Ever wonder what Adam Schiff did during the war? No, not that war ... but the Korean War? Angilbas sure has, and to our delight has Schiff take a tour of a very familiar war-torn site, where the swamp water tastes a whole lot like home-brewed gin and the Profaci of his era knows exactly when the choppers are set to arrive....
War and Disorder
July 16, 1999: District Attorney Adam Schiff watched CNN in his room at Mt. Sinai Hospital. The air conditioning in his office had conked out yesterday morning, and he was felled by heat exhaustion late that afternoon. He was being kept in a hospital for the first time in 47 years. It was a humiliating reminder of his age. That prissy young Dr. Snow had said, "You're not a boy anymore, Mr. Schiff." Adam had been aware of this for almost half a century.
He turned his attention to the television. Showbiz Today was covering a ceremony at Rockefeller Center. Hundreds of wealthy people were present. Adam began to look for familiar faces, but before he could find any, the scene was replaced by the CNN logo and the caption 'BREAKING NEWS'. He sat up at once and wondered if this was some terrible crime which would involve his office.
A map of Maine appeared; on the coast was a red dot and the words 'CRABAPPLE COVE'. Severe thunderstorms with destructive winds were roaring across southern Maine, and Crabapple Cove had been hardest hit. The screen showed broken trees, wrecked cars, and shattered houses in debris-littered neighborhoods. Families hugged, wept, and told their stories. A frail old man with deep, sad, familiar eyes said, "This is the worst I've seen since the Korean War," and Adam recognized the voice of Dr. Benjamin 'Hawkeye' Pierce, who he'd met during his unforgettable first hospital stay. Adam had just enough time to study Hawkeye's lined face and white hair before the scene switched to Portland, where a casualty was being unloaded from a helicopter. That also was familiar from long ago.
July 5, 1952: Lieutenant Adam Schiff could smell Korea a good 20 minutes before the DC-3 aircraft he was riding in was due to land. He wasn't surprised; he'd been told that the odor carried far. It was the smell of human feces, which the peasants used as fertilizer.
Looking down from his window, Adam saw rugged terrain. The vegetation was mostly low open woodland, but there were some rice paddy terraces and tiny villages. At times the view was blocked by billowing cumulus clouds, and mackerel scales cruised above. Adam was a student of criminal justice, not weather, but he knew that thunder and rain were coming. This was the summer monsoon.
By the time he disembarked at Kimpo, the sky to the west was leaden, with occasional sheet lightning. The sun was covered, but the heat and humidity were terrible. He collected his bag and found his ride. The drowsy-looking driver wore corporal's chevrons; his name was Woody Hammerfest. His jeep was dented and its canvas canopy had several holes.
"Shrapnel, sir," Woody said in a deadpan tone. "From the artillery. You get used to it. Unless it kills ya." He engaged the clutch and said, "Next stop, M.A.S.H. 4077."
Adam knew his assignment there. He was to investigate allegations of incompetent leadership by unit commander Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, and scofflaw behavior by junior officers Benjamin Pierce and John McIntyre.
Woody drove out of the airbase and headed northeast. Behind them, Adam saw the sprawling city of Seoul, looking war-torn more than a year after the enemy had been pushed out. The road was unpaved and rutted. Often they passed the burned-out shell of a truck, tank, or jeep. The villages were built of thatch and clay, and reeked of poverty.
Half an hour after leaving Kimpo, they arrived at Uijongbu. This town was in roughly the same condition as Seoul. Reconstruction was in progress, but the scars would not be gone soon. The drive through town was slow; pedestrians, bicyclists, and livestock formed most of the traffic.
The country beyond Uijongbu was more rugged. The vegetation was patchy, with evidence of recent fires and landslides. Craters were numerous. Intact areas had near-tropical luxuriance, with many vines. Some of the birds had gaudiness not seen in New York. The air was heavily uncomfortable, and the storm was almost upon them.
The wind sent twigs and branches showering as the cloudburst struck. Large puddles formed within a minute, and the road quickly became an impassable quagmire which even the jeep's 4-wheel-drive couldn't master.
Adam and Woody waited out the storm. Within an hour the sun was cooking steam from the land. Perspiration stung Adam's eyes, as it had since his earliest steps on Korean soil. Woody gathered some branches to serve as traction and was about to start the jeep when the sky began to whine.
"Follow me, sir!" Woody scrambled from the jeep. Adam ran after him and fell in a cattail-choked ditch, accidentally swallowing foul water. He got up retching and rushed into the woods. Behind him, fountains of mud erupted around the jeep. Each blast hurt his ears. Watery clods punched his back. He joined Woody, who had thrown himself behind a big log. There were several more explosions.
"Don't worry about it, sir."
There was silence except for crackles from the burning jeep. Woody offered a cigarette, which Adam declined, and sauntered to the road. Adam followed on wobbly, reluctant legs.
"Got the time, sir?"
Adam looked at his wristwatch and gasped when he saw not one but two glistening black sock-shaped objects on his forearm.
"Hold still, sir." Woody puffed his cigarette, then used it to dislodge the leeches.
"Better check elsewhere, sir."
Three more leeches discovered the unhealthful side of burning tobacco.
Woody said, "You're on your own now, sir. I'm going back to Seoul. 4077th's just a couple miles ahead. Good luck, sir."
Adam's throat was parched and his body ached in many places by the time he saw the gate of the M.A.S.H. compound ahead and to the right. On his left was a clay-and-thatch building with a sign which read "Rosie's Bar." Even with the music of hungry flies and mosquitoes, he could hear American English being spoken inside.
About a dozen men and half as many women were seated around tables. One table was serving as a poker stand for five men. The smallest and youngest was a corporal who wore wire-rimmed eyeglasses and drank grape Nehi. The others had bottles of Hamm's beer. An old woman with an indifferent expression was working behind the counter. Adam approached her and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, where can I wash up? You know..." He gestured as if to splash his face.
She pointed to a doorway that led to the back yard. Adam walked past a table where two women played cards and shared a teapot. The tall freckled brunette winked at him. The other was a short plump Oriental with two ponytails and a sad-puppy face. They watched as he entered the yard.
It was enclosed by a crude wooden fence. A flock of chickens had free run. A mangy-looking dog slept in the shade of a magnolia tree to which it was tied. The rusty pump stood in the sunlight and a small, smelly shed was nearby. The air was thick with flies.
Adam grabbed the pump handle and immediately jerked back; it was blistering hot! A pail of water sat near the base. He poured some on the handle and tried again. He worked for several long minutes under the burning sun, but no water came out.
"Uh, sir, you have to prime it first." It was the young corporal.
"How is that done?"
"Don't you know, sir?"
"If I knew, Corporal, you wouldn't have to show me!"
"You prime it like this, sir," said the corporal as he poured water in top of the pump and worked the handle until water gushed out.
"Where you from, sir?"
"New York City."
The corporal muttered, "That explains it."
"Who are you, Corporal, and where can I find your commanding officer!"
With a snap to attention and a salute, the youngster said, "Corporal Walter O'Reilly, sir, and if you go past..."
O'Reilly became silent and gazed beyond Adam. Then he ran back to the building and yelled, "Choppers! Incoming! Sounds heavy!" Adam couldn't see or hear any sign of aircraft, but from inside the bar came the noise of people leaping to their feet and running. In twenty seconds the building was empty except for the old woman and a younger one, perhaps 40, who had just arrived.
Adam went to the front doorway and saw activity in the M.A.S.H. compound. People were yelling orders, starting vehicles, forming a convoy. The helicopters were now visible. The Bells were recognized by their bubble canopies and latticework tails; the Sikorskys were more substantial. Both types carried a man-sized pod on each side, and every pod appeared to have a casualty. A screen of large bushes prevented Adam from seeing the activity on the helipad, but the proceedings sounded efficient. A whirlybird would set down, then leave just seconds later with empty pods, and another bird would take its turn. Loaded vehicles and stretcher bearers hurried to the compound.
The middle-aged woman spoke to Adam in accented but clear English. "Your business must wait. They'll be busy awhile. Come drown your thirst."
Her name was Rosie. She introduced her mother, who the Americans called 'Pola,' possibly after actress Pola Negri. They went inside and Adam ordered an ounce of whisky with a beer chaser. He drank infrequently, but that mortar barrage still had him unnerved.
"That kid O'Reilly...how'd he notice those choppers?"
"They say he has radar. That's his nickname. Radar O'Reilly. Now tell me, Lieutenant, what's a wet-behind-the-ear CID man doing here?"
"I'm sorry, I can't tell you."
"Let me tell you, almost all of them are good people. You should see their miracle work. Just watch out for Ferret Face."
Adam entered the M.A.S.H. compound two hours later. Thanks to Rosie and Pola, his clothes and wallet were cleaner. His funds were low, but after what he'd seen, a few days' poverty would be nothing.
The motor pool was to his left, where a grizzled sergeant with a cigar stub in his mouth worked a jeep's engine. A larger building had the Red Cross symbol on its roof; Adam guessed that the doctors were working inside.
On his right was a tent with a crudely lettered sign: "The Swamp." Another tent had a neatly carved sign which read "VIP House." Several other tents were nearby; the largest was the mess tent. And there were latrine sheds.
The doctors' building also housed the commander's office. Adam went inside and found O'Reilly working at a typewriter. The desk also had stacks of papers, a radiotelephone, and an almost full bottle of Grape Nehi. File cabinets stood behind and a cot with a teddy bear was parked against the far wall to the right.
Radar picked up the bottle with his right hand. He saw Adam, stood at attention, and saluted, still holding the bottle. Purple fluid gushed on his face and shirt.
"I--I'm sorry, sir!"
"At ease, Radar," Adam said. "I do need to see Colonel Blake ASAP."
"He's in surgery now, sir, could be a few more hours. Anything I can do in the meantime, sir?"
"Put on a clean shirt. Then let's do a grand tour."
Adam and Radar went to the mess tent. The smell wasn't appetizing. A thin young man - Igor - stood behind the counter with a serving ladle in hand.
"What's the main course?" Adam asked.
Before Igor could answer, a husky corpsman fled from the tent and ran to the nearest latrine.
Igor said, "Ambush stew, sir, they call it that be --"
"I get the picture."
Igor said, "Sir, we also have boiled liver."
"Smells like East River of liver."
"What's that, sir?" Radar asked.
"You're better off not knowing."
Radar pointed beyond a barbed-wire fence and said, "There's the minefield, sir." Adam had already figured that out, for there were signs in English and Korean which read "DANGER MINES DO NOT ENTER." Each sign had a skull-and-crossbones, and the nearest had a shredded boot on top.
The two men turned back. They passed the shower tent as a man inside began to sing "Don't Fence Me In." Adam didn't think that Bing needed to worry. The next singer was even worse.
"Apple, peach, pumpkin pie, How many years before I die? One, two, sugartit!"
A swarthy man with black hair and a large nose came into view. He wore a pink sundress and carried a skipping rope. There was mud on his hands and legs. He ran to Adam.
"A guest! Oh I know you won't be staying long, sir, please tell the boss I'm Section Crazy Eights!"
Radar said, "That's Corporal Max Klinger, sir. He wants out."
Klinger began to jump rope again. "Apple, peach, pumpkin pie, how many --" SPLAT. He'd fallen again, and this time the whole front of his dress was brown. "How many years? Months? Days? Hours? I've gone crazy, Lieutenant, I've got to go home!"
"I'll see what I can do, son." This was the first time Adam called anyone 'son.'
Klinger rushed to Adam and hugged him. "Bless you, da-da, I will always be in your debt!" Then with, "Apple, peach, pumpkin pie..." he skipped away.
Adam's face felt hot. He looked at his clothes. "Just...had these cleaned."
He got his clothes back at dusk. Rosie and Pola had removed most of the mud and all of his cash. The surgeons finished their work by 8 p.m., and Adam went to the CO's office to meet Henry Blake. The man looked weary and unshaven. There were a few spots of dried blood on his left earlobe; with a chill, Adam sensed that the blood was from a patient.
Blake's mannerisms were flattering and evasive. It was too early to tell whether he was honest but unsure of his credibility, or had something to hide. Adam told him that Pierce and McIntyre were the main targets of his investigation.
"Listen, Lieutenant, those two are top-flight surgeons who've saved many, many lives here. In my mind their virtues way outweigh their vices. Now let me take you to my second-in-command. Um, he's a surgeon, too."
Major Frank Burns was on duty in Post-Op. He was speaking sternly to a frightened young man with a bandaged right hand. Adam heard, "You may not have jaundice, but you're yellow. You're going back to the front soon, mister. No weaseling out of combat in this man's army. Yellow to yellows, dust to dust."
Henry said, "Frank, there's someone I'd like you to meet."
Frank turned, startled, then showed a wide lipless grin. "Oh, hello Henry. And who might you be, Lieutenant?"
"Adam Schiff, CID. We need to talk in private, Major."
Frank said, "Those two bozos have broken just about every Army regulation you can think of. It's amazing that they're not working in a stockade dispensary by now. If Patton hadn't gone to that great Pentagon in the sky back in '46, he'd be showing us some real discipline here in Korea. Discipline, that's what the world needs. And nuking the Reds wouldn't hurt either."
Adam didn't have the heart to say that General Patton had died in 1945. "Major, can you be specific? What crimes have Pierce and McIntyre committed?"
"Umm, let me think...There's the still, of course. You should see it! Probably violates half a dozen regulations by itself! And they talk back all the time, and Pierce makes faces like this!" Frank thrust out his tongue while using both index fingers to pull his lips wide.
A star witness, Adam thought. Before he could say anything, the Oriental nurse he'd seen at Rosie's opened the door and said, "Doctor, Corporal Lasqueti is bleeding again!"
Frank bared his teeth in a flash of anger, then said politely, "Excuse me, Lieutenant."
Excuse you, Ferret Face. Adam was reminded of Mr. Reitsma, his homeroom teacher in Grade Five. There'd been countless whiny, sanctimonious lectures and more than a few suck-up moments with the principal. Reitsma had been the type of teacher who couldn't control his class, and Adam had done his worst boyhood mischief that year.
Captains McIntyre and Pierce were in the Swamp. Pierce was lean and weary, but his deep-set eyes were dancing with nervous energy. McIntyre was more solidly built and appeared to be the calmer of the two.
Adam introduced himself and said, "Major Burns is not a happy man."
That brought knowing looks from the two captains. Adam was about to specify the major's complaints, but his stomach suddenly had its own grievances! And the other end was loose!
"Excuse me, I..."
"Shouldn't have eaten ambush stew," said Pierce.
"Ambush ditchwater, actually!" With that, Adam ran out to find a latrine. He found a vacant one, but not in time. His shirt, pants and shorts got fouled.
Adam got sicker as the night went on. Frank Burns told him it was dysentery and that he'd likely be the butt of Pierce's diarrhea jokes. At dawn, Pierce came on duty and did indeed remark about "hot and cold running dysentery." But Hawkeye Pierce never laughed at him, for Adam's illness was not a laughing matter. By 7 a.m. he was receiving intravenous saline and drugs.
On that day, July 6, the weather closed in. Sheets of rain poured without letup. By noon all the roads were impassable. The good news was that not much combat could be expected. By dusk, Adam's diarrhea was less severe, although he was still passing blood. And there was severe pain in the upper right part of his belly. The condition did not improve over the next few hours, and by midnight, Frank Burns decided to remove Adam's gall bladder.
Throughout July 7, Adam was uncomfortable. He still needed to use the bedpan a lot, and the upper part of his abdomen continued to ache even though Frank told him that the operation had been successful. The roads remained closed and the weather improved just long enough to evacuate the more serious cases by helicopter. A 19-year-old Marine corporal had his hands and face blown away; one eye was possibly salvageable. An Army private about the same age had a brain injury; he could not talk and his right side was paralyzed. A sergeant with a mortar fragment in his cervical spine had trouble breathing and could not move any part below his neck.
July 8 brought mixed signals: Adam was no longer passing blood, but his pain was worse. By noon the doctors concluded that the infection had spread to his liver. Adam could not believe this was happening. They said one of the most vital organs in his body had been invaded, yet apart from the aches and thin shits he did not feel too bad. And he did not have jaundice.
He was in agony on July 9, but his overall condition remained stable and at no time was he the sickest person in the room. Despite the heavy rain, there were 'blind' artillery duels which produced at least two cases of permanent sightlessness. One of them also had his belly blown and Adam could smell his 'exteriorized' bowels. The doctors tried to save a small Korean girl, six or seven Adam thought (he later learned she was 11), whose legs were blown off.
While witnessing these horrors of war, he came to appreciate the staff's dedication. The nurses were most remarkable and all of them combined a woman's patience and soothing quality with a resilience that he would not have thought possible from the 'lesser gender.' The husky blonde major was Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan. The brunette who'd winked at him was Enid Bigelow. The plump Oriental was Kellye. The redhead was Baker. Of the doctors, Hawkeye had the most unforgettable personality. He often did rapid-fire wordplay in Groucho Marx style, but the look on his face as he tended the dying child was the saddest that Adam had ever seen. "Trapper" John McIntyre was as smart as any, and a stabilizing influence on Hawkeye. Frank was uncharismatic and discriminatory, but seemed to know his business. Henry Blake appeared to be a good doctor who was trying to be a good commander.
At 7 p.m., the doctors told Adam that his liver probably had an abscess which needed drainage. Henry was the most experienced at this procedure and would work with Frank.
The operation went well, and Adam was able to rest as comfortably as conditions allowed on the 10th. The humid heat was still troublesome, and heavy rains were frequent. A group of Army engineers tried to open the main road. One of them, a Negro sergeant named Ambrose Robinette, broke his right arm and was laid up next to Adam, who was glad to chat with a fellow New Yorker.
The sky cleared early in the evening of the 11th, and Adam went outside for the first time since becoming ill. The sky was dusky blue, with the silent flapping silhouettes of bats and nighthawks. High above, the vapor trails of B-29 Superfortresses heading home were fiery streaks against pure indigo; Adam could hear the faint hum of the engines. America's heavy bombers had been bludgeoning the enemy over most of this war, but the battlefront had remained as static and vicious as any World War One trench zone for more than a year.
The 12th brought sounds of heavy artillery and rumors of a bug-out. By 8 a.m. the casualties were pouring in by air and road. The compound was crowded with mud-caked vehicles and injured men undergoing triage. One of them had the whole upper half of his head, including nose and eyes, covered with blood-soaked dressings. With a shock, Adam recognized the corporal's fatigues and nicotine-stained fingers. Woody Hammerfest! The man babbled and groaned and didn't seem to understand anyone. Intermittent tremors ran through his body. Hawkeye kneeled beside him, checked his vitals, and yelled, "Goldman! Riegert! Get this man prepped, stat!" As Woody was taken inside, Adam and Hawkeye looked at each other. Then Klinger called, "Captain Pierce, over here!" and Hawk rushed to a bloody, unconscious casualty. A few stretchers over, Father Mulcahy was doing last rites.
"Sir, the evac bus is loading," said Radar, who had mud and blood on his fatigues. Adam's own clothes also had fresh splatters, but clean garments didn't seem important anymore. Adam left the 4077th a few minutes later. Ambrose Robinette was with him, but no one on the bus was in a talking mood. Adam had decided on the theme of his report: "Nothing conclusive."
Adam saw Hawkeye and several other M.A.S.H. personnel on a television documentary six months later. Hawk looked emotionless and tired; he said, "I've seen so many people to whom killing is a casual thing. I don't know how we manufacture people like that, but it seems to me that we'll never run out of them."
Hawkeye had been absolutely right, thought Adam. And prosecutors throughout America would always have work to spare. It was time to call the office and find out how Jack and Abby were doing. Ambrose Robinette was still around last time he heard, and son Paul certainly was, for he was defending a man who Jack was prosecuting for murder.
World's too small for mischief, Adam thought as he reached for the telephone.