This is a "Snake" note

by Gene McManus

I'm not exactly certain of the date when they first appeared, but it must have been in the spring or early summer of 1960. I went to the orderly room one afternoon, probably to check my mail, when I noticed three or four bags of trash under the squadron bulletin board. This was unusual... Thumbtacked to the bulletin board just above the bags of trash were several notes, each of which was written with a red pen, and had the red mark similar to that above, as a signature.

The first of the notes began, "This is a 'Snake' note.", and described what a "Snake Note" was. It was an informal (but authoritative) missive from our new Commanding Officer (... what new Commanding Officer?), Major Israel D. Siegel, sometimes known as "Snake". The note went on to state that from this moment on, only he, Major Siegel, would sign anything with a red pen. Whenever we saw a note written with a red pen, and signed with the 'S', we were to accord it the authority of an official written order. It also went on to say that while he was known to some as "Snake", nobody on the station was to call him that.

The second of the notes thanked the squadron for allowing him to spend several days wandering around the squadron picking up trash, the contents of the bags below. A brief description of some of the trash followed, "... cigarette butts, candy wrappers, used condoms ..." This was not sounding good at all. I could think of a dozen ways to meet a new C.O. that wouldn't get my apprehension level up like this.

The third note posed a question as to why he was allowed to roam free, all over the station, even around the radar towers, unchallenged. Bad ju-ju!

At Commander's Call a few days later, the 'Snake' formally introduced himself, and while we knew we were getting an ass-chewing, he did it in a way that seemed more like cheerleading. The man had a unique style.

A couple of years later, I talked to another individual who had been in Snake's command - somewhere in Georgia, I think. He said they got the same style notes, with essentially the same content.

Major Siegel had a way of jarring a unit into looking at itself a bit more critically that we had been. It was rumored that he could roll up a $5 bill so that it would fit into the filter of a cigarette butt. Almost overnight you didn't see any cigarette butts lying around. It was clear that his early agenda was to clean up the 786th, and instill a little military bearing. I think he succeeded.

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