Alston Hurd Chase
Time Remembered

[Part I]

9. The Years of Suspense

My going to Andover coincided with Hitler's first moves in his determined series of violations of the Treaty of Versailles. I was one of those who early felt certain of the inevitability of a conflict and of our involvement. But in the greater bitterness of our divisions over Vietnam, too many of my generation have forgotten, and the younger people never knew, how profound was the conflict between the internationalists and the isolationist America Firsters. Indeed, had not the attack on Pearl Harbor unified the nation, it is doubtful whether Congress would have ever declared war; after all, the extension of the draft had passed the Senate by only one vote. The wily F.D.R. was, of course, deeply committed to our intervention on the side of the Allies, though he drew us on by small steps, constantly reassuring the mothers of America that their sons would never fight on foreign soil. Those who castigate lies in high places today somehow found them more palatable when delivered in that fruity baritone and prefaced by, "My friends!" Because Pearl Harbor was the one thing which could bring a united America into the War, suspicions must always linger as to Roosevelt's complicity. After all, recent evidence gives probability to the theory that Winston Churchill "set up" the Lusitania as a means of drawing us into World War I.

Such was the atmosphere of the years 1934-1941. It is my purpose in this chapter to relate a few noteworthy personal experiences between 1937 and my departure for active duty in Washington in May of 1942. The War years are a separate epoch in the lives of all who lived through them; they were also the second and conclusive act in the suicide of the West.

Among the many pleasant and lasting acquaintances which I made among the families of my students, one of the most outstanding was that with Alvin and Clarissa Williams of Pittsburgh and their four sons and two daughters. I had two of the sons, David and Franklin, in class, and one, Henry, in one of my greatest Bishop Houses. Henry was with me 2-1/2 years and was about 22 when he left, so there were only ten years between us. He was, as I have told him, the closest thing to a younger brother I ever had.

Alvin and Clarissa were a handsome couple, he with prematurely grey hair, she a blonde. Most of the children inherited his coloring, but one of the girls, Susan had ash-blonde hair and her father's dark eyes. She was one of the most beautiful young girls I ever saw, and a real spitfire.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Williams were sports enthusiasts; for many years, he acted as a judge in the National Amateur Boxing competitions, and she usually accompanied him on the trips which this involved. Once, when the bouts were in Boston, I escorted her each evening. As they lasted until very late, and I had to drive back from Boston to Andover after they were over, my morning classes suffered. Mr. Williams was a great believer in the Classics, and all three older boys --- John, the youngest, did not go to Andover --- had to take Latin or Greek or both. Henry was not bookish, but was a born salesman; David was the real intellectual of the family, the most like his father, with whom he was, predictably, constantly at odds. Franklin, always called Bus, was the original naughty schoolboy. Mischief incarnate gleamed in his dark eyes and mischief led to his dismissal from Andover, which greatly embittered his family. I must say that I sympathized with them, for his crime was far less serious than those of some others who won indulgence because they were tempting candidates for "saving" by the authorities. I shall describe some of Bus's escapades later.

My first acquaintance with the entire family came in the summer of 1937, when I drove to visit them at their farm, not far south of Erie in western Pennsylvania. What my blessed ignorance spared me was foreknowledge that the Williams' guests were subjected to a sort of initiation, a series of tests, which determined whether one should be invited a second time.

I arrived at the farm at the end of a day of broiling heat, after a long and arduous drive from Newburgh, New York, where, with Jim Grew, I had been visiting Chet Cochran. When I drove up, everyone was in the swimming pool, and I was at once invited to join them. My demurrer that I had no bathing trunks was brushed aside with the suggestion that I could come in in my undershorts. I did so, only to discover immediately that the wet shorts had become as transparent as cellophane. Those being long before the days when nude bathing was the rage and women's magazines had center-folds of naked males, I, perforce remained in the water until everyone else had left, thereby contracting a cold of gargantuan proportions.

We arose at 3am the next morning and set out for Lake Erie on a fishing trip. The party consisted of the Williams family of eight; Mr. Williams' business partner, his wife, and a prizefighter whom he "owned," Mr. Williams' two aunts; a colored maid and her husband; and, my diary enigmatically adds, "friends." This formidable safari returned about noon, having caught two fish, while some of the women had been seasick. My diary adds, "Fooled around for the rest of the day."

Sunday, the party was augmented by Mr. Williams' mother and his brother, Sandy together with three other members of his jazz band and their wives. Never have I seen such quantities of food and for the first time I saw a board which literally groaned. After dinner, two State troopers joined us, and various people performed stunts of one sort or another. If I remember correctly, I was let off only because I threatened to recite Greek poetry.

On Monday, Mr. Williams, the three older boys and I journeyed to Pittsburgh, leaving the farm at 5am. We visited one steel mill in the morning, another in the afternoon, and saw a prize fight in the evening. We ate dinner at a famous restaurant called Dutch Henry's. My diary mentions a curious combination of beer and roast chicken, but my memory recalls my being offered an innocent-appearing pickled pepper which practically burned the roof of my mouth off. Another item in the initiation!

That night we spent in the Williams' Pittsburgh home, then the next morning we visited the Carnegie Institute, lunched at the Metropolitan Club, and drove back to the farm. The cold, which had kept me thoroughly miserable for three days, began to subside, perhaps because of the large doses of castor oil which Mrs. Williams practically forced down my throat.

Two relatively quiet days followed, and I was even able to begin tutoring Henry in French, for which he had to take a makeup examination at the opening of school. In fact he was to drive back to Berwick with me to work on further preparation.

Then the initiation resumed. I was outfitted with riding pants and boots and an enormous sombrero and was then subjected to a snapshot, which was, as I later discovered, to have wide underground circulation at Andover that fall. I had strong reservations about the impending ride, having ridden only twice before in my life, if one excludes bareback rides on a farm horse in my childhood. However, my mount seemed entirely docile until we came to ford a stream. In the middle of this, he halted, refused to budge, and then slowly lay down with me in the water. I later learned that the animal was treasured for this idiosyncrasy as providing a major act in the initiation. Not surprisingly, my cold grew worse.

Henry spent some time with me at Berwick studying for that make-up but, as in my previous attempt with Charles Crane, it was effort wasted. I never tried again. We had one amusing lesson in the differences of local dialects. One day, as I was preparing lunch, I said, "Henry, please bring me a spider." His black eyes widened and he grew visibly paler. Then I realized that our local term for a skillet or frying pan had for him a solely entomological significance. In the days of fireplace cooking, such utensils had legs on which to set them in coals or hot ashes, and I assume that the fancied resemblance to the arachnids gave them their New England name.

I paid another visit to the Williamses in the spring of 1938, this time at their Pittsburgh home. I was then given a postgraduate test in my initiation series. One evening, when we were all invited to a dance, I was feeling tired and out-of-sorts, so begged off in the hope of a quiet evening and an early retirement. Such a thought was horrifying to the dynamic Williamses, so they devised a small divertissement to keep me from loneliness or boredom.

Mr. Williams' partner had a brother who was a captain in the Pittsburgh police. The partner, the captain and I embarked on a close inspection of Pittsburgh's nightlife. We visited joint after joint and in each we were invited into a back room to have one with the boys. Refusal would have been viewed as an insult, and so the images of the evening became progressively blurred. I do recall that at one gambling house the three of us were hastily concealed in a cloak closet when warning of a raid by the "Feds" was flashed. Luckily, it was a false alarm but I had for a few moments' vivid pictures of Dr. Fuess's face as he scanned a headline, "Andover Teacher Nabbed by Police in Gambling Hall."

It was 4am when I returned to the Williams' home. In those happy days, I never suffered hangovers, and I was up the next morning at 11, merely a bit weary. Mr. Williams' partner was confined to his bed for the day. I had passed the final test in the Williams series.

In those pleasant years, Jim Grew and I used to go to New York after Christmas for a bout of theater. I think it was in the fall of 1937 that he took me to meet Miss Alma Clayburgh and her mother, Madame Clayburgh, who had been an opera singer in years past. One evening not long after, Jim, Alma and I went to see the Lunts in Amphitryon and after the play they went off on their own devices, which proved to be the process of becoming engaged. When this became known at Andover, there was quite a bit of speculation that it would prove the end of my close friendship with Jim. Happily, as so often has happened with my friends who have married, I merely gained another friend. Alma is a most remarkable woman, beautiful in person, strong in character, and to quote Ben Jonson, "kind as she is fair." Not the least remarkable of her achievements was her graceful transition from a youth spent among the great of New York society, where her mother was a famous hostess, to being the wife of a Master in the close-knit and perhaps provincial world of a New England preparatory school. I hope she will forgive me if I relate one of the very few slips she ever made. We were at luncheon one spring Sunday, the year after her marriage, at the home of one of the school's trustees in North Andover. Alma spied a budding bush outside the window and asked the hostess its name. "Why, it's a lilac," replied Mrs. Stevens. I fear that Alma did not hear the last of that for some time.

Jim and Alma were married in St. Bartholomew's in New York on June 14, 1938. I was asked to be one of the ushers and so took part in my second society wedding. Everything about it was bound to impress a small town boy --- the series of elaborate parties, the splendor of the wedding ceremony itself in the Byzantine luxuriance of the church, the large number of guests from the musical, theatrical and social worlds of New York and Boston. I even purchased a silk hat for the occasion, a bit of elegance which I have never had the opportunity to wear since. Just the other day I took it from its box for its annual brushing. The cutaway and striped trousers I rented.

The late Talbot Baker and I, being the shortest ushers, headed the procession down the long aisle with its floor of slippery tiles. The slow march made it difficult to maintain one's equilibrium, and I very nearly lost mine when we reached the front pew, where Madame Clayburgh sat with President Roosevelt's mother. She leaned over to me as I passed and whispered, "Magnificent!" That nearly did the trick.

That summer of 1938 was a last taste of the delights of our comfortable old world, though the threatening clouds of Munich were rising in the East. I crossed to Europe on a Canadian Pacific ship, through endless rain and fog and abundant ice, which recalled my childhood memories of the Titanic disaster. On landing at Cherbourg, I did not take the boat train to Paris but began a program of visiting great French Gothic churches. I saw Coutances, Avranches, Mont Saint Michel, Bayeux, Lisieux and the two great churches of Caen before proceeding to a rendezvous with Chet Cochran in Paris.

It seemed that almost everyone I knew was in Europe that summer --- Harvard students and classmates, Chet, Post and his friend Chauncey Tinker of Yale, Madame Clayburgh and later, the Grews, both deeply tanned from a honeymoon trip in Sicily. Chet and I developed a comfortable routine. I was staying at the Louvois, he at a hotel on the Left Bank. Since he arose late and I early, we did not meet until late morning. I spent the morning writing letters, then strolled to the American Express for mail. After buying a London Times I would find a table at Viel's Café, read the news and work on the crossword puzzle until Chet came along. Over an apéritif, we would discuss where to lunch, stroll to the chosen restaurant and have a leisurely meal. We separated then for siestas, met again at Viel's, had dinner and went to the theater or simply sat at some café table on the boulevards and watched the passing crowds. I recall one occasion when, after rather a hearty dinner, we went to a performance of Das Rheingold under its French title of L'Or du Rhin I slept through the entire second act! Chet never revealed whether I snored. If I did, the sound was concealed by Wagnerian fortissimi.

I spent a memorable evening on Montmartre with Madame Clayburgh. We dined at a small restaurant of her choice where she called my attention to a handsome man across the room. "That is Georges Carpentier." she said, "I met him years ago." Not knowing then that Madame collected celebrities as others do first editions, I was skeptical of how well she knew him but Carpentier suddenly spied us and at once crossed the room and greeted Madame warmly. We went later to the Bal Tabourin, where we saw an exceptionally good show and later strolled about the streets of that lively section. Outside one boîte, a barker tried to lure us in but Madame said sternly, "I certainly shall not take a clean young American boy in your club." As I was then 32, the statement was a bit hyperbolic but the barker was awed by her manner of authority.

I made numerous day trips to great cathedrals --- Amiens, Beauvais, Bourges, and my great love, Chartres. Chet and I had a delightful day at Rheims with his friends, the de Costiers, who were to be so kind to me a few years later. One long day I spent in a pilgrimage to Vézelay with its splendid Romanesque church, which stands on or near the spot where Pope Urban II preached one of his fiery sermons urging men on the First Crusade.

Chet went with me to Rouen to see the cathedral and other great churches, so soon to suffer from Allied bombardments. In the restaurant where we went for lunch the service was so slow that we decided to walk out. Chet took a wrong turn and ended in the kitchen, whence he emerged to walk scarlet-faced through other amused patrons to the proper door.

All travelers in France learn that major lines of communication radiate from Paris like spokes of a wheel and that traveling across those lines presents major difficulties. I tried this on the day when I combined visits to Amiens and Beauvais and went from the former to the latter by cross-country local train. It proved to be a delightful experience, for I was in no haste and enjoyed our meandering progress through the rich French countryside at summer's height with long pauses at each small station, with its neat flower beds, while the train's crew all got off and shook hands with the stationmasters and other friends and passed the time of day.

One of the great events of the summer was the state visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Paris. Chet and I stood two hours and a half in a dense crowd on the Champs Elysées to watch them pass. The French so feared an attack upon them that masses of troops lined the road and the rooftops were crowded with police. That was our first experience with protection against terrorism, which has become so familiar a phenomenon in the past two decades. The calvacade of King and Queen and President of France and his wife sped by so fast that we could glimpse only the tops of their heads. We did see them well a day or two later when there was a ceremonial procession by water down the Seine, or rather, up-stream. One delightful incident does linger in my memory from the Champs Elysées. A line of cavalry was stationed directly in front of us. They whiled away the long wait by practicing drawing their sabres and presenting them in salute. One obviously very green recruit in front of us could not extract his sabre from its sheath. He tugged and tugged, amid jeers from the crowd and oaths from his commander. Fortunately, by the time the procession passed, he had mastered the secret.

One afternoon, Chet and I went for a drink to Harry's American Bar. It was heavy with sentimental legends of Americans in Paris in the years of World War I and the 20's. As we sat over our drinks, I said wistfully, "It must have been wonderful to have been stationed in Paris in the First World War." The gods were listening for just over six years later, I was to be stationed in Paris in World War II.

We sailed homeward from Cherbourg that summer in an atmosphere thick with the menace of the Czech crisis. As I watched the harbor gradually fall behind us I thought that I might never see it again, but I did, though it was to be 18 years later.

The most noteworthy event of 1939 in my personal history was a western trip. Lee Purser's ship was to visit the World's Fair in San Francisco and then proceed to dry dock at the Navy Yard in Bremerton, Washington. We concocted a plan whereby we were to meet in San Francisco for the Fair; then I was to go ahead to Bremerton and rent an apartment for us. After Lee arrived, he was to take leave, we should hire a car and drive some distance up the Columbia River and possibly also down the Olympic Peninsula.

I made the trip west on one of the special tourist trains run that summer to lure people to the Fair. It was great fun and unbelievably cheap; all drinks were 25¢ and no meal cost more than a dollar.

The San Francisco plans worked out happily. The Fair was beautiful, the weather superb, and San Francisco was at its unsurpassable best. There lingers in my mind one special memory of that summer --- the strains of The Beer Barrel Polka which one heard everywhere.

And another song always recalls Bremerton, The Sunrise Serenade, which seemed perpetually on the radio as I sat in that lonely apartment. For shortly after Lee's ship arrived, he was sent to the naval hospital for surgery and though he was soon able to get passes to come home for supper and the evening, he had to return nightly to the hospital and spend the day there. So our plans to see the Columbia and the Olympic Peninsula were frustrated. Furthermore, a strike on the ferry line to Seattle kept me confined to Bremerton. I learned how dreary and dull any military town can be when one is at loose ends and belongs to no part of the Establishment. It was partly in an attempt to pass the long hours that I began serious work on that translation of the Iliad in which young William Perry, my former student, became my collaborator. It was that same summer that saw the bursting of the storm which was to delay the completion of our Iliad for nine years.

I came home via Victoria, Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies on a Canadian Pacific train. The superb mountain scenery is paralled by an equal and opposite extreme in the endless monotony of the plains. War was expected at any moment and when we crossed the frontier into the United States, one passenger got out and kissed the ground.

I must turn back a moment to the previous Christmas, when Kit Norbury made his first visit to America on a combined business and pleasure trip. Landing in New York, he took a taxi to his hotel and the driver took him almost around the island in order to run up the fare. I call this to the attention of those travelers who are always eloquent about the cheating ways of European taxi men. I had assured him that the stories of crime in the streets were exaggerated. When I met him in Boston at the train from Chicago, whither he had gone from New York, he could hardly wait to finish the conventional greetings before telling me that he had actually witnessed a holdup in Chicago.

Andover provided some of our crisp sub-zero weather, cold he had never experienced. He was lionized as visiting Englishmen still are, and had an American Christmas with my family. On Boxing Day, I drove him to New York and we had a round of theaters and more parties. New York, as was usual in those days, was thronged with present and former students and colleagues of mine; Kit was so impressed by the number of acquaintances whom I encountered at one theatrical performance that he commented that I must know half of America. I basked for a moment in this undeserved distinction and then explained the reason for the influx of people known to me.

I am sure that two experiences particularly lingered in his memory. The first was a tea at Madame Clayburgh's, where Gladys Cooper and Philip Merivale were among the guests. As Gladys had been an object of Kit's adoration for many years, he could scarcely credit his eyes when he saw her in person. The second experience was that of seeing the New Year in in Times Square. Both of us were full of foreboding as to what 1939 would bring but neither had the faintest suspicion as to the strange circumstances under which we were next to meet.

This seems an appropriate place at which to digress briefly on the great kindness shown me by Madame in inviting me to her famous parties and introducing me to some of the more well-known scenes in the nightlife of pre-War New York. Her parties were always filled with the great and famous in every sphere. One evening I was bid to a musicale at Sherry's where she had an apartment. As usual, I arrived far too early and was put to wait in a reception room. Soon I was joined by a pleasant, white-haired lady who reminded me much of my own mother. We chatted easily for some time, never introducing ourselves, until we were ushered into the large room where the musicale was to take place. Later, I asked someone who my companion had been and discovered, to my immense surprise, that she was Mrs. August Belmont, the famous patroness of the Metropolitan Opera. I think that it was at the same party, where we were seated in the traditional uncomfortable little gold chairs, that I glanced behind me and found Charlie Chaplin and Dorothy Thompson sitting side by side in the next row.

The years of 1940 and 1941 seem to have brought nothing noteworthy up to the climactic date of Pearl Harbor. It must have been at some time during those years that Professor Jackson summoned Henry Phillips and me to his apartment overlooking the Charles River and asked us to write the beginner's Greek book which he had long projected but which he now felt that he would never write. He gave us his outline of lessons and bade us go to work with his blessing. Henry had for some time been collecting significant sentences from Greek authors for use in his classes at Exeter, so he undertook to write the exercises in translation from Greek to English and from English to Greek. Accordingly, my rôle by necessity, became that of composing the grammatical explanations. So Jackson's prophecy was fulfilled and I became interested in, if not entranced by, grammar.

I do find an interesting note in my diary for 1940 upon what seemed to us adults the curious lack of interest in the War on the part of the students, and attitude in marked contrast to the frenetic activism of the campus demonstrators against the Vietnam conflict. Now we are witnessing a reaction against this extreme activism. Educators, who should know better, seem never to learn to allow for these rhythmic alterations in student attitudes. Their part should be to maintain a steady course toward what they conceive to be the basic ends of education, not allowing themselves to be blown about by every wind of student enthusiasm.

As I review these years, I am reminded of a passage in the Younger Pliny's Letters in which he comments upon the fact that each individual day is crowded with engagements and business, yet when one reviews the activities of any block of time, the total is nearly empty of significance. This is true of many of my 34 years on the Andover campus. They did, of course, have meaning because they were occupied with the important task of bringing boys to what we hoped would be happy, useful and well-balanced manhood. But the disputes on policy and on individual cases which seemed so crucial at the time lose much of their urgency in retrospect.

Throughout 1941 we waited for the signal, which, like the trois coups in the French theater, would herald the rising of the curtain upon the inevitable tragedy. Lee Purser, now a CPO in the submarine service, was stationed in New London. His wife and children were in Oklahoma and so he came up to Andover or Berwick weekend after weekend. Always an alarmist, he said a final farewell so many times that I was torn between weariness and laughter, as is the way with emotional anticlimax. That summer, Father and I painted the house here, and Lee, who had a better head than I and fewer years than Father, proved a great help upon the high places. I was up on a ladder painting when a wire came telling of the birth of my goddaughter, Alma Grew Jr., on July 29.

Everyone alive and aware at the time is supposed to remember exactly where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For many years, I have told that I was listening to a symphony on the radio at my parents' home in Melrose when the music was interrupted by an announcement that planes of unknown origin were bombing our naval base at Pearl Harbor. My diary, however, has a slightly different, and I am sure, an accurate version, namely, t1J was reading when Marion turned on the radio at 5:15 for Kaltenborn (a popular news commentator of the period) and we heard the news that Japanese planes had made an attack on Pearl Harbor." So much for the editorial and elaborative powers of my memory.

That evening there was a meeting of the Faculty Shop Club. I walked back to my House with Dirk van der Stucken, the German Master who presided over the other side of the dormitory. I have always believed that as we walked through the crisp cold of the December night, Dirk remarked, "This is the end of the world as we have known it." However, my diary coldly informs me that it was I, not Dirk, who made this sufficiently obvious prophecy.

<A NAME="military"></A>As early as the late winter of 1941, I had begun to make provident castings for a commission in Naval Intelligence. The Navy was not impressed until after Pearl Harbor, when, thanks to Charles Crane, an Andover trustee, and others, I was summoned for a physical examination. Surely these examinations were the greatest examplars of democracy in her more comic aspects. There was a wild humor worthy of Aristophanes in the spectacle of long lines of men standing shivering in their shorts or in complete nakedness, with all the idiosyncrasies of normal human anatomy pitilessly exposed. I was declared healthy in wind and limb, save for my eyes. The Navy was famous for its strictness in ocular requirements and my eyes, which delight oculists because of a rather rare abnormality, were dimly viewed by the Navy doctors. First, I have a near-sighted right eye and a far-sighted left. Since Nature had arranged a balance that served me perfectly, I was unaware of the condition until the Navy, with its customary lack of humor, rejected me with the comment that after I had become the sole-surviving officer on a ship, my left eye might be shot out in battle and only my right remain, unable to see the distant foe. I conquered a temptation to refer to Lord Nelson. My damnation was completed by the discovery that I am mildly color-blind; that is, although I can distinguish isolated primary colors, I have difficulty making them out when superimposed upon others. Accordingly, though I passed the light tests, those wretched jumbles of dots which were supposed to reveal a figure or pattern were just jumbles of dots to me. Later, of course, the Service discovered that men with such a defect were valuable because they could pierce some camouflage which was calculated to baffle normal vision.

Later in the winter of 1942, the Navy in Boston was sufficiently impressed by my Harvard record to allow me a waiver on my eyes, but some reviewer in Washington voided the waiver.

Months later when I was working in Washington for the Air Force on Italy, I used to receive material on Italy from Naval Intelligence with extraordinary mistranslations. I remarked with what I believe was justifiable acerbity, that the officer responsible no doubt had 20/20 vision.

Meanwhile, various friends were active on my behalf, and as so frequently happens, the slimmest chance proved to be the most fruitful. Winfield Sides, the Chairman of the Andover Mathematics Department, suggested that I write a former student of his --- the name has now vanished from my memory --- who was an officer in the meteorological section of the Air Force. With minimal hopes, I did so, explaining that my meteorological ignorance was complete but that I did have a fair competence in French and German and a reading knowledge of Spanish and Italian. A long time passed, and in the meanwhile I had been rejected by the Navy for the second time. Then I received a summons to an interview at Air Intelligence Headquarters in Washington. I at once wrote back that inasmuch as I had been twice turned down by the Navy, it seemed that I should be wasting their time and mine by going down for the interview. This seemed merely to whet their appetite for I received a second invitation, in stronger terms, and an appointment was made for March 14, during our spring vacation.

I decided to combine that trip with a first visit to New Orleans. I so loved the old city on sight for its easy, indolent ways and delicious food, that I determined to return each spring if I survived the War. I carried out that resolution for many years after 1945 until tourism and modernity combined to rob the city of most of its unique character.

I stopped in Washington on my way south. In the Air Force office, I was interviewed rather perfunctorily by Major Moss and Captain Zimmerman. The principal rôle, however, was played by Major Hughes, a former British officer in India, with a fascinating combination of an English accent and a pronounced stammer.

His final question was, "Can you translate technical German at sight?" I replied that I could ordinary German but was not confident of my command of technical terms. "We'll soon see," said he, and bade his secretary bring him a German volume on the German canal system. Opening it at random, he pointed to one paragraph and said, "Translate that." As it chanced, the passage had not a single technical term in it and I translated it straight off without hesitation.

"Fine," said the Major, "You go up to Boston, take a physical, get a waiver on your eyes, and we'll give you a commission as a Second Lieutenant."

Many weeks later, when I was already at work in the Major's office, I told a fellow officer about the interview. He burst out laughing. "The old boy doesn't know a word of German," he said. "You could have said anything."

On April 1, I again joined the naked line at a service physical examination. Next to me was a husky, jolly Boston Irishman. In the easy camaraderie which our situation induced, I told him how I had twice been rejected for Naval Intelligence. "Aw," was his comment, "It's no use trying to get into that unless you went to Harvard." I did not enlighten him that in my case, not even that accomplishment had been of avail.

Then weeks passed without a word and I was sure that I was doomed to another rejection. One Sunday afternoon, the tenth of May, I was in my study working on an essay on Caterina Sforza, when my phone rang. It was a telegram directing me to report in Washington for active duty with the Air Force (at that time, it was still the Army Air Corps) on the following Saturday, May 16. It was signed, "Ullio, Adjutant General." The name was so improbable that my first reaction was to suspect a prank on the part of some of my humorous friends. However, enquiry and longer consideration convinced me that the wire was genuine and that the vast jaws of the War were about to engulf me.

The days that followed were a turmoil of preparations. Arrangements had to be made with the school for someone to cover my classes and for settlement of my future status. I was given a leave of absence with a guarantee of reemployment upon my return from the War. The school undertook to keep up its payments to the TIAA Pension Fund for me, whereas I was to keep up my share from my Army pay. Most of my goods, books and furniture were packed and stored in my parents' home in Melrose, Massachusetts. Then I had to buy uniforms, no mean problem, as everyone else was trying to get them. After struggles and objurgations, I finally obtained shirts, socks, "pinks" (officers' trousers), insignia, cap and a heavily padded tunic, much better suited to service in the Arctic than in Washington in May, as I soon discovered.

Nearly every night there was a farewell party for me but my mood was by no means without its anxieties. I used to lie awake at night and dread the unknown which lay ahead. After all, from the age of six, I had passed my entire life in one academic atmosphere or another, a life of shelter and security. To leave such a cocoon at the age of 36 was bound to fill me with apprehension. Although I did not then know it, my experience in handling boys in their middle and late teens was to prove valuable. And I found I was to owe a very great debt to all that Lee Purser had told me about his life in the Navy. Most important of all was his teaching that the Services are, or were then, largely run by the old professional NonComs, who deal most directly with the lower ranks. Thanks to this knowledge, I made it a practice to get on good terms with the Top Kick in any new outfit which I joined --- this, after I left Headquarters for the field --- and never, never to reject his advice or "pull rank," as some of my greener associates did. A hostile top sergeant can do much to ruin the standing of a green officer.

Part One, Chapter Ten
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