Marilyn nodded, but before she could speak, Randall Grayson, a plebe, spoke up. “Ma’am, I voted against it. I’d like to change my vote.”
She looked at him sharply. “Mr. Grayson, I won’t ask you why, but I will ask you, are you sure you now want to vote in favor?”
“Ma’am, yes ma’am.”
She smiled. “Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we have a unanimous vote. We’ll get together again tomorrow evening to work out the details, but for now lights out is rapidly approaching. I remind you, don’t discuss this with anyone outside the company.”
That final reminder turned out to be the weak point in the prank.
Marilyn snapped to attention. “Company, atten-hut! … Dismissed.”
My plan was relatively simple. It was based on the earlier prank using the Green Beach. The men in the company who could get off base before Captain Simpson returned would buy so-called “girly magazines,” lots of them. We would make sure a 15th Company office window was unlocked. We would collect newspapers from the trash of other companies as well as 15th and store them in our quarters until we had enough to cover the office floor to a depth of two feet – we wanted to block the door but not make it impossible to open. Then after lights out on the designated night we’d tape all the nude photos from the magazines to the walls in the office and toss the rest of the magazines on the newspapers we were piling on the floor.
Then came the tricky part, closing and locking the open window. I’d figured out a way using dental floss to pull the latch closed and then pull the floss out the window without leaving a trace.
On the night before Capt. Simpson was to return, we waited half an hour after lights out and formed a relay team on the ledge. Everything went according to plan, except that a relay team member dropped one of his collections of papers. We watched helplessly as the papers separated and floated to the ground. Fortunately, Marilyn had prepared for just such an incident. She had put enough lookouts on the ground to pick up the stray papers and still maintain a lookout.
As luck would have it, the lookouts with the papers had just ducked inside when the remaining lookout started waving frantically and ducked into the hall, the warning that someone was coming. We all had to scramble to get off the Green Beach and not be seen.
When the lookout came out and signaled the all clear, we went back to work and finished up. I was the last one out of the office, because the latch trick was my idea and I had practiced it. The floss snagged on the first attempt, so I had to go inside and clear it. The second try was a success and the floss came out cleanly. In the meantime everyone else, including the lookouts, had gone inside.
As I was heading back to my quarters, someone showed up on the ground with a flashlight. I had to drop down and use the ledge for cover. For the next ten minutes or so – it seemed ages – I watched as he shined the light all over. I had to duck back as he shined it on the ledge where I was, but the ledge kept the light from reaching me. Thinking back, I know I was lucky the light didn’t alert someone in the quarters I was next to.
When the person on the ground moved on, I beat a hasty retreat and got back inside.
The next morning when Captain Simpson reported for duty, he couldn’t get in his office. Instead of noticing that the door flexed, he called the custodial staff. As a result he had a crowd of not only midshipmen but also other naval personnel. When the door opened enough to get inside, some of the onlookers saw the photos on the wall. It wasn’t long before it was all over the academy. Mission accomplished.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. One of the plebes had a conference with Lt. Hayakawa , our company officer, soon after the prank. The plebe, perhaps burdened with guilt, admitted to taking part in the prank. That evening Hayakawa had us assemble in the hall and formally dressed us down.
He finished with, “Would the person responsible for this step forward?” Both Marilyn and I did.
He looked back and forth between us once and said, “My office. Now!” Then he turned to the rest of the company. “I don’t want to hear any more about this from any of you … or from anyone else. Is that understood?”
There was a chorus of “Sir. Yes sir”s as Marilyn preceded me into the office.
When Hayakawa came in, we stood at attention in front of his desk, facing him.
Marilyn started, “Sir, may I speak?” I knew what she wanted to say, that she was the company commander and, therefore, responsible for whatever the company did. But Hayakawa said, “No.” I knew I’d get the same response.
He paced back and forth behind the desk a couple of times. Then he faced us and pulled his right hand down his face. “You two present me with a quandary. If I write you up for this, it’ll be on your records while you’re here at the academy and will probably keep you from holding any future positions of authority. I presume that’s important to both of you?” He looked at us as if expecting an answer.
We responded together, “Yes sir.”
“I’m glad to hear that. So the question is, what’re we going to do about it?” He asked. “There has to be some form of punishment. Perhaps there’s something we can do off the books. Do either of you have any kind of suggestion?”
Marilyn was the first answer. “Sir, first of all, I take full responsibility for what happened. I should be the one who gets the punishment.”
I had to interrupt. “Sir, if I may speak.”
He simply nodded.
“Sir, this whole thing was my idea. I talked midshipmen Pascal into it. If anyone should be punished, it should be me.”
Hayakawa hmmmed. “I respect both of you trying to take responsibility. But I believe there needs to be punishment for everyone. You two weren’t the only ones involved. I’ve been giving it some thought, and I think the company should do yard cleanup on Saturday.” He paused.
“Since everyone was involved, I can safely say everyone volunteered. That should make you all think twice before doing anything like it again.” He smiled. “To be perfectly frank I think it was a great prank. It’s too bad you have to be punished for it.
The relief hit me so hard that I actually shivered. That was the kind of punishment I could appreciate.
He had a final comment. “Just keep in mind that if something like this happens again I won’t be able to be so lenient.”
But I had more pranks in my future.