Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 09:34:48 -0700
Hi there troops,
Just returned from the Recon last night ... and to paraphrase one of our American military men of the past, "I have not yet begun to unpack." (You think I'm kidding, don't you?)
Here's a rundown of the happenings, from a grunt's eye-view:
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
Arrived at objective (aka Simi Valley Radisson) around 1530 hours. Rendezvous'd with Lost Patrol organizer Marty B., and met in person for the very first time our own King Two and El Tee. Among other things, El Tee was acting as chief war correspondent (aka editor of the Stars & Stripes, the Recon's official newsletter), and because yours truly was a contributing source I had much biz to discuss with her.
My landing craft (aka a Toyota Tercel) was generously packed, and with the help of a few fellow vols I transferred said materiel to the foxhole (aka the hotel room) I was sharing with Red Three. Once the transfer was complete, our place looked not unlike the docks of southern England at D-10.
After this grueling detail a number of us retired to a local bistro (aka Chili's) for
some well-deserved chow. From there it was on to the next detail, stuffing some
extremely handsome Recon booklets into the welcome packets, along with genuine casings
from Franklin Canyon. Said detail packed quite a crowd into King Two's foxhole,
which by happy coincidence adjoined my own.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
R&R in the morning. Some chose to reconnoiter the area by visiting the Ronald Reagan Museum close by; others scouted out such essential resources as refueling stations and PX's. I, however, hunkered down in my foxhole for some intel work ... watching tapes of F.C. eps to prepare for the following day's Lost Patrol. With the arrival of Dodger, our Lost Patrol team (Dodger, Marty, Red Three & I) was complete, and with Dodger's abundantly researched patrol guide to F.C. (what *else* did you expect from Mr. Encyclopediahead?), we were all looking forward to a successful excursion the next day.
The first of our GIs to arrive on Friday was Littlejohn, who showed up that afternoon with wife, dog and house plants in tow. After some initial confusion over accommodations (I will spare y'all the details, as I do not want to relive what was a very traumatic experience for me!), Littlejohn & Co. were finally settled into their foxhole.
The much-anticipated event for the evening was the USO Big Band Dance. I was the hostess, so my vols & I began set-up of the canteen (aka the hotel's ballroom) at 1800 hours, with the event scheduled to begin at 2000 hours. My objective, like that of all USO workers, was to create a place where our servicemen would feel like they were at home again. We had a 48-star flag, a picture of "OUR PRESIDENT" (FDR, of course ... who else were you thinking of, silly?), Burma Shave signs, many war posters (BTW, have YOU bought your share of war bonds?), and an ocean of our country's colors as reflected in trimmings of red, white & blue streamers & garlands. With some Glenn Miller & Benny Goodman on the jukebox, the atmosphere was complete.
Much to my delight, several Men In Uniform (hubba hubba!) showed up. Marty B. was posing as Kirby, complete with backwards jeep cap ... G.I. Jive was the friendliest MP you could ever meet ... and two local re-enactors thrilled the ladies with some very snazzy Class A duds. Way to go, fellas!
For the curious, there was a display of uniforms & weapons ... some very much like what Our Sarge would wear. Ooh, and let's not forget that tommy gun on display!
I had successfully procured some tasty chow for the attendees, but initially it took a back seat (understandably so) to the appearances of Lieutenant Hanley, Billy Nelson, Littlejohn & FX whiz A.D. Flowers (the latter three with their spouses). The camaraderie on the show is no fake, folks -- these guys were genuinely glad to see one another, and they all sat at the same table throughout the evening. At the same time, however, they were completely accessible to us fans. Billy Nelson's wife (aka Sharon Thomas) even crossed the canteen & sought me out just to compliment me on the article I'd written on Billy for the welcome booklet -- wow! These are "real folks" -- and we are lucky to have 'em.
When the canteen closed at 2300 hours, a number of people retired to the video room to watch (what else?) THE SHOW.
Thanks to my vols for the evening, who helped me set up & strike the decorations -- I couldn't have done it without you (no kidding)!
Well, troops, that's Part 1 of the report. I notice that Checkmate Blue's report has just come across the airwaves (or was it carrier pigeon?), beating me to the punch (no, not the "80 Proof lemonade" at Hanley's house!) on some of the details I have mentioned ... but I'm too dog(face) tired to go back & change anything in this report, so yous guys will just have to read some things twice!
And, since this grunt must also resume earning a living, I will sign off for now & follow up later with Part 2, a report of Saturday's & Sunday's events.
Othello (semi-conscious) out
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 11:05:48 -0700
Continuing yesterday's report ...
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
Our mission for the morning was a recon of Franklin Canyon. Two troop carriers (aka buses) arrived around 1030 hours and we boarded same, lugging various equipment -- coolers, water bottles, cameras, and jackets. The sunny weather of Friday had turned cloudy and cool. We were fearing a battle with the elements at the Canyon, but this turned out to be pure scuttlebutt ... we ended up having a bit of sunshine, and the cool temps were actually a help and not a hindrance to all the hiking we did.
Our journey to the Canyon took us past many exotic (and no doubt expensive) chateaux of the area. Those who were not familiar with this region spent as much time looking out the windows at the spectacular views as they did paying attention to the briefing (aka "Chapel at Able-Five" and "The Letter," playing on the video monitors).
Once at the Canyon our driver had to negotiate a narrow road with hairpin turns. Alas, the local flora (aka tree branches) suffered some casualties from the roof of our troop carrier. Finally, we arrived at the rendezvous point. Troop morale soared instantly at the sight of two welcome additions to our numbers -- Caje (and wife), and a uniformed driver (aka Craig C.) with a gen-yoo-ine jeep. Caje had recently injured his right hand, but we were not disheartened, since we knew our ambidextrous Cajun buddy was still capable of doing much damage to the Krauts with a perfectly good left arm & a grenade.
After some documentary footage was shot, we split into four squads, led by "Braddock" (Dodger, with wild camo pants), "Jim Hummel" (Marty), Red Three (with beret), and me. As Second Squad leader, I was assigned to start our portion of the recon at Kanger's Korner. My sharp troops immediately showed signs of recognition when we climbed to the crest of the hill where Sarge got sniped at by the villainous James Coburn. We then proceeded along the Dam Trail (which, because of the presence of minors in our group, we renamed the "Darn Trail") and spotted many other familiar locations. The most popular spot by far was the Saunders Post, the fence/guardrail post touched by Sarge in the beginning of "The Letter" as he hops the guardrail & crosses the road while outflanking some dastardly Germans. There was muttering among some Chip's Chicks in my squad that they were going to come back later, chop down the post & take it home as a souvenir.
A snafu (alas, I can't blame this one on S-2 ... it was my fault, but then, no squad leader is perfect, right Sarge?) put us ahead of Braddock's squad at one point, but we were quickly re-oriented and resumed our recon. Braddock was in his usual talkative mode, and at several points we had to wait on him & his squad to clear an area before we could move in and occupy the position. At Wild Pond (site of "The Brothers" among other eps), Braddock's troops emerged from the high undergrowth and passed by us, double-backing along the trail. I finally saw my opportunity. "Don't just stand there suckin' on a prune pit!" I roared, using my best Col. Clyde voice. I think I must have put the fear of God (or at least of brass) into him, because that was the last we saw of this gabby private for the rest of the recon, until chow time.
Lt. Hanley showed up again during chow time, and joined Billy & Littlejohn at their table. Time passed, but despite the excellent chow (NOT provided by the army, as you can guess), we began to grow concerned when our departure time approached, and one entire patrol (Jim Hummel's) was still MIA. King Two volunteered (quite quickly) to go out in the jeep and rescue them. Shortly thereafter our "Lost Patrol" turned up, thank heavens safe & sound. As it turned out, they had not been ambushed by Krauts; it was actually a lot of extra narration by an unusually loquacious Caje (who had accompanied them) which kept them out for so long. Some hurried eating was done before we all boarded the troop carriers once again and headed back to base camp.
There, Lt. Hanley promptly set up HQ in the bar & waited till his Q&A session began. This time he made up for his brevity the night before -- and how! Billy & Littlejohn re-enacted their "lost grenade pin" scene, much to the delight of the troops ... hey, guys, you ever think about doing that act for the USO??? And Caje wrapped up the evening's appearances by our GIs with some stories about other fabled soldiers (John Wayne) and his experience fighting on two fronts, both in front of the camera & behind it (in the editing room).
At the auction that followed, some of us really blew our service pay ... over a thousand bucks' worth ... all for a good cause (charity), mind you. And some lucky dogfaces won some really nifty prizes at the raffle. Esther/Bob came away with the much-sought-after Saunders picture donated by Red Three. Chameleon's little brother Matt got a whole bunch of casings from Franklin Canyon, which should make him a very popular kid among his buddies for some time to come!
After the auction, which concluded a very long & tiring day, the troops dispersed ... some to the bar, some to the rec (video) room, many off to hit the sack.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
I got up early & went to the rec room at 0800 hours to do some equipment switching (on the sly, since I had not filled out a requisition form!). I returned an original cable to King Two in her foxhole. She proceeded to tell me that Caje had been reading my "Stars & Stripes" essays in the bathtub that morning & had asked her who this "Othello" was (that's how I signed all my essays), saying he wanted to meet this person. Hmmm ... I was unsure which bit of info was more exciting to me -- the fact that he liked my writing, or the image of Caje sitting in a state of "deshabille" in a bathtub. (Believe me, ladies, when one is a writer, things like this truly are a toss-up!)
I then went downstairs & rendezvous'd with Checkmate Blue for chow. The spread, once again, was not regular army. In fact, everything was *so* sumptuous we thought for while that the war had ended & this was a Victory brunch ... but not so. There were still more details on our schedule. At 1200 hours Checkmate Blue & I ran two games -- Combategories & the Similation Grenade Toss. King Two bravely volunteered to be on two different teams in the Combategories games, which ended up being won by The Big Group (thanks to a lot of like-minded thinking between Dodger & a fireman from Wisconsin). Once again, Chameleon's brother Matt came out a winner; in the Grenade Toss he threw four straight hits in the playoff round.
A.D. Flowers & Burt Kennedy appeared for Q&A, both amusing the troops with a number of one-liners and funny anecdotes. At one point A.D. asked, "Is Rick here?" ... to which the crowd responded, "No" ... and A.D. then got a big laugh when he said, "Good." (He then proceeded to tell a humorous story about an episode in which our Hanley was a bit, uh, shall we say, noiviss in the soiviss).
Around 1300 hours we again got to meet with our GIs, who dauntlessly signed their names to our war souvenirs. I finally got to speak with Caje & told him I was the notorious "Othello." I apologized for my French grammar mistakes in the essay, but he was very gracious, saying I'd gotten only one letter wrong -- what was "du" should have been "de." (Even though I knew there was also an improperly conjugated verb in there too ... but bless him for not noticing!) "You crack me up," he said. I kept the bathtub story to myself, not wanting to embarrass him, but it turned out this kind of modesty probably wasn't necessary. The scuttlebutt had it later on that Pfc. LeMay, like any good red-blooded man of French descent, was flirting outrageously weez all zee mademoiselles zee whole weekend.
There was another round of raffle drawings. I won a set of repro Saunders dogtags, and Marty tossed an entire cup-full of tickets in the air when he won a framed copy of my MGM lot photo, which he wanted very badly. Steve Rubin's Combat Jeopardy finals (won by, who else, Mr. Encyclopedia-head) concluded the Recon events. While the game was going on, I rescued some of my equipment from the rec room upstairs. On the way back down I passed Billy Nelson, casually hanging out at the corner of Grand Central Station (aka the front desk), and struck up a very pleasant conversation with him. He said the "skit" the previous night had been Littlejohn's idea, since it turns out Littlejohn is rather nervous when working without a script. I reassured Billy that the intended target (our senses of humor) had indeed been hit.
Around 1700 hours we boarded another troop carrier (this time, a school bus ... can you tell the budget was wearing thin at this point?) and several private vehicles, and embarked for Lt. Hanley's house a few miles away. Hanley must've pulled rank on the mess sergeant, because the chow was excellent. Others have already remarked on the Stuff in the Punchbowl, so I won't go into detail about it. Suffice it to say that I naively thought it was going to be a rather innocuous beverage; but after one glass I was reeling and so had to switch to good ole American Coca-Cola (I know, I know ... what a wimp!).
It was nice to see our GIs "at ease." Hanley held court swapping risque jokes ... Fans told a joke which Littlejohn thought was particularly hilarious because Hanley was the "butt" of it (and which Hanley thought was pretty funny too) ... Caje took some time off from flirting weez zee mademoiselles and got into an extended discussion about Napoleon with the fireman from Wisconsin ... and Billy told a funny story about Eleanora Hunt (aka Elizabeth Allen), which I only caught half of, alas.
All too soon, the sun went down and it was time to go. We alerted the troops and reluctantly headed for our vehicles. Fans was so upset that everything was over that she broke down sobbing. Caje, once again the true Frenchman, began to cry too. ... I guess it's true what they say, that "wartime friendships" are special. Certainly it was true of us ... this was a weekend in which we had all made friendships that are inexplicable to many of our family members, and which can only be understood by fellow "Combat!" fans.
Cheers, everyone. Au revoir, and best wishes to all of you in your civvie lives.
Othello out (radio silence)