Newsletter Issue: March/April 2004 - page 7 of 7


  The Old Man, striding toward us in the soft rain, proved to be Col. James C. McGehee, 34, of Birmingham, Ala. It seemed strange to me to be hearing his deep southern accent in the orphan asylum in Belgium - strange and very comforting.  
  We picked up Toni Frissell (The good-lookin' photographer) at McGhee's headquarters and drove her and her paraphernalia to the other end of the asylum grounds. There we got out and climbed the steps.  
  As McGehee opened the door a sudden flood of sound burst forth. In the big main hall waited about 50 little children. At sight of us they began to talk excitedly and some of them ran forward, arms outstretched. Others stood in shy circles around three smiling nurses. As I picked up a squirming, giggling little boy, the first of the pilots arrived - dashing up the steps, shouting as he came.  
  "Yvonne!" he yelled, grabbing a tiny brown-eyed morsel and setting her on his shoulder. "Ou est voire soerur?"  
  "Elle est malade," said Yvonne solemnly.  
  "Cutest trick in seven counties," said the pilot brazenly, "This one's sister."  
  "Je suis 'cute' aussi," said Yvonne placidly.  
  "You bet you are!" said the pilot.  
  As Toni Frissell began to take photographs of the children, other pilots came in through the big doors, grabbed up their favorites and began to talk. The children searched the pockets of their uniforms with practiced little hands, looking for candy rations.  
  "We had the fanciest Christmas party you ever saw," said the Old Man, comforting a youngster who was a little scared by Miss Frissell's flash bulbs. "The pilots saved their candy rations for months before."  
  Twilight had come and the pilots helped march the children into their dining room. Then, with the ease born of habit, they urged the youngsters to eat, aided by the nurses in serving them. After the meal, children and pilots wandered into the high airy dormitory and there was a gay putting-to-bed with many exchanges of confidences.  
  "Time for chow," said the Old Man finally. "We'd better be on our way."  
  I walked toward headquarters with a young major who introduced himself as Major Robert D'Amico, of Syracuse, N.Y.  
  "What are the folks back home thinking about us?"  
  "They worry some," I said.  
  "About our safety?"  
  "Well," I said, "all this training in destruction and killing. Some folks say you'll come back violent - still killers."  
  Major D'Amico laughed.  
  "McGehee's Killers!" he said. "Did you hear that Colonel? I'm going to paint a sign to hand over heardquarters door 'McGehee's Killers.'"  
  The Old Man joined us.  
  "We've been lucky," he said. "Living with these kids as we do. It sort of keeps things easy. I know what they're saying back home - but I don't know of any heavy psychiatric problems in my outfit."  
  As we walked in to the mess hall I made a mental note to tell the folks back home what to do when the boys get back from overseas. Just have Junior and baby sister standing at the gate. It will keep things easy.   The End  
 

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