Stephenson Tales

Saving Lucy Chase from Military Disaster

Be in known that enlisted men in the army are considered to be stupid, ill-bred, low class, docile and uncomplaining (except among themselves, of course.) Officers, on the other hand, are "gentlemen:" "an officer and a gentlemen" - by act of Congress, no less: intelligent, educated, high class, and capable of giving orders to the lower classes.

Therefore, in the 849th Signal Intelligence Service, these exalted beings were given the onerous task of reading every letter sent out by the enlisted men and striking out ANYTHING that the officer disapproved of, such as hints as to where we were, what towns we visited (unless on a several day's leave). I did get away with telling the home folks about going to the opera in Algiers or Naples, but the mention of Hammam Melouane or Caserta or Recale was "defendu."

Such censorship was easy to circumvent, which I did for the most part, but one event transpired in which I had to write with no "official" intervention.

People on the "home front" were always earnestly looking for ways to support the troops and win the war. They suffered gasoline and sugar rationing (I am told) as well as actual deprivation of some things - such as bacon!

Lucy Chase was no exception. One day I read with horror a letter from her telling of her patriotic intention to join the Women's Army Corps. I was trembling all over when I went to my office the next morning and asked Captain Gilden if I could talk with him privately. In civilian life, Murray had been the owner of a high-class jewelry store in New York and knew the value of a lot of things! When we were alone, he could not miss my state of panic. "What is it, Jim Bob? Are you OK?"

"Murray, you have got to help me. I just got a letter from Lucy Chase telling me that she intends to join the WACs."


"Murray, you don't know my girl. She would not last a week in the military!"

"Why not?"

"Because at the first instance of typical army stupidity - in the form of an irrational order or unjust punishment or a senseless requirement, she would object and rebel!"

"She would?"

"Yes! You see, she has what her mother calls "a rectangular sense of justice." And you and I both know how unjust military life is..."


"So I want you to "censor" a letter, personally for me, and let it go through as I write it."

"What do you want to say?"

"I want to tell her that her sense of justice, fair play and honesty would immediately get her into trouble with someone of a higher rank. She would not be able, as we are all expected to do, take it and say nothing...just obey orders."

"I see."

"Will you do this for me?"

"Of course."

Thankfully, he DID, and Lucy Chase was warned with enough seriousness for her to abandon dreams of a military career. Instead, she went to New York where she got a job in The University (of London) Settlement House - the oldest in the city - at the corner of Rivington and Eldridge, just two blocks from the Bowery - WAY downtown where she worked for the next entire year.

Composed 6 November 2008; Transcribed by Lucky

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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