Sunday, May 08, 2005

French Lessons - Part 1

It was in 1951, there was a "Police Action" in Korea and I was bored in college, looking for excitement and adventure. When W.W.II ended in 1945, I was a disappointed that I hadn't had a chance to be a hero. So I enlisted in the Marines and started an odyssey that would eventually take me around the world and back...

Boot Camp at the Recruit Training Depot, San Diego was mostly like you see it in the movies. My Drill Instructor, Sgt. Snarksy (real name) was a prototype DI - even his name was threatening. (I bet you can't say "Snarsky" without curling your upper lip at the corner)
I was named after my father, who was named after his, so on my birth certificate it says: "Ned Carlton Smith III" and my Marine Corps records show that name. At roll call every morning Sgt. Snarsky would call out each platoon member's name "Adams" and Adams would reply "Here Sir" and this would go until he got to me
and Snarsky would read slowly and carefully "Ned Carlton Smith III" and I would reply "Here sir" every day for 90 days.
Later, I would buddy up with a guy from New Orleans, "Shelton S. Harell III " and we would be known as the "two thirds"
After Boot Camp, I went on to advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton and then a thirty day leave before going to Korea.

While waiting for reassignment after a short stint in the hospital I was in the Battalion Sgt. Major's office and while waiting to see the Sgt. Major I examined the Battalion bulletin board. Every bit of the board was covered with memos and instructions, the stacks pinned to the board were at least two inches thick and there three rows and four column. maybe 12-1500
documents. I browsed randomly and after only a few minutes came upon one that really caught my attention.

Reading further I discovered that applications were being accepted from Marines with a minimum of 1 year of college, GCT scores of 120 or more (GCT scores are roughly the equivalent of IQ's) Minimum height 5' 10" and fluency in at least 1 language besides english. Although my fluency in French at that time would have been stretching things a little, on the whole I met all of the other qualifications and I decided that Embassy duty would be a lot more fun than a muddy bunker, I took the document into the Sgt. Major's office when he called me in.
He started to hand me my new orders but before he could say "Now, get the hell out of here" I said "Excuse me Sgt. Major but I want to volunteer for this" and handed him the bulletin. He stared at it for a minute and asked me where I got it. I told him that it had been on the Bulletin Board outside his office, which seemed to surprise him completely. Obviously he did not read the Bulletin Board twice a day as we had been instructed to do.
He asked me if I was a "College Boy" and I told him that I'd been a sophomore when I enlisted. Next he checked my Service Record and verified that my GCT was 120 and I was exactly 5" 10".
Then it was the Foreign language fluency. "OK Smith" he said, "what foreign language do you speak?" and I sad "French, Sgt. Major" and this seemed to amaze him but he wasn't flustered, he only hesitated a second before he said: "Yeah, well say something in French to me then." and I said something that sounded like "Bon
jower, monsewer" He though about it, and the said "OK Smith, you're gonna have to wait while I get some new orders cut for you"

Two days later I was on a MATS plane to Washington.
(To be continued)

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