Air Brey-uhve Baas
Dad had a theory about one of the fundamental differences between the American and British military forces. The Americans, he averred, were unduly sentimental about corpses, and would risk lives and waste inordinate amounts of petrol flying their Brey-uhve Baas (or what was left of them) home to Muhmma. Whereas the British, he said, would move heaven and earth to get you out if you were alive; but if you were dead, they buried you.
During the Juba River floods, a very large American Master Sergeant, about six foot six in his socks and with the girth to go with it, fell out of a rescue barge and succeeded in drowning himself in about four feet of water. By the time the corpse was retrieved and brought back to Mogadishu, it had been in the water for some time and had swelled up to two or three times its normal size. It wouldn't fit in the largest coffin available in East Africa, and was eventually nailed into a very large packing crate, which had once contained a wardrobe.
It was at about this point in the sad proceedings that Dad discovered that he was expected to detach one of his precious Valettas to fly the corpse, by now becoming distinctly smelly, out of Somalia, and deliver it safely to whatever US unit was responsible for getting it back to the States. Dad being Dad, he refused flatly. "If you think I'm going to waste all that petrol and risk one of my planes flying a bloody dead body around...", and so on.
Dad was obdurate, and the Americans, of course, were mortified at this dreadful insult to their Brey-uhve Baa (not to mention his Muhmma). It was a standoff which looked like becoming a diplomatic incident, until the RAF had a brainwave.
Yes, they said, of course they would fly him out, and with all due pomp and ceremony.
A time was appointed. The mourners gathered. The band played Taps. A few stern tears were shed. The corpse, in its packing case, and covered with the Stars and Stripes, was loaded into a completely un-airworthy aircraft (I think it was a Beverly), which had been standing around the airfield for some time. The plane, the assembled mourners were told, would take off later that evening.
Then the gathering dispersed, the aircraft taxied around a corner to a suitably private spot and stopped, and the packing case was offloaded again, and buried with a minimum of fuss.
I hope somebody remembered to tell Muhmma.
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