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"The Tech Rep" By James Michener; Continued

"The highlight of Holt's life had been his service with the marines, and the apex of his service had not been Iwo Jima or Okinawa or Korea, at each of which he had won decorations, but rather his boot training at Parris Island, were he fell into the hands of a drill sergeant named Schumpeter. HE TOOK ME A BOY AND SENT ME OUT A MAN, Holt said. Obviously he worshiped Schumpeter the way he did Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy, but he rarely said much about him except that he owed Schumpeter both his life and his scale of values.

During the early years when I was becoming acquainted with Holt, I suppose in the training at Parris Island, Schumpeter had interceded in some accident to save him, but that was not what Holt meant. The salvation had been spiritual and had come through the iron drilling Schumpeter had given to the fundamentals of man-to-man warfare. A LOT OF FELLOWS OTHER THAN I THOUGHT THEY KNEW IT ALL, Holt said cryptically. A FAT BELLY LIKE SCHUMPETER COULDN'T TELL THEM ANYTHING. THEY'RE DEAD.

WHAT WAS IT HE TOLD YOU?

LOTS OF THINGS...USEFUL THINGS...LIKE SPECIAL WAYS TO CARE FOR A GUN...OR USE A BAYONET. Holt refused to talk of his war experience, but he did add this: ANY GOOD DRILL SARGENT COULD TEACH YOU THAT, OF COURSE. WHAT SCHUMPETER ADDED WAS A PHILOSOPHY OF WAR. TO HIM IT WAS TWO THINGS. SOMETHING YOU DAMNED WELL BETTER WELL WIN. AND SOMETHING YOU DAMNED WELL BETTER LIVE THROUGH.

Several times I pressed Holt on these points, but he refused to say anything except that Schumpeter may have a fat belly, as others had said, but when the marines shipped him out to Okinawa for having slugged an officer, he performed on the battlefield even better then he had in the drill hall. A LOT OF MAN WITH A LOT OF BELLY. Holt said grimly. HE WAS NO LOUDMOUTH.

It was by chance one night in Baghdad that I learned about Holt at war. A marine colonel on detached duty with the Iraqi army happened to sit next to me at the bar at our hotel and we got to talking about one thing and another, and when he heard I did a lot of work with tech reps, he said, YOU EVER RUN INTO A FABULOUS GUY NAMED HARVEY HOLT?

Turned out he had been Holt's platoon leader on Okinawa. JUST TURNED EIGHTEEN, WITH STARS IN HIS EYES. HE WAS SORT OF BEAUTIFUL, SO STRIGHTFORWARD AND GUNG HO, BUT HE DAMNED NEAR DROVE ME NUTS. EVERY TIME I GAVE AN ORDER, HE'D SAY, SERGEANT SCHUMPETER TOLD US TO DO IT THIS WAY, UNTIL I DEMANDED THAT HE BE TICKETED TO SOME OTHER OUTFIT. THE CAPTAIN CALLED US IN AND SAID HE WAS SURE WE COULD GET THIS STRAIGHTENED OUT, BUT I SAID I WAS SICK TO MY GUTS ABOUT HEARING ABOUR SERGEANT SCHUMPETER, SO THE CAPTAIN ASKED HOLT, WHAT ABOUT THIS SON? AND HOLT SAID, ALL I KNOW IS THAT ON IWO JIMA, I DID THINGS THEY WAY HE SAID AND I AM ALIVE. THE SMART ALECKS ARE DEAD. THE CAPTAIN REPEATED THAT HE FELT SURE THAT I WOULD BE ABLE TO BRING HOLT IN LINE, SO I SAID, ISN'T SCHUMPETER THAT LOUDMOUTH WHO WAS BROKEN LAST MONTH BECAUSE HE SLUGGED THE OFFICER AT PARRIS ISLAND? AND WHEN WE LOOKED INTO IT, WE FOUND HE HAD BEEN SENT TO OKINAWA AS PUNISHMENT.

To be continued:



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