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Short Rounds

The Platoon Sergeant and the "Baby-Faced" Lieutenant

Chet Lynn was still a teenager when he made the long walk out from the Chosin Reservoir with the rest of the 1st Marine Division in 1950. Having been wounded, he spent five months in the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes Naval Station. In 1952, Chet enrolled in Indiana University at Bloomington. Upon graduating in 1956 he was commissioned in the Marine Corps.

Since he was still “baby-faced” when he arrived at his first assignment, his platoon sergeant assumed Chet was a college boy right out of NROTC. Chet immediately caught on to this, and decided not to disabuse the man of his error.

A few days later, the platoon had to turn out in full dress blues. 

Chet’s description of the platoon sergeant’s expression when his spotted the “baby-faced” lieutenant’s chest with its Purple Heart and Korean service medals was good for a laugh, and a drink, ever afterwards.

 

War Debts

In 1651 King Charles II, fighting for his throne against the forces of Parliament, led by the redoubtable Oliver Cromwell, set up his headquarters at Worcester, in central England, northwest of London. There he concentrated his forces in anticipation of a showdown with the enemy. He also procured uniforms for his troops from the Clothiers Company of Worcester, a guild founded in the thirteenth century. Lacking the £453 3s in cash to cover the bill, the King proposed to pay after he won the coming battle. 

Alas, Charles was defeated in the Battle of Worcester (September 3rd), the last fight of the English Civil War, and fled into exile.

For most of the next decade, England was ruled “firmly” by Cromwell, who set himself up as dictator. Naturally, King Charles’ debt went unpaid..

Although Charles returned to the kingdom with the Restoration in 1660, and reigned rather merrily for the next 25 years, he never got around to paying off the debt. 

And there things pretty much remained until the early 1990s. Around 1992, apparently as a publicity stunt, the Clothiers Company of Worcester began seeking payment of the debt.  And were completely ignored.

However, in June of 2008, while on a tour of Worcester, Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and kinsman to the late Charles II, apprised of the debt, decided to pay it as "a gesture of good will," no doubt also with an eye on good publicity.

In a brief ceremony at the Commandery, an historic edifice that had served as Charles II’s headquarters back when, Prince Charles handed Andrew Grant, current Master of the Clothiers Company, a replica seventeenth century purse filled with the money, equal to about $900, carefully avoiding the question of interest, which would have amounted to about $90,000, by saying “I wasn’t born yesterday.” 

Even more cleverly, the Prince made sure he paid exactly what was owed, £453 3s, rather than the equated value after 350 years of inflation; £453 3s in 1651 would today easily be the equivalent of nearly £50,000 based on the British version of the CPI, perhaps twice that in dollars, without considering the interest, and far more if one considers the “minimum wage” prevailing in the seventeenth century. 

 

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