Last week, my outfit shipped out to Iceland, where in 1952 many people were card-carrying Communists. In those days the Communist world was a mess as countries like Russia and North Korea ran like clocks with broken mainsprings, but wide-eyed dreamers outside the Iron Curtain world didn’t know that; they believed that everything inside was peachy keen. The result? Friction between American troops and those who fell for Communist lies.
Back in the 1950s there were many intelligent people who, never having seen what a mess Communist nations were in, thought that Marxism was the greatest thing since peanut butter. Truth is, the Commies couldn’t get the dumb thing to work, but they weren’t telling.
So there I was, poor innocent little Capitalist me, in Iceland, with not the slightest idea of what was coming. The Air Force hinted that it was possible we might have problems if we went into town, but they also told us that we had to wear a uniform if we did. Figure that.
A few weeks after we arrived, Eddie Malchinsky and I signed out for Reykjavik, the capital city. Off the bus we bounded one afternoon, each wearing Air Force blue and a big grin. “Iceland,” we were both thinking. “Never thought I’d see this.”
It wasn’t 30 seconds before we saw a lot more than we expected. Across the street, some tall, blond character started yelling in Icelandic. I watched as he dashed across the street, yelling all the way. And I kept on watching, totally amazed and grinning like a possum eating you-know-what as he whipped out a Bowie knife the size of St. Louis and proceeded to cut circles in the air above and around my head.
I wasn’t the least bit frightened, it being obvious that if that big, blond Frankenstein really wanted to do something with that gargantuan blade he was waving he’d have been doing it instead of yelling at the top of his lungs.
I looked at Eddie. “What the hell you figure Old Yeller’s on about?”
Eddie shrugged, “Beats me.”
Then something even more amazing happened. Dressed in police uniforms, three replicas of Paul Bunyan showed up. Two of them grabbed Old Yeller under the arms, lifted him, and scurried off with him as the third one herded Eddie and me along.
Through the double doors of a police station where they pitched Old Yeller, now divested of his Bowie knife. A desk sergeant explained politely that he was a Communist and that he didn’t like me because I was of “Nordic cast” — meaning I looked Icelandic — and it riled him to see an Icelandic in an American uniform.
Eddie and I had a good meal, saw a movie, and went back to the base with a great story to tell. I went to town again several times, but I guess the entertainment committee was not on alert for young airmen of “Nordic cast.” Never saw Old Yeller again, or had any other trouble — not in town anyway.
Just before I left, I spent a few weeks guarding a warehouse in a partly completed radar site. On May Day while I was alone, about 40 Icelandics showed up with two-by-four and four-by-four clubs and battered the outside of the warehouse. It got my attention, but I was ordered to stay strictly inside the warehouse, so everything was fine until they pushed on the door and the dumb thing popped open.
It all came out well, though.
The Commies in back were pushing inward, but when the Commies in front found themselves staring down the barrel of a loaded and cocked rifle they decided they’d pass on the warehouse tour. I didn’t speak a word of Icelandic, but it was easy enough to tell what the blond giant up front, who was holding back the entire crowd, was saying.
“Qvit shovink, Erik! Qvit shovink! He got a gun!”
I guess those Icelandics are pretty smart after all.
We saw some of that stuff in Japan too while I was there, but the Japanese Commies were more musical. They wrapped white rags around their heads and did the Communist bunny hop around Tokyo.
I never had any trouble with them, but a big (!) black friend of mine did once. He stopped his new car at a Tokyo intersection and three clowns wearing white headbands came up and kicked his door. Didn’t require any cops this time though. John — we called him BIG John after this — carried the three of them, out cold, to a police station in his car and tossed them in.
Odd, you know, after the Iron Curtain rusted through and fell over, and people got a peek at the mess inside, you couldn’t find a Marxist anywhere.
As I said, Johnny — It’s smart to actually go take a look at something before you get too excited about it.