Copyright ©2013 Edwin W. Biederman, Jr.
To my late wife, Peggy-Jane
Lt. Kenneth Milton James sat nervously in the outer office wondering what the
general wanted to talk to him about. What had he done or not done that brought his
name to the attention of this man? Ken noted that he was perspiring all over. In
short, the upcoming meeting did not seem to have a positive feel about it.
His thoughts were interrupted. The secretary calmly said, “The general will see
Ken drew a deep breath, rose, and walked briskly through the door. He saluted
and waited as the general pointed to a chair beside his large desk.
“So you are Lieutenant Kenneth James.”
“I don’t usually call young lieutenants into my office for a conference, but this
time the subject requires some discussion. Is this your memo to me?” The general
handed a brief memo to Ken, and he recognized it immediately.
“Yes, sir.” He wished he had not ever even thought of writing that memo.
The general continued, “Normally, when I receive a note like this stating that you
cannot carry out one of my orders, I go to the file to check out the person’s record. In
your case, I thought that I remembered the name. You were the petroleum officer at
Pitugfik Air Base in Greenland. I recall that I wanted to send two flights of B -36
Bombers in for a quick turnaround.”
Ken remembered the occasion of the midnight discussion very well.
The brief discussion with the general took place in the small highly secu re
communications building. The night was clear and the temperature was 30 below
zero. Ken recalled the general’s voice as it crackled over the radio. “Petroleum
Officer, can you read me?”
“Can you handle two flights of Baker 36s? The mission is designed to check
turnaround refueling time.”
Ken picked up the microphone and said, “The petroleum section has half of its
authorized personnel. At this rate, the speed of any turnaround will be relatively
slow, and I cannot guarantee the safety of the operation.”
The general’s voice again came through the static, “We’re coming anyway!”
Ken handed the microphone to the base commander who did his best to
discourage the general, but the die was cast.
“Looking at this file, I am reminded that we lost a plane at one of the refueling
locations. That was a significant loss and you were in charge of refueling.”
Ken noted the extra emphasis on the “you.”