I’m Pretty Sure Sergeant Greenwald Tried To Kill Me.
My Biloxi Blues Part II (a small part of Jewish history) Much Delayed.
Almost two years ago I put up a post called My Biloxi Blues and Ours. I had said that I would pick up the story later but I never did. Then an odd thing happened. I am in a remote place in the Venezuelan Andes Mountains in Tachira and what do you know but I got to see a video of an old movie I had not seen in years, namely Alice´s Restaurant. I went to sleep soon afterwards and had a dream that I was back in Fort Jackson, South Carolina in my old Basic Training Company E 6 2.
I wrote that my Basic Training was much tougher than the kid named Eugene in the movie experienced He had a Drill Sergeant with a Jewish Problem and so did I.
In early 1967, Captain Howard Levy, an army doctor at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, refused to teach Green Berets, a Special Forces elite in the military. He said they were “murderers of women and children” and “killers of peasants.” He was court-martialed on the grounds that he was trying to promote disaffection among enlisted men by his statements. The colonel who presided at the trial said: “The truth of the statements is not an issue in this case.” Levy was convicted and sentenced to prison.
Howard Levy had just been sentenced or was on trial around the time that I got to Fort Jackson. My Drill Sergeant was one Norman Greenwald, often drunk and surly in the presence of his men, one very bitter man indeed, who had reputedly grown up in a Chicago orphanage and who had held the rank of Sergeant First Class, on the cusp of getting promoted to Master Sergeant when he got arrested by Military Police as a result of a brawl in the Non Commissioned Officer Club bar so seven stripes that were about to become eight stripes became six stripes instead, a very severe financial hit that would follow him for life . Putting yourself in Staff Sergeant Norman Greenwald´s shoes you might be very unhappy to have private Eugene Weixel in your platoon.
I am writing now because I realize that it doesn´t matter if you think I am nuts. This is a small part of history, American history, and American Jewish history. I wrote about some of the petty things Greenwald did against me but held back on what I am writing here. Even after 47 years I wouldn´t lightly say this: Greenwald certainly wanted me dead as he would want any “Viet Cong” dead. Had I not shouted on the streets of New York: “One side´s right, one side´s wrong. We’re on the side of the Viet Cong? So arranging that my gas mask for the poison gas live drill be filled with water might have come naturally to him. It came naturally to someone. And so it was, Lucky to be alive.
Yeah, but there was more: We ran the much of the obstacle course carrying our rifles with bayonets affixed. And it was not about teamwork either. And we were definitely moving faster than these movie soldiers were.
I was at the end of the column and following Greenwald’s instructions I had my rifle and bayonet ass backwards. (See 1:14.) That is where the Field First Sergeant, a chubby mustachioed Black man whose job was to oversee the entire exercise, caught up with Greenwald and me and stopped me from turning myself into a sish kebab.
Eugene Weixel at 1:17 PM
Saturday, November 22, 2014