John Palcewski (forioscribe) wrote,
John Palcewski

Steady Slow Slide Downhill

4128th Strategic Wing’s Intelligence Division, Amarillo AFB, Texas, circa 1961. That’s me, at far right. At center, front row, Division Commander Col. Raymond Bolton.

The unpleasantness with Col. Bolton came shortly after Carla, Maj. Leon Hensel's daughter, asked me escort her to her 17th birthday party at the Officer's Club. How I got socially involved with her and her father (at his insistence, by the way) is a long story that toward the end became quite disturbing.

But anyway, as Carla and I walked into the club we passed a round white linen-covered table at which sat Col. Bolton and a woman I presumed was his wife. Bolton appeared startled when he recognized me. I nodded, quietly said "Colonel," and Carla and I continued on to the party.

The following Monday at Intelligence Division they told me Col. Bolton wanted to see me immediately, so I entered his office.

He glared at me. "Stand at attention, Airman."

I immediately did so.

"What were you doing at the Officer's Club on Saturday?"

He said the words quietly, but it was clear he was furious and seemed to be having trouble restraining himself.

When I explained I was a guest of Major Hensel's daughter, it made him even more angry. "Guest? You can't be a guest because you are enlisted. Don't you know that?"

"The Major told me it was OK," I said, " because he was going to be on TDY that day and he wanted Carla to have an escort."

"Listen to me carefully, Airman. I don't give a goddamn what the Major told you, you committed a serious breach of protocol. Now if I ever see you at the club again, I'll have you up on charges for disobeying an officer's lawful order. Do you understand that?"

"Yes, sir. I do."

"Now get the hell out of here."

As for how I got involved with the Hensels, one afternoon the Major came to my scoring room and said he had a serious--no, profound--disagreement with the scores I had given to one of his navigation legs and bomb run. But half an hour later he grinned, vigorously shook my hand and congratulated me, because, he said, I had just conclusively proved to him that the scores were correct.

He then suggested that one of these days I should come over to the house for drinks, or even for dinner. I just nodded casually, thinking he couldn't have been serious about it, given that it would be a violation of the UCMJ regulation forbidding officer/enlisted fraternization.

A week or two later he stopped me in the hallway and said, "Hells bells, John! When are you going to come over and break bread with us?"

I stood mute. I didn't know what to say.

"Okay," he said, "let's nail this down. Are you free this Saturday?"

"I suppose so."

"It's settled then. Be there at 1900 hours."

From that seemingly pleasant event, it was a steady slow slide downhill.

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