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I was stationed up in Fairbanks Alaska in the U.S. Air force in the 1950’s. This period was during the Korean War and our Squadron was composed of F104 all-weather jet fighters. Our Squadron was on 24 hour alert with a defined mission to monitor the nearby Russian territory. The Air force was keen to keep troop moral as high as possible so they provided a fantastic menu in the mess hall. The mess hall cafeteria was also open for coffee breaks at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm every day except for weekends. Cupcakes, doughnuts, and cornbread were also available during mess hall coffee breaks.
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Since we were on constant tactical alert all Squadron members were allowed to carry personal arms. The outfit was originally an Alabama National Guard Squadron which had been nationalized after the start of the Korean War, so the most popular personal firearms were Magnum caliber pistols custom built on a western style .44 frame revolver. Most men wore these two pistols in “quick draw" style holsters on a western style gun belt.
It seemed that the more expensive the firearms gracing the hips of these airmen, the more swagger they displayed in their walking gait.

On a very warm spring morning around the 11:00 am break the mess hall was half filled with well-armed men chatting loudly at the various tables in the cafeteria. At the head of the cafeteria was the long steam table and serving line for regular chow. On either end of the steam table were two giant majestic coffee urns each with a 30 gallon capacity. Immediately behind the steam tables was the kitchen with a side door which on this warm day had been propped open by the cook to allow some fresh airflow through the screen door into the kitchen.

Suddenly the hub-bub in the cafeteria was hushed by the startling appearance of a huge black bear that had just pushed the screen door open and casually strolled into the kitchen sniffing around for food. The cook happened to be in his office just off of the kitchen at the time so the first people to see the curious bear were the gun toters drinking coffee. A burly master sergeant shouted out in a deep Alabamian drawl, "By God... there a big black bear in here!". Immediately guns were “quick drawn” out of holsters and a withering rain of fire was directed toward the bear from every possible angle in the cafeteria. The roar of these large caliber weapons was deafening, and I immediately dropped to the floor to avoid the pinging ricocheting rounds. The cook hearing the noise of the gunshots ran from his office frantically waving an apron and yelling at the top of his lungs, "stop shooting, stop shooting, damn it stop shooting!"

Finally the shooting stopped and the damage to the cafeteria was widespread and immediately evident. In addition to all the windows panes completely shot out, both coffee urns were spewing multiple streams of boiling hot coffee onto the cafeteria floor, and all of the protective glass in front to the steam tables was also shot out.

In the midst of all of the debris, just inside the kitchen door stood the huge bear bewildered and confused, slowly turning his head from side to side silently wondering, "What the hell is going on?" The cook picked up a big corn bristled push broom and took his rage out on the dumbfounded bear. With one well timed swing the cook hit the bear in the nose with the corn bristle end of the broom, causing the bear to let out a loud noise, which sounded something like a roar punctuated with an occasional yelping yip. Blinded by pain the bear quickly turned and ran through the closed screen doors completely destroying the frames and all of the screening. The cook then went after the wide-eyed awe filled shooting gallery some of whom were still standing there holding their smoking guns. The cook swung his push broom at them and yelled, "Get the hell out of here! The mess hall is closed until further notice, and you clowns will be getting "C Rations" until this mess hall is repaired and that includes the replacement of both of my urns." The cook made good on his promise. The mess hall did not re-open for our usual high quality meals until almost a month later. (Incidentally "C Rations" are Army meals left over from World War II and are packaged in olive drab brown cans. The most memorable fact is that the contents of “C Rations” taste like the worst acidic crap you can ever imagine.")  However the incident did little to sober the gun toting enthusiasts. They continued their parades around the squadron brandishing their beloved pistols and from time to time practicing “quick draw” contests against each other. The good news was that when I finally shipped out from Alaska no one in my squadron had been shot yet.  

Originally posted to otherwise on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 04:27 PM PST.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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