HARPER, WHERE IS RESNICK?
Capt. Marvin Goodwyn and 2nd. Lt. Nathan Resnick, Pilot and Mess Officer respectively, were members of the 45th Bomb Squadron when the unit was stationed on Baltra Island (The Rock), Galapagos Archipelago. The food served in the mess tent was canned, dehydrated, monotonous, and tasteless. Lt. Resnick was hard pressed to serve a satisfactory menu with the limited supplies he received from the mainland, and he found it to be particularly challenging to prepare a tasty flight lunch.
The main course in a typical flight lunch was a can of cold bully beef and several hard tack biscuits. To top off these delicacies, there was a bar composed of figs and bitter chocolate compressed into an oblong shape, then wrapped in an evil looking, khaki colored wax paper. If fresh bread was available, the cooks would put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in each lunch. All this was washed down with lukewarm coffee -- seldom with sugar, and rarely with cream. This lunch nourished each aircrew member during a ten to twelve hour patrol mission.
The main items in a flight lunch became so repulsive that we looked forward to eating the fig/chocolate bar because it contained some sugar. While in a fantasy mood, a faraway food service officer listed the bar as Dessert. To a crew member midway through a twelve-hour mission, the sugar in a Dessert bar provided a needed burst of energy, so we called it a treat.
Pilot Goodwyn and Mess Officer Resnick had a conflict of personalities. For some reason, Capt. Goodwyn had formed a low opinion of the tubby ROTC graduate, and Lt. Resnick was offended by Capt. Goodwyn's constant complaints about the food served in the mess tent. To Lt. Resnick's credit, the best mess officer in the army would not have done much better with the poor supplies shipped to Baltra. Lt. Resnick did not help his case by being an aggressive, opinionated person who was far too thin-skinned to peaceably absorb the complaints made by squadron personnel. He decided that Capt. Goodwyn was his chief critic among those who were unhappy with the food being served. Aircrews were especially critical of the flight lunches. Some of us were simply more outspoken than others.
During the normal course of mission flight scheduling, Capt. Goodwyn's crew was selected to fly the miserable twelve-hour Triangle Patrol. The flight originated at Baltra, flew a triangular course over the Pacific Ocean, and returned to Baltra. Other long missions had a refueling stop at a city where the crew could take a fresh water shower and enjoy good food. On this mission, Capt. Goodwyn's crew had to eat their flight lunches far out at sea after flying 1,000 miles from Baltra.
When the crew opened their lunch packages, they were shocked to see the miserable contents. Each lunch contained one tin of oily sardines, two hard tack biscuits, and a large green onion. No bully beef. No peanut butter sandwich. No fig/chocolate bar. Capt. Goodwyn was even more perturbed when he discovered that the coffee was stone cold.
Capt. Goodwyn concluded that Lt. Resnick had deliberately prepared the worst meal possible for this mission. When the hungry crew opened their sardine tins, a horrible stench filled the airplane. The odor persisted for the remainder of the flight, and some crew members said it made their eyes water. The stench made Capt. Goodwyn certain that he would have a major confrontation with Lt. Resnick soon after landing. Capt. Harper Miller, the Squadron Adjutant, met Capt. Goodwyn's plane at its parking spot. When Capt. Goodwyn emerged from the exit hatch, his first words were, "HARPER, WHERE IS RESNICK?" His Southern accent had an edge of steel in it. Capt. Harper replied, "He's in the mess tent. What's the problem?" Capt. Goodwyn said, "Come with me. I prefer to say what's on my mind directly to Resnick."
They walked rapidly to the mess tent where Lt. Resnick was supervising the preparation of the evening meal. Capt. Goodwyn walked straight to Lt. Resnick and poured out an emotional complaint that topped anything the speechless Mess Officer had ever heard. Lt. Resnick listened to a detailed analysis of the contents of that day's flight lunch. It was food more like a booby trap than the usual, lousy flight lunch. This lunch had stinking sardines, a green onion, concrete biscuits, and frigid coffee. No peanut butter/jelly sandwich, no dessert bar, no warm coffee. It was food fit for an enemy POW in a battle field compound, but not fit for an Air Corps crew on a patrol mission.
Capt. Goodwyn accused Lt. Resnick of deliberately putting garbage on the plane in the guise of flight lunches when more palatable food was available. The heated conversation flowed in one direction. Lt. Resnick remained silent when challenged to show Capt. Goodwyn and the Adjutant what was in the storeroom. They found great stacks of bully beef, plenty of fig/chocolate bars, and some fresh bread. Next to the bread were stacks of canned peanut butter and tins of jelly. Mess Officer Resnick did not offer a satisfactory explanation for the poor flight lunches. Considering all the food that was available in the storeroom, it appeared that Captain Marvin Goodwyn was justified to accuse 2nd. Lt. Nathan Resnick of deliberately preparing a substandard meal for his flight crew.
At this point, the Adjutant persuaded Capt. Goodwyn to accompany him to explain the event to Major Oscar Schaaf, the Squadron CO. Major Schaaf knew about the poor food served in the mess tent and in all the flight lunches. He described the young, inexperienced mess officer as very sensitive to criticism, and apt to sound off whenever someone voiced a not-so-gentle barb concerning the food served in the mess tent. Corrective action was in order, so Major Schaaf reassigned 2nd. Lt. Resnick to duty as the Squadron Supply Officer.
M/Sgt. H.C. West, a senior airman in the 45th Bomb Squadron, had been a Mess Sergeant earlier in his military service. Major Schaaf knew this, and appointed Sgt. West as Mess NCOIC to replace Lt. Resnick. It was remarkable how quickly the quality of food served in the mess tent improved. M/Sgt. West went fishing in the local waters, and the next evening's dinner featured swordfish steaks. He had patrol aircrews, who were scheduled to refuel at Guatemala City, collect money before the mission, and use it to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, and milk in the city markets during the refueling stop.
M/Sgt. H.C. West had hidden qualities as a Mess Sergeant the same as a diamond has hidden value before it is cut. Personally, I will never forget the wonderful steak meal he prepared when the 45th Bomb Squadron was alerted to transfer to the States in June 1945. It was a memorable meal to celebrate a memorable event.
Lt. Nathan Resnick did a good job as Squadron Supply Officer. After everyone forgot the Sardine Flight Lunch, Captain Goodwyn and Lt. Resnick began to speak to each other as friends.
* From Ira V. Matthews' Eighty-one War Stories. *