VMTB-242 I

George Nasif’s family background was Syrian.  His outlook was tough-minded American.  He was an excellent pilot and a thorough Marine—the only pilot in our squadron who served in the Marine Corps before the war as a non-commissioned ground officer—a first sergeant.  He went on to earn his wings as a warrant officer.  With the Marine Corps’ buildup following Pearl Harbor, he was commissioned a second lieutenant.

Somewhere along the line, he earned the nickname “Sahib,” an early East Indian or Arabian term of respect.  A name he barely tolerated.

During one of those L.A. nights on the town, Nasif and I teamed up for a tour of assorted bars along Hollywood Boulevard.  I remember only one of them: a swinging joint where the genial trombonist Jack Teagarden and his small jazz group were in total command.  On a platform up back of the bar in his relaxed and bluesy style, Teagarden had the room mesmerized.  Nasif and I had good “front row” bar seats.

We soon learned that our bartender was an ex-Marine. When we ordered “Scotch on the Rocks,” he looked around carefully, unlocked a cabinet under the back-bar, lifted out a treasured, impossible-to-find bottle of single malt Scotch whiskey—and poured us a double.

“Semper fi, fellas,” he said with a wink.  “This one’s on me.”  He put the bottle away, locked the cabinet, and walked on down to the end of the bar where duty called.

 ***

Poker, Gin Rummy and Chess were three popular pastimes at El Centro.  I played all three. One night, in the middle of a low-stakes poker game, a few of us decided that Bugs Bunny had the makings of a gutsy and appropriate squadron insignia for VMTB-242.  I forget who first came up with the idea.

Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, the legendary Warner Bros. cartoonists and anarchist-animators, had created Bugs Bunny in 1940.  He was sort of a cartoon Cagney—street-smart, crafty, pugnacious—the blasé hare who won every battle without ever mussing his aplomb.  One raised eyebrow was all it took to illustrate his superiority to the carnage around him.

One of the pilots at the table that night, Frank Moses, bragged that he had connections at Warner Bros.  That did it.  Frank became our unofficial 242 delegate.  During a liberty in L.A., Frank visited the studio.

We were surprised and properly impressed when he returned with a promise from “Looney Tunes” producer Leon Schlesinger that the studio would have Jones and Avery create a VMTB-242 Bugs Bunny insignia for us, compliments of Warner Bros.

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