(Fourth in a family legacy series. Subject to revisions by my brothers!)
After defeating monstrous evil in the world, modern America breathed into being in the last gasps of 1945. As Life magazine noted in its special edition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the war’s end, Bogie married Bacall, Jackie Robinson was hired by the Brooklyn Dodgers and Bess Myerson became the first Jewish Miss America. Detroit wasted no time gearing up, producing 2.1 million cars, a 2,500% increase, in 1946. With a half million people living in quonset huts and many more bunking with relatives, the GI Bill’s mortgage program sent people flocking to newly created suburbs.
Eileen settled in with Hank, Scotty and her mother in Alexandria, VA.
Eileen – and most likely it was Eileen who set the schedule – gave the couple 18 months before saying “oh what the hell” and conceiving Bruce, who was born June 29, 1947. (An alternative explanation was a miscarriage, which she mentioned she had somewhere along the line.) Although he was a healthy, happy boy, Eileen and Hank must have been concerned for the surgeries he would have to undergo to repair a cleft lip.
Eileen, Madeline, Scotty (now five) and baby Bruce settled in to life as a normal post-war married couple.
Eileen’s photo albums from the late 40s seem to be lost, but she undoubtedly enjoyed the freedom from the many wartime restrictions on the purchase of food, stockings and fabric for dresses.
Hank took up his post in the G-1 Division at Marine Corps Headquarters in March 1946, the group that included the Commandant and various staff functions. He landed at HQ just as a lively discussion began about the possible unification of the four Armed Forces. Perhaps that’s why Henry always corrected someone when they suggested he was in the “military”; as far as Henry was concerned, he was a Marine. In 1945, Adm. William Halsey was quoted as saying, “One might just as well as a committee composed of a Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew to save our national souls by recommending a national church and creed.” The discussion about unification continued into the late 1950s as the cold war raged.
In 1949, the family moved to Worthington, Ohio for just over a year when the Marines sent Henry to the Navy Post Graduate School at Ohio State University in Columbus. By then, Eileen was pregnant, and their daughter Madeline, known as Midge, was born on January 18, 1950.
After completing his course work in Ohio in 1950 (personnel administration and training), Henry was assigned to the Office of Manpower Utilization at the Department of Defense, with offices at the Pentagon. Eileen packed up again, and moved the family into 4213 Matthews Lane in Kensington, MD, which had become a commuter suburb for Washington, DC. They jumped back into the fray, getting Scott established in school and signed up for Cub Scouts. As Den Mother, Eileen led a summer project making “Indian” outfits and war shields (cotton muslin stretched over hoops). Meanwhile, Bruce played cowboy, refusing to take his boots off, even at night.
It was during Henry’s duty at Department of Defense that the couple suspected something was wrong with little Midge. Henry’s brother, Ed Campbell, a hematologist-oncologist in Boston, diagnosed her as having leukemia. At the time, nearly all children with leukemia died (compared to the current survival rate in excess of 80%). Uncle Ed treated Midge with an experimental regimen of corticosteroids, supervising her care and that of other children at Walter Reed Hospital. Her pictures show her growing progressively heavier as a side effect of the medication.
As Midge became sicker, the family spent as much time together as possible, including treasured days on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware during the summer of 1953.
Henry’s most painful memory wasn’t the war. It was Midge’s final days. After being in remission for a period, she sickened and was in an oxygen tent in the hospital. He remembered her calling out to him, “Daddy, help me.” He could do nothing, he said, and pounded his head against the wall in the hallway in frustration. She died on October 22, 1953, months before her fourth birthday.
In February 1954, having delayed his departure as long as possible, the Marines sent Henry on a solo tour to Gifu, Japan, where he assigned to serve as Division Assistant G-2 for the 3rd Marines. In rapid succession, he became Executive Officer of the 9th Marines and then Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines.
Eileen had learned she was pregnant about the time that Midge’s health deteriorated. Medical officers advised her to abort the baby, suggesting that the stress would be too great for her. She would have none of it.
Henry’s letter to Eileen from Gifu, lost during his move to California, spoke of his agony in not being able to be with her in the period of mourning following Midge’s death. When Dean was born on April 20, 1954, “it was as if the sun came up,” Henry would say later. Within weeks, Dean needed a haircut.
Henry’s pictures and stories suggest he did have some light moments in Gifu. He and Cliff Atkins shared a small cottage and had a housemaid named Musemei. “Around that time,” Henry said, “there was a political movement afoot in the Pentagon to try to fashion the Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force into a single armed force. This led to us receiving a message from the Commandant which read, ‘No longer shine your leather with cordovan polish. Polish it tan like the Army.’ We handed our shoes and belts to Musemei and asked her to shine them with tan polish instead. ‘Hai, hai,’ she said. About a week later, we received another message from the Commandant. This one said, ‘Disregard former message. Shine your leather cordovan.’ Henry called Musemei in and told her to change all of the belts and shoes back to cordovan colored polish. Her response: ‘Goddam Marine Corps. All time changie changie.'”
By this time, Henry had been promoted to Major. He acknowledged that he had benefited from rapid transfers during his career and noted that that there were 37,500 men in the Marine Corps before WWII, and well over 500,000 by the end of the war.
With two children, a baby, her mother and Buffy the dog, Eileen was relieved when he returned from Japan in April 1955. She wrote on a picture, “The plane that brought him home.” Soon, however, it was time to pack up again and move the family to Kingston, Ontario, where Henry began a two year assignment as instructor at Canadian Army Staff College.
Eileen and Henry loved being back together and reveled in the camaraderie of the Canadians who were notorious for party games like passing the orange (without the use of hands) and curling (a form of shuffleboard played on an ice rink involving brooms and granite stones).
Scott, at 13, made friends with the locals and skated with them on the St. Lawrence River. Bruce took his turn as a Cub Scout. Dean, meanwhile, bravely set off in the neighborhood at two years old, going door to door. When a nice lady opened the door, he would announce, “I’ve come for my milk and cookies.” “How could I say no,” neighbors would tell Eileen. Henry later said that he used to worry about Dean the most because he was so trusting.
That open-eyed naïveté led to an incident that became family lore. When Dean was about three, Eileen realized that he wasn’t at the house. She immediately began canvassing the neighborhood, learning that another small boy was missing. Eventually their search took them down to the nearby St. Lawrence River, where the ice was begin to break up and ice floes float out into the river. There was Dean and his little friend. Eileen took a two by four and paddled his fanny all the way home.
Weeks before returning for Henry’s assignment as Executive Officer, Marine Barracks, Betsy was born (Elizabeth Harrison) on June 15, 1957. The family packed up and settled back in Kensington again, this time at 9916 Old Spring Road.
This would have been the sixth move that Eileen managed. Each time they arrived at a new post, she paid a social visit to the Commanding Officer’s wife, calling card in hand, as expected. She joined the Officers’ Wives Club, and did an exemplary job of supporting their activities. She loved Washington, D.C. and the social whirl that went with an officer’s life in those days.
Henry and the Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks, then-Col. Leonard Chapman, innovated the evening parade a Marine Barracks, a proud tradition that continues today. Within a year, Col. Chapman – who Eileen called “Chappie” – was promoted to Brigadier General. He became the 24th Commandant of the nation’s oldest armed force in 1967.
In July 1959, Henry received his Colonel’s eagles and was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps as Head of the Officer Detail Section. In an interview in 2000, he shared this explanation of his role:
“I spent two years as head of officer detail, a high visibility job. I had some very good junior officers and had read all of their fitness reports. I said, “I have great respect for you, or you wouldn’t be here. On your integrity relies the efficiency of the Marine Corps. I will not permit anyone to play favorites or I’ll skin you alive.
“Not long after I joined the Officer of Manpower Utilization, Gen. Jim Masters, head of the intelligence section of Headquarters Marine Corps, called me to his office. Had a young infantry man with him, a Captain, and told me he felt he was being mis-assigned to a staff job. I pulled his record – he was a good man. He’d been in Fleet Marine Force for 7 years, a great job, but he needed to let others have that opportunity.
“I called in Andy Hedish. We agreed the best thing we could do was order him to Marine Corps HQ and get his feet wet. I talked to Gen. Masters and said, ‘His transfer is strictly according to policy. He needs staff experience.’ He just sat there and looked at me. I said, ‘I have no doubt that the way to advancement is not by saying no to superior officers. But I told my men if I caught them playing footsie, I’d skin them alive. I can do no less. If you have a problem with that, you should talk to my superior officer.’ I walked out. The junior officer went to the staff job. I heard no more about it. There’s no power involved. The policies are very carefully thought out.
“There was one exception and it was me. I’d been in grad school at Ohio State in personnel administration and training. I’d been assigned to the Military Occupational Project. The joint staff at the end of WWII recognized there are people with very highly placed skills who end up being misplaced during the war. They needed more info about what jobs require people with high level skills and who the people are with those skills.
“They had 300 people working on it, led by Col. Dunn. Because I’d been to this advanced schooling, I was assigned as the Marine Corps’ representative. The joker is that I had Marine Corps HQ looking over my shoulder.
“The thing got bent around so that they decided to divide people by intelligence, based on their score on a test. Navy said, ‘We have all the ships, we should have all of the brightest people.’ Air Force said the same thing. Army said, ‘Bullshit!’ That’s what pulled the thing apart; they couldn’t agree.
“I convened a meeting with one representative of each force. The Army guy was completely out of his depth. Rubens asked, ‘Can we agree to this (I forget the details)?’ The proposal was a ringer. If we agreed to the principles to take all the bright guys and give them to Navy or Army, what would the consequences be? It was apparent this was a trap. I said, ‘I’d like to say a few words. Recognize that if we agree to this, we have agreed to everything else.’ All realized they needed to confer. Rubens offered me a job!
“Gen. (David) Shoup (who later was Commandant) wanted to have a presentation made on all of the non-availables. When you did a plan, you set aside a certain number of people for the “Jesus factor” – on leave, sick, etc. That number runs about 80% for planning figures. The meeting was to be a formal briefing in Gen. Larson’s office. ‘Who wants to do it, Gen. Larson asked. I said, ‘General, I’ll do it.’ I was assigned a planning officer to do the legwork. He and I did our skull practice. We took three slices of the entire Marine Corps on a given day and looked at where they were, using the latest records. We counted every one of ‘em. Not long before, we had instituted a transplacement battalion, which replaced an entire battalion at one shot. It represented an enormous advance in a battle situation backfilling a battalion with individual replacements, where they don’t know their officers. Transplacements are intact teams that remain together, and they can fight. After Iwo Jima, the teams were broken. When a transplacement battalion was placed, you had a big flow of non-availables that week. We made our presentation to the Commandant. Then I stood by to take questions. Gen. Shoup said, ‘Col., that’s an excellent presentation.’ He greeted me by name after that. You can see why I hated to leave the Marine Corps. I had an absolute ball.”
The Marines sent Henry for advanced education again in 1961, this time to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., after which he was assigned to Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific in Honolulu.
Three months before the family was due to travel to Honolulu, Eileen’s mother died. Betsy remembers being unable to wake her Nana from her nap. At 76 years of age, she had had a heart attack.
Buffy, the family’s beloved cocker spaniel, was deemed too old to make the 5,000 mile trip or survive the required quarantine upon arriving in the islands. Off the family of six headed across the country toward San Francisco with Bruce and Scott driving one, while Henry, Eileen, Dean and Betsy rode in the other.
Although airliners became popular as a model of travel from the mainland to Hawaii in the early 1960s, the Campbell family cruised to Honolulu on the luxury ocean liner, the SS Lurline. As the top-ranking officer on board, the family enjoyed the Admiral’s quarters. The family arrived deeply tanned after their ocean crossing (except for Betsy, who remembered being dosed liberally with Dramamine to prevent seasickness).
As Henry assumed his duties, the family settled into Pearl Harbor’s housing community, Makalapa. In the fall, Bruce attended Punahou, a private high school, Dean entered 3rd grade and Betsy started kindergarden.
Scott and Bruce took surfing lessons from a guy named Rabbit Kekai, a native Hawaiian who was a well-known surfer on Oahu, who worked at the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki. Scott said, “Dad was really great about turning us loose with the family Chevy Corvair, and we’d load our surf boards on the roof and head off to whatever beach had good waves.”
Eileen grew her hair longer and pinned it up in a French twist, donning island muumuus for comfort. With help at home in the form of a Japanese maid, she had time for hobbies and took courses in Japanese flower arranging. Her spare, elegant creations were set in low bowls held by “frogs” that were camouflaged with pastel sea glass she found washed up on the beach. She collected Japanese “mud men” statuettes and sometimes added them to her designs. The family’s furnishings were adapted for the islands, too, with rataan furniture and electrified white ginger jars lamps with illuminated bases. The house smelled of plumeria, Brownie Surfrider suntan lotion and the pungent salt-and-grass smell of tatami mats.
For social events, Eileen learned to make Asian- and Hawaiian-influenced “heavy pupus,” appetizers such as tempura, won tons and teriyaki-marinated chicken mock drumsticks. She even purchased some heavy, red silk brocade with the intention of having a cheongsam dress made for her. While demure at the neckline and buttoned to the throat with frog closures, they often have a dramatic slit in the side seam. While being fitted, Eileen reported that she tried to get the seamstress to make a slit to just above the knee. The seamstress kept pointing to a spot lower on Eileen’s calf, repeating, “Not Chinese lady.”
In his last years, Henry often remembered jumping up and down in the waves at Barber’s Point with Betsy on his shoulders (which they learned later had a notorious riptide). Looking back, it may have been days before the event that changed the family’s life.
Henry felt a crushing pain in his chest and asked Scott to take him to the base clinic, where they quickly recognized he was having a heart attack and directed him to go to the hospital. In the 1960s, the chance of dying immediately after a heart attack was 30 to 40%. Even survivors might never be able to work again. For that reason, having a heart attack was cause for automatic and full retirement. Henry’s career in the Marine Corps abruptly ended.
As Henry was recovering, Eileen was hospitalized for emergency gall bladder surgery. Before she came home, Betsy was mauled in the throat and face by a neighbor’s German Shepherd. The family moved off base, to a house on the east side of Diamond Head, several blocks from the beach. The family was walking wounded by the time they sailed to the West Coast to begin a new life in the cooler climes of Western Washington, as suggested by Henry’s physicians.
Next: Civilian life in the Pacific Northwest