A short time before Christmas 1943, a bomber aircrew flew a B-17 type aircraft from Pratt Army Air Field, Pratt, Kansas, to El Paso, Texas, and remained overnight. They took taxicabs across the border to a liquor store in Juarez, Mexico, where they bought a large supply of whiskey labeled Waterfill and Frazer. How they managed to return to El Paso with the illegal whiskey was their secret. They loaded the whiskey on their plane, and flew back to the dry state of Kansas. When the contraband was delivered to the Officers Club, it was hailed as a treasure that would raise the spirits of many at a Christmas party.
Captain Charles M. Taylor, a newcomer to the group, brought with him a reputation for his unique bar act. He claimed he could drink a full water glass of whiskey without removing the glass from his lips. He called his act Chug-A-Lug. Things were falling into place for Charley to become a legend in the 40th Bomb Group: Charley was thirsty; a party was scheduled; whiskey would be available.
On Christmas Eve 1943, a party was held in the Pratt Officers Club. Few of the officers assigned to the base were married, so the party was almost a stag affair. During the evening, someone asked Charley if he would do his Chug-A-Lug act to entertain his comrades. Charley replied, "Wait until the bar closes." The party continued with more drinking and hangar flying (airplane talk).
Near midnight, the bartender announced, "Five minutes until closing time." Someone took a bottle of the bootleg whiskey to Charley's table, and filled his glass to the brim. Charley smiled at the crowd around him, rose unsteadily to his feet, raised his glass high, and shouted, "Salud." Then he drank all the booze without taking the glass from his lips, and threw the empty glass into the fireplace. Amid loud cheers of his friends, he took a couple of steps toward the door, looked back at us, then collapsed in a shapeless heap on the floor. We all laughed as we picked him up and carried him across the street to his room in the Bachelor Officers Quarters.
When Charley awakened very late on Christmas afternoon, he looked and felt terrible. His vivid description of his headache and upset stomach convinced us that he would not remember the Christmas Chug-A-Lug act with as much pleasure as we would.
* From Ira V. Matthews' Eighty-one War Stories. *