Seventeen men leave on cadre to Gordonvale. Sixty-five men line up in
front of the dispensary to take physical examinations for Flying Cadet.
They know there are 350 replacements in Gordonvale. Capt. Lamar was
instructed by his superiors to give no examinations and the men are sent
back to their outfits.
“I am now the new Lamar,” says the doctor, “I will assert myself. My blood
is coursing with male hormones.”
In truth, Lamar’s heart is broken because he is not chosen for the
Gordonvale detail. (There was a nurse down there named Swannie. In later
years he would marry her, and live out south in the Kansas City Missouri
Country Club district. I went there to see him about 1966. The three of
us, Lamar, wife Swannie, and I, went out for a fine dinner. Then we took
Swannie home, and Lamar was to take me back to the Convention Hotel. First,
though, we went to see some people he knew. There were two girls and an
unemployed auto salesman. On the way back, I said, “Captain, I bet that
unemployed used car salesman eats as much as a St. Bernard dog.”
"I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said, sadly.
Meantime, back in New Guinea, at Port Moresby near Jackson Strip, Lamar is
at the officer’s table at the mess. He wants to be sent to Australia and he
doesn’t think he is being treated fairly. So, with all these officers
looking on as sort of jury, Lamar being probably the most popular officer in
the battalion, he puts his case to the Battalion Commander. Rather an
unfair thing to do. It put Lt. Col. George M. Jones in the rather
unpleasant spot of knowing that his officers know that Jones knows that
Lamar’s treatment is not satisfactory to Lamar. The Army is a crazy assed
place. Here is Jones, with four years at West Point, graduated near the
bottom of his class. And here is Lamar with about 10 years of University
and Medical School. Did Jones know that Lamar was probably the most loyal
officer Jones had? Lamar would never straight out disagree with Jones, even
if he didn’t agree.
Capt. Greco’s death left us weak. Capt. Lamar’s going would not make us any
stronger. Officers and men who had waited, knowing that Capt. Greco would
stand to their good if they were any good, now squirmed a little at the
“keep them bucking” policy. The under current is getting stronger, and the
feeling is that it is going to break wide open. Pfc. Jones out of Co E is
puzzled. He wanted to be a flying cadet, and once passed pre-flight
training. So Pfc. Jones went to see the 5th Air Force Adjutant General who
told him to apply to the Adjutant General. (At Moresby the 503d was right
next to the 5th Air Force. It took the Army this long to figure out that,
there being plenty of room, why not camp the parachute regiment next to the
airstrip?) At any rate, Pfc. Jones was like everyone else — he sent an
information copy straight through.
Pvt. Kelly out of Co F, one of the three test-platooners in the outfit, told
Lamar he wants to get out of the outfit. Kelly, after three years, doesn’t
want to be a corporal; he doesn’t even want to be a PFC.
The regimental moral is not good. Some officers are running -- applying
for transfer. Fellow officers whose judgement they have always trusted are
looking for a way out. It is a general rout. (Most influential, yet
silent, applier for transfer is Capt. Snavely, Regtl S-2. Many officers
heard about his letter, and came to see him.
Capt. Pratt apparently wrote the most effective
letter. He asked to be transferred to a parachute unit with competent
leadership. This was all directed, of course, at Colonel Kinsler, not at
Lt. Col. Jones. The 2d Bn (Jones' command ) has held its ground. Not so the
1st and 3d Bns.