No one could deny that Harkilroid was a good payroll clerk, but no one could deny that buck sergeant was a good enough (if not too high) rank for the job—except Harkilroid. He thought he deserved more and he didn’t keep quiet about it.

Every time ratings came out and Harkilroid didn’t see his name on the list, he’d immediately start bitching and looking around the orderly room to see who might have had anything to do with keeping him from getting a promotion. “I can’t understand it,” he’d say when he got back to the barracks. “I sweat like a dog to get that payroll out, and it is very seldom I redline anyone. I should be at least a staff. I deserve it.”

We would eye our own stripeless sleeves, and say “Geez, Harkilroid, you’re a buck sergeant. What more can you want?”

This would infuriate Harkilroid and he would snap back, “Well, I worked for it, didn’t I? I slaved for it. Nobody just handed it to me. All I got I earnt,” he’d say.

That usually ended the argument, because no one wanted to hurt the guy’s feelings and there had been instances in the past when he could redline you if he felt mean enough.

wwii officer cartoon payroll clerk

It usually took Harkilroid about 15 days to get over his mad. Then he’d throw himself into his work getting out the next payroll and there would be a let-up around the orderly room. As ratings got fewer and fewer (it got to a point where you couldn’t get a promotion unless another guy was busted), Harkilroid became more and more disagreeable.  His inferiority complex grew to such proportions that it was impossible to carry on a conversation in the orderly room without his stopping his work and running over to listen in.

One day the first sergeant was talking to Branowitz, the sergeant major, a new staff who had been shipped into our already bulging T/O much to Harkilroid’s discomfort. Harkilroid had finished his work, so he walked over and took a seat with them.

“If you don’t mind,” the first sergeant said to Harkilroid testily, “you will kindly not interrupt my conversations which are private or else you will find yourself a private.”

Harkilroid ignored the first sergeant (he wasn’t afraid of anyone, he claimed) and began to clean his nails with the sergeant’s paperfile. The first sergeant began to fume. The hair in his nose stuck out like porcupine quills.

“Kindly go back to your payrolls, Harkilroid,” said the first sergeant.

“I have finished them,” Harkilroid said, “two days ahead of time.”

The first sergeant balked for a minute, then his eyes lit up. “That is good,” he said. “My drill sergeant is going on a three-day pass today, so’s you can take over his job.”

Harkilroid rose to his full five feet seven and his face reddened. “You have got it in for me, sergeant,” he said, and he stomped out.

Harkilroid pulled the three days as drill sergeant and he was merciless with his men. He marched them until the dust covered the drill field like a smoke screen. Then he sulkily reported back to the orderly room. Everyone sensed that he’d get even with the first sergeant, and he did. He redlined him.

That was the straw that broke the camels’ back. The CO, who was married to the first sergeant’s sister, called in Harkilroid and busted him, and on his way out Harkilroid threw the entire weight of his 112 pounds against the first sergeant for one good poke on the chin. We carried him to the guard house kicking and screaming. There was quite a court martial, but due to Harkilroid’s past record as a good payroll clerk he got off with six months.

Now almost every day he goes out with a detail that is beautifying the post and whenever you pass him you can hear him argue with the guard about the unfair treatment he got. “I worked and I slaved,” Harkilroid will say, “and this is what  I got. Well, anyway, all I got I earnt.”

—S/Sgt. Gorden Crow

—Detroit, Mich.

For Further Reading Check Out:

My Father’s War: Memories from Our Honored WWII Soldiers

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