Bukowski's army story

Ever since I watched "Born Into This" I was wondering if this story is true:

[This video is unavailable.]

It looks to me as some bullshit story that Bukowski came up with to hide the true reason why he was rejected. All this Bukowski/doctor conversation just doesn't sound real. In Howard Sounes book there are few moments where Bukowski has been caught inventing facts about his life and altering the truth. So why not this time?

Here's my version what happened: At the time the guy was suffering, his face was disfigured by illness, IMO the doctor just could have looked at him and sent him home because of that.

What do you think?
 

mjp

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So you think the U.S. Army excused men from serving during world war II if they had acne scars? Not quite.
 

james

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ha! yea, if acne kept people out of the army, well, you know where this is goin'....
aren't alot of enlisted men 18-25? good luck...
 

Gerard K H Love

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Is this thread one of those internet scams oozing out of the open sores of the remnants of the old Soviet Bloc?
 

esart

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yeah that's it! pock marks kept him from dying on the shores of normandy. everyone knows you needed beautiful skin to invade germany and the surrounding countries. my sharp shootin father used Dove i believe. or was it Neutrogena?
 
Gernard: sure, this thread is an internet scam. I started it because I wanted to sell you old Soviet army hats.

It wasn't just few pimples here and there. As far as I understand it was an extremely severe case of acne. Of course I could be wrong, it's just a version. But to me it sounds more realistic than "would you like to come to my party tonight? no? well, ok, you don't have to go to the war." - funny that nobody here have a problem with that.
 
Not exactly.

Remember, in "Ham on Rye" he writes about his senior prom:
"They all danced beautifully and the music was loud and clear and good, powerful. Then I caught a glimpse of my reflection staring in at them - boils and scars on my face, my ragged shirt."
...and that's the year 1939. After two years, in 1941, he had a meeting with army doctors. I don't think that his illness miraculously disappeared during those two years.
 

Digney in Burnaby

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Wouldn't Bukowski fall under the "4F" classification?

The Selective Service System classification "4-F" is officially
defined as follows:

"1630.44 Class 4-F: Registrant not acceptable for military service.

In Class 4-F shall be placed any registrant who is found by the Secretary of Defense, under applicable physical, mental or administrative standards, to be not acceptable for service in the Armed Forces; except that no such registrant whose further examination or re-examination is determined by the Secretary of Defense to be justified shall be placed in Class 4-F until such further examination has been accomplished and such registrant continues to be found not acceptable for military service."

Or am I being too serious here?

Not being part of the military, as was many of his generation, definitely helped seal Bukowski's outsider status.

Things like that had consequences back home:

Recruits:
The 4-F Classification


After the draft was instituted in 1940, not all of the young men who registered were accepted into the service. Thirty percent of registrants across America were rejected for physical defects. The 4-F classification was given primarily for muscular and bone malformations, hearing or circulatory ailments, mental deficiency or disease, hernias, and syphilis. There were ramifications when a man got that classification.

"Nobody wanted to date these boys who didn't pass their physicals, and we called them "f-Fers." Now that I think back, that was terrible. . . We all thought they were physically unfit to go and fight for our country. How awful!"
"” Sylvia Iwanski Chalupsky, Ord, Nebraska State Bank employee.


"When I started college in the fall of 1944, it was like a girls' school "” 95 women and only five men students. During the second semester of my sophomore year, more male students were enrolled. By 1948 when I graduated, there were twice as many men as female students. During that first year, several of the girls dated high school seniors because to us the boys on campus were '4-F.' They needed a good reason for not being in the service to be respected by the girls."
"” Wanda Mowry, Bayard High School student.
 
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Johannes

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He wrote that he was 4F, but for psychological reasons, if I remember correctly.

Maybe the truth was somewhere in the middle. He wrote differently about that encounter with the psychiatrist. In the poem WWII he writes about the psychiatrist suddenly yelling at him: "WHAT DO YOU THINK OF PICASSO?" which sounds like the typical Bukowski humor. But in some article or interview I've read (maybe the one from Ben Pleasants?) I remember him telliing that the FBI searched his room while he was imprisoned and found all this mad garbled short stories he had written. I always thought that the truth was somewhere around there. Maybe they did find some writings, read them and asked him about it.

Wheter that was the reason for him being unfit for service or not we can't know.
 

d gray

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But to me it sounds more realistic than "would you like to come to my party tonight? no? well, ok, you don't have to go to the war."
i always thought that that was a psych-test question i don't think the guy was
actually inviting him to a party...
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
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I don't know about the party invitation -- that may be an embellishment by Bukowski -- but I can believe the doctor talked with him and decided he was mentally unfit to serve. Anyone too independent in their thinking and who doesn't just fall into line is going to be more trouble than they're worth to the military.
 

Johannes

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i always thought that that was a psych-test question i don't think the guy was
actually inviting him to a party...
Hehe, that would be funny. I always liked this part very much.

"Ok, you don't have to go."
"Go where, to the war or to your party?"
 

d gray

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yeah, he probably would've picked the war over going to the party!
 

bospress.net

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no. Not a chance. You have to be seriously deranged to have them pull your drivers license. Someone could be unfit, mentally, for military service, but be perfectly fine as a driver. I would guess that most mentally ill people have a driver's license.

Maybe if you hallucinations that would have cause to pull your license as you could be a serious danger to yourself and others, but mentally ill people are probably as good drivers (if not better, really).

What else ya got?

Bill
 

mjp

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Not exactly.
Yes, exactly.

The Acne Vulgaris episode happened when he was a teenager; 14, 15 years old. You can clearly see in his high school yearbook photos that he was not covered in "boils" (regardless of what Ham On Rye says about the dance). By the time he graduated high school he was badly scarred from the adolescent acne, but it was gone.

The Army doctor interview also happened 3 years later than you believe it did.

The timeline is your friend. Walk not in the darkness, my son.
 
OK, I see the timetable. I see that in 1933/34 it starts and that he undergoes painful treatments. But I also remember that he wrote that the treatments were pretty useless ("Ham on Rye" chapters 32-35) and he had to stop them because his father got a job and Bukowski could no longer qualify for free treatment at LA County Hospital. And his father of course refused to pay. So with or without timetable it's actually unknown when he did get rid of his illness.
 

bospress.net

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but a photo would be pretty good evidence. I have an original 1939 yearbook here and confirm that he did not have a breakout of Acne Vulgaris on his face at the time that the photos were taken.

And Ham on Rye is a novel, not an autobiography. Even though the lines are blurred by it being a semi-autobiographical novel, liberties can be and are taken with facts, timelines, etc, etc...
 
I agree, "Ham on Rye" is a novel, not an autobiography, so it might not be 100% true - can't argue with that.

But about that yearbook picture: Beverly Knox talks about this picture in "Born Into This" and she says: "this is the picture that has been touched up as you can see. his face was really quite pockmarked, it was very noticeable" so that particular picture may not be a good evidence.
 

marina del rey

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Benvenuto, maybe you could offer some evidence as to why your theory is the valid, rather than just making a claim and then expecting everyone else to disprove it. From what I've seen, you really have no basis for the theory other than personal opinion.

We can keep giving you evidence that agrees with the historical record, but if you choose to believe your opinion over what's been said then it just becomes a circular argument.
 
Benvenuto, maybe you could offer some evidence as to why your theory is the valid, rather than just making a claim and then expecting everyone else to disprove it. From what I've seen, you really have no basis for the theory other than personal opinion.

We can keep giving you evidence that agrees with the historical record, but if you choose to believe your opinion over what's been said then it just becomes a circular argument.
You make it sound like we're having a fight here. We're having a discussion, we can't have a discussion if we agree with each other all the time.

Sure, it's just a theory that's based on my personal opinion. I made it up because I find it hard to believe Bukowski's story that he's telling in "Born Into This" about why he didn't go to war.
 

mjp

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his face was really quite pockmarked...
Do you know what that means?

we can't have a discussion if we agree with each other all the time.
I disagree that the Germans occupied Latvia in WWII. All those pictures and stories of extermination of Latvian Jews and Gypsies - I just disagree with that stuff. It's open to interpretation.

Discuss amongst yourselves. I have to go water the cactus.
 

marina del rey

Over 500 posts
I'm not trying to make it sound like a fight. I'm just saying that the discussion doesn't really go anywhere if it is fact vs. opinion.

That said, I spent several years in the US Army and I've gone to war. As long as it didn't inhibit your physical abilities, the army would not care about a case of acne vulgaris - especially during a World War. However, I do know of several people in my own unit who were not allowed to deploy to a combat zone because of perceived psychological issues. Bukowski's story makes perfect sense to me.
 
Yeah, it looks like my theory has failed.

Still... I think that the psychological tests were more complicated than Bukowski described. It just seems too easy, too funny to be true. Was it just a simple chat with psychiatrist when you joined the army?
 

bospress.net

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You have the original yearbook, Bill? Wow! How did you get that?
They show up on ebay from time to time. Bukowski's High School was massive, so I bet that there were at least a few thousand books printed. Maybe a few hundred still are around, but they are not terribly hard to find and I have seen them sell for $200 up to over $500...

If I lived in LA, and looked hard enough, I bet that one could be found in a local antique shop or estate sale..

Along with a copy of Write :)


Bill
 

roni

Over 5000 posts
he probably would've picked the war over going to the party!
he was at war anyway. ("War all the time" that is.)

But at that party he would've been able to fetch some decent drinks.
That's a offer you can't refuse. At least I wouldn't.
 

Bukfan

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"Sorry, Bukowski. We can't use you. Your acne would scare the other soldiers shitless, but on the other hand, they might scare the enemy too. Hmm..." :D

Discuss amongst yourselves. I have to go water the cactus.
Right, let's discuss cactus (cacti?) instead. Anybody ever tried to eat a Lophophora Williamsii? :)
 
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