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Most of the time, leaders should laugh at themselves rather than others.
-- Major General Perry M. Smith
As I sometimes did, when the information for the next day's mission was slow in coming in, I would not call my driver but just get in my car and drive myself around the perimeter track, stopping now and then to talk to the men working on the planes. Of course, everything was blacked out. To drive we used a mere slit of light from the car's headlights to see the road.
One cold, rainy, dark night, I had circled the perimeter track and was heading back to the war room at headquarters, when I saw a G.I. walking not too steadily along the perimeter road. I stopped beside him, asked him where he was going and suggested he get in and I would take him there.
He settled himself in the seat, turned to me, and obviously thinking I was my driver, asked, "What do you think of that old bastard you work for?"
Somewhat startled, I told him that that old bastard was really a pretty good guy.
His response to that was that because I worked for him I had to say that, and, after all, I was not walking around in the rain as he was, but was riding in a warm, dry car.
So we discussed the old man and I did my best selling job when, to top off his argument, he said the old man really didn't know much, and especially about guarding airplanes. Now I had never thought much abot that. I suppose I just assumed the MPs knew their job, and were doing it even though we did get reports of sabotage once in a while.
About that time we arrived at the 68th Squadron area. As he got out, I asked for and was told his name.
The next morning, after the mission took off, I called the Commander of the 68th Squadron and gave him the soldier's name and said I wanted to see both the C.O. and the soldier in my office.
Shortly thereafter they both were announced by my Adjutant Major John Williams, and came into my office. I suggested they be seated and opened the conversation by asking the soldier if my car had picked him up the night before. He said it had. I then asked him if he said that the old man didn't know much... especially about guarding aircraft. His answer was "that damn driver talks too much."
I then told him that I was the driver. He jumped out of his chair, shook his fist and said it was "damned unfair to fool a fellow soldier like that."
I agreed it was unfair, but also wanted hi to tell me how he would guard aircraft.
He told me. He was right. He said that guards around aircraft should not walk post, they should not be visible. They should, in effect, hid out of site, but where they could see and hear anyone approaching the plane.
Later, I talked the idea over with Capt. Archie White of the MPs, and we adopted the idea of guarding our aircraft. At the next group commander's meeting I gave the idea to all 3rd Division Commands. I heard later that some were already guarding aircraft that way and that others then started it.
All because a G.I. told the C.O. he didn't know much, especially about guarding aircraft.
Note: by Joseph A. Moller, Commanding Officer, 390th Bomb Group
This Day in History
Union Admiral David Farragut leads a flotilla past two Confederate forts on the Mississippi River south of New Orleans. Moving at 2:00 a.m., Farragut lost one ship but successfully ran past the strongholds.
The Union army issues General Orders No. 100, which provided a code of conduct for Federal soldiers and officers when dealing with Confederate prisoners and civilians.
British forces, along with Australian, New Zealand, and Polish troops, begin to withdraw from Greece in light of the Greek armys surrender to the Axis invaders. A total of 50,732 men are evacuated quickly over a six-day period, leaving behind weapons, trucks, and aircraft.
The 12-day Battle of the Hills began. During the 12-day battle, two battalions of the 3rd Marine Regt, lost 160 KIA and 746 WIA.
North Vietnamese troops hit Allied installations throughout South Vietnam. In the most devastating attack, the ammunition depot at Qui Nhon was blown up.