The twenty year old soldier, recently reduced in rank from buck sergeant to buck private, stood outside base headquarters and read his orders again. “Report to Captain McDanial at…”
No doubt this Captain McDanial would know of the private’s recent release from the base stockade at Fukuoka after serving five months of a six months sentence for stealing $420.00 of military script money and a .45 caliber pistol from the 2nd Airdrome Squadron’s post office.
Might as well get ready for a nasty chewing out, he mumbled to himself as he hoisted his duffle bag to his shoulder and climbed the steps to the entryway. After stepping inside and setting his belongings down in an out of the way spot, he surveyed the orderly room. The first sergeant was sitting at a desk near the wooden railing and three other clerical types were beyond him, two seated at desks, and one at a filing cabinet.
The private nervously handed over his orders to the first sergeant and said, “I am to report to Captain McDanial.”
“Oh, you’re private _____. The captain said he wants to see you the moment you got here. He has a special assignment for you. Door on your left at the end of the room. Knock three times and wait until he says, ‘come in,’ before you enter, then march up to his desk, come to attention and salute.”
Yikes, the private said to himself, as he headed toward the Captain’s door. A special assignment? Looks like I’m in for it now!
The ‘come in,’ command was sharp and authoritative. The private braced himself for the ordeal and taking a deep breath opened the door and strode to within three paces of the captain’s desk where he saluted and said, “Private _______ reporting as ordered sir.”
“Stand at ease, private. I’ve read the transcript of your courts martial. That, and a copy of your conduct while in the stockade were forwarded to me by your commanding officer. I note that you achieved trustee status after two months, and that your conduct was that of a model soldier in confinement. Because of this, I’ve decided to give you a special assignment. Perhaps the first sergeant mentioned this to you?”
“Yes sir. He did.”
“Good,” he said, as he got to his feet while opening and reaching inside the top drawer of his desk.
“Here,” the Captain said, as he stretched out his hand toward the private. “Here is $420.00 in military script. Go to the base post office and buy a money order with it. On your way, get your barracks assignment from the first sergeant, then report to me tomorrow morning at 0800 hours with the money order. Any questions?”
The private was too astounded to formulate a question! Here was this captain, who only knew of him what he had read in the courts martial transcript, entrusting him with $420.00 in military script money – the exact amount he and his partner in crime had stolen. By giving him until tomorrow morning to complete the special assignment, the captain had created the opportunity for the private to get a great head start if he decided to go AWOL with it. Why was the captain doing this?
“No questions, sir.”
The private came to attention, saluted, did an about-face and strode briskly to the door. He turned the knob, pulled the door towards him and while momentarily facing the captain said, “Sir?”
The captain looked up.
“Thank-you, sir,” the private sang in a joyous voice!
The captain waved him out.
The private almost skipped down the street towards the base post office he was so thrilled at the trust this Captain McDanial had placed in him. How could the private do anything else when the captain had so clearly demonstrated his faith in him?
Captain McDanial’s ‘special assignment’ was much more than a routine chore. It was an opportunity for the private to restore his dignity.
Postscript: Later in that month of April 1948, Captain McDanial arranged a thirty day emergency leave for the private when the private received news that his older sister had been involved in an automobile accident and was not expected to live.
It has been said that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Captain McDanial (his real name) was one of those persons that come into our lives for a reason. The private has never seen, or heard, from the captain again; but he has never forgotten him and what he did for the private with his ‘Special Assignment.’