• After unsuccessfully trying to capture Pancho Villa in Mexico, Charles MacArthur and his military outfit returned to America, where they were given a parade in which a drunken Mr. MacArthur steered a car down the street with one hand while he waved an American flag with the other. As he drove, he shouted anti-military slogans such as “Down with Colonel Foreman” — Colonel Milton Foreman being his commanding officer. Mr. MacArthur was punished by being forced to pick up litter at the military base. Because he found that boring, he made some alterations to his blue prisoner suit. He used gold radiator paint for stripes, added epaulets and other decorations, and succeeded so well that visitors to the base thought he was a general — but an oddly acting general, since he saluted each piece of litter before picking it up. Colonel Foreman saw him and gave him his discharge papers that same day. Years later, Mr. MacArthur and his wife, the famous actress Helen Hayes, saw Colonel Foreman and introduced themselves to him. According to Ms. Hayes, as soon as the colonel heard Mr. MacArthur’s name and remembered who he was, “The colonel’s face turned slowly purple, and his eyes seemed to go out of focus. Then, without saying a word, he stood up and stalked away.”
• Screenwriter and playwright Charles MacArthur went on special assignment for the Pentagon during World War II. Because of the nature of the assignment, he was told that he would have to be an officer and was asked what rank he would like. He responded, “I would like to be a fort.”
• During World War I, Thomas Beecham wanted to conduct some operas by the German composer Richard Wagner; however, an English patriot who ran a newspaper felt that playing German music when England was at war with Germany was unpatriotic and so he demanded that Mr. Beecham either not conduct Wagnerian opera or face the wrath of the press. Fortunately, Mr. Beecham knew that the patriot had some very fine German paintings, and he offered not to conduct Wagner provided the patriot burn his German paintings in public. When Mr. Beecham made his proposal to the patriot, the patriot was silent for a time, and then he smiled and said, “It is rather silly, isn’t it?” Mr. Beecham was thereafter left to conduct Wagner in peace.
• Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an important politician whose son Elliott did not turn out so well. Maury Maverick, Sr., was an important politician who, on his deathbed, called his son, Maury Maverick, Jr., a Civil Rights lawyer, to him. Mr. Maverick, Sr., said to Mr. Maverick, Jr., “Son, I want you to know that you didn’t turn out to be as big a horse’s ass as Elliott Roosevelt.” Years later, when Maury Maverick, Jr. was defending Vietnam War resisters, President Lyndon Johnson had an aide call Mr. Maverick, Jr., up to tell him that his father was wrong — according to President Johnson, he was a horse’s ass.
• Ashoka was an emperor in northern India who waged imperialistic wars. After a battle, he wandered among the corpses of the battlefield, feeling miserable, when he noticed a Buddhist monk who appeared to be radiant with happiness. Ashoka pursued the monk and asked why the monk was so happy when he was not. After talking with the monk, Ashoka began to follow Buddhism. He stopped waging imperialistic wars and he made sure the citizens of his country had food. Thousands of years after he died, he is still remembered as a benevolent ruler.
• Ethel Coffman, born 1895, remembers working in a fancy department store in Orange County, California, during World War II. The federal government regulated women’s fashions to a large extent to save materials for the war effort. No cuffs or full skirts were allowed. The heels on women’s shoes could be a maximum of one and a half inches. In addition, women were encouraged to donate their nylon stockings to the war effort so they could be recycled into such items as parachutes.
• President Abraham Lincoln gave many pardons to soldiers who were accused of dereliction of duty. His sons, Tad and Willie, played with a doll they named Jack. Pretending that Jack was a soldier, the two boys gave him a trial and sentenced him to death for sleeping while on picket duty, and then they asked their father to pardon Jack. President Lincoln wrote on Executive Mansion stationery, “The doll Jack is pardoned. By order of the President. A. Lincoln.”
• When the Germans and Italians occupied Athens, Greece, during World War II, one of their rules required the Athenians to remain silent — even in their own homes. The Greeks enjoyed breaking this rule. Maria Callas, then a teenager, used to sing the lead role of Toscawith windows and doors wide open, and across the rooftops the voice of an unknown man responded, singing the role of Mario.
• Leo Slezak spent a short time in the Austrian army, and then he went on to fame and fortune as an operatic tenor. He gave his former commanding officer a photograph of himself as Othello, and inscribed it, “In remembrance of the recruit of the 17th Rifle Battalion, who rose to the command of the Venetian fleet.”
• James McNeill Whistler was present during a discussion of the Boer War in which it was claimed that British commander Sir Redvers Buller had retreated across the Modder River in an exemplary manner — “without losing a man, a flag, or a gun.” Mr. Whistler added, “Or a minute.”
• When some new officers presented themselves to the Duke of Wellington, he looked them over, then said, “I don’t know what effect they will have upon the enemy, but by God, they frighten me!”
• “In a condition of war hysteria it is always considered unpatriotic to speak the truth.” — Hesketh Pearson.
• “To win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.” — Sun-tzu.
• “In a battle, the winners and losers both lose.” — the Buddha.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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