Copy Right 97
It was now a little after nine at Legion and we had went through some beers. So Cody suggested that we get a pitcher and sit at the table in the back.
I bought the pitcher and Reed and Pat joined us with the glasses. After we got resituated, Cody asked, “Well how did you find all of this stuff out, John?” “Well, like I said, it came in bits and pieces over the years.” Reed smiled, “Well let’s hear the rest of it, John.” “Sure.”
It was early 1963 now and I was sixteen. Me and my street buddies had already had a lot of minor run ins with the law, but nothing too serious. Our punishment was usually a handcuffed beating from the cops with a “If you were my kid” sermon. This of course was followed by them driving you home so your father could finish the job. Now don’t get me wrong, we deserved it okay.
A typical incident usually went something like one of JR’s gems.
One night JR was really drunk and decided it would be a good time to develop his driving skills. So he jumped into an empty car that someone was warming up outside of their house. He quickly learned that his driving skills were limited, drunk or sober.
He weaved from left to right as he bounced off one parked car after another. After a 100 yards or so he came to a sudden stop when the car his was driving failed to bounce off the front end of a police car.
Fortunately no one was injured so they brought JR to the precinct. When he identified who his father was, the captain had the two cops to bring him home. Then he instructed them to bring his old man back with them, so they could figure out how to fix this thing. The courtesy was afforded because JR’s father was a detective captain.
Fortunately, JR’s father had just been promoted to inspector. Unfortunately, his old man’s promotion party was that night at JR’s house. The guest list included a deputy mayor of two, the borough commander and a couple of other city and police big wigs.
When JR’s mother answered the door, the two cops walked in carrying the body of JR who had passed out drunk. When she screamed, a crowd gathered at the door to view the body. So naturally one of the cops asked, “Will someone tell the captain we bagged his kid again.” Needless to say, no one saw JR for three weeks after that.
I finally ran into him on Flatbush Ave one day. “JR” I smiled, “What’s going on man?” “Oh, I’m going into the Navy next week.” “You can’t go into the navy, you just turned sixteen.” “Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but the old man found a way.” JR never did make it into the navy and today he’s a detective lieutenant himself.
A year later I was on my way into the service. Two weeks before I left, Kenny stopped by one night to see my brother. We had a short conversation on my stoop.
Kenny was uniform and already sported captain bars on shoulders. He locked out and seemed to be permanently stationed at Governors Island near by. I guess being at First army headquarters had a lot to do with how quickly he made rank.
“I heard you’re thinking of joining the Army little guy.” “Yeah Ken. I’ll be seventeen next week and the week after that I’ll be private Moran.” “Why don’t you go to college, then you can go in as an officer?” “I saw what college did to Bobby, Ken, no thanks.” “Hey, I went to college too John and I’ve made captain already.” “That’s you Ken, I just want to get it over with. I don’t want be 25 and still having the draft board chasing me around.” “You’re a bright kid, John; you really ought to give college a try.” “Well, may be when I get out, Ken. Where are you and Bob going tonight?” “Where going to my house for dinner, then probably a movie with Marge. You want to come?” “Marge couldn’t get him a date, could she?” “Well, you know the way your brother is these days. It ain't easy finding women to go out with him a second time.” “Yeah I know what mean Ken. I’m surprised you can still get him out of the house at all.” “You sure you don’t want to come along John?” “Nah, I’m going to hang out with my outlaw friends tonight. But thanks for asking.”
My decision had already been finalized with the old man, He told me, “Look son, I can come with the money for you to go to college you know.” “Thanks Dad, but we’ve been through all this. I want to enlist and get the army over with.” “But what are you going to do about your education, John?” “I can finish high school there dad and maybe even get some college too.” “You really think you’ll have time for that in the army?” “I’ll make the time, believe me. I’m not like Bob; I can’t sit in my room for four years with a text book in my face. Besides, what good did it do him? Two years later he’s an unemployed college graduate. Why isn’t he employed, we ask? Because he thinks the FBI has hidden microphones in his room. Not only that, the FBI is telling everyone not to hire him because he’s a spy. Dad I don’t want to end up like that.” “All right, I’ll sign the papers for you so you can go into the army as a private. I guess you’ll just have to learn.” “Learn what Dad?” ““Remember the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware?” “Yeah sure.” “Well you’re about to learn who does all of the rowing and who gets to just stand there taking in the view.”
Two weeks later it was private Moran, new address 5th Training Regiment, Fort Dix New Jersey. I ended up in the 5th Platoon, which was made up mostly of kids from Brooklyn. There was a little problem though; training companies only have four platoons. We were kind of a last minute afterthought.
Here we were 40 guys, stuck in a barracks with missing windows, no brooms, mops or even fire extinguishers. Worst of all were missing a platoon sergeant.
Our first night there, we were visited by Sergeant Charley Taylor, the platoon sergeant for the four platoon next door. He was the perfect soldier, a young buck sergeant, maybe 22, spit shined boots and tailored fatigues. He was a good looking guy and had real cocky hot shot demeanor about him.
“What in the hell do we have here?” Were his first words of greeting for us. “This God Damn barracks looks like a fourth rate Bowery flop house. Look at this f…g place, I wouldn’t keep my hogs in here, I’d shot them first. Now listen carefully people, you are under my command and you will STRAC this barrack up. Do you understand me?” “Yes sergeant,” we replied in unison. “This floor will be swept, mopped, waxed and shined. The shithouse will be scrubbed and shined. You’re equipment will be stowed properly and I will re inspect the premises at 0430 hours.” Then a voice rang out from the back. “Sergeant Taylor we don’t have any brooms or mops or anything to clean the place up with.” “Then shit em young trooper or when I come back here I’ll use your face for mop.” Then he yelled out, “Anybody here with prior service?” A voice rang back, “I have prior service sergeant.” “Good Leveck that makes you acting platoon leader. So now I know who ass to kick if this f.....g place ain’t right. Leveck, you take charge and appoint yourself some squad leaders. Now get to it ladies, elbows and assholes, that all I want to see when I get back here.
Charley left and Leveck took charge. “Anybody else have prior service?” No one answered. “Anybody been in the ROTC?” Three guys raised their hands. “Smith first squad leader, Baker, second squad, Littman, third squad.” Then he looked around, “Any boy scouts?” Everybody laughed. “This ain’t funny men. I’m serious, anybody been a boy scout?” Just about everybody raise their hands. “Eagle Scout?” Nobody. “Life Scout.” Nobody again. “Star?” Tanner raise his hand. “You got fourth squad Tanner.” Then a voice rang out from the back. “How are we suppose to clean this place up when we don't have any cleaning supplies?" Leveck quickly responded, “Squad Leaders; listen up. Make a list of what you need to take care of your designated areas and give it to me.”
We started to organize and the lists were handed over to Leveck. He scanned the lists then barked out, “I need some thieves, not the kind that get caught, but the kind that get away with it. Moran what about you and your buddy Barker.” “We’ll give it a shot, what do you need?” “You guys take this list, go yonder, seek, find and deliver.”
We took the list and walked outside. It was dark by now and all of the buildings in the company area were lit up like Christmas trees. Richey turned to me and said, “Let’s start with fourth platoon.
First on the list was a floor buffer, so we slipped in the side door of the barracks and joined their GI party. There was a lone buffer sitting in the corner. So we walked over to the busy squad leader and tapped him on the shoulder. “Sergeant Taylor told us to bring the buffer upstairs.” He turned and pointed, “It’s over there but bring it back when you’re through” We just smiled, “Sure.”
At the same time Rizzo and Patterson found a locked empty barracks a few buildings away. It was a gold mine, brooms, mops, buckets, soap, cleansing powder, fire extinguishers and now one broken pad lock. They even borrowed a couple of window panes.
When 0430 rolled around, Charley was back, dead on the money. To his shock, the place actually looked strac. In fact he looked a little disappointed that we were so successful. Then it dawned on us. Charley wanted us as the wiping boy for his fourth platoon and we let him down. Yup, Charley was slick all right.
Two weeks later I was sitting on my footlocker, cleaning my rifle when Cribs approached me, he was an E-2 cadre. Cribs was National Guard and had just finished his two months basic training. He was working at headquarters to fill out his remaining four months of active duty. They had no place to put him, so they gave him a cadre room in our barracks.
Now not having an NCO living in our barracks gave Cribs a wide open opportunity to screw with the troops at night. He’d impress us with his advanced knowledge of what was in store for us next and order us low life E-1s around. Officially he had nothing to do with the platoon. In general, he was just a prick.
He came up to me and demanded, “Let me see that weapon soldier.” “Why Cribs?” ‘I want to inspect it soldier.” “Sorry Cribs, that’s not your job.” “I said I want you to hand me that weapon, Moran.” “It’s my weapon Cribs and I don’t hand over to anyone.” “Moran, I am giving you a direct order, give that weapon now.”
I looked at my buddies and their eyes said, you better do it, it’s a direct order. So I handed it to him. He grabbed it and said, “I’m taking it outside for a minute.” “Why Cribs?” “Don’t worry; I’ll bring it right back.” He disappeared for about ten minutes, and then returned without my weapon. “Cribs where is my weapon?” He just smiled, “Come with me, Sergeant Taylor wants to see you in the orderly room, right now.”
I walked with him to the orderly room and asked again, “What did you do with weapon you prick.” “I’d shut my mouth if I were you, Moran, you’re in deep shit.”
When we reported in to Charley, there was fire in his eyes. “Moran what is that piece of shit over there in that corner?” I looked over, and it was my weapon covered with sand. I replied, that’s my weapon sergeant.” “Can you explain how private Cribs came into possession of that weapon?” “He ordered me to hand it over to him, sergeant.” “He ordered you to hand over your weapon?” “Yes sergeant, I was cleaning my weapon when he asked to see it. I refused and he gave me a direct order to hand it over. Then he walked out of the door with it.”
Charley’s eyebrows rose as he turned to Cribs. “I thought you said you found the weapon on the ground in front of the barrack Cribs” “I did sergeant, I practically tripped over it.” “Moran did anyone see Cribs give you that order?” “Yes sergeant, Rizzo, Barker and a couple of the other guys.” Charley turned to PFC Williams, “Williams go over to the fifth platoon barracks and bring Barker and Rizzo back here.”
Williams left and Cribs got a real worried look on his face. Then Charley gave both of us a mean hard stare, “One of you assholes is in serious shit.”
Three minutes later William returned with Barker and Rizzo. Charley locked their heels and said, “Rizzo you wait outside until I call you.”
After a brief pause he turned to Barker. “Private Barker, do you have any idea of how Mr. Cribs came into possession of Private Moran’s weapon?” Barker calmly confirmed my story. Then Rizzo returned and did like wise. Charley sent them both back to barracks and turned to Cribs.
“Cribs you are one sorry f….g excuse for a soldier. What was the purpose of pulling this shit?” “Cribs smirked and replied, “Just a little training for the troops sergeant.” That turned Charley’s ears red. “You’re training troops you six month dip shit? You ain’t even in the real army, asshole. Well since you’re in a training mood, I’m going to let you train Private Moran here in hand to hand combat.” “Sure sergeant, I was very good at hand to hand in basic.” “Excellent private Cribs, let’s go outside.”
It was dark by now so we walked behind the orderly room into a lighted area. Williams tagged along to see the show.
I squared up and looked at Cribs. He had his hands opened and parallel to his head. He was standing right in front me with his face wide open. It was a boxer’s dream. His last words were, “Okay, now take it easy. I don’t want to hurt you. ” My last words to Cribs were, “Yeah sure.”
I took a half step left and when he turned with me I put a solid left jab on his nose. My right cross followed inches behind. His head snap back from my jab just as my right cross connect with his mouth. While this was happening my left hook was on its way. It connected on his right cheek and he went down like a sack of shit.
I stepped back as he lay on the ground in a fettle position. He was covering his head with his hands and starting crying and sobbing. “No more, please no more, don’t hit me again.” Charley pushed me back and stood over him. “Get up Cribs.” But Cribs just laid there sobbing, “No more, I’m bleeding.” Once again Charley demanded, “Get up you cry baby or I’ll ram my boot so far up your ass it will knock you’re teeth out from the inside.” Then he reached down and yanked Cribs to his feet by his collar. “You’re doing real good here, Cribs, I want you to train Moran some more.” Cribs tried to pull himself together, “Okay, but no punching this time.” “Yeah, sure Cribs.”
We squared off again and as I looked at Cribs I almost felt sorry to him. His nose was bleeding and his right eye was almost closed. Then he said, “Okay, now don’t hit me, I just want to show you something.” Then the SOB lunged at me with kill in his eyes going for my throat with his hands. I side stepped him and the sympathy was gone. When he turned to get back into position, I faked a right to his head. When his hands came up, I sank a left hook into his liver. He went down again and I knew he wasn’t going to get for a while this time.
The three of us just stood over him for a few minutes as he laid there crying on the ground. Finally Charley told him, “Get on your feet slime ball” and we went back into the orderly room.
Charley handed Cribs a roll of paper towels and told him to go into the latrine and clean himself up. When he came back Charley was finishing up a phone conversation with the Mess Sergeant at post Replacement Company. “I owe you one Nick and I’ll get the papers squared away with the Sergeant Major in the morning.” Then he turned to Cribs, “Go back to the barracks, pack up your shit and report back here is 15 minutes.” Cribs wiped his face again and said, “Sergeant Taylor, I just want you to know that I am not going to report this.” Charley flipped out. “You’re not going to do what Cribs?” “I’m not going to file a complaint Sergeant.” “Just what kind of complaint were you thinking about filing? That you issued an unlawful order? That you stole government property? That you attempted to destroy government property? That you attempted to assault private Moran in front of witnesses? Why don’t you just do that Cribs, may be ten years in Leavenworth might just make a man out of you? Now get this straight, I’m writing a report and how you do at your new duty station will determine whether you spend the next four months in the army or the next ten years at Leavenworth. That will be your choice. Now go pack your shit and get back in 15 minutes. Moran, you stay here.”
Cribs left and Charley addressed me. “Stand at attention young trooper. Then he looked at me with kind of a smile. “You’re one lucky cowboy young stud. Now I’m only going to say this one time. You will never surrender your weapon to anyone unless directed to do so, by either an NCO or a commissioned officer. I don’t care if it’s a warrant office or a specialist E-9. If anyone other than a NCO or Commissioned Officer tries to separate you from your weapon, they get a butt in the gut. You got that Moran?” “Yes sergeant.” “Now take that weapon and I want to see you back here in one hour with the cleanest weapon in The United States Army, understood?” “Yes sergeant.”
When I returned, Cribs was climbing into the back of a ¾ ton truck in front of the orderly room. Charley walked over to the tail gate and I was close enough to hear his last words to Cribs. “If you set one foot on fifth regiment ground or if you f..k with any of my troops anywhere on post, I will personally beat your f…g ass to death.” Then the truck drove off and Charley motioned me into the orderly room.
I walked inside and Charley called me to Present Arms. He walked over and snapped, “Inspection Arms” Then he slapped the M 14 out of my hands, spun it, flipped it and then placed it on his desk. About ten seconds later, it was totally striped down to basic components. He examined each component meticulous, for about five minutes. Then he looked at me and smiled, “God Damn Morgan, you might just be a soldier one day. Now put this weapon back together and get out of my sight.”
I left and went back to the barracks. When I walked in I got a round of applauses. I guess the word had gotten out.
Reed kicked in, “So this guy Charley wasn’t such a bad guy after all?” “Nope.” Then I winked at Cody, “and I’ll always remember him as a friend.”
Pat bummed a cigarette from me and smiled, “So you served in the army, John.” “Well, I guess that kind of depends on what your definition of serve is, Pat.”