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NAVY SHOW: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
by Art Buchwald
Washington, DC, Feb. 8, 1969
"Commander, we’ve got a wonderful assignment for you."
"Yes sir. What is it?"
"The Navy wants you to take command of a ship, sail it up the Yangtze River and take mud samples and depth readings of the river bed.
We'll give you the latest top-secret equipment for the job."
"That's great, sir. What kind of ship will I have to do this with?"
"We're converting a sardine trawler into a man-of-war.
It will be a top-class ship that anyone would be proud to command."
"What kind of guns will she have, admiral?"
"What do you mean, guns?"'
"If I’m sailing up the Yangtze, shouldn't I have some guns on the ship in case anybody wanted to attack me?"
"Why would anyone want to attack you?"
"No reason that I can think of. I just thought if it was a Navy ship,
it should have some guns on it."
"The Navy doesn't have guns to spare for every ship in the fleet.
Besides, it might look provocative if you were carrying all that
secret equipment and guns, too."
"But suppose I'm attacked?"
"WHY WOULD ANYONE want to attack you?
After all, you're only looking for mud samples. Look commander, If you don't want the assignment, we can always find somebody else."
"Oh, I want the assignment, sir. I just wanted to be clear
as to what I was to do."
"Well we've got the whole thing worked out.
You sail up to Shanghai from Formosa,
make a sharp left and head straight for Nanking."
"That's the entire plan?"
"Why, what else do you have to know?"
"I'm not trying to make waves, admiral, but there could be some
resistance on the part of the Chinese to my sailing up the Yangtze,
even if it's for mud samples."
"The Chinese would never dare attack a U.S. naval vessel.
If the did they know we'd retaliate immediately."
"That brings me to another question, sir.
In case I am challenged, will I get aid from any naval vessels?"
"Of course. The Sixth Fleet will be available to give you full protection."
"But the Sixth Fleet is stationed in the Mediterranean."
"I KNOW WHERE the Sixth Fleet is stationed. We can't give you
cover from the Seventh Fleet because they're involved in Vietnam;
the Pacific Fleet at Pearly Harbor will be on, maneuvers.
So the only ones available for contingency are ships
from the Mediterranean Fleet.
You may have to hold off your attackers until they get there."
"With what, sir?"
"We're issuing all the officers sabers,
and the enlisted men will have cutlasses."
"That’s different then, sir I thought we were going in unarmed."
"If anything happens, commander, all you have to do is to
give me a ting-a-ling and we'll be there."
"It’s good to know I can count on you, admiral.
Sir I know this is a stupid question, but is there any way I can
scuttle the ship in case you can't get to me in time?"
"Why would you want to scuttle a good Navy ship?"
"So they wouldn’t get all the secret mud-sampling equipment on board." "Let's cross bridge when we come to it. The next thing you'll be asking me is what are you supposed to do if you're captured.
Ho, ho, ho; ha, ha, ha; ho, ho.
That would be a be a good one, wouldn’t it?"
"Commander, you're not laughing."
(provided by Harry Iredale)
Art Buchwald, commentator.
"An owlish, cigar-chomping extrovert whose column won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1982. His column was syndicated to more than 550 newspapers."