As I was watching the CBS 60 Minutes special about the “Ritchie Boys” — please see my previous post — my attention was caught at about the 11:30 mark by a photograph of a former professional wrestler whose name was given as Frank Leavitt (1891-1953). He was a veteran of World War II and apparently an instructor at Camp Ritchie. (He was already fifty years old by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and plainly wasn’t a young solider headed for combat.) In the CBS documentary, Leavitt is shown dressed in a Nazi uniform. Perhaps he is impersonating Hermann Goering. Evidently he’s addressing a group there at the camp.
This intrigued me, because of a story that I remember from my Dad.
My father recalled an early morning in an army barracks somewhere. One of the other soldiers was angrily demanding to know who it was that had been snoring all through the night, keeping him awake. “It sounded,” he said, “like a damned freight train!” “That was me,” boomed one of the other soldiers in reply. The answer came from a retired professional wrestler whose name in the ring had been Man Mountain Dean. He was, apparently, a rather intimidating specimen of the masculine sort. His answer fully satisfied the curiosity of the angry complainer, and father recalled with amusement that nobody else in the barracks ever complained thereafter about the snoring. Ever.
Well, I just now got a chance to check, and it turns out that Man Mountain Dean’s real name was Frank Simmons Leavitt — and that he was associated during its heyday with Camp Ritchie, Maryland. (See here for a list, including Man Mountain Dean, of some of the better known Ritchie Boys. Some of them, for whatever it may be worth, became quite well known after the war.)
I had not known, even approximately, where to place that story within the time-line of my father’s military career. So many stories that I know from Dad float about in my mind, without my being able to situate them very well, if at all, chronologically. Now finally, thanks to CBS 60 Minutes and Google, I can see that the Man Mountain Dean episode almost certainly happened at Camp Ritchie.