Pvt. Richard Lee Leslie musters out of the army after WWII
Taken from Richard’s memoir posted on this site by that name.
(Author’s note: After Surviving 18 months in an active combat zone in the Philippines, Pvt. Richard Leslie and six buddies walked into a booby-trapped bunker. His buddies were killed and Richard returned to the US under sedation aboard a hospital ship.)
Just when I began to feel healthy and eager to return to duty, I was summoned to the paymaster’s office where a sergeant who considered himself an officer sat behind a desk.
“Private Leslie.” He glanced up at me and immediately broke eye contact. Shuffling some papers, he said, “When were you last paid?” More paper shuffling. “I see you took a cash advance back a Camp Hon.”
“I can’t remember. Some time back in Negros Island, I guess.”
“Looks like you got three month’s pay coming.” He pinched his pencil tight and pressed it so hard to the note pad I was sure the lead would break. “Of course, none of that would be combat pay because the war had ended.”
“Like hell, I’m still in combat.”
“You aren’t even in a combat zone, if one still existed.”
“I was injured and brought to this hospital as a war casualty.”
He looked up and peered at me from over his nose. “You appear to be recovered from your injuries.” His attention back to his papers. “But that’s beside the point. It’s my duty to bring your pay status up to date.” He mumbled as he scribbled some numbers on the pad, “Three month’s regular Private’s pay.”
“Hey, I get jump pay. I’m a paratrooper.”
“According to your record, you’ve done only one practice jump since Corregidor.”
“Are you suggesting Corregidor was nothing more than a practice jump?”
“They’re all the same to me. I have to exclude your jump pay any month a jump wasn’t made.”
“That rule is overlooked during combat when practice jumps aren’t possible.”
“I can grant you that, but combat ended three months ago. The Japanese surrendered if you recall.”
Sarcastic remarks are tolerable from officers who need to assert their authority, but I was not about to allow a sergeant to get by with it.
“I want to see an officer.”
“My rank is the best you’re going to get, Private.”
“I have a right to get higher authority, Sergeant.”
“Watch that attitude, Soldier, or I will have to write you up. Then you’ll get your officer at your court martial.”
“In combat I’ve taken over squads where our sergeant in charge got shot.”
“Are you threatening me?”
My mind flashed back to a drill sergeant during training that I threatened and he backed down. However, this was different and I had to walk a fine line. “I refuse to sign any pay voucher that doesn’t include combat and jump pay.”
“We’ll see about that.”
He got up and left the room with me still standing in front of a vacant desk. Soon he returned with a lieutenant. He returned my salute, and he told me to sit down while he did some calculating. Something did not smell right.
“I see you haven’t jumped since the war ended.”
“No, Sir, I haven’t had the chance. But I am ready to jump right now if you will get me to an airport.”
“I don’t think you are in any condition to jump.”
He was right but I began a protest. “With all due respect, Sir…”
“No need for that. We can overlook that little detail.” He glanced at the sergeant and said, “I think $3000.00 would round off quite nicely.”
The sergeant nodded his approval and even started to grin. Something was up.
“Three month’s combat pay with jump pay added to mustering out pay. Three thousand dollars sounds pretty good, don’t you think?”
“Sir, I’m not mustering out.”
“Those are the orders. When we are finished with this transaction, you are a free citizen again.”
“Sir, under military code, I am making a charge against you.”
“Hold on soldier. You are not a civilian just yet. You will respect the uniform.”
“I am respecting the uniform. The charge I am making under combat rules is against you as a person. I am still in combat as the pay voucher you just signed proves.” I felt I had him at his own game.
“I cannot accept such a charge from a lowly private.”
“Are you hiding behind your rank or just afraid to face a combat veteran in a fist fight?”
“That wouldn’t be a fair fight. Wait right here. I will be right back.” He glanced at the sergeant now forcing a grin off his face. “Be prepared to include all the details of this conversation in your report.”
When a Lieutenant Colonel wearing an airborne uniform stepped into the room, I shot to my feet and saluted. All I could think of was Col. Jones.
He gestured for me and the sergeant to an as-you-were. “You just made a charge against an officer under combat code.”
“No, Sir. Not the officer. Just the person wearing the uniform.”
“Well, I can inform you that the officer has rejected your charge.”
“Does that mean I won my point?”
“You have beaten him, and he now must answer to a reprimand, probably a loss of rank.”
Such a swift decision in the military was unheard of, and I smelled a rat.
I stammered my confusion. “I, I…”
“You won your point, soldier, and with it comes an immediate but honorable discharge.” He added, “According to the code of combat.”
He beat me at my own game, I think, and I did not have the resources to research the code. Maybe none of it existed and this officer knew it. I tried reasoning with him. “I don’t want to be discharged. I need to stay in. It’s the only home I got.”
“You’ll do well as a civilian. You’ve shown great courage as a paratrooper, and now you deserve a bit of the quiet life.”
“I demand you allow me to stay. My time isn’t up, and I don’t have enough points to be discharged.”
“It’s all part of the code of combat. You won, the officer you charged lost, and you are free to go.”
“I won but I lost. It doesn’t make sense.”
“If the officer counter charged you, the case could go to a court martial with a possible dishonorable discharge and forget about the $3000.”
He reached to shake my hand. “You’ve distinguished yourself in battle. Wear your medals with pride, you earned them.” He left the room leaving me standing and the sergeant busy shuffling papers.