testimonial to the officers and crew of the Midway that we kept our heads, when it would have been understandable, and sometimes even justifiable, had we not. We fought the boredom and monotony and tensions as best we could, and the Captain almost never had to resort to force or mass punishment in helping us to align our human or military priorities.

- - - - - -

The war in Vietnam began its steady, death-throes escalation with the mining of Haiphong Harbor, two days after which I wrote the following poem:

The Deed is Done

The deed is done and, heirs, the people wait
Back home where hearths are warm;
Sons of the Future are returning
Back from a world of hate.

Raise the flag and strike a merry note
For those who have been afar;
Deck the halls with laurels and trophies
For on posterity's back we wrote.

Shield the babe's eyes from his father's woe
And cover his young ears to slander;
As the Ships sail from the Apocalypse*
Whose role in Fate we know.

Bid farewell to the sweet life and society
Whose tenets have shown such flaws;
Sing praises to the gods of lust and vice
That the only sin may be propriety.

Burn the cities whose environs kill the soul
And lay the foundations for misery;
Take up the carving knife and arm
Against your neighbor—that his head may roll.

Deal harshly with the conservative man
And do not tolerate the liberal;
Steal from the rich, whose manners you despise
But give to the poor, whose baseness you cannot Stand.

Herd those who number but a few
Into "protected" areas beyond your home;
Thus to make the world free of prejudice
See now what you must do?

Do all you can to pave the road
For the dauntless approach of the End;
Hate, hate and hate once more to grow
From shoulders of responsibility drop the load.

When the Finale comes to seek you out
Let apathy transform you into a zombie;
Cry innocence and ignorance of Fate
That emptiness might hear your shouts.

Then remember the day not too long ago
When you stood by the ocean's crest;
A deed was done and the Sons of the Future returned
Back from a world of hate.

Written May 10, 1972
(on board U.S.S. Midway, doing business
at Yankee Station, Vietnam)

* Through literary license, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride in on Ships.

- - - - - -

Intellectual tensions were not the only, or necessarily even the strongest, areas of stress. Sexual tension, with its attendant psychological and biological urges, was our constant, insistent, and personal companion at sea. Each man was thrown upon his own resources to deal with the menace. We spent much of our port time in the Philippines, so this kept morale reasonably high, if in some cases not morals. Mostly we spent weeks at sea with no liberty at hand. The men had to learn how to get through those weeks as best they could.

The absence of women did not, unfortunately, cause the absence of desire to have sex. The Armed Services long ago had given up the practice of reducing the urgency by lacing our food with saltpeter. One response to the situation, similar to the one no doubt espoused by the ship's share of homosexuals, was for some men to make bi-sexual compromises considering the needs of the moment. The longer we deployed the more overpowering became the need for compromise. Of course, homosexual acts of any type or for any reason were not tolerated by the Authorities and fell under the UCMJ's articles on "sodomy." [The Uniform Code of Military Justice was what we in the military were under instead of the United States Constitution or Bill of Rights.] Caught in such an act would quickly get one kicked out of the service with a dishonorable discharge. This deterrent did not stop all such activity, though it contributed to extreme discretion. The best response to the sexual urge crisis was sublimation, using the unspent energy to engage in an assortment of other available activities and hobbies. This type of answer also helped alleviate the sailor's other constant and personal companion, the anxiety of what to do during off duty hours.

The problem of "what to do" was less relevant for men of some departments, especially for the flight deck crews and others who worked the greatest number of hours each day. Yet for some of us there were many hours that we needed to fill with some form of diversion. Once we left port, it was up to each man to use his own ability in finding interest and entertainment. If a fellow was busily protesting being on the ship, in the Navy, or being near Vietnam, his frame of mind would tend to exclude the possibility of having fun. There were many sailors who glummed about, fuming and actively being miserable. Others sat about spending their free awake time reminiscing and dreaming about girl friends, wives, families, children and returning home. These possibilities could be quite entertaining. However, the men partaking of these tended to be bitter and under extreme stress, planting seeds of psychological problems down the line, even many years away.

An overly used form of entertainment was sleeping away off duty hours. (I call this tendency the Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. When they finally awaken it will all be over.) Still others chose recreational eating. There were several ship's stores, where we could find an almost unlimited quantity of junk food to buy. Some fellows started getting fat, though the biggest problems were rotting teeth and general ill-health. A case in point was a Radioman seaman who came aboard and refused ever again to eat Navy chow. This was after he spent some months working on the mess deck and saw what was done to the food. When in port he ate ashore, and when at sea he subsisted on candy bars, potato chips, shoestring potatoes, Vienna sausages, sodas and other, similar types of foods and drink. He crammed his locker with goodies in case the stores ran out. Consequently, he became very puny and sickly looking, and his teeth definitely were on their way out. (When it came to Navy chow, though I heard the same gruesome scuttlebutt as did everyone else, I survived by maintaining the motto "Ignorance is bliss.")

Television and movies provided some entertainment. Each berthing compartment had a lounge, and each lounge had a color TV. The ship's TV station was KMID/TV. At certain times it presented (via cable) news shows; interviews with the Captain, pilots and others on the talk show "Forum;" many hours of flight ops as they happened; and local TV telecasts if we happened to be near enough to a broadcasting station. Of course, overseas the local shows tended not to be in English. I do not recall watching canned entertainment over the TV, though there may have been such programs.

Evening movies were offered on the mess deck directly over our berthing compartment, but I did not attend very many of these. The folding chairs and bombs we sat on tended to be very uncomfortable, and the projection equipment didn't always produce the best quality sight and sound.

Card games were popular and consisted primarily of poker, hearts and spades. As might be anticipated, there were card sharks around to keep a portion of the crew adequately fleeced while enhancing their own Navy pay. Also, after our first liberty in Japan one could hear the frantic dropping, bouncing, pinging of the small, steel pachenko balls almost any time of day or night. Pachenko was like a vertical pin ball machine.

There was listening to records or tapes (cassettes, 8-track or reel-to-reel) for whiling away the hours. Sound equipment could not be turned up very loud as a matter of courtesy, since there were always off-shift men sleeping in the compartment. Thus headphones were popular, especially the heavy, multispeaker kind that encased the listener's ears, popular before the invention of the small, dynamic headphones generally used today. I had a pair of stethoscope-like headphones that could be switched either to stereo or dual-ear monaural. Many were the hours spent in my lower bunk listening to cassettes (cassette players being a relatively new invention). Each pay day my collection of these little packages of entertainment grew.

There were many fellows who relished the adventure of shipboard existence and were constantly on the lookout for different things to see, do and experience. These men were open to accepting entertainment in many guises and from many sources. Also, quite a few sailors had talents and so could entertain others in addition to themselves. Included in this latter category were men aboard who kept themselves entertained by playing one or more of a variety of musical instruments, mostly guitars of every type and some wind instruments and drums. I had three harmonicas including a one-incher, a thirteen hole chromatic and a sixteen hole chromatic, each of which I frequently played. When tired of these I dabbled with playing my two English recorders, one soprano and one alto. I never heard complaints as to my playing but did hear compliments and encouragement.

The forward mess deck provided a popular gathering site for impromptu jam sessions when musicians got together. When we had "smokers," or evenings of planned entertainment on the hangar deck, besides a tight rope walker, boxing matches and the like, we were always treated to music performed by men who had gotten together formally into bands. Some of these groups were quite professional-sounding. My good friends, Airmen Fisk and Chapman, were in such a band.

Sunbathing was popular as were sight-seeing, picture taking, and flight deck sports. The ocean provided an ever-changing panorama of waves, churning white caps, occasional vegetation and assorted sea life. Especially entertaining were the flying fish and porpoises, which played around the ship as it steamed ahead. Cloud formations, too, could be quite spectacular, and a fellow could get religious watching the displayed beauty and powers of Nature.

The Executive Officer, who was responsible for crew morale, would sponsor a smoker, a hangar deck barbecue, or even an occasional (though rare) civilian performance. On this last note, the only civilian entertainers I recall coming aboard were several Miss America Pageant contestants. They arrived by helicopter on one of our plane elevators during a stint on Yankee Station. They wiggled about for a while, like in the movie Apocalypse Now, and sang a little. Then the troupe jumped back on their bird to disappear like a warm and unfulfilled dream.

A sailor who had his last pay burning a hole in his pocket, and had not been completely fleeced by a shark, could drop by one or more of the ship's stores to buy junk food or sundries such as stereo, camera or housekeeping equipment, assorted clothing, hygienic supplies, cassettes, knives, ship's souvenirs, you name it. If these pursuits did not satisfy his needs, a crew member also could use the money to buy illegal drugs. Illegal drugs provided a major form of entertainment (or at least time killing) aboard, and the ship's aft mess deck was the main distribution point for these substances.

When sailors first came aboard they would spend a few months as mess deck workers. Here they soon were introduced to the drug acquisition network. Subsequently, when they moved on to their rating locations, most of them carried the knowledge of connections, and some carried a supply of the drugs. For some, as with the card sharks, it was a way of supplementing their regular pay. For others, as with the shark's victims, it was a way of emptying their pockets. The problem was not invisible, and the crew was subjected to occasional sneak inspections. Users and pushers seldom got caught, though, since they learned early where to hide the drugs. Also, word about an impending inspection got out to them in advance.

One way used by the Midway to help counteract the drug problem was to provide a place optimistically called a Drug Rehabilitation Center. It was down a short, dark passageway on the level just above the hangar deck. Next to the Drug Rehab's entrance was an exit hatch that opened out onto a sponson. The medical officers were ultimately responsible for the Rehab area, but a certain petty officer was the one a fellow usually saw supervising the Center. The petty officer worked with men who were having drug problems and claimed to want them handled. He always had recourse to medical officers for either medical or psychological assistance, if he ran into something he could not resolve.

The Drug Rehab Center was set up to simulate the kind of place where drugs typically (stereotypically) would be taken in the civilian drug subculture. Included in the Rehab room were groupings of pillows, cushions and rugs to be used for lounging upon. There were psychedelic posters on untypical, colorful bulkheads illuminated by blacklight, while the smell of incense and sounds of rock 'n' roll or acid rock music wafted throughout. Also present were tables and chairs, assorted light reading materials, checker boards, playing cards and other toys to keep minds and hands amused and occupied.

I deduced, after talking to the petty officer in charge during my occasional visits, that the idea behind the layout was to create a drug subculture-type environment without introducing the chemicals, themselves. Theoretically, a habitual user would enter the Rehab room and be exposed to the scenery for a while, possibly re-experiencing past drug trips, until, hopefully, he would realize he could enjoy the trappings by themselves and without drugs.

There were some fellows who went to the Center just to get a touch of a civilian lifestyle left far behind in distance and time. A third group consisted of users who would get "lit" before entering the Rehab Center. Frequently, getting lit was done on the sponson deck next to the Center. It was the perfect place to light up a marijuana joint and toke away, with the escaping fumes dissipating into the night air. Then these blokes would enter the Center and nestle themselves back among the cushions to enjoy their chemical reactions. Although this last may seem ironic, it actually served a useful purpose. The visits gave the petty officer a chance to identify users and to influence them in trying to kick their drug reliance. My visits to the Center were the result of curiosity on my part plus a desire to talk with these men about their drug-related problems and fixations. I also gave a few talks to the men regarding some principles I thought might benefit them.

Three of my personal favorite ways to keep mind occupied were reading, writing and discussion. There were many things to read, what with correspondence, magazines, and newspapers coming in with the mail nearly every day at mail call. There also were military-generated newspapers like the Stars and Stripes and a shipboard paper called the Three-Mile Limit. I had a brainstorm near the end of the first Westpac cruise. I even went so far as soliciting Captain Harris' support and approval for the ship to produce a literary publication called the Outer Limit. It was to include creative writings and even art work provided by crew members. Captain Harris gave the go-ahead for me to solicit material and edit the paper. Yet, before things got started we had arrived home, and the Outer Limit died of neglect. By the time we left on our second Westpac cruise, about six months later, I was no longer interested in pursuing the project.

My writing released difficult to express ideas regarding the Vietnam conflict and generally those things in existence I thought were below par. At first I wrote about religion and my changing views toward the one I had grown up with, i.e., Methodism in particular and Christianity in general. Topics had little to do with doctrines and mainly dealt with unethical (sinful, if you would like) manifestations by some claimed adherents.

From the topic of religion the writings grew increasingly toward politics and man's imperfect political nature. However, several essays were never finished. Sometimes I would start a project and continue several pages only to find I no longer believed what I had started out to expound upon. The final yield was not a finished draft, in these instances, but crystallized thinking. It became a process to un-brainwash myself of an entire life of enforced orientations. As my views on life changed and crystallized, the process inspired me in my next love, discussion.

Certainly a major form of entertainment on any ship was bullshitting, sitting around swapping tall tales, actual exploits, stories, and mixtures. This was quite wholesome, since it gave the fellows a reason for getting together to have fun in sharing life's experiences (real and imagined). The value of bullshitting only went so far, however. The men always had to put forth a tough image and only talk about things distant from their inner selves. For me, this was not enough. My need was to talk about deep things that would challenge the soul not just solicit chit chat.

I had become involved in the teachings, religion and spiritual counseling techniques of L. Ron Hubbard shortly after arriving in San Francisco from the San Diego Naval Training Center's Service School Command. The one thing that helped me most through the last years of my military time, as my opinion regarding our presence in Southeast Asia soured and I began looking forward to release from service, was my concentration on this framework of knowledge.

My friend Skiff and I helped form a group espousing Ron's religious philosophy while on our second Westpac cruise. We, as a group, wiled away many hours discussing religious matters or just whatever came to mind. The welcome distraction was joined by many fellow sailors, including some who did not necessarily embrace our beliefs but who enjoyed and added to the diversity of topics.

It took several months for the group to be recognized as a legitimate entity by shipboard Authorities. Eventually, we received official permission to exist, a technicality necessary to use the ship's chapel legally for gatherings. Recognition also allowed us to have our meetings announced over the ship's 1MCC address system. By the time this acceptance occurred, however, Skiff and I were already out of the Navy and back stateside. It was up to our friends Fisk and Chapman to safeguard the group's persistence.

All told, there were many things to do on ship. Some things were more personally beneficial than others, but all were used to kill that evil creature that we had to deal with constantly—TIME. I fell into the genre of sailors who had a smattering of several tendencies. However, the longer I was aboard the more I moved from the adventurer toward the protester. Yet, it was not without a fight. Another Facconer, McGovern, once asked how I managed to remain so cheerful.

We all had choices. We could have wallowed in self pity, slept excessively and withdrawn from it all, coasted without personal involvement, ate junk food until reaching a state of hyperglycemia, escaped through use of drugs, or thrown ourselves into our circumstances with hopes of salvaging something worth keeping. For me, what was worth keeping was the storehouse of impressions I collected over my enlistment period. We all carried away something, but few of us realized what would be the long term effects of these Navy years on our future lives. I, for one, expected that, when I left the service, the service would be left behind. Too late I learned that the Navy interlude would continue for many years as a part of my continuing consciousness.

Regarding the shipboard tensions, human dignity never died or had to be subdued on the Midway. Her officers remained sensitive to the needs of the few as well as those of the many. She, and other locations like her, proved that diverse peoples could live and work together in close association and under pressure without exploding into anti-social behavior. They showed that what it took was personal, caring, intelligent and humane treatment of individual people rather than an impersonal "handling of the masses." Order and discipline could be maintained without the necessity of brandished force, or induced loss of individuality through brainwashing minds into homogenous sameness.

Unfortunately, during those days this kind of enlightenment was more the exception than the rule. Moreover, I did not appreciate how comparatively sane was my command. My attention, instead, fixed on the many squeaky wheels. What sank me near the end was the very fact that I had been such a successful entertainment seeker during the two Westpac cruises. Eventually I became saturated, even jaded, and my imagination ceased to dream up new vistas. The resulting "what to do" anxiety added fuel to a growing glumness and dissatisfaction with the goings-on in Vietnam.

We had it pretty good, all things considered. For example, special care ensured our having excellent food during our typical one-month-long stretches on Yankee Station. Although this was not always the case, there were many times when we would be treated to steak, lobster, scallops and the like, during a single sitting. Yet there was not a man aboard unaware of the plight of his G.I. comrades on land not many miles away. We had heard and seen news documentaries, read articles, and some had talked to men who had served in Vietnam. In the back of my mind, always, was the solemn appreciation "There, but for the Grace of God, go I."

Ship's crew were very lucky to be removed from the action. Yet it had not been without conscious forethought in this regard that most of us had joined the Navy. We wanted to avoid dodging bullets, bombs, personnel mines, etc., in Viet Cong-occupied rice paddies. Yet in joining the Navy, as with anything else in the big gamble called life, there was still the element of risk. After all, the Navy manned landing craft and gunboats that patrolled the dreaded rivers and deltas.

Our lives were not without hazards, yet our dangers were incomparable to those furiously lurking ashore. Sailors with any amount of compassion at all empathized with the land forces in ways similar to a hypothetical fellow, locked in a room and fed a feast fit for a king, who yet knew that next door someone was being brutalized. In other words, our benefits did not rest easy.

Following are excerpts from a September 28, 1971, letter written to my father and stepmother. Contained within the letter were ideas and beliefs I had already written about in the essays "Vietnam—Proving Ground for Militarism, Materialism, Christianity" (1970) and "The American Way" (1971). Some beliefs would be talked about later in other essays, like "Concerning a Way of Life" and "American Heritage" (1972).

 

"You're right about the economy. We've watched the fluctuation in value of the US dollar in respect to foreign money, and it's getting more shaky. However, not only does the President and the government have to step down on the causes, but also there must be considerable voluntary efforts by corporations, industries and the public.

 

"It's a fact that the United States is going through a period of adjustment, where the accent is shifting from a wartime to a peacetime economy. Suddenly the market for war industries is dwindling drastically. Also, nowhere near the present number of men will be needed in the Armed Forces. Those released will be needing jobs that are in decreasing supply . . ..

 

"The Armed Forces are changing along with everything else, and they are leaning toward volunteer forces. The Navy is undergoing changes both in the modernization and reduction of its fleets and in its outlook toward the men and their morale. Policy changes are commonplace, and benefits are increasing daily for career oriented men. This, of course, is going to cost taxpayers. However, the end product is a Navy with an adequate number of new, up-to-date ships manned by men who are happy with their jobs and well motivated.

 

"The United States should be able to continue its traditional leadership and strength in international affairs as long as it maintains proper leadership and accurate economic guidance blended with the cooperation of the citizenry. We can set a pace that will set a precedent in peacetime prosperity. On the other hand, weak guidance and failures to move to the dictates of the times could plunge us economically, politically and militarily below the surface. Our destiny could become like that of ancient Rome, Greece, Carthage, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Germany and others.

 

"It is my view that the United States has psychologically backed itself into a box canyon. Because of our haphazard and ill-regarded police action in Vietnam, unmindful of pragmatic policies and lacking true direction of intention, the government has instilled within the people a growing apathy. Now, due to the nature of apathy, many people do not wish to accept responsibility any longer for governmental actions. After all, to `rise against' is a waste of time and effort when political ears are deaf and minds fixated (on what, pray tell?). Thus citizens defer their votes to `personalities' or PR images instead of men who will seriously resolve issues.

 

"Some people just grumble, or they get back at the `System' or `Them' by defeating local measures. Retaliation was the motive for the defeat of a badly needed education millage recently voted down for my old alma mater, Jackson High School. I heard the comment that this was the case from more than one voter in the school district. A credibility gap separates the people from involvement in timely issues concerning the government and its policies, both foreign and domestic. Those few that do become involved all too often find that the only vent for their feelings is through joining demonstrations . . ..

 

"When a person becomes a politically active member of a Party, he or she must ultimately compromise any variant personal wisdom for that of the Party, i.e., sell their soul. When a person has reached the point where the party considers them to be worthy of running for office, especially for the Presidency, you can be sure that the prospective candidate is not likely to stray far from Party lines . . .. The black sheep and reformers are weeded out long before they have a chance to reach the Presidency . . ..

 

"Now the people say `Let Them take care of the government and economy. I've had enough kicks in the butt.' Suddenly things start changing for the worse. After carrying on a mistake (police action) fifteen years longer than it should have, the government withdraws its forces. As a backlash the economy wavers dangerously. A new era begins, and cooperation is needed from fat war industries looking on lean times and from apathetic people no longer looking. Money and hardships are required of the people, profits and expansion are denied industries that have paid good money, and lots of it, to keep their people in office. Also, wisdom and foresight are expected of a President who must both answer to the Party and be watchful of the coming elections. I cannot imagine a nation surviving under tremendous odds such as these . . .."

My correspondence verbosity was diminishing by the time August 6, 1972, arrived. I had run out of things to say, though the feelings now were stronger than ever. My twenty-third birthday three days earlier had been particularly gloomy, since I had not received a single card, letter or package. Of course, I knew why. In late July the plane carrying mail for the Midway flew to Hong Kong by mistake and crashed. The pilot, crew and mail were lost. Following is the August 6 letter I wrote to my poor father and stepmother.

 

"The Midway is still afloat and is still dropping bombs and doing other laborious missions of horror. The chaplain is still coming over the 1MCC address system and asking God to `Bless our mission,' `Bring our planes back safely,' and `Protect us from the enemy.' B-U-L-L!"

Not all of my writing projects were serious. In fact, the nonsensical ventures were the most beneficial to my morale. Following is a series of special newspapers I wrote over a span of time spent in Radio II (Transmitter I) using the typewriter located in that compartment. It was during the summer of 1971, and we were on Yankee Station.

 

S P E C I A L  E D I T I O N

N E W S P A P E R

A public service newspaper that has its
customers' sophistication in mind

 

Agnes Freeb Slings Cupid's Arrows—Agnes Frebe, winner of the Alabama semi-annual (tri-annual on leap year) cotton picking contest, said today in a fast-paced news conference that she is looking for a mate. Living with her father and helping him harvest his crop every year for the past thirty years, Agnes has not taken time off to do any courting. Now she says she's ready and will start considering offers.

 

A few vital statistics she offered were that she's single, six feet eight inches, 496 pounds stark naked but wet, with a real honest-to-goodness down home face and a natural knack for cooking. Asked about her approximate age Agnes blushed in her cute, maidenly way and said "I'm old enough to know better but young enough to dare."

 

According to reliable sources who have been following Miss Frebe's career, she has been looking for a husband ever since her dear father died of ptomaine poisoning last spring. Dr. Elroy Pots, family doctor of the Frebes' for sixty years and frequent dinner guest, said he wasn't surprised when questioned about the elder Frebe's demise. Clyde Frebe had suffered 182 severe cases of the same poisoning since his wife, Mildewce, died six years ago. Agnes, feeling deep concern for her father's condition would allow nobody else to cook for him. She claimed that only she should cook for Clyde, since he had such a susceptibility to ptomaine.

 

Agnes, a stout cotton picker from way back, says that her idea of a husband is someone about half her height, a peace advocate, and reserved in mannerism and opinion. She believes that such a mate would be ideal, since she could keep on picking without much opposition.

* * * *

 

N U T S - I N - A - N U T S H E L L  N E W S

 

Goodwitch Decries Title—Famed star of television and very talented actress Granny Goodwitch has taken a plunge in the eyes of her craft guild. Granny was made immortal in her role as cereal sponge in Sugar CrispR commercials co-starring with that sexy bear Sugar Bear Robinson. However, she recently has taken to living on Wai Ki Ki beach with a 23-year-old beach bum by the name of Beacher Boye. This course of action created a sensation or two and caused Granny to become a Sandwitch. She was forced to change titles when the American Witchery and Leprechaun Laundry Association decided she was not being good.

 

In the heated dispute that followed, Granny's boy friend Boye decried the decision. He claimed that any person Granny's age who could satisfy a 23-year-old man had to be good. Although a polite nodding followed this statement, the decision was that the new name should stick.

* * * *

 

E D I T O R I A L

 

These news articles come to you from the hot typewriter of "Chuck the nose" Paige. His painstaking dig for behind-the-headlines news is a continuing effort to keep the world informed and keep his pockets lined.

* * * *

 

L A B O R  P A R T Y  G A Z Z E T T E

Paper for conditioned minds whose aim is
for justice for the working class

 

Charges Unfounded But Hopes High—Cannons and gum wrappers have parleyed for progress in a nine-week drapery walkout. Informed sources say that a candid poll taken recently to predict the turnout of the teamsters' vote clearly defined defeat for management.

 

Harley Davidson, noted socialist and head of the striking union, predicted that talks concerning a halt to the walkout would make progress only when better retirement plans are available to teamsters. According to Davidson's chief advisor Harriet Shitzpatrick, member of the American Nazi Youth movement, it seems that the gum wrappers are simply discarded, draperies get sent to the cleaners, and cannons, due to their questionable working conditions, become shot.

 

A special White House investigating team has been called in. Davidson, who has been harried by continuous pressure from political factions, hopes that the team's findings will expose the corruption of management and lead to a negotiated settlement. One prominent member of the special investigating team, Phil E. Buster, once-heralded Democrat from Louisiana and elected nineteen times as that state's Senator, claims that the management of Randomity Incorporated has remained within the law, although often on the borderline. He said that the teamsters must resort to loop-hole digging if they wish to bring criminal charges.

 

Davidson, in response to Buster's findings, said that his lawyers believe they can indict management on litterbug charges. "However," says Davidson, "both labor and management will continue their attempt to settle differences out of court."

* * * *

 

C R I M E  O N  T H E  S T R E E T S

Paper designed to keep its readers wary

 

Ethyl Trap Puts Wuf Wuf In Doghouse—Ethyl Trap, noted seamstress and Internal Revenue investigator, filed charges today against her dog Wuf Wuf. The 96-year-old matron claims that the defendant neglected his duties while serving as night watchdog in her plush East Chicago pad. This neglect, demanded Miss Trap, allowed a prowler to ransack the apartment and steal various valuables.

 

When confronted about the extent of the theft in an exclusive WPUK radio interview, Miss Trap broke into a sob and listed the articles inhumanly stolen. Among those listed items was half a broken watch chain belonging to her deceased uncle. The watch chain had been savagely severed by an arrow at the Little Bighorn. Also on the list were a once worn engagement ring made of sparkling fool's gold embedded with twelve lustrous rhinestones, and a dead canary, stuffed and hung by its feet from the ceiling. Lastly, and her primary concern, the goldfish Blub Blub was missing.

 

Ethyl claims that the ninety-eight pound goldfish has been with her for the past fifty-six years. "He seldom spoke, but I've always admired the strong, silent type." She fears that, since the fish has attained such an extreme age, withdrawal from getting his daily smack might kill him.

 

Wuf Wuf, indicted and booked in the Cook County jail, with bail set at 90,000 dollars, has taken quick action. He hired an experienced lawyer belonging to the Sacramento, California, branch of the ASPCA and is expected to file counter-claims against the plaintiff. His response to the claims against him is to say he was drugged. According to a sworn statement made by watchdog Wuf Wuf, Ethyl Trap staged the robbery herself to exterminate Blub Blub. Blub Blub is a co-beneficiary in Miss Trap's late father's will. The canine believes that Ethyl was afraid Blub Blub would outlive her.

* * * *

 

G U I D E  T O  P O L I T I C S

Paper aspiring to those who want to get their hands dirty

 

Perspectives On A War—Alice Smith, a typical homemaker from Creepborough, South Dakota, has gone on record as against the war in Vietnam. "Just look at the inflation it's caused," she remarked last week at a bridge party.

 

Alice is not alone in her disgust of the war. Harry Eagle, long-time aspirant for the senate of Idaho and devout Democrat, has made it clear that he is putting his entire effort and influence behind the peace movement. Harry made his statement when asked by reporters at a party caucus just what his platform would be in the next election. When asked if the Pentagon Papers might affect his chances as a Democrat in the next election, Harry exclaimed that the findings of the Papers will have no more effect on his party than Spiro Agnew has had on the Republicans.

 

Mr. Eagle, carrying out his promise, has assigned his entire staff, consisting of Mrs. Eleanor Rigby, Burty Sweeney and Katherine Althouse, to investigate all possible peace perspectives. Although Harry is going all out in his election pursuit, it is commonly believed that he won't make the primaries. "If I fail again," commented Eagle, "I'll retire from active politics and take up my real dream, to be a transient peach picker in Nevada."

 

Meanwhile, the Vietnam subject bounces back and forth across the country. In Washington, DC, where the problem is really a priority, Mr. Nixon has decided to forego his summer vacation so as to discuss solutions with his Chiefs of Staff. The discussions will take place aboard the Presidential jet on its way to Florida. When they reach their destination the troupe will compare notes between holes while golfing and make tentative plans over juleps while basking in the Tampa sun.

 

When the President returns to Washington next month he plans to address both the Senate and House with the findings and to seek a Presidential pay raise to go into effect after the coming election. Sources close to the President believe he is confident about winning the coming election. However, this belief has not been verified by an official White House statement.

 

It is widely believed that Nixon will seek all possible ways of not only getting out of Vietnam gracefully but of getting the affected Communist governments to allow the US to make trade agreements with them. Executive advisors, after consulting well-informed but anonymous sources, told the President recently that no trade agreements will be possible until the US cuts down its trade with Japan. It seems that the Chinese, nurturing wounds suffered in World War II, have a boycott on Japanese goods. The Chinese fear that, since just about everything sold in the US comes from Japan, such products would eventually end up in our exports, too. Mr. Nixon said he would make allowances for this unexpected development but had already initiated a cutback in Japanese imports.

 

[See related article TWO US ORPHANS—TAIWAN AND JAPAN—JOIN FORCES]

Copyright 1992, 1998 Charles W. Paige

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