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Young Officer & McFadden

Or, Perhaps, More Tales of McFadden*

Excerpted from an multi-addresssee email by Mel Erman:

Late 50s John J McFadden, CO 75th ASA Vicenza, in casual moment.

A little story. When I first signed in at Site Aviano, January 1959, I had a "dust up" with my new commander, the only commander, at this early age. I had brought (shipped) an old jalopy to Italy, it could be done then, and the thing was a 1952 (this was 1959) Chevrolet 4-door sedan with multi-miles on it. I bought it in Bloomington, IN, as I graduated from ROTC (yeah, so you guys didn't know, right?!) When I picked it up at Leghorn (how did they ever get that name?), it was some 2 months into my arrival at Aviano. I went down to pick up the car, but, with me were CID folks going the same way. So, we talked a little. This is really another story.

But, upon bringing this piece of crap up over the Appinnes, with a Livorno ASA type on-board,, remember your days, okay? We also had aboard my car a bleached blonde Italiana lady...who had shown her US -learned ability to hitch-hike. Now, I know that none of our loyal normally aspirated engines of ASA choice would have stopped to pick up a lady like this. But, to our afterlasting afterlife...we did. She sat between us. We oft stopped for needs, driving slowly through the mountains. Now, I don't mean today anything wrong occurred, or an ASA mission was in any way compromised. In fact, when we arrived at her village, after a lot of kissing, and nothing else, she dissappeared into the village and we didn't know where she was. We shook hands, both taken very well, thank you.

Back to the arrival of my piece of shit car which I drove over the Appenines and into Pordenone (Aviano). It was just that, a piece of shit. I had used it in college for a year or so. It burnt oil like a bonfire. When I drove it to the port of NY, Brooklyn, to be specific, I then poured some motorcycle oil into her, some 60 or 70 level stuff, really stiff, like in STIFF. (Anybody remember, STIFF now?)

After I got it to Aviano, without the blonde or the ASA type who traisped out when we hit Aviano, I had decided I didn't want this POV any more. So, I decided to sell it. This doesn't sound like too big a deal, but, to CO McFadden, it was a big deal. He wanted to know what I was going to sell it for. Who did I, in this wild world, could I sell it to? At the tender age of 22, and altho I had been there for some 2 months, I had the bad luck to tell him: "Major, I don't care who you are in this situation, but, I am selling my personal car. No way should you be getting in the way of this."

This was not the best thing I ever said to him. He blew up! I already had a buyer, by the way, a veteran non-com, and I don't think at $250 this was going to hurt anybody. But, get the hell back!! Maj. McFadden walked around this old used car, he didn't kick the tires at least, but, he said: Lt. Erman. Nothing in this company goes down unless I say it does. Do you understand me! Well, of course, I did. I didn't like the sound of it. I wanted to sell a POV car that someone else wanted. It seemed like a personal transaction to me. We stood there out in the dark around the old Aviano site, he and I steaming for some strange reason, about the same thing, on opposite sides, perhaps. I had never stood up to him for anything before, never would have thought doing it. But, this was really overwhelmingly personal to me. We hung out there for awhile, the anger from both, for different reasons, releasing like the early morning fog. Finally, he walked away.

The sale went through. Good thing, I needed the 250. He never mentioned it again. And, gee, I didn't bring it up either. But, the one thing I'll always remember: "Nothing in this company goes down unless I say it does!" He was watching out for his men. I'll never forget the end of that confrontation. He could walk away in such a manner that you knew that you were in no way out of the shit yet. Like he was suppressing something worse than what he has already said. That would have been one of the all time wrong times to say anthing more but, I was really steamed, as young as I was. I was leaning into his face as he was into mine. I'm happy to say that we stayed friends; the Chevy was a forgotten issue.

Young LT Mel Erman

Just another story from your old Italian cohort!