Hawkeye

Bill Waller, circa 1943-1944
Bill Waller, circa 1943-1944

My father, Bill Waller, was stationed in Scotland for several months before the Normandy invasion. While there, he had his picture taken wearing Highland dress. As a child, I was amused at the photo of my daddy wearing a dress. Since then it’s occurred to me that if his ancestors had stayed home rather than emigrating, he might have grown up wearing the kilt.

Since he rarely spoke of his experiences during the war, and I thought it best not to inquire, I have few details about his service. After watching a PBS special on the Big Bands, I did ask whether he’d seen Glenn Miller while he was in Great Britain. He said no. For something like that, he’d have had to drive long distances at night with no headlights. As much as he liked music, Glenn Miller wasn’t worth the effort or the risk. As my mother said later, he was there to do a job, not to be entertained.

In the ’70s, when Anzio was in the television line-up for the first time, his brother’s step-son commented that he couldn’t imagine how soldiers got off those LSTs and hit the beaches under fire.

“There’s nowhere else to go,” said Daddy. That’s the only remark I ever heard him make about actual combat.

Regarding the invasion, he had two advantages: he hit Omaha Beach on June 19 rather than June 6, and he got to drive rather than swim.

He didn’t watch Anzio or any other war movie. I was surprised, therefore, that he never missed an episode of M*A*S*H*. I asked once  whether the Army was really like that. Instead of saying no, as I expected, he grinned sheepishly and his eyes began to twinkle.

“Yeah.”

At first I thought he’d given the answer he thought I wanted. Then I realized he was telling the truth. Despite all the things he didn’t care to remember, the Army had been like M*A*S*H*.

Because he’d played the part of Hawkeye.

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