Looking Back On Some Whopper Mistakes


I was thinking the other day.

I do a lot of that lately. It costs nothing, can be done lying down, may be taken with alcohol, isn’t fattening or bad for your heart, liver, or kidneys, and doesn’t cause a rash.

Not only that, it’s perfect cover for some of my favorite habits. For example, you can’t prove that an old guy sitting in a recliner with his eyes closed isn’t thinking great thoughts.

Of course, if you’re the old guy in the recliner, and you hear your name called, it doesn’t pay to open your eyes and say, “Huh?”

My favorite method when that happens is to pull out a little notebook I carry in my pocket and say, “Hold it a minute. I want to jot down this thought before I forget it.”

That works.

Of course, you have to write something down, but you can always write something like, “Fooled son David again. That’s 103 times this month.”

Anyway, I was thinking the other day.

What about?

A couple of mistakes I made back in Christmas 1945.

That’s one of the advantages of getting old, you see. You have a very broad field of mistakes to think about. Younger people aren’t so lucky. If they want to dredge up some of their old goofs they’ve only got a few decades to work with. They can’t reach back into 60 or 70 richly endowed years.

I probably should warn you about something I’ve learned, though. If you plan on doing much thinking about your past, you’d be wise to take a hard look at what you’re doing in your present.

Going back and looking at your goofs can be fun as long as they fall within a certain range. I mean anyone can live with something he did that was naive. Or gullible. Or even a bit dumb. Shoot! You can learn from stuff like that.

But if you think about what you’ve been doing lately, and you begin hearing echoes of “idiotic” or “moronic,” you better start thinking about a change of course for the old ship. And if you pick up on a “feeble minded,” I’d advise you to abandon any hope of doing much backward focused thinking later on in life.

Not good for the digestion. Tends to eat away the backbone.

Believe me, I know. I’ve got a few years back there that get the fast-forward button any time they try to raise their ugly heads.

And here’s something else you can take from me: Later in life, you won’t have to search hard for an answer if you find yourself asking, “What in blue blazes was I thinking?”

The answer is simple — nothing.

So get with the program now or forget the whole thinking-back thing. Don’t worry about it too much, though. If you really screw up your life, there’s one thing you can always do. When you get to the age where you spend a lot of time sitting around with a vacant stare on your face, just keep your head as vacant as your stare.

Anyway, I was thinking the other day.

About a couple of mistakes I made back in Christmas 1945.

They were whoppers.

Not as big as some I’ve made, though. Like the time in 1962 I was sent to Guam on TDY (temporary duty) and ended up working for an Army second lieutenant.

Now I’ve got to be honest with you and tell you that my attitude toward Air Force second lieutenants during my 21 years in the Air Force was — how shall I say it — less than thrilled?

I don’t know how many times some fuzzy jawed young lieutenant came zipping into the office and said, “Garrett, wait’ll you hear this idea!”

Usually they were ideas we’d tried and tossed out, or ones that used to be standard operating procedure, but had been replaced by better things — repeating rifles, for example. Let me tell you, it’s a little hard having to pat a young lieutenant on the head and tell him to go outside and play with the other kids.

But Army second lieutenants are a whole different breed. I missed World War II by just a few years, but I’m only too well aware of how many fine young men wearing an ounce of gold on their shoulders died defending this great nation of ours. So all during my Air Force years, Army second lieutenants were treated with the a lot of respect.

I worked for that young Army lieutenant for 11 days on Guam. It was during Operation Great Shelf, a joint exercise, so we were told, of U.S. and Filipino armed forces. His name was, unlikely enough, Castro, and if Fidel was as sharp as that young man, I can see why he took over Cuba without too much trouble.

For some reason, Operation Great Shelf, though it was just war games, was classified secret. Made no sense. None at all. Who cared about some bunch of GIs parachuting into the Philippines?

Anyway, for several days military cargo planes carrying everything from parachutes, to cannon, to jeeps, and even to some light tanks streamed through Guam, headed west. Then we had a two-day break and the stream of cargo aircraft started up again, now carrying stuff in the opposite direction, back to the states.

But this little conversation we’re having is about thinking, and as usual I was in there doing my thing. I noticed that we had sent skitty-eight million pieces of new equipment to the Philippines, but what was coming back was a lot of worn out WWII era junk.

So at lunchtime in the mess hall, sitting with a couple of other NCOs and our own personal Army second lieutenant, I very loudly asked the obvious question. “Hey, how come ...?”

Never seen anyone look so shocked. Lieutenant Castro leaned over to me and said, “Sh-h-h-h! Garrett! That’s what’s classified!”

Vietnam, you see. Sneaking in new men and equipment.

When something is classified, they really ought to tell the troops what not to talk about. Otherwise how do they know when to keep their big mouths shut?

Anyway, I was thinking the other day.

About a couple of mistakes I made back in Christmas 1945.

No time to talk about them now, though. Guess we’ll have to take them up another time.


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