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Well, what’s very funny is, World War II, of course, produced an enormous amount of insanity in the armed forces. It must have because there are a lot of people in hospitals. The first time I ever suspected this fact was the first time I ever confronted that fact: that there was some coordination between being disenfranchised from a game and going mad. Found that out. It was quite interesting.
I was flown in from the South Pacific as the first casualty to be shipped out of the South Pacific war back to the States. The war had been started in Pearl Harbor, and I’d been down in the South Pacific and – a lot of things happened down there. And the outfits down there were pretty well wiped out, as you can remember before the US and Great Britain started to fight and go back in. All right.
Most of the guys that were shipped out of there who had been wounded, were shipped out by slow boat. And I didn’t, I wasn’t that seriously done in. I hooked a ride on the Secretary of Navy’s plane; produced the right set of orders (I hope nobody ever kept them on file) and got flown home. And when I got home, they turned me in to the hospital.
And I thought, “That’s an interesting place to get turned in to, and – but it’s nice. Fine as far as I’m concerned.”
And I was lying very comfortably in my bunk about eight o’clock in the morning when there was a funny looking joker with glasses about a foot thick standing down at the bottom of my bed. And he looked at me very piercingly and he said, “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Well, I did a double take, and I was all of a sudden going to give him a facetious reply in . . . and – because my morale wasn’t very bad; his was, though. And I remembered a friend of mine had been thrown into Bellevue Hospital for ten days one time when he was drunk, simply because he had answered silly answers to these obvious absurdities. So, I said carefully, “One.
And he looked at me very piercingly and he prowled around the side of the bed and he grabbed ahold of the clock that was sitting there and he pulled it around and he says, “What time is it?”
So, I told him. He looked very disappointed. He asked me for my name, rank and serial number and I gave them to him. He left.
All day long there was a parade of people walking in and saying strange things to me. At the end of that day, the whole hospital had deserted me except, of course, one very good-looking nurse. But anyhow, the point was they had lost interest and they were very confused.
Everybody knew, up to that time, that no man could stand the stress of modern war. They knew that a Stuka bomber, in diving, drove men mad. They knew that the terrific, unexpected attacks and heroic forces being employed were such as to plow you in. Your psyche would get unpsyched in a hurry if you were shot at enough.
And yet here, a fellow, a young officer, had the utter brass to come along and throw aside this theory. They didn’t like me anymore. In fact, they simply reported to Washington, DC that I was in good condition – I was, by the way, walking with a cane. I was in good condition. I couldn’t see. I had dark glasses on, but I, you know, I was doing all right in a kind of a dumb sort of way, and they sent me to sea in the North Atlantic the following week. That shows you what happens to people that disprove people’s theories.
But during the remainder of that week, I became very curious at their tremendous and absorbing interest in neurosis, not in me, but in this fact, because their psychoneurotic wards were full – jammed from door to door with members of the armed services.
From where? There were no casualties home yet – till I established this very interesting fact: they had all gone nuts in navy yards. Of course, I can imagine somebody going crazy in a navy yard. But not with this wild abandon. And as the war progressed, I discovered consistently and consecutively that the people who were going into these places were the people who were not being permitted to fight the war.