My right hand grips the handle to the front door of the latrine; opening it with the full force my shoulders can deliver as I rush in searching for the first open hole in the ground.
Weeks of field rations are wreaking havoc on my guts.
Within just two feet of the entrance a pungent smelling unoccupied hole calls out to me.
Squatting here is better than in the middle of the desert, as we were doing on the march up earlier in the week.
I dart to the whole in the ground, unbutton my fatigues, and bend my legs so my bottom almost touches the discolored earth.
Please make this a smooth one!
A release from my lower abdomen tells me this will be a relatively easy experience.
Oh, thank god it wasn’t the fast flood I had in Algiers.
It’s amazing how a bad experience can haunt you for weeks.
Just as I’m enjoying the lightening sensation of emptiness developing in my guts the door to the latrine slams open.
Inches from me I see a pair of shiny riding boots below a crisp pair of billowing riding pants entering the dingy enclosure. Looking up farther reveals a well pressed green army jacket adorned with medals and stars of rank.
Do I stand for a General when in the middle of nature’s call?
“On your feet Soldier!” The shiny steel helmeted Major General barks.
“Yes Sir” I reply before any thoughts enter my mind.
I quickly rise, pulling up my pants as I go so that I’m not flapping around in front of the brass.
Please remember to wipe after this is over!
“Where is your helmet Soldier?” The General demands. “That liner won’t stop fragments from busting open your skull!”
“Yes Sir. Right here, Sir.” Comes out of my mouth as I reach down to pick up my helmet before too quickly placing it on my head.
I wasn’t done yet.
The General steps toward me, grabs my helmet, spins it so that it’s perfectly aligned with the center of my forehead, and then steps back.
“Son, this may save your life!”
All I want to do right now is finish!
He gives me a broad grin while squeezing my right shoulder with his left hand. Then, as quickly as he came in, he turns to exit the latrine.
Hurry up and leave so I can finish!
Just as the General’s foot disappears from view, I pull my pants down again, returning to my squat.
Damn, the flood!
My stomach churns. My abdomen aches.
If he hadn’t come in here I wouldn’t be in pain. He made me nervous.
I squat still for a few minutes, letting myself relax again.
Now I have to wear my helmet in the latrine too.
In an effort to bring discipline and order to the United States Army II Corp fighting in North Africa, the new commander, Major General George S. Patton, took to strictly enforcing the military dress code. Every man was to always be wearing his helmet, leggings, and a necktie. Patton imposed a fine on those not in proper uniform. He even took to rattling his men by yanking open the doors of latrines for a helmet check. This bit of extreme, along with better command and some small victories, revitalized the fighting men just in time for them to repulse a German attack that threatened Allied cohesion on the Tunisian Western Front in early 1943. Such determination led to the Axis defeat in North Africa, and the beginning of the Allied conquest of Europe. Sometimes the first step to getting things done is dressing for the job.