Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Situation Normal All Fouled Up! A Vets Day Tribute to the Enduring American Soldier

Capt. Ashley Chapman (1919-2010) on Ascension Island, July 1943.

Robin writes: In honor of Veterans Day in the U.S., I thought I might share with you a piece my father wrote that was published in the San Jose Mercury News, August 22, 1996. It explains, in its own way, why the word "snafu" was coined by the always creative American GI.

"The Army Tradition: Don't Change a Thing"
Col. William Ashley Chapman

"My Dad was a great guy, a veteran of World War I. He didn't like the Army much because of the ever-present confusion and told me I would do well to keep out of it. His example was that when he reported for duty in 1917, they put him in a line, measured him and took his civvies.

The supply sergeant looked at his measurements and said, "We are all out of your size." He handed him a bag of clothing and continued, "Take this stuff and if it doesn't fit, swap with someone." Dad said it was like that all the time.

However, when I attended Auburn University, I decided to obtain a commission in the Army Reserve. Graduating in 1941, as you might imagine, it was no time at all until I received my orders to report for one year of active duty "unless sooner relieved by the President." Four and a half years later, I was finally released to the Army Reserve, where I remained until retirement.

Along the way, I attended the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and found it to be a superbly run institution. On graduation day, after having received detailed instruction as to how to accept the diploma from the general, we lined up to go into the auditorium for the exercise.

When I sat down, I observed that my name was on the edge of my seat. I remarked to my seat mate how my dad, long deceased, would have been impressed by this precision. This was just not like 1917!

When it came my turn to go up and received my diploma, I performed flawlessly, but as I took the rolled up certificate, the general leaned toward me and whispered: "This is not your diploma. You'll have to swap with the officer who has it."

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Yes Dad, you were right after all!"

William Ashley Chapman
San Jose Mercury News
August 22, 1996

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