Thursday, January 29, 2009

Monk and Ham's Excellent Adventure

The above is the only known picture of Monk Mayfair (seated) and Ham Brooks (standing to the right). (The identity of the man on the left is not known.) This photograph was taken immediately after they had crossed back to Allied lines after escaping from the Loki Prison Camp and trekking across the Alps.

One of the background stories in the Savage Super Sagas is how Andrew "Monk" Mayfair and Theodore "Ham" Brooks met during World War I. The following rendition of the story was published in the original Doc Savage pulp magazine:

Originally in The Man of Bronze, we were told that General Theodore Marley Brooks was tried by court martial and convicted of stealing the hams, yet in the above retelling, Ham was able to talk his way out of it. So the story had evolved over time even in the Super Sagas.

In Escape from Loki, though, Philip José Farmer informed us that the two incidents happened before the two men were incarcerated in the Loki Prison Camp while Ted Brooks was a Lieutenant Colonel in the French Foreign Legion and Andrew Mayfair was a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Infantry.

Farmer's version of the story seems far more likely. It is doubtful that a general officer would have been convicted of stealing food from the mess and not been stripped of his rank and incarcerated. This would also have jeopardized Ham's ability to practice law back home since such a crime would have had been considered a felony under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In fact, the penalty for such a crime during wartime could have been execution.

Also, the teaching of rude French words to Monk sounds more like a practical joke among equals, not something a General Officer would do to a subordinate.

So based on the information from the Super Sagas and Escape from Loki, the two practical jokes which defined the relationship between Monk and Ham happened sometime between the Spring of 1917 and their incarceration at Loki in June 1918.

It is reasonable to suppose that Ham had joined the French Foreign Legion years before the United States entered the war. Many men from Harvard had done so. Paris was a very popular place with the American upper crust and several young men from the Ivy League had spent time there before the war. France was also a Republic very much like the United States which did not have a king or formal nobility. Defending her against the Kaiser and the Austro-Hungarian Emperor seemed to be natural for Americans.

Meanwhile, the American forces that came over in April 1917 had no formal chemical warfare training. They depended very heavily on both the British and the French to train and supply them for gas warfare. Gen. Pershing made the decision to send American officers to both Britain and France to observe their respective chemical warfare programs and serve with their units in combat.

With Monk Mayfair's background in chemistry, it is highly likely that he would have been sent as one of these exchange officers. The New Orleans Mayfair line (from which I have argued Monk was descended) was of French extraction, so it would have made sense for him to be sent to serve with a French "Z" unit. There were many Americans in the Foreign Legion and so that might be where he was assigned. That's probably how Monk and Ham met. Ham must have been Monk's sponsor within the Regiment.

This scenario would also explain how Monk and Ham became buddies and started playing practical jokes on each other.

One great mystery is how it was that Ham Brooks made brigadier general between August 1918 when they returned from Loki and the Armistice in November that same year. In fact, we know from Escape from Loki that at the time of their incarceration in the prison camp, Renny was a Captain, and Long Tom was a Lieutenant while Johnny was an civilian (albeit an American spy). Why was it that Monk was the only one of the Furious Five in the military who did not advance in rank after their repatriation?

Someday, someone will have to tell the true story of what really happened to Doc's aides during the Great War.

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