All the fuss about Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform at a costume party reminds me of an absolutely true story from my Marine Corps days.
I was with VMO-1 at MCAS New River, right across the river from Camp Lejeune. The brass at Lejeune used to put on a "dog and pony" show for visiting dignitaries at "LZ Bluebird," a small aluminum mat runway built off in a swamp. The show involved a parachute drop, some pretend bombing runs, a helicopter assault and various other stuff. Whenever there was a Bluebird show, my squadron had to send two OV-10 Broncos, one to do a low level parachute drop, and the other to coordinate the show and then land at the field for a "static display". The static display involved lining all the airplanes up on the runway, standing next to them, and answering a lot of dumb questions.
I used to hate the LZ Bluebird shows. They tied up assets we should have been using for training, and for a while it seemed like that was all we were doing. Worse, for a while I was the only one in the squadron with the qualifications needed to fly one of the missions (Tactical Air Coordinator, and Short Field TO/Landing), so I always had to go.
Well the word was out that we were doing a show for a congressman named Newt Gingrich. This was before Newt was famous, but my squadron CO, Lt. Col. PR Smith, knew him. Newt was the colonel’s congressmen, and PR wanted me to make a good impression. The day before the show he told me to make sure I got a haircut, trimmed my moustache (I was that kind of a Marine), and didn’t wear my red bandana (hey, I was a Bronco pilot, he should be lucky I didn’t want to wear spurs). He told me to make sure that I mentioned his name to Newt.
Anyway, like a good boy I got a haircut and trimmed my moustache. We did the show, and landed to meet the bigwigs. Newt came by and pointed at the pitot static tube, wondering if it was some sort of gun (I’ve had more intelligent questions from 10 year old boys at air shows) (Don’t get me wrong, I like Newt, but that’s the way it was). Then he wandered down the line.
Down the line was a Harrier, and Newt had never seen one before. He wanted to chat with the pilot, but the next "event" was waiting, so Newt took the Harrier pilot with him.
What Newt apparently didn’t realize was that the Harrier was still sitting in the middle of the runway. Which meant that I wasn’t going anywhere until he brought the pilot back. All the other aircraft (mine was the only other fixed wing) got ready to take off. My back-seater Beaker (traitor that he was) hitched a ride on one of them. And I wondered around the swamp for a few hours, getting chewed on by some very vicious deer flies, and getting more and more steamed. Eventually someone brought the Harrier guy back, and away we went.
That night there was a squadron party, and I thought it was time for some payback. I was tired of the moustache anyway, so I trimmed it into a little Hitler "toothbrush". I arrived fashionably late, and was spotted right away by PR. He did a double take, and he asked what I had done with my face.
I said "Well, colonel, you said you wanted me to trim my moustache for the Bluebird show." At that point the awful truth sank in, and PR asked "You didn’t meet Congressman Gingrich that way, did you"?
With my best innocent expression, I said that I had. "And you know, colonel, the congressman asked me about my moustache too. I told him that you liked it this way. That’s when I got in the part about you being in his district."
Well, PR turned a remarkable color, one I hadn’t been aware you could get with skin. He ordered me to shave the rest of the moustache (anticipating this, I pulled a razor out of my pocket).
Later, someone filled him in that I was only kidding. He came up and put his arm around me (we had both had a few drinks at that point) and said "Roscoe, I like you. I didn’t like you a little while ago, but I like you now".
But that was the last time I had to go to LZ Bluebird.
Now my point–and I have one–is that I guess my actions in aping the look of one of the most evil men in the history of the world could have been seen as offensive. But I wasn’t intending to offend anyone (except maybe PR), and I don’t think anyone was offended (again, except for PR). I wouldn’t do anything like that today, because I have learned a lot since then, and I have met a lot of different types of people, and I know that some people are rightfully upset by the use of anything having to do with Nazis as "fun" or a joke. But, of course, I was young and dumb.
At this point Harry is even younger and dumber. If it were me, I would cut him some slack.