By Harvey Tobkes

————————————–Paratrooper Harv——————————

Many years ago I thought about changing my surname to Harris…I thought Harvey Harris sounded pretty good. Most people really mangled the pronunciation of Tobkes and there were all kinds of difficulties, somehow the worst of it was the spelling. Sometimes the results were hilarious and embarrassing at the same time; too often I got mail addressed to Harvey Tookas. When I was in the army, don’t ask what the sergeants called me.

But I held fast to the original spelling. Then one day there was a huge benefit for private first class, “Harvey Tobkes,” and it may have saved my life. Here’s what happened:

It was during the early days of the Korean war and our troops were taking heavy casualties, so replacements were badly needed. My company, (although we had very little training in combat), was given 3 days notice that we were being sent to Camp Stoneman, California, for transshipment to Korea. Early morning on that fateful third day, 624 of us lined up at the train station with all our gear and waited for orders to board.

Finally, a lieutenant appeared and announced, “We have orders to embark 600 men and we have 624, so when I call your name, fall out and then return to your barracks, and this time we are going to start with the end of the alphabet. O.K. you guys, pay attention…Zilberman, Warner, Warshawsky, Vicenzo, Urbanski, Twomley, Trombetta, Tobkes.”

Miracle of miracles, I not only didn’t go to Korea, I went to the most elegant and expensive restaurant in Nashville that night and ordered a bottle of the best wine and the biggest, most delicious steak in the kitchen.

I often think about that strange turn of events and of what would have happened to Harvey Harris. By the way, that nice lieutenant’s name was… Dudley Zeller.

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