An Entertaining Tale

Benjamin B. Ferencz

It is axiomatic that the dirtiest jobs in the army are assigned to the man of lowest rank. "Rank has it's privileges" is a sacred slogan. Since the Judge Advocate Section of the US army is populated by officers and I was only a lowly corporal, it was inevitable that the honor of cleaning the officer's toilets was granted to me. Let me be clear; I never objected to doing any job that I knew had to be done by someone but I also sought means to convert adversity to opportunity. And so it was when I encountered Marlene Dietrich.

We had fought our way into Germany and General Patton's Headquarters was located in a large building on the outskirts of Munich. Troop morale was sustained by occasional visits from famous Hollywood performers who came to cheer up the boys at the front. One morning, I was surprised to learn that Marlene Dietrich was to pay us such a visit. When she appeared on the floor where I was doing valued latrine duty, she was shown to a room that had a real bathtub . I was instructed to see that her bath was not disturbed. After waiting a reasonable time,- to be sure that she was at least in the tub- and eager to do my duty, I simply walked into the room where she sat calmly immersed only in her splendor, "Oh, pardon me Sir", I said, as I beat a hasty retreat.

I stood guard at the door until she came out. I apologized for the intrusion. She smiled and said she enjoyed my calling her "Sir". We both laughed and she asked where I was from etc. When I explained that I was a Harvard lawyer she was amazed at my assignment as an orderly and invited me to join her at the luncheon planned by the officers. Since fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel was prohibited in the US and British army I suggested that she might describe me as an old friend from her home town (Europe) and insist that I accompany her. And so she did. My legal training came in handy.

I sat opposite her at lunch an she gave me her calling card which also bore the title of her latest film DESTRY RIDE AGAIN! She rather hinted that she would rather chat with me than with the dozen officers who sat around the table. But when the lunch was over, she went to the end of the table to thank General Patton who then escorted her away.. "Rank has its privileges."