Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Different War

Lt. Elroy Carpenter: Oh, you are brilliant, Sir. In fact, I would say you are one of the most brilliant, most intelligent, most outstanding officers that I have ever... 
Captain Wallace B. Binghamton: Stop buttering me up - I'm on a low-fat diet.

Bob Hastings (L), with Joe Flynn and Ernest Borgnine
Noting the passing of Bob Hastings at age 89. He was a WWII veteran (a B-29 navigator) who portrayed Lt. Elroy Carpenter, the obsequious aide to officious, blundering Captain Binghamton in the '60s comedy McHale's Navy. Like the show Barney Miller was to policing, McHale's Navy probably portrayed the South Pacific PT boat war closer to truth than fiction. The stories my Marine father told - of alcohol-powered escapades indulged in by men sure that their next battle would be their last - certainly support that notion. He thought the show funny, anyway, allowing us to stay up and watch with him. The tiny black and white RCA set was a perfect medium for a war that had ended less than twenty years prior. Hastings's performance was always frantic and evasive as he struggled to stroke the ego of a Navy Captain better suited for a Stateside assignment in...administration.

Mr. Hastings was a character actor, to be sure. But, for a few years, he helped America remember that the fighting men who defeated an empire were flawed human beings in often generous, humorous ways. Many made the ultimate sacrifice having lived their last days making the best of a trying situation. For all of its lightness, McHale's Navy helped us honor the men and women who ventured so far from home to keep us free. Bob Hastings joined that cast in a worthy cause. 

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