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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The A.E.F.

The A.E.F. 
by Heywood Broun

It is well enough to say that all the romance has gone out of modern war, but you can't convince a nineteen-year-older of that when he has his first khaki on his back and his first anti-typhoid inoculation in his arm. They boasted of these billion germs and they swaggered and played banjos and sang songs. 

 Mostly they sang at night on the pitch black upper deck. The littlest ambulance driver had a nice tenor voice and on still nights he did not care what submarine commander knew that he "learned about women from her." He and his companions rocked the stars with "She knifed me one night." 

 Daytimes they studied French from the ground up. It was the second day out that I heard a voice from just outside my porthole inquire "E-S-T--what's that and how do you say it?" Later on the littlest ambulance driver had made marked progress and was explaining "Mon oncle a une bonne fille, mais mon père est riche."

 Romance was not hard to find on the vessel. The slow waiter who limped had been wounded at the Marne, and the little fat stewardess had spent twenty-two days aboard the German raider Eitel Friedrich. There were French soldiers in the steerage and one of them had the Croix de Guerre with four palms. He had been wounded three times.

 But when the ship came up the river the littlest ambulance driver--the one who knew "est" and women--summed things up and decided that he was glad to be an American. He looked around the deck at the Red Cross nurses and others who had stood along the rail and cheered in the submarine fight, and he said:

 "I never would have thought it of 'em. It's kinda nice to know American women have got so much nerve."

 The littlest ambulance driver drew himself up to his full five feet four and brushed his new uniform once again.

 "Yes, sir," he said, "we men have certainly got to hand it to the girls on this boat." And as he went down the gangplank he was humming: "And I learned about women from her."


 The A.E.F. by Heywood Broun

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