Military stories from past to present, both wars.

A tale of Two Captains Part I and II

January 30th, 2008 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

A tale of two Captains…

I guess you could say that it all started over a beer at the Camp Foster O’Club in Okinawa sometime in late October of 1994. My buddy, Ken Briggs, was eating his special Texas popcorn, VERY salty and slathered with Tabasco sauce, but the heat was offset always by a cold Heineken beer. He was hunched over a copy of Pacific Stars and Stripes and yelling to no one in particular about the lousy letters to the editor as I approached and took my stool next to him.

Lately, the editor’s page were filled with peeved wives who were either married to an Officer or Enlisted service member on the Island and had nothing better to do then complain about one another. At first it was kind of funny as we perused the daily banter back and forth, but, after awhile, it got old. Ken reminded me of Robert Duvall from the “Great Santini” as he yelled aloud with each new letter.

This was also about the time that serial killer Jeffery Dahmer was murdered in prison. Do you remember the “whack” job guilty of killing all those young men in Wisconsin? We only had one news channel at the time so the coverage was spotty at best. But there was a general consensus that it was a good thing he was dead. Ken listened to the conversation at the bar that night among all the young Officers, and then took off for his BOQ room spewing madness about Dahmer’s death. The next day I received an email from him that had me laughing so hard that I spit my diet coke out my nose (that hurts by the way!) I replied that Ken should send this letter off to the editor of the Stars and Strips and maybe it would break up the chain of tired old bitchy wives who dominated that section. We went to lunch and discussed his letter to great length. Should he use his real name? Hell no! So we settled on a pen name for him, “Jim Adams.” This guy had written a whiney letter to the editor months before about someone stealing his extra flight suit from the dryer, and had rotated back to the states with his helicopter detachment. Perfect name.
I enjoyed being part of his little pet project, and vowed to keep my silence about the author. Ken submitted the letter that week, and to our surprise, it was published on December 15th 1994 and here it is, word for word.

Dahmer needed our help
The same cold, heartless, society that created the environment which spawned the childlike and impressionable Jeffrey Dahmer also cast his inevitable fate. Sadly, we live in a throw-away society. If we can’t fix something, we simply discard it.
So it was with a crazy, mixed-up kid like Jeffrey Dahmer. Did we, as a society, try to help this young, misguided young man? Did we ever offer him some tenderness, a shoulder to cry on? Did anyone offer him a helping hand and say, “Here, son, gnaw on this?”
No. When his antics ceased to amuse us, we simply threw him away like a toy which has lost its novelty. Now this discarded plaything has become a glaring example of judicial hypocrisy.
In a state that claims to disavow the death penalty, Jeffrey Dahmer was cynically sentenced to “Live” in prison, and through this action, just as surely as if they had strapped him into the electric chair, Wisconsin murdered one of its own children…a child who just didn’t play well with other little boys.
Call him a rebel; call him disturbed. So what if he didn’t “fit in” to what we so self-righteously call “normal” society. Did he deserve the cruel fate which befell him? Maybe he was just frustrated; maybe he needed to be loved.
Were the authorities really so ignorant or naïve that they thought Jeffrey Dahmer would be safe in prison? Who will publish his culinary books now that his is gone? And what of the terrible loss of his rather unique scientific endeavors into the physiology of man? Tragically for all of us, science must suffer along with justice. A disturbed young man thought he had finally found his niche in our confusing society, and he was brutally murdered for it. Welcome to America.
Jim Adams
Camp Foster, Japan

The response was immediate and you couldn’t go anywhere on the Island without someone talking about “That Letter!!!” It was cut out and taped to bulletin boards in offices all over the base. Ken would get a big chuckle out of it, but the biggest surprise was on Christmas day. I opened my edition that I bought in the USO in Hong Kong and there were two whole pages of replies devoted to Ken’s letter. The WWF fans on Okinawa, mainland Japan and the whole the Pacific couldn’t recognize satire even if it reached up and bit them on the bum. Once again we got a great laugh out of the whole thing as they bashed this crazy guy, Jim Adams.

The trouble started later when I called Ken up for lunch. He answered the phone and in my best “Jimmy Stewart” voice, I asked for Jim Adams. Ken put me on hold before I had a chance to say “Hey Ken its Taco, let’s go eat chow” and the line came to life with the voice of his Master Sergeant who was also in on the letter. I figured I’d have some fun with this, so I asked if he approved of the editing job on his piece and told him that the circulation for the Stars and Stripes had gone up 30% because of his letter and that we would like him to write another letter knowing that Ken was listening on the other end as his Master Sergeant pretended to be the author. “What would you like me to write about?” I thought about it for a second and the only thing that came to mind was that abortion Doctor who was murdered the week prior. “Oh, write about anything, the abortion Doctor who was killed, mass murderer’s, the price of gas, how the Chinese hold mass executions in stadiums and charge money, I don’t care, you’re hot stuff.”

Hanging up the phone, I called right back and asked for Ken. “Hey Ken, let’s go get some chow.” Ken was already typing on his computer a new masterpiece and was too busy. I figured he’d send me a copy of it to proof for him and then I’d tell him it was me. Well, two days went by, then four and Ken hadn’t mentioned the phone call or anything. That night at the bar, he leans over with a big smile on his face and says “Hey Taco, the editor of Stars and Stripes called me and asked if I would write another piece for the paper. Hell, I may become a regular guest there…” I nodded and said “Ken, that’s awesome, when are you going to send me a copy to proof for you?” He leaned back on his bar stool and said, “Can’t, I’ve already sent it.” I felt a bit of panic in my chest…

“Hey Ken, what did you write about?” He went on to tell me how he wrote about the Abortion Doctor who was murdered and titled it “Taking God’s place.” This little joke had gone too far now. “Ken, that was me who called you up last week.” He shook his head back and forth, “No way, I was listening to him talk, it was the editor.” I then shifted into my Jimmy Stewart voice after watching “It’s a Wonderful life” for two days straight as a kid, and said “Tell me Jim Adams, did he sound like this? Do you feel
we did a good job on your editing?” The color drained out of his face and I felt bad. “Ken, you always sent me your stuff to look over, and I figured that I’d tell you when you sent me the letter. I waited and no letter. I’m so sorry brother; can we get the letter back?” He shook his pale head again left and right, “No, I mailed it out that day.” I put my arm around his should and leaned over. “I’m sorry Ken. What’s the worst that can happen? It will spark another round of WWF folks writing letters into the paper.” I paid for his beers, and we back over to our BOQ, each lost in thought as to our actions.

The letter was published later that week and the fire storm was worse then the B-29 raids over Tokyo in WWII.

First of all, it turns out that Doctors on military bases overseas perform abortions, so when the paper hit the streets, all the Docs refused to come into work until they found out who this “whack” job “Jim Adams” really was. They were afraid that he may come after them. Since only three people knew who “Jim Adams” really was, the Army CID, NCIS and Air Force SP’s were spinning around in circles trying to track this ghost down. They called the editor of Stars and Stripes who in turned called Ken on his home phone number in the BOQ that he submitted with his piece.

Editor: “Hello is this Jim Adams? This is Bob, the editor of Stars and Stripes, your last letter has really stirred the hornets nest down there in Okinawa and the different investigative services would like you to go have a chat with them. So would you mind going?”
Ken: “No way Bob, you knew that my letter was controversial and you published it anyway. Tell those guys to pound sand.”
Editor: “So, you’re not going to turn yourself in?”
Ken: “No”
Editor: “Is Jim your real name?”
Ken: “No”
Editor: “What is your real name?”
Ken: “Like I’m going to tell you! Just to clear things up, your paper never said I had to give my real name, so I used a pen name and if your readers are too dumb to differentiate between Satire and real thoughts, well it’s not my fault. You deal with this.”
Editor: “I’m going to turn over all my info on you to the authorities “Jim or whatever your name is” and you are banned for life when we find out who you are.”
Ken: “Oh Yeah… Blank, Blank Blank” end of call.

Damage control started right there. See the advantage of living in the BOQ and having lots of close buddies right down the hallway paid off. Ken ran down to Dan Sanderson’s room, another Captain, who just happened to be in charge of the telephone department on Okinawa. He explained that he was in trouble and needed his help, some ex girlfriend was trying to call him and he needed to dump his phone number. They raced down to his office, and with a few key strokes assigned his old phone number to the base gym and assigned him a new one. On Monday, the different investigative services exploded with activity when the Editor turned over “Jim’s” phone number to them. Monday, after coffee and donuts, they went down to the phone company, a Marine-run operation on Camp Foster only to find that “Jim’s number” rang the base gym, and they had never heard of him, but “yes” they had all read his letters. They were back at square one (these aren’t like the guys you watch on Tuesday night NCIS). So the next thing they did was round up any Jim or James Adams on the Island. The Air Force had a poor Airman named James Adams in the interrogation room for half a day. He admitted to killing President Kennedy and owning all the Village People’s albums before they were done with him. This whole thing went up to the base General with daily progress reports, on how this guy “Jim Adams” was one tricky Kook and they were having better luck catching DB Cooper.

It turns out that Ken’s Master Sgt was also a part time Cop over on the base, and as this thing progressed, it was getting WAY out of hand. He asked his boss to turn himself in to stop the witch hunt that was going on. Ken thought about it for awhile and then turned himself in to the head of PMO with his Master Sergeant at his side as a character witness. He explained how it all happened, and also showed other things he had written to prove that he just liked good Satire and wasn’t out to hurt anyone.

The investigation was solved; all the different services slapped one another on the back for a job well done, and now it sat in front of the base Commanding General who didn’t have much of a sense of humor. During his morning briefing, he turned to the base JAG officer (another Captain who we drank beer with) “I want this Officer brought up on charges.” The base JAG looked over the package and replied, “But Sir, he hasn’t done anything wrong. He wrote opinions that were published in the editors section, and there was nothing there against the United States Government or Marine Corps.” The General didn’t like this answer very much. “Well, he used a fake name, hang him on that.” The JAG, once again shook his head. “Sir, the paper doesn’t say that you can’t use a pen name. Also Sir, I happen to know this Officer, and he is a card carrying member of the ACLU. I’d hate to see him raise a stink about his right to free speech being trampled by the Corps. I mean, we could have sixty minutes out here, and the PR would be horrible.” The Base public affairs Officer (another Captain drinking buddy) jumped in, “Sir, that would be the last thing you need to happen before the Commandant of the Corps comes out to visit.” The General just mumbled that he would get this Captain somehow and moved on to the next subject.

He did though. The General called down to Ken’s boss, a LtCol, and told him to fix his fitness report so that he doesn’t get promoted to Major. The problem with that solution is Ken had never had any “bad” paper before, and the boss couldn’t give him a double signer meaning that Ken could contest it, so he made Ken average right down the line and a few below average to boot to ensure that he wouldn’t get promoted. Ken was passed over for promotion and given a nice severance package when he left the Marine Corps a few years later. Funny thing is that he ended up joining the Reserves, and becoming a STELLER LtCol on his way to a full bird Colonel one day
We were joking about it the last month and it’s hard to believe that he was still my friend after setting him up like that, but you know, it’s hard to disown family.
Semper Fi,
If you have to be away from home for the holidays and want to make it a memorable one, write a letter to the editor of the Stars and Stripes. But I have to warn you that using a pen name is no longer allowed since the investigation that ensued from the other letter that Ken wrote. At least there was one positive letter out there for ole Jim Adams…OOOOOOHHHHHH RRRRRRhhhhhaaaaaa