Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WWII Interview - 2

In or about 1960, when I was 8 years old I first met my Uncle Bud.  Bud was an anomaly, being unmarried during a time when all successful businessmen were married.  Physically Bud was a small, somewhat stocky man of good appearance.  He was affable; people tended to like him.  Bud drove a black Buick convertible with power windows - even the side vents were power.  The radio had a scan feature controlled by a button on the floor, which was unheard of back then.  Bud also had a telephone in his car, which worked the same way a ship to shore phone worked.  You had to call the mobile operator, then the operator would connect you.  Being essentially a radio, there was no privacy to your calls.  Anyone trying to get Bud on his car phone had to know what area of the country Bud was likely to be found in, although I imagine that the phone company would help find him.  He also had to have his phone turned on.

My grandparents did a lot of entertaining back then, and my grandmother set a very fancy table.  People dressed for dinner and the agenda for an evening would consist of a cocktail hour where everyone had one or two drinks, followed by dinner and desert.  Dinner was followed by cards, bridge being the game of choice. The evening would conclude around 1:00 AM.

One fine evening little Mad Jack was invited over for dinner.  Jacky's mother saw to it that he was scrubbed within an inch of his young life and stuffed into his Sunday best, then reminded him that he was to be on his very best behavior and not to talk about things like bounced checks and backed up toilets at the dinner table.  In fact, not talking at all seemed the best course of action.

Like most little boys - okay, like all little boys of that time - I was fascinated with World War II, and so when we were seated around the dinner table, I naturally asked Bud what he did during the war.  Bud laughed.  "Well, Jacky, I was a little sneak. I worked for the O.S.S."

I knew about the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines.  A question mark slowly formed over my pointy head.

"What's the O.S.S.?" I asked.

"That's the C.I.A." Bud replied.  Still no enlightenment, which must have been obvious to Bud.  "I worked underground with the French Resistance." Bud explained.

Now I was impressed. "A spy?  Wow!  You were a real spy?" I couldn't believe my good luck.  My Uncle Bud was a real, honest to goodness spy.  Real cloak and dagger stuff.

"Well, yes, I suppose I was." Bud seemed a little evasive, but I persisted.

"What kind of gun did you carry?" I asked.

"A .25 Beretta.  I still have it in my nightstand at home."  Bud replied.

"What's it look like?"

"Oh, it's small, about the size of your hand.  You'd carry it in your hat, you see."

"Why?" I hadn't noticed how quiet the dinner table had gotten, but in retrospect I'm fairly certain my grandparents were looking for an opening to change the subject.  I wasn't going to give them one.

"Well, if you're captured they'd tell you to put your hands on your head, which was where the gun was."
I mulled this one over.  I'd never heard of any of this before.

"Were you ever captured?"

Bud paused, then replied somewhat shortly. "Several times."

Now clearly, if Bud were captured and wasn't killed (he wasn't, as evidenced by his presence at the dinner table) there was only one way he got loose.  None the less, I wanted to hear all about it.

"What did you do?" I was all ears.  For Bud's answer, anyway.  I was ignoring my grandfather.

"Well, they told me to put my hands on top of my head, you see... Would you pass me some potatoes, please?  Your grandmother's dinner is excellent." Bud was unruffled.

Conversation was firmly turned to a topic more suited to dinner and mixed company, but later on I did learn that Bud spoke German, and I suspect he could speak French as well.

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