Thurman P. Woodfork

AN INTER-SERVICE MISUNDERSTANDING

I remember an incident where a member of my radar squadron in Spain was alleged to have thrown an officer in charge of a Shore Patrol crew down a flight of stairs in the Bar Pan Am in Barcelona. The story goes that the (innocent) young airman was escorting a lady friend back from the opera when they somehow got drawn into the Bar Pan Am, a dancing and drinking emporium with a colorful reputation that was located on the Ramblas in Barcelona. It’s unclear exactly how these two patrons of the arts got sidetracked into this dive – er – establishment; I think it was to avoid a sudden rain shower. As I recall, the Pan Am housed a couple of bars, and a theater, there were also rooms for rent behind the upstairs bar. Certainly not a place my friend would have taken a delicate young lady.

As luck would have it, an inebriated naval person, who had undoubtedly spent the larger part of the evening frequenting the local watering holes, mistook the young lady for a trollop who’d relieved him of his wallet sometime earlier in the evening. Of course, since she’d been at the opera with my friend, this virginal maiden couldn’t possibly have been the light-fingered lass involved in the alleged fleecing, and I’m sure the sailor would have realized this had he been even minimally sober.

At any rate, harsh words were spoken between the sailor and my friend and somehow, the Shore Patrol was summoned. When they arrived the officer in charge intervened, somehow tripped in the ensuing confusion, and fell headlong down the stairs, breaking his leg. Of course, the Navy blamed the whole thing on my poor, guiltless friend, who’d only been out seeking an evening of cultural diversion.

There is certainly no truth to the charge that he seized the obviously poorly coordinated officer by his collar and crotch and hoisted him overhead before hurling him down the stairs like a sack of oats. Just because my friend sometimes did one-handed chin-ups is no indication that he possessed the necessary strength to have accomplished such a feat. Although well over six feet in height, he was actually rather slender. It’s possible however, that he might have inadvertently jostled the officer slightly. The Navy chose to believe it was all deliberate.

They even hauled my friend aboard a destroyer in the Port of Barcelona and held him there for some time before our commander could secure his release. What a shocking injustice! I’ve seen the living quarters on board a destroyer; I shudder to think what the brig must look like. But there was one bright spot; the hapless airman was chosen squadron Airman of the Quarter while he was being unfairly held in that naval brig.

Naturally, a few disgruntled and vocal squadron members failed to understand how somebody languishing in a Navy brig could possibly have been considered for so much as Airman of the Moment, leave alone winning Airman of the Quarter, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s well known that there is always that five per cent who’d bitch if you hung ‘em with a new rope.

(Sigh) Those were the days. Some of this story really happened. One of my friends did indeed toss a Navy officer down a flight steps in the Bar Pan Am and was himself tossed in a Navy brig for his efforts. I think he was actually locked up somewhere in the port and not aboard a destroyer, but why let facts get in the way of a good story?