Earl Gerheim

Gus The Chauffeur

    He was one of the first people I met when I reported into the First Marine Division Informational Services Office in 1967. He said his name was Jerry.  Jerry Hasford.  Hasford had a knack for getting plenty of use out of the names his parents gave him.  He explained his real name was Jerry Gustav Hasford IV.  His mom called him Jerry.  He sometimes introduced himself as Jerry.  But he really went by Gustav.
    Gustav was his moniker in Vietnam.  Later, he became Gus.
    He asked where I was from. I told him Washington.  The state.  He was from Alabama and added he backed civil rights. So did I.  I'd been in demonstrations in the north.  I never asked Gus if he had been on the march to Selma and faced dogs and fire hoses just to allow people their legal right to vote.  I thought that even speaking in favor of civil rights in George and Lurleen Wallace's Crackerbama took guts.  Months later, Gus somehow obtained an Alabama flag.  He used it as a towel.
    Although Gus had been in Vietnam two months before I arrived, the lifers who ran the section evidently thought his down-home, back country Alabama drawl and easy-going mannerisms meant he lacked talent.  So they made him their personal lackey.  The section at the time was run by lifers we called the Biltmore Ogre, Grease Gun Gunney and Press Chief.  There were several others.  I learned years later they had been regimental team leaders when George Wilson was the section chief.  After Wilson, who became the beloved Top to many of us in later years, rotated home, the lifers made a quick run to division rear and the creature comforts lacking at regiments.
    They made Gus make the coffee, run errands and generally be available.  One of his tasks was to chauffeur the higher ranking lifers to and from the staff NCO quarters, which were a lengthy 400 yards or so down the hill.  Every morning Gus had to pick them up in the jeep and drive them to the office up the hill.  Then, he drove them to their hootch after lunch so they could rest their weary bodies.  He later had to drive them back to the office after siesta time.  And, you guessed it, drive them back the 400 yards to their hootch when their day's work was done.
    These were the same lifers who berated us later, claiming we were only correspondents.  The Grease Gun Gunney said he was taking the word combat out of combat correspondent.  They also threatened to courtmartial any correspondent who got a Purple Heart.  Luckily, they rotated home and many of us went on our merry way of being out in the action to get stories, getting Purple Hearts and, in a few cases, decorations.  Many of those same lifers later held offices and memberships in the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association.  I guess they later figured combat wasn't a dirty word, although at the time most of them must have found some ancient Marine Corps directive that excused people above the rank of staff sergeant from having to be in the field.
    Things changed later for Gus and the rest of us.  Gus, Mike Stokey, Tom Donlon and I were sent up north to Phu Bai where we became the core of the correspondents for Task Force X-Ray.  We had some temporary attachments later, but the four of us were considered permanent personnel for TFX.
    Gus continued working away on fiction writing in addition to his Marine Corps duties.  Once in a while he would get a rejection slip from a publisher so we knew he was cranking out stories.  One day he showed me a short story he had done about Marine boot camp.  The drill instructor was named Gerheim.  Same as me.  I liked the story and told him so.  Years later Gus expanded the story into a novel.  I read the manuscript in 1974 and told him I liked the fact it wasn't one of those standard semi-autobiographical Vietnam novels.  I also complimented Gus on being one of the few authors who could write a Vietnam novel without sinking to including atrocities and dope smokers.
    As we know that novel was named The Short-timers and was later made into the movie Full Metal Jacket.  Gus was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay, but he didn't attend the Academy Awards.  Couldn't see himself in a tux, he said.

written by Earl Gerheim
January 2005

Considered the most highly educated mailman in Spokane, Washington, Earl Gerheim enjoyed a 23-year journalism career before finally making a major career change that sees him now fighting off angry dogs instead of angry coaches.  He has worked for The Associated Press and three newspapers, covering everything from world title fights, the Rose Bowl, hockey playoffs, politics and travel. The high point, however, was his time as a Marine combat correspondent in Vietnam from 1967-68.

Earl Gerheim was one of the contributors to the 1997 Gus Hasford Symposium
Photo of Gerheim in the Photo Album

Published Stories by Earl Gerheim at the Mike Company website
Earl Gerheim's Stories and News releases at the Kilo 3/5 website
Echo Company 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines Membership List


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