Warning: In the interest of historical accuracy, this story has the F word and other cursing in it.
We 30th Arty Bgde HHB troops had our barracks spick and span, top to bottom, inside out for that one. Capt. Leroy Sawyer was in command of the cleanup preparations, so you know it wasn’t about team work, male bonding and clean living; with Leroy in charge, it was more about subordinanteness to his demands than maintaining necessary living area cleanliness. That jackass captain had no clue whatsoever as how to be a good team leader.
On the evening before the general’s inspection, after we had all finished our cleaning assignments, I strolled on out behind the barracks to get some air. It was a nice, warm, although rather humid, typical Okinawa evening time.
A buddy of mine, from the barracks next door, came walking by on his way back from the PX snack bar. He inquired as to why I looked so hot, sweaty and tired in my dirty Army fatigues at that time of the evening, a time when most GIs over there back then had civilian clothes on and were relaxed, clean and casual looking.
I replied that Two Star General Smith was going to inspect my barracks and company the next day.
My buddy said, "What? General Smith! Are you kiddin’ me man? You’re all dirty and tired lookin’ cause General Smith is comin’ tomorrow. What’sa’ mattah’ Crews, don’t you know about his inspections? You ain’t ever heard? He inspected my company about three and half months ago. You know what he does? Let me tell you what the fuckin’ guy does. First, he shows up in front of the barracks in his long, black, chauffeur driven limousine. Then he comes in and eats lunch. He knows it’s the best damn lunch that will ever be served in your barracks. Don’t miss that meal. The officers and NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers—sergeants) in your company will be right up his ass the whole time. They will all be brown nosing and sniffing around for the best angles to get close to the General and vie for compliments from him, that they think might lead to a promotion in rank or somethin’. After the big man finishes his meal, his adjutant (personal aid) will stand up in the chow hall, and ask who are the two best pool players among the lower ranking guys in the company. Then General Smith is going to take them two guys, along with your company’s officers and top NCOs, into your day room. Meanwhile, his adjutant will go back out to the limousine and fetch the general’s personal, custom, hand made pool stick. It’s a beautiful piece of wood, all hand carved and perfectly balanced, it was made in Thailand or Japan or somewhere, I sure as hell wish I could afford one like it. Then the general will play each of them two guys in one game of pool each. He will most likely beat them both. They may loose because they’re scared to beat a gahdamned general, but most likely they’ll just be outranked in skill on the table. Smith is good, real fuckin’ good, I never heard of him loosing to anyone during any of his inspections. After that bullshit, when the kiss asses in your company think it’s time for the big ass general to put on his white gloves and check your barracks over for dust and dirt left in cracks and crevices and then look all you guys over for any crooked creases on your nice clean, starched and strack uniforms, the man will walk out the front door and leave."
"Are you fuckin’ shitin’ me man!!?"
"Crews, my brother, I’m fuckin’ aye serious. Awe man, don’t look so down bro, don’t even worry about it. I’ve been here for over a year, I know what da’ fuck I’m talkin’ about. We all felt like shit when it happened to us. Smith knows that the barracks is in top shape and that the men are lookin’ their best that day. There isn’t gonna’ be any inspection of anything but the gahdamned pool table. He don’t want to look at all you fuckin’ assholes up real close. We’re a fuckin’ peasant army to him jack, nuthin’ but lowly ass, gahdamned fuckin’ cannon fodder. Gahdamn man, the whole fukin’ island knows that General Smith’s inspections ain’t nuthin’ but a bunch of bullshit, how come your dumb ass officers don’t know that?"
(Authors note: What my buddy meant when he said that the whole island knew about those fake inspections is that most of the Army personnel on Okinawa knew about them, not the civilians or Marines, Airmen, and Sailors. The sour look that he had on his face as he was telling me this stuff showed true contempt for that bullshit, so his emotions got the best of him, and he exaggerated a bit.)
The next day, it all went down exactly as my buddy had said that it would.
I did not miss that meal. But let me tell ya’ somethin’, it was a strange scene in my barracks’s mess hall that day. 30th Arty NCOs and officers were hangin’ around that general like a pack of adolescent aged puppies sniffing at their moma’s butt and dried up teats while vying for nonexistent, tasty, nourishing treats, like a good word from the general about their military manners or something—anything to talk about and gloat over later in front all the other soldiers. The sights and sounds of them 30th Arty soldiers kissing the general’s ass like that, well, shit, that sickening scene gahdamned near ruin’t my appetite.
I had gone over to Okinawa believing that any member of the United States Army who has conducted themselves as normally as I had during my basic training and the US Army Photographic Laboratory Technician School has earned the right to stand proud and tall and be counted while being inspected by soldiers who were superior in rank to them. I saw no legitamate reason for anyone in the Army to kiss anybody else’s ass. I believed that we soldiers were supposed to train hard, work hard, do our duty, and show each other proper respect amongst the ranks, not play little political games like Kiss The Higher Ranking Soldier’s Keyster. I may have been wrong about that, but I had never witnessed any soldiers in basic training or Army Photo Lab Tech School acting so worthless and weird the way that those higher ranking soldiers in the 30th Arty mess hall had that day. I may be wrong, but I still can’t see any reason why those 30th Arty kiss asses could not have conducted themselves in a more manly, self respecting, military manner when showing the proper respect which any general’s well earned, high rank deserves and requires for sensible, efficient military discipline.
When General Smith and his aid walked out the front door of my barracks, after they had eaten that good meal and then the general had beaten two low ranking 30th Arty guys on the pool table, I was standing up in my third floor, squad bay, bunk area looking out of an open window and watching down onto the front lawn of our barracks. Several times though, I had looked out over the barracks directly across the street to glance at some comfortably soft looking, well defined, cottony clouds which were floating by in an azure-blue, subtropical sky. It was
absolutely beautiful outside there that day on Okinawa. I had gone up there to the third floor see if the faked inspection was going to end the way that my buddy from the barracks next door had said that it would. From up there, it was a clear, bird’s eye view of mangled military brew-ha-ha. It turned out to be an unforgettable, demoralizing experience.
I heard, then saw, the front door of my barracks open up wide down there below me. General Smith and his aid calmly strolled out the door and onto the front sidewalk.
My 30th Arty HHB Company’s administrative officers and top NCOs followed right behind, or slightly to the sides of, them two military inspection fakers. The 30th Arty butt kissers had a steady flow of useless small talk spilling out through their brown tinged lips, as they were trying to figure out what was happening—they were wondering why the general hadn’t commenced to carefully inspecting the barracks and troops.
As those, higher ranking than me, headquarters company personnel tried to make small talk with the general and his aid, the general and his aid kept turning backwards and sideways to look and delightfully grin at the bewildered, brown tinted faces of the 30th Arty soldiers. General Smith and his aid both had real big, broad, toothy, ha-ha I got ya’ type, mischievous grins on their faces as they continued to slowly move towards their waiting limo—all the while laughing out their asses at the other soldiers.
Them thar’ 30th Arty butt kissers were all smooches and smiles as they kept steadily sticking their distinctly dark brown noses up the general’s laughing wazoo. I clearly saw them each turning slightly back towards the barracks and ever so lamely beginning to limply motion with their hands and arms from the direction of the general back towards the front door of the barracks in an obviously useless, pleading attempt to ask the general about the missing formal barracks inspection. The grinning general’s aid glanced down at the butt kissers’ limp limb movements, and then back towards the limo waiting at the curb, and as he did he briefly brushed his hand across his mouth to gain control of an ever expanding grin and stifle an involuntary snicker. The general gleefully looked right between the pleading eyes of the faked out, fuckin’ dumb ass 30th Arty soldiers, he damn near laughed out loud at their darkening brown noses, smiled with sincere satisfaction, went to his limo, got in and rode away.
My 30th Arty ‘superiors’ looked like a pack of bewildered puppies being weaned from their mamma’s teats for the final time. They stood there and waved bye-bye to the highest ranking Army officer who had ever come into their beloved Headquarters Company. Then they lamely looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders at each other, mumbled some puzzled questions or half-ass explanations amongst themselves, then slowly, without any purpose in their movements, walked back through the front door and disappeared into the barracks.
I had chosen my high angle of view well, like a sniper looking for a safe and secure advantage point to shoot from. I had observed that weird scene from up there and stood at the window without worrying about being seen by them down below because that third floor window was just high enough above them that they most likely would not notice me, but then I could sure enough see and hear them quite clearly.
After that strange scene, which I wish I had never seen, dissipated and went away, I stood there at the window for a moment enjoying a warm, moist sub tropical breeze which was gently flowing in upon me. I looked out over at my left towards the Mole Hole and the 30th Arty Bge HHB Company office building. I didn’t feel anything inside of me, not even numbness; it was an odd thing that I found no humor in the experience, if I hadn't already been through so much soul crushing bullshit because of my illegal assignment to the 30th Arty as brigade photographer, it would have been a hilarious scene to witness—it was like a funny, rib ticklin' comedy skit in a Hollywood movie; on the other hand, I wasn’t angry, disgusted, sad, or anything like that.
On that strange afternoon, on the beautiful, blue skied, warm and humid Far Eastern Island of Okinawa, in the 30th Artillery Brigade Headquarters Company barracks, the demoralizing idea seeped into my psyche that there did not seem to be any worthwhile purpose left in life. I don’t know exactly what happened to me that day, but I lost something which I have been struggling to recover ever since.
David Robert Crews
30th Artillery Brigade