Private First Class - Fred L. Jaenecke
A Good Man
My father was a good man. He did what he thought was the right thing to do regardless of consequences, good or bad. He was not religious, so he was not influenced by the threat of eternity in hell or the rewards of heaven. He died in April of 2006 and about 6 hours before he passed, I asked him to tell me a war story from his 5 years in the South Pacific during WWII. It wasn’t that I really wanted to hear an old story as much as it was to distract him from his discomfort. To my surprise, he told me a story that I had never heard before.
My dad, Private First Class - Fred L. Jaenecke was the company cook. Although the officers ate better food than the enlisted men, Fred did his best to even things out by making gravy out of the officers’ steak for the troops’ potatoes or anything else he could to improve the taste of the enlisted mens’ meals. One day while talking with his buddies, they started complaining about the fact that the officers were eating off of real china dishes with real knives and forks, drinking out of glasses or cups and saucers, while the enlisted men who did all the hard labor were eating out of metal mess kits or worse. The sound of those china plates clinking through the thin walled officers’ tent was a constant reminder of home and the inequality of military life.
At around midnight Fred set out to make a change. He went out into the jungle with a shovel and dug a deep hole. He quietly sneaked into the officers’ mess tent and bagged every plate, bowl, glass, cup, saucer, knife, fork and spoon. Then Fred hauled the huge bag out and buried it in that deep hole in the jungle.
The next morning, while cooking breakfast, he announced loudly for all to hear, “What happened to all the dinnerware?” Panic and chaos ensued. Everyone spent most of that day searching every tent, duffel bag and vehicle. They never found any trace of the missing items. Fred’s buddies knew it had to be him, but no one turned him in and Fred never bragged to anyone about it.
Dad laughed out loud as he finished telling the story. “The look on those officers’ faces…..boy, were they mad…..I don’t know why I did some of those things.” ……. I know why…….. it was the right thing to do.
A.K.A. Scott Finch