By Fritz Ritz


            Major Judy was a blur as he whizzed down Stribling Walk in his immaculate marine green uniform, in pursuit of some hapless midshipman whom he had observed talking in ranks, marching out of step, or committing some other crime against Naval Academy Regulations.  His messenger had difficulty keeping up with the major’s pell-mell pace, but he soon overtook the platoon containing the miscreant, collected his name, and turned it over to the officer for entry into the conduct log for assignment of demerits and extra duty. We referred to this process as being fried.

            There was constant tension between us midshipmen and the officers of the executive department as we tried, usually without success, to beat the system, while they tried to mold us into officers and gentlemen.  Some of the more notorious officers earned themselves nicknames.  Owing to his ability to cover vast distances in minimal time and to turn up when and where he was least expected, Major Judy was dubbed “The Green Hornet.”  -In only one instance can I recall his failing to nail his victim.

            One day, while standing in the main office overlooking Tecumseh Court as the brigade was forming up into sections and marching off to class, he observed an infraction.  In his rush to nab the perpetrator, he donned his dress sword, and raced out the door. He made it out the door, but his sword didn’t. Jerked to an abrupt halt, he reopened the door, and retrieved his sword from the floor, where it lay broken at the hilt. The Green Hornet looked on in dismay as the squad containing the offender marched out of sight.

            Commander Hector “The Spectre” Hathaway was another officer credited with the uncanny ability to catch one unawares.  His method was to wear one hard-soled shoe and one tennis shoe so that when he raced down the hall only every other footstep was heard, making it sound as though he were walking rather than running. He could thus burst into an unsuspecting midshipman’s room during study hour before there was time to hide the playing cards and pick up a calculus text.

            One navy lieutenant, whose real name I can’t remember, will forever be known as “The Wedge.”  Working without a messenger, he once accosted a midshipman, Tony Suarez, who was wearing a dirty cap cover.

            “What is your name?” he asked.

            “Franciscoantoniovelasquezysuarez, Sir,” was the rapid-fire response.

            “Say that again.”

Even more rapidly, “Franciscoantoniovelasquezysuarez, Sir.”         


            “ Francisco Antonio Velasquez y Suarez, Sir!”

            “Oh, never mind. Just be sure to wash your cap cover when you get back to your room.”

            A midshipman once overheard The Wedge bragging to his fellow officers that he must be well-liked and respected by the midshipmen inasmuch as they had given him a nickname. When he revealed his new moniker, his comrades didn’t have the heart to explain to him that, in mechanics, a wedge is sometimes defined as the simplest tool known to man.

            The executive department officers were assigned as company officers, one to each of the twenty-four midshipman companies. The performance evaluations of the company officers depended, to some extent, on how well their companies performed in the competition for the colors. One factor in the evaluation process was the overall conduct grade of the midshipmen in the company, determined by the total number of demerits accumulated by the officer’s charges. For this reason, most company officers were reluctant to mete out punishments to members of their own companies.    

            My company officer, E. E. “Easy Ernie” Holifield, either didn’t understand this philosophy, or he had a self-destructive impulse. Whatever the reason, he was anything but forgiving of the missteps of the hapless midshipmen under his care. He wielded his report pad and pencil against his own with reckless abandon.

            One day he showed up at noon meal formation and conducted a surprise personnel inspection proceeding to write us up right and left, for minor uniform infractions, poorly shined shoes, lint on uniforms, ring around the collar..., heinous crimes, indeed.

            Regrettably, his own uniform appearance failed to meet the high standards he was demanding of all of us.  This didn’t sit well with one of my classmates who had been fried. He prepared and mailed an anonymous postcard to Easy Ernie. Its message was to the effect that, “Before you go out and criticize our uniform appearance, you should look in the mirror.”

            This criticism didn’t sit too well with its target.  In fact, Easy Ernie considered it to be gross insubordination and worthy of maximum punishment.   While the company was away at class, he searched all our rooms, taking typing samples from every typewriter and comparing them to the type on the offending postcard. Finding a match, he accosted the author and reported him for a Class A offense, which entailed many demerits and many hours restriction, severe punishment, indeed.

            My roommate, who happened to be from Oregon, but who was innocent of any complicity in the original or subsequent events, was nevertheless extremely concerned that he might be implicated when another postcard arrived.  This card was postmarked somewhere in Oregon and contained the message, “Try and trace this one, Dick Tracy!”