The recollections of Colonel Russell Reeder in Born at Reveille (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, $5.95) begin in 1909 at Fort Worden, a small post on the north end of the Olympic Peninsula, commanding the entrance to Puget Sound. in the center of the parade ground there was a baseball diamond, and such is the author's enthusiasm for the ballplayers among the enlisted men that he soon convinces the reader that the baseball field was the strongest part of the fort's defense. This may well have been the case. In those days the line between officers and enlisted men was so tightly drawn that a private had to get the company commander's permission before he could marry. The baseball field was not only the common meeting ground in the fort, it was the only place where people could be themselves, regardless of rank.
The post commander was Whistler's cousin, who was almost as unforgettable as Whistler's mother. Whistler's cousin was Lieut. Colonel G. N. Whistler, a thin, precise man, magnificent in his blue uniform, who loved the Fort Worden baseball team. Because he had 43 years in the service Colonel Whistler was allowed to wear his hair long, flowing over his stand-up collar in an outmoded Buffalo Bill cut. Once when the team was getting a raw deal from a visiting umpire Whistler left his seat, walked deliberately to home plate and there, with his long locks streaming in the wind, delivered a powerful oration expressing his dissatisfaction with the way balls and strikes were being called, after which he emphasized his disapproval by stalking from the field. The umpire, staring after him in awe, asked the catcher, "Who was that?" On being told that it was the company commander he sighed with relief. "I thought he was a major prophet from the Old Testament," he said. About half of Born at Reveille consists of similar episodes drawn from the point of dramatic contact where the old Army met the modern world. The episodes are good-natured, casual, often funny, occasionally moving, generally short and deceptively simple—subtle points made with deliberate, laconic roughness.
The second half of the book, dealing with World War II, ranges so far, over so many fronts, that one wishes the author had made a separate book of it. The historic occasions and the public figures have a different sort of interest. The original contribution of Born at Reveille is unique—an effortless, unpretentious autobiographical report of the way sport influenced the old military world that had grown perilously remote from the common life of the country.