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Series: Columbia Workshop
Show: Untitled
Date: Apr 18 1944

CAST:
ANNOUNCER
VOICE
SERGEANT
CORPORAL
MEDICAL OFFICER
OBSTETRICIAN
MOTHER
TEACHER
MUSIC TEACHER
GIRL
EDITOR
NAZI SOLDIER
FERRITER

NOTE:
This is the text from a published script, bookended with transcripts of
the original broadcast's opening and closing announcement

ANNOUNCER:

Columbia presents Corwin!

MUSIC:

FANFARE

ANNOUNCER:

"Untitled," a new work written, directed, and produced by Norman Corwin for CBS, and starring the distinguished actor of stage, screen, and radio Fredric March in the principal role. The music is by Bernard Herrmann. Fredric March in Norman Corwin's "Untitled."

MUSIC:

Introduction

VOICE:

With reference to Hank Peters: he is dead.

That much is certain.

The fact of his death is common knowledge to himself and to the files of the War Department in Washington, D. C.

And has been duly reported in his hometown newspaper,

And has been taken into consideration by his relatives and friends.

Perhaps you knew Hank Peters.

Perhaps if you didn't know him you saw him somewhere and didn't know it was he. Quite possible:

Because at one time or other he rode on the coaches of the Santa Fe, the Union Pacific, the New York Central and the Nickel Plate.

He mingled with crowds in depots across the land, and at various times was among the audiences at widespread Orpheum and Loew theatres;

He strolled, on leave, down Broadway, Wilshire Boulevard, Wabash Avenue and the main streets of Killeen, Texas, Gulfport, Mississippi, and Des Moines, Iowa;

He frequently ate blueplates at scattered Childs restaurants; was known to have purchased sodas, razor blades and magazines at Liggett Drug Stores,

And before he was apprenticed to the war, he drove many a mile over many a state highway, also over secondary and dirt roads not represented on the Socony maps.

So, it is quite possible that at some time or other you may have passed him, seen him, talked to him, jostled in the same crowd with him.

Well, anyway, he's dead now.

MUSIC:

In and behind.

VOICE:

A couple of the boys sorted out his belongings and put them in a canvas bag and sent them home. There wasn't much to send:

SERGEANT:

Wrist watch.

CORPORAL:

Check.

SERGEANT:

Shaving kit.

CORPORAL:

Check.

SERGEANT:

Wallet.

CORPORAL:

Check.

SERGEANT:

Fourteen American dollars.

CORPORAL:

Fourteen bucks.

SERGEANT:

62 lira.

CORPORAL:

What'll his family do with lira?

SERGEANT:

Never mind. Put it down there. (Pause) Portable radio.

CORPORAL:

Check.

SERGEANT:

Deck of cards.

CORPORAL:

Check.

SERGEANT:

Pack of letters.

CORPORAL:

Check.

SERGEANT:

Four snapshots.

CORPORAL:

Lemme see.

SERGEANT:

Come on, come on. (Pause) Marksman's medal.

CORPORAL:

Right.

SERGEANT:

That's all.

CORPORAL:

Next.

VOICE:

These things were sent home in a neat package.

But what could not be sent home were items unassorted and unrelated, which died within his head when he was hit.

Telephone numbers.

The taste of good, hot grub on a cold rainy day,

The image of the evening plane caught in a skein of searchlights over the town, pulling the whole web with it across the sky.

The paralyzed newsboy on Maple and Elm who could barely hold coins in his hand while he counted change,

The shimmer and float of Summer, and the bright bare legs of a woman;

The posture of his dog, faking exhaustion, lying with his head down on the floor, but watching his every move;

Oh, a great many corny things and a few others, including the antique smell of books in the public library;

The pinch of his favorite pipe after two hours of smoking;

And the moon going down over the shoulder of his girl Marion as they sat on the porch into the hours of the forming of dew.

These items of course cannot be reconstructed as he felt them, and neither can Hank Peters be reconstructed, at least in the form by which you may possibly have known him.

As for his life, there is no straightforward account available, but there are several people who could piece it together, although they cannot always be relied on to give you a true interpretation of the facts.

Let us start, then, with two men who saw him last and first; neither friends nor relatives, but professional men and thus unprejudiced this way or that:

MUSIC:

Transitional effect -- coming out before:

MEDICAL OFFICER:

I am a Medical Officer attached to the 6th Company, 22d Regiment, 10th Division. In this coffin, we have reason to believe, is the body of Hank Peters, Private First Class. I shall read you the contents of his death certificate: "Henry Charles Peters, 26, Identification Number 8406912, killed in action of the following injuries: Abdominal lacerations, lower left quadrant; fracture of the sternum; ruptured spleen; internal hemorrhages; severed right arm." That is all.

MUSIC:

Punctuate sharply -- fading down behind:

VOICE:

Ah, but you have left out the important things:

He died also of a broken Hebrew

And multiple abrasions of the skin of a Chinese.

And where in the report have you mentioned what happened in a little Spanish town in 1938?

MUSIC:

An angry upsurge, which subsides quickly as the next man speaks:

OBSTETRICIAN:

(Quietly) I am the doctor who 26 years ago delivered Henry Charles Peters. My file says "Primapara; normal labor, of about six hours, no complications: anaesthesia, ether; weight, six pounds, four ounces. It was a simple birth."

MUSIC:

A quiet, almost rustic theme in the strings: It fades slowly and is out by the end of the third line of:

VOICE:

Ah, but it was not a simple birth,

His mother's womb having inward connections with Scandinavia, and the Springs and Winters of that region,

The seed of his father being out of the cross-fertilizations of restless migratory peoples, and the silt and backwash of a thousand continental waters:

And at his birth his pulse was 130 and his states were 48,

His respiration normal and his rights equal,

And there were 56 teeth implicit in his gums.

And 21 amendments in his Constitution.

And, although he was blind at birth, and without a mind of his own,

He was nevertheless automatically a citizen of his country.

Certain privileges having been obtained in his name and underwritten by many men,

Among them some too famous to be mentioned,

And others less famous who died in battles too familiar to be here recounted.

Do you call that a simple birth?

MUSIC:

A brief, rather gay passage of an American patriotic flavor, but not too obvious. It fades, before:

MOTHER:

I am his mother. His hair was light when he was born . . . but it turned dark later. He was a bottle baby after three weeks.

When he was still in knee-pants he got into a fight with some other boys at the corner of our street, and got cut with a piece of metal. That's how he got the scar on his chin.

He was a dreamer, Henry was, with all kinds of ideas. It seems like he was never one for the girls, hardly, until he met Marion, whom he got engaged to the day he got the good job at McAndrew's Department Store.

I remember how I was hoping he wouldn't be drafted, but he went and enlisted. And when he went away to the war he said he knew exactly why he was going, and said he'd be back when the war was over and not to worry. But I worried.

Why did he have to get killed? Why did it have to happen to my boy?

He kissed me good-bye on a Thursday morning -- it was August 20th, 1942 -- he had to get up very early that morning and I cried, and the last I saw of him was when he went out of the front door, and I hurried, into the front room and watched him through the front window, going down the street.

MUSIC:

A dark passage: Quiet, poignant. Backs entirely the following speech:

VOICE:

Down the street a piece, there was fighting, Mother,

And your boy got hit with a piece of metal.

Who will come to the door and tell her why?

It was a long street he started down, Mother.

All the way on Maple and continuing on Piccadilly and the Nevsky Prospect.

Winding down around the main drag of Canberra,

And connecting with footpaths in the Solomons.

Many mothers and many widows on that street, Mother,

And many a turning and a sudden intersection.

Where it leads to is, of course, the question of our time.

MUSIC:

It continues alone for a moment.

TEACHER:

I was his teacher. (Music out) He was a fair student, nothing out of the ordinary. His average grade was B-minus over all, rating a C in English, A in history, D in geography and B in chemistry. Best mark was in history. He was in the lower third of his graduating class. That is all we have in the record.

MUSIC:

A statement very close to a fanfare. It develops and sustains under:

VOICE:

There is more to the record:

Sir, he went beyond you in geography, learning that an ocean is a strait, a continent an isthmus:

Learning that the sky is the limit of the letting of blood;

Learning the lay of the darkest land.

Sir, he has been graduated with honors,

And he shall have a good mark in history forever.

MUSIC:

The spirit of the music which preceded the teacher: but segueing now to a homely, folk-quality passage which fades under:

MUSIC TEACHER:

It was I who gave him music lessons. He started with the violin at the age of 12 and went as far as the third position. I'm sorry to say he wasn't a very good pupil. I understand his mother had a hard time making him practice. When he was about 15 he got a sudden passion to be a drummer and so he gave up the violin. I advised against him doing it but he was all caught up with traps and snares and paraphernalia and I suppose he had to have his fling. There's no accounting for the tastes of adolescents.

But to get back to young Peters:

when he was 19 or so, he got to appreciate good music and, in fact, the last time I talked with him was at a concert at the Memorial Building in town. He was there with his girl, and we met at intermission and made a date to meet afterward, and Mr. Draper and I and Henry and Marion went to an ice cream parlor and we had a fine time talking about things in general, and I got to like him very much. I saw him a couple of times after that, at the movies, but I never again got to speak to him. I was really sorry to hear about him. I mean about what happened to him.

MUSIC:

A poignant and adolescent passage: Solo violin against sombre woodwinds. It is punctuated by symbolic tympani and drums as the speech may indicate.

VOICE:

Who was it fiddled while Rome was burning the native huts of Abyssinia?

Very respectable gentlemen indeed, including old King Carol and his fiddlers three

Paganini Baldwin, Joachim Blum, Sir Johnny One Note,

And choirs of fiddlers, whole companies of fiddlers, nations of fiddlers, senatorial and parliamentarian.

All of whom may now sound A's for a dead soldier.

And then go into a pavanne.

Call it None but the Purple Heart.

MUSIC:

Up in the clear for ten or fifteen seconds. At a diminuendo the voice resumes:

VOICE:

Private First Class Peters was a good-enough music pupil soon to see relationships between the concert repertoire at home,

And how the boys were doing on the beachhead;

And good enough to recognize that whereas $4.40 would buy two good seats to the municipal auditorium to hear the symphony,

It was a hot and smoking 75 did the arguing for Mendelssohn and Gershwin and the deeply non-Aryan St. Louis Blues.

Among the heavy drums he sat and played the bazooka, played the sweet bazooka, played it sweet and low and ducked his head from time to time as chords crashed all about him;

And when the raid was over he would rise and pick his pack up and go on against the kettle-drums, against the snares and booby traps and paraphernalia of the well-rigged enemy.

And by such tactics, he and others of his band storming the Appian hill up as far as the third position,

The comfort of a box seat at the Met was being made secure,

And the undivided concentration of the music-lover in his home was being convoyed safely through the program on the radio.

MUSIC:

The spirit of the passage which preceded the teacher; but segueing now to a soft and tender mood, holding briefly under the speech of the young girl who now rises.

GIRL:

We'd been keeping company for three years before the war broke out, and I wanted to get married right after Pearl Harbor, but he enlisted immediately and said he'd rather wait until after the war because he didn't want me tied down to him in case he might get crippled or blinded or something and be a burden to me.

We used to go to the movies once a week, depending on who was playing, or to a concert, and occasionally we went dancing at the Palladium on a Saturday night. We were both crazy about photography, and used to keep a picture album together, in which we pasted pictures of all the places we had been, and all the people who were important to us, like our families and the boy who first introduced us at a party. Hank became very serious toward the end, though, and he used to talk a great deal about the world and its problems.

When Hank went away, I felt sure he'd come back, and I still can't get used to the idea that he won't.

MUSIC:

Development of the theme which introduced the girl, but it erases quickly for:

VOICE:

While you were going to the movies once a week,

The Weimar Republic failed you.

While you were fumbling on a sofa,

A paperhanger laid waste your plans.

In your picture album,

Have you not left out the gallery of senators who voted down the League of Nations?

And a group-shot of the Chinese of Mukden -- dead since 1931?

And a closeup of the greaseproud face of Franco?

These people were important to you also.

Tonight your arms lie empty of your lover

Because it was assumed in local legislative circles, after one such war as this,

The world was none of our concern.

The empty pillow beside your own

Is stained with oil we sold the enemy.

Our foreign policy was set against the occasional Saturday night at the Palladium.

Or so it turned out when the scrap reserve got high enough in Yokohama.

MUSIC:

A commentary.

EDITOR:

I got a letter from him once, practically telling me how to run my newspaper. He demanded to know why we took the stand we did, in our editorials, about certain fundamental and constitutional things. He accused us of being anti-war and against the United Nations simply because we hammered away at bureaucracy in Washington and kept pointing out the dangers of trusting our allies too far. He indulged in the fruitless and misguided pastime of calling names and took occasion, in his letter, to label us fascists simply because we took a strong position against the excesses of labor and warned the public not to encourage racial equality among population groups for whom equal rights would obviously create problems that would upset the entire social structure. It was typical of letters we received from numerous victims of propaganda, and so naturally we did not print it.

VOICE:

Yes, he was the type to trust an ally in all seasons of travail

For in the Summer of the year,

When the star close by us shone upon the midlands

And the grasses grew exuberantly on the moors,

The vari-colored currents sparkling and curling in the channel,

He trusted the young men of an ally up as far as 30,000 feet against the finest squadrons of the obviously unvanquished Luftwaffe;

And in the Spring of yet another year

When the dandelions in cool disdain of the communiqu├ęs appeared among the corpses

And spice-carrying breezes from neutral orchards to the south blew softly over the ammunition dumps, he trusted the young men of another ally as far as the border of Rumania and still farther.

He was also the type to enjoy the excesses of labor

As they appeared in the shape of the gun in his hands,

As they flew by the hundreds over his head,

And as they rolled on tracks and treads down the paths of most resistance.

He was the type who insisted upon the open candors of grade-labeling,

His nose contending fascists by any other name smell just as bad.

He was an easy victim to the propaganda that all men were equally created

This being not especially a doctrine short-waved from abroad, but rather early American . . .

And on the day he died, Reconnaissance had told them that the foe lay straight ahead, but Pete knew very well some of the enemy was back at home--

Publishing daily and Sunday.

MUSIC:

A stern comment, brazen and harsh. The music cuts off for:

NAZI SOLDIER:

I killed him. It was early in the morning when we shelled the road. I did not see him, of course, because I was miles away. I merely pulled the drawstring which fired the 88 millimeter shell.

As far as I am concerned, it was merely a puff of smoke on the side of a hill.

I had nothing against this man personally. I was merely doing my duty for the Fuehrer and the Fatherland, in the struggle to save the world from the Bolshevik Democrats.

It was entirely an impersonal matter.

Heil Hitler!

MUSIC:

A pompous and Wagnerian strain, going out quickly under:

VOICE:

When the last bomb has crumped

And the tank is garaged

And the cruiser wheels about and makes for port,

When the tape is scraped off the windows in London,

And the delicatessens of Copenhagen once again break out in green neon,

When the wives and children go down to the station in Council Bluffs,

Knowing that Victory comes in on the 5:45,

Mrs. Peters will be sitting alone at the front room window listening to the bells and the whistles.

What will you be doing then, Blitz Boy?

Where will you be going then, Warmaker Extraordinary?

What impersonal matter will absorb you on that day, Master of Europe?

The mother of the smokepuff on the hillside

Will finger a worn gold star,

Remembering the son you killed merely in the name of the Mystic of Munich.

MUSIC:

A development of the previous cue. It fades under the speech of Ferriter.

FERRITER:

I'm Charlie Ferriter. Me and Hank was crawling on our bellies up a slope one morning and there was a stinking big red flash, and when I looked around again, Hank was just a mess of rags and a couple of bones stickin' through.

Me and Hank used to get into arguments about the war.

He used to talk about Freedom and he said that's what we were fighting for.

Well, for Criney's sake I knew that, he didn't have to tell me that, anybody except a fascist louse would agree it's the best thing in the world you could fight for. But what I'd like to know is, why do you have to fight for it every 25 years? Can't somebody figure a way around that?

What bothers me is whether I'm being a sucker. Because if this war don't add up to something big -- bigger than ever came out of any other war -- then I don't know what I'm doing in this outfit.

I used to say to Hank, if the people who are still alive when this one's over -- if those people don't do something sensible about it, then what the hell is the use? What's the good of guys like Hank Peters getting knocked off if nobody knows what to do over their dead bodies?

(Angrily) What are you going to do about it?

MUSIC:

A very angry passage, cutting out suddenly and sharply for:

VOICE:

(the same as we have been hearing)

I was Hank Peters.

I assure you I hated to go. It is not easy to leave a woman crying at a train-gate. It is not easy to leave a mother standing at a window; to walk away and not look back.

You can get lonesome no matter what, when you are far from home, especially if you don't know when, if ever, you are coming back.

I am dead of the mistakes of old men,

And I lie fermenting in the wisdom of the earth.

I am very dead, but no deader than the British who struck at El Alamein, the Reds who crossed the Dnieper going west.

I am silenced, but no more silent than the Partisans of Yugoslavia who fought tanks with their bare hands and a bottle of benzine.

I am missing, but not farther than a famined Greek.

I am buried, but no deeper than the children of Chungking.

I know, I know,

How there will be the jubilation at the end,

And how the proclamations will be sent out on the waiting air.

They will gather in committee,

Pose for pictures,

Sign the papers.

Territories will be wrangled, and big punishments performed.

It will be seen to that the ruins are most carefully policed.

(Will someone give my best to Marion the day that Palestine is taken up?)

Ah, there will be a stirring and a busy-ness about the capitals,

And Charlie Ferriter will wonder if perhaps he's being answered.

The charters will be sealed in wax above the bodies of the dead

And all the words will make a noise of truth and sensibility.

But let me tell you:

From my acre of now undisputed ground, I will be listening:

I will be tuned

To clauses in the contract where the word democracy appears

And how the Freedoms are inflected to a Negro's ear.

I shall listen for a phrase obliging little peoples of the earth:

For Partisans and Jews and Puerto Ricans;

Chinese farmers, miners of tin ores beneath Bolivia;

I shall listen how the words go easy into Russian,

And the idioms translated to the tongue of Spain.

I shall wait and I shall wait in a long and long suspense

For the password that the Peace is setting solidly.

On that day, please to let my mother know

Why it had to happen to her boy.

MUSIC:

Conclusion.

NOTE:

ALTERNATE CLOSING LINES FROM ORIGINAL BROADCAST: "On that day, will ya please let my mother know / Why it had to happen to her boy?"

ANNOUNCER:

You have been listening to "Untitled," written, directed, and produced by Norman Corwin for CBS, and starring the distinguished actor Fredric March in the role of Hank Peters. Mr. March will soon appear in the picture "The Adventures of Mark Twain." Others in the cast were Paul Mann, Joseph Julian, Alan Drake, Charme Allen, Hester Sondergaard, Donna Keith, Michael Ingraham, Kermit Murdock. The original musical score was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann.

Next week, in the eighth of this current series of broadcasts, Norman Corwin brings you "Dorie Got a Medal," an unusual musical work based on the life of the Negro war hero Dorie Miller. Mr. Corwin has written this in collaboration with Josh White and Mary Lou Williams, who will also appear in the production as part of an all-Negro company including the famous Lead Belly.

MUSIC:

A REPRISE OF THE INTRODUCTION ... THEN IN BG UNTIL END

ANNOUNCER:

This is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.