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United States Volkswagen Corps

April 5, 2015

The Volkswagen, or “Hitler’s Revenge,” plays a large part in the story of my late uncle, Carl Ralph Bonde, and me.
As you know, my uncle Bud was killed by a Nazi U-boat torpedo Christmas Eve, 1944.
This was a Christmas present from the Fuhrer, himself, via his Uberleutenant, Gerhard Meyer, and crew of U-486, a type VIIc submarine lurking on the bottom of the shallow English Channel just outside the port of Cherbourg, France. I spoke to my uncle’s army buddies who lived to tell about how their troopship, the SS Leopoldville, was sunk. They and I shared about 4 days together in 2006. All but two of them are now dead. Like that.
I ended up enlisting in 1969 in the Marines during Vietnam because I feared being drafted and killed like my uncle.
In the Marines I was a piss poor soldier because I was there for the wrong reasons. I was afraid of the Marines. I told my commanding officer I hated the Marines in Memphis, so he suggested that I should hit him. So I did, and went to jail. On the third day I…wait, Easter isn’t until tomorrow.
I was eventually exonerated for the crime of punching my officer. The Marines sent me to Southern California to get married to my beautiful Montana wife and raise three absolutely wonderful children. They grew more wonderful with each grandchild they made. After that they have grown even more wonderful to this moment.
Also, when I got to Southern California, I was a private in the Marine Corps as a supply man in a helicopter squadron. There, oddly, I learned to repair volkswagens. In fact, when I wasn’t delivering newspapers, I repaired volkswagens and ran. I ran for the thrill of running long distances. I did have to spend about $10 on a pair of Onitsuga Tiger shoes but I could barely afford them!
My supply officer at the helicopter squadron was a warrant officer, CWO2 John Robertson. He bought old VWs, fixed them up and sold them. He taught me to do the same. He also smoked cigars, drank beer, but when he saw me talking to a chaplain, he looked at me, rolled his eyes at the chaplain, then rolled them back at me.
I believe the Gunner thought I was “feisty.” (I wasn’t.) John had helped get the Corsairs flying in the Marines during WW II. I believe he liked me for my notoriety in Memphis, but he wouldn’t let me talk about it.
The punch line: I eventually, in 2002, 03, or -04 took my daughter and her husband, a US former Navy Officer, to supper with Mr. Robertson and his wife at a restaurant in Southern California. He remembered when he helped me name our oldest son, Todd. He wanted to name him Clifford. “I meant to say, Todd,” he said.
Gunner said the best VW bug made was the 1966 1300cc. The alloy was good, he said. I bought a red one, eventually selling it to my brother’s ex-wife Dana. Someone ran into her car, denting a fender. Dana gave them her insurance information, then away they went, never to be heard from again. Like that.
I bought a blue and white 1967 VW van up the Bitterroot a short way. It was a good one and I rebuilt an engine, a 1500cc, for it. We used it to go camping. I was trying to get it working and Todd noted that it had a piece of gravel in the flywheel. That was my first inkling that Todd was actually brilliant, although I admit to patronizing him. He and I confided a lot. I sold the ’67 to a crazy red haired woman who had a daughter. She called me every time it broke down. I tried to explain to her that every volkswagen breaks down at every opportunity so she just needs to fix it.
Later I bought a blue-green volks bug up on Farviews for $65 that I rebuilt the engine for. Unfortunately the machinist gave me the wrong size crankshaft bearings. The car ran, but it sounded like the low notes on a pipe organ. The hippie woman who bought it from me told me later that she simply replaced the bearings with the right size and it ran perfectly after that. That particular hippie got herself a job on a US Forest Service lookout tower near Missoula with her daughter and identified pentstemon. Funny how those memories stick.

April 3, 2015

She was a beautiful woman, long black hair like Joan Baez, walkVW

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