My father served in three wars. He didn’t see action until Korea and Vietnam, but like so many young men from his generation, on graduating from high school, Dad signed up for service in World War II. He spent the balance of that war as as an airplane mechanic working on Corsairs.
Dad had plenty of war stories to share at the dinner table. He had more stories from boot camp, then anything else, which is saying something, because his actual war stories were pretty amazing. Of course, Dad spared us the worst of it. Being the youngest, I was probably spared more detail than my siblings (though I did know what every one of the weapons in my green soldier pack could do by the age of five).
Sometimes, Dad would just tell jokes. Jokes he and his buddies had swapped over the years. I remember one of them. It seems so corny now, but I used to laugh and laugh. It was definitely my favorite. I’m sure, a lot will be lost in translation here, but I’ll try to convey it as best I can.
A young recruit shows up to boot camp late. He goes to get his gun and the man in charge tells him, he’s too late. They are all out. Not knowing what else to do, the man breaks off the end of a broom stick and says; “See here kid, whenever they tell you to shoot, you just point this stick at the target and yell “Bangity-bang-bang!”
Kid says ‘okay’, but what about a bayonet?
Guy takes one straw from the end and ties it to the end of the stick and says; “Okay, so whenever they tell you to stab something, you just point the stick like so and yell “stabbity-stab-stab!”
So the kid goes all the way through boot camp that way. He thinks he might have the idea, but he’s really hoping he’ll get the real thing soon.
Only he doesn’t. The kid’s unit gets rushed out for the invasion, and he gets all the way to Normandy and he’s still got his broom-stick in place of a gun. The kid tries to tell somebody, but they just push him into the landing craft. He actually storms the beach with a broomstick in his hand.
And then he sees a German (Dad, might have used a different word), and he doesn’t know what to do. the German is shooting at him. So, in desperation, the kid points the stick and says; “bangity-bang-bang!”
And the German dies.
Kid can’t believe it! But he’s surrounded by Germans, so he tries it again; “bangity-bang-bang!”
The next one goes right down.
So, the kid just keeps doing it; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”
…and the German soldiers go down every time.
He storms a German machine gun nest and kills a bunch of them saying “bangity-bang-bang!” Then one charges at him. He doesn’t know what else to do so he points the end of the broom-stick at him and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!” The guy falls right down.
So the kid just keeps going, all through D-Day; “bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang! bangity-bang-bang!”
And the Germans just keep right on falling down.
Except this one big guy.
That one German just keeps coming.
The kid points his stick and shouts; “bangity-bang-bang!”
The German keeps coming.
The kid points the stick at him up close and yells; “stabbity-stab-stab!”
And the German just walks right over him.
And as he does, the kid hears “tankity-tank-tank!”