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What the Major Meant to Say...


Jerome Doolittle

During one of our earlier eliminations of evil, that one in Vietnam, the young men sent out to die for a president’s re-election were known as grunts.

Today’s young men are known as heroes, and will continue to be unless sufficient numbers of them begin to come back in body bags. At that point we will lose our enthusiasm for the whole thing, and they will turn back into grunts.

But basically they are the same young men -- we would say boys if they weren’t wearing uniforms -- as they always were: no Greater and no Worse than any other Generation, no matter what Tom Brokaw thinks.

However back then when heroes were grunts, reporters were still permitted to talk to them. In fact reporters could even go into combat right along with the grunts and die, which quite a few did.

This made it harder to spin the press, although patriotism compelled the Pentagon to do its best. These efforts inspired unknown jokesters to produce a sort of Samizdat tape which circulated widely in Saigon in those days. It was called “What the Major Meant to Say.”

The tape purported to be of a pilot being interviewed by a reporter while a lieutenant from Air Force public relations sat in. It went something like this:

Reporter: How was anti-aircraft up there today?

Pilot: Oh, man, those commie m___________s just shot the living shit out of us.

Lieutenant: What the major meant to say was that his squadron encountered stiff ground resistance from entrenched communist artillery emplacements.

Reporter: At least you got the bridge, though.

Pilot: F__k, no. With all that shit they was throwing up at us we completely missed the c________r.

Lieutenant: What the major meant to say was that he and his men heavily cratered the approaches to the Dim Sum Bridge.

And so on.

Fast-forwarding over a half-dozen or so of our subsequent victories over evil to the present one, we stop on the New York Times of February 21. Here we learn with relief that Lieutenant Slithertongue has made it through the years unscathed:

“During the bombing and subsequent ground actions, news reporters have had difficulty getting first-hand access to areas under the control of American troops. Ten days ago, a Washington Post reporter, Doug Struck, wrote that troops held him at gunpoint rather than let him approach the scene of a remote missile strike on suspected members of Al Qaeda.

“A military spokesman later said that Mr. Struck was detained for his protection. The spokesman said that one soldier, whom Mr. Struck believed had threatened to shoot him, was actually saying: ‘For your own safety, we cannot let you go forward. You could be shot in a firefight... ’”

...and Mommy certainly wouldn’t want that to happen to her little reporter, now would she?

March, 2002


Copyright © 2004 by Jerome Doolittle