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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Merlin's Family War Story

Funny thing about war stories, the name of the war, the name of the country or army may change and the years are different like BC or AD but the stories and certain truths remain strikingly similar.
During one summer of the early1970’s three generations of veterans were in a back yard telling ‘war stories’. They had served in different wars, Granddad served in the U. S. Army in WWI, my father was WWII U. S. Navy and we sons late of the U. S. Army during Viet Nam. All had been Enlisted men and/or NCO’s. This particular story was told by Granddad Joe Bianco in his still heavy Italian accent.
It was spring of 1918 at Camp Dodge, Iowa, during the First War to end all wars. Italian born Private Joe Bianco was a tailor in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, but this day he and three more of Uncle Sam’s ‘doughboys’ were repairing a roadside ditch.
The job had been progressing well, even though all four of them were in the 4-foot deep ditch and had to throw the dirt and weeds up and out, the young men were almost enjoying the work in the warm sun. They had managed to find a comfortable rhythm and were deeply engrossed in the process.
He continued his story with thick Italian accent and a great sense of timing.
“There’s a four of us workin’ in a ditch, we shovel all the weeds and stuff up an out a da ditch, we in the ditch along the road and the sunshine is a nice and soon itsa like a summer day an we no notice noting but da ditch.”
“Then suddenly there is a ‘tenente, a lootenente and he’sa say. ‘Don’a you men saloota an officer?’ We stopa workin’ an look up ona da road. “
“I said, Don’t you men salute an officer?”
“So now we all a know hesa no happy so we snappa to attenzione and throw a fine saloota at the lootenente. An we think maybe he go away an leave us alone. But no he a brand new tenente and in a fine new uniform all sharply pressed and hesa maybe gotta different idea.”
“If you men can’t salute an officer when you see him, maybe you need some more training. Put down those shovels and stand at attention and give me a good proper salute.”
“So we alla four put down the tools an we stand in da mud. We gotta no shirts an our hats they are off but we come at a full attenzione and all saloota dis tenente.”
“That’s better, now when I say ‘salute’ you all do it again.” He said.
“Saloota.” He commanda.
So we plays along an we all saloota.
“Saloota.” He repeata.
“Again we performe like a circus. Now we all know the drill. We gonna saloota till he gets a tired. Again and again he say saloota and we’d saloota. This a go on for a few minute and the sun she’sa now become hot and the day it’sa a no more fun.”
“Then a Colonel, who’sa commandante of Camp Dodge, he’s on his horse, he come down da road to see what’sa happenin’. He look on from aways and then he rides’a close up. One of the boys he sing out. “Atten-hut.”
“The Lootenente he spin aroun’ an spot’a the Colonel. He snappe to attention ana bring his a hand up to his hat brim in a nice saloota.”
“Lieutenant, what are we doing here? How come these men have stopped working on the ditch?”
“Sir, the men didn’t salute when I came upon them and I was having them practice.”
The Colonel he look at us four in a ditch an he saw shovels no being used and tired dirty soldiers no doin whata need to be done. He took it all in and then asked. “Lootenente show me how you teacha these men the proper Army saloota.”
“The tenente he turn to face us and he say “Saloota.”
“All four of us, we give a him a nicea sharp saloota. Now we tink maybe dis gonna stoppa the sillynessa.”
The Colonel thought for a bit and then said. “I see what the problem is, these men are saluting well but your lesson is missing the mark.”
“I looka at da boys an we alla little confused.”
The Colonel continued “Lieutenant, what you need to do is demonstrate a complete proper salute. When they salute, you must return that salute. I want you to try again only now one of you privates will salute the lieutenant and he will return that salute then the next private and the next. Do you understand?”
“All of us we answer “A Yes sir.”
“So now I watcha da boy at the other end of the line saloota the Tenente and then, as the young officer returned that salute with a salute, I begin ta git it. “
“The seconda soldier he now saloota and da officer he returna that saloota.”
“The third soldier saloota and the officer returna that saloota.”
“Now I gotta full take on the Colonelos plan. Before, the tenente he would order a saloota and alla four us we performe, now one private saloota and the officer he gotta saloota back. Thata young officer wita da new shiney bars he gotta return a saloota four for my one.”
“I saloota and the Tenente, he saloota back but only I gotta small smile.”
“Backa da first soldier who again saloota and the Lt. again he return ‘at salute. “
“So now itsa change, all four of us privates we stand a little taller and we gotta twinkles in our eyes even the Colonelo, he gotta twinkle & a smile.”
“Better still, ‘dat young tenente he seems ta age and tire as he returna salootas four to one.”
“Thisa circus, she goes ona few more time and then the Colonelo he bring it to a halt.”
“Men, I hope a you gain from this. You take a few minutes rest and then go on with your work. Lieutenant you may continue with your inspection tour.”
The tenente he saloota and we four saloota and da Colonelo, he returna da fine saloota.

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