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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Reichley: A fond salute and farewell to a great general

  • Some columns are much harder to write than others. This, regrettably, is one of those.
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  • Some columns are much harder to write than others. This, regrettably, is one of those. Last time I checked, there were nine living members in the Fort Leavenworth Hall of Fame. A sad email received yesterday dropped that to eight.
    The favorite general I ever served under died Feb. 21 in Carlisle, Pa. I first met Gen. Glenn K. Otis when he commanded the 1st Armored Division in Germany. He was a short man, and the day of his change of command ceremony was one of the coldest days in memory over there, but he stood ramrod straight and never gave a hint of being cold. We staff officers decided we were going to like our new commander.
    My last job in the division was re-establishing the division museum. It was totally a labor of love, and I had an idea about a case for a WW II era German radio. Gen. Otis stopped by the museum one day and I explained my idea: to buy a small tape recorder and have an AFN Radio announcer with a beautiful voice make a welcome to the museum, ending with the words "The next voice you hear will be that of Adolf Hitler, speaking at a Nurnberg rally, just 20 miles from this museum."
    When it was ready the general came to hear it. He pushed the button, listened intently, then looked at me and said "I have a question."
    "Yes, sir, "I replied, "what is it?"
    He looked fascinated at the radio, and asked "Can I push the button one more time?"
    I left for Fort Leavenworth soon thereafter, and the general got a third star and became the chief of operations at the Pentagon. The first time I saw he was coming to the fort, I called about 20 officers who had known him in the division and we all met at a restaurant downtown. We chipped in to pay for the general's dinner, and when I tried to, he said no. He'd eaten the food, and he would pay for it. Bet that was the biggest tip the waitress ever got.
    I was his escort officer, and he said he had a favor to ask. Could I arrange for him to drive his sedan that night, as he had several places to go and didn't want the driver to have to be on duty. I didn't think it would be possible, but it was.
    When we left the last briefing, I tried to drive to my quarters, but he asked "Major, whose sedan did you say this was, yours or mine?"
    "Yours, sir."
    "Then throw me the keys and get in. I'm driving."
    "Yes, sir."
    When I got out at my quarters I was concerned that neighbors would think I was crazy if I saluted the sedan driver, but he fixed that concern when I opened the door by looking out the door window and waving goodbye.
    Page 2 of 2 - The next time he came I was his escort again and he had a holder of classified slides. He loved playing handball at lunch, and the man who ran the handball made homemade barbecue sauce. He knew the general loved it, and gave him a full quart jar of it.
    On our way to the airport that afternoon he said "John I have a favor to ask. I can only carry the important stuff, so will you mail something to me at the Pentagon."
    I said "Sure, sir, but I'll probably have to tape the jar of sauce closed to keep it from spilling out."
    He replied "I'm carrying the sauce. I want you to mail the slides."
    The last time I saw him was after he retired as commander in chief of the U.S. Army Europe. After he'd been retired five years I nominated him for the hall of fame, and was more than delighted when he was selected.
    The escort officer who brought him from KCI asked if I'd like to ride along. We stopped by the late Judge Arthur J. Stanley's home for a quick visit as the judge couldn't go to the ceremony. It was the last time the two old friends met. Rest in peace, general. We'll all miss you terribly.
    John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.
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