John Palcewski (forioscribe) wrote,
John Palcewski

A Flying Officer in Strategic Air Command

As I said earlier, after a pleasant beginning with Maj. Hensel it was a steady slow slide downhill. It'll take a while for me to work up a full, detailed account of my involvement with that deeply troubled officer and his equally troubled family.

One of the highlights, if it could be called that, concerned the Major getting drunk one night. He went into the Headquarters Squadron orderly room, intending to get something from his office. He was at the time Squadron Commander in addition to being a B-52 crew member as navigator. The CQ—charge of quarters—was an Airman Third, new to the squadron, and he stood up and told the Major, who was in civvies, to stop and provide identification.

Maj. Hensel said he didn't need to provide identification, because he was an officer and should be taken at his word. After some back and forth, during which Maj. Hensel worked himself into a fury, the CQ picked up the phone, intending to call Air Police, but the Major seized the instrument, ripped it out of the wall, and threw it across the room.

There was an investigation and I was summoned to an interview with a 2nd Lt. JAG, who asked me if, on my many social visits to the Major's house, I had ever seen him drunk. Well, I was torn between loyalty to the Major and loyalty to the truth, so after some careful thought I said, "No, I have never seen him drunk."

I thought--but didn't say aloud--that yes, I had on many, many occasions witnessed the Major and his wife Carol drinking heavily, and I was right beside them, doing my best to keep up. But becoming incoherent, and unable to keep his balance, or puking, or passing out? No, I had never witnessed that. The investigation more or less just died, and I never heard the Major refer to it later.

Then there were sordid, deeply troubling aspects to the Major's relationship with his two daughters, Carla and Karen. Karen was supposedly in a mental institution, still traumatized by the "accidental" shooting of her mother by the Major, while he was cleaning his shotgun. Carla and I became intimate...or I should say I finally yielded to her persistent seductions. After a couple of weeks of guilt and fear, I confessed to the Major that Carla and I were having sex.

I thought he'd go ballistic, but he smiled and said, "Of course you are, John. And I would be absolutely delighted, if things finally work out between you two, you'd join the family as my son-in-law."

One night a few weeks later Carla began weeping and told me she'd been keeping a terrible, horrible secret, one that she could never tell anyone about. Which was that the Major had "taught" her about sex. And he did the same to Karen, which is why she's now so messed up.

Now, to my deep regret and shame, I simply didn’t believe Carla's story. I couldn’t imagine a man doing such a thing, not a man with the standing of a flying officer in Strategic Air Command. My disbelief deeply wounded Carla, I'm sorry to say.

She ended up engaged to a Captain who was stationed at Roswell AFB, a friend of the Major. The Captain told him he was delighted to have found Carla, because she was so sweet. And so "malleable." The Major said he found his use of that term rather insightful. He also noted that the Captain and he were the same age, and he'd therefore find it awkward to call him "son." Witnessing that particular colloquy, I didn't know what to think or say, so I said nothing. But back then I was only 20 or thereabouts.

A few months after the end of my enlistment and my re-entry into civilian life, the Major invited me and my new wife to join him in Fort Worth on the grounds of a dog kennel he'd just purchased on his retirement. The deal was that I'd work as a laborer, and every morning I’d clean out the shit in the dog runs, and did repairs and maintenance and what not, in return for low rent and utilities.

That job came to a quick end, however, when I went into our living quarters and saw the Major in the bedroom with my wife. She was holding up a towel over her nude body after a bath, obviously terrified, and she told me later he'd just barged in and was putting a hit on her.

We moved our stuff out of there, one small car load at a time, and when I went back for what remained, I saw that my leather-bound set of Great Books of the Western World was missing. The Major informed me that he’d confiscated the books in lieu of a payment of rent still outstanding. My wife and I went to the Sheriff's office to file a complaint, but the Sheriff said we'd need to post a $100 bond. We didn't have that kind of money, so we just dropped the whole thing.

My wife and I ended up in New York City to start a new life, and I never heard anything further about the Hensels.

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