Thursday, May 15, 2008

RADM Eugene S. Ince

RADM Eugene S. Ince was the seventh Commander, Naval Security Group Command from August 1978 - September 1980. He was a Naval Aviator who served with VA-115 (ARABS). He also served on the Staffs of Commander - SEVENTH Fleet, CINCPACFLT and CINCLANTFLT. He served on active duty from June 1949 to October 1980.

If you have additional information about RADM Ince, please shoot me an e-mail.

Here is a story by RADM Ince and his wife

An Evening at Waldorf
A true story about a young couple in love and the magical thing that happened to them at the most famous hotel in the world

By Jean and Bud Ince

Bud: One rainy October evening, 30 years ago, I sat in my room at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, staring at a navigation lesson and thinking of Jean. I had met her the previous August in Chicago and had fallen in love. Three days later I was back in Annapolis, surrounded by rules and regulations, while she was a thousand miles away, surrounded by eligible bachelors. Things looked bleak, indeed.

There was one bright spot on the horizon. Jean was coming to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game in November. We had been invited to spend the weekend with my uncle and aunt in New York. If there was any hope for me, that weekend was going to have to be one she would never forget. I shoved my books aside and wrote the following letter:

The Manager
The Waldorf-Astoria
New York City, New York

Dear Sir:

On Saturday, November 27th, I expect to pick my way across the prostrate bodies of the West point football team to a seat in Municipal Stadium where a girl will be waiting. We will hie away to the railroad station and entrain for New York. Once there we will take a taxi to your hotel, and that, dear sir, is where you and the Waldorf-Astoria come in.

I am very much in love with this young lady, but she has not yet admitted to an equivalent love for me. Trapped as I am in this military monastery, the chances I have to press my suit are rare indeed. Therefore, this evening must be the most marvelous of all possible evenings, for I intend to ask her to be my wife.

I would like a perfect table. There should be candlelight, gleaming silver and snowy linen. There should be wine and a dinner that will be the culmination of the chef's career.

At precisely midnight, I would like the orchestra to play "Navy Blue and Gold" very softly. And then I intend to propose.

I would appreciate it very much if you could confirm this plan and also tell me approximately what the bill will be. I am admittedly not getting rich on $13 a month, but I have put a little aside.

Very truly yours,
E. S. Ince
Midshipman, U.S.N.

The minute the letter was gone I regretted having sent it. It was callow, smart-alecky and, above all, presumptuous. The manager of the most famous hotel in the world was certainly not interested in the love life of an obscure midshipman. The letter would be thrown into the wastebasket where it belonged.

One week went by and then another. I forgot about the letter and tried frantically to think of some other way to convince Jean in 36 hours that she should spend the rest of her life with me. Then one morning I found on my desk an envelope upon which was engraved "The Waldorf-Astoria." I tore it open and read:

Dear Midshipman Ince:
Your very nice letter has been receiving some attention from our staff here. Just for fun I am going to attach the suggestions of our Ma tre d', the famous René Black. "Black pearls of the Sturgeon from the Caspian Sea, stuffed into the claws of lobsters, and eulogizing the God of the Oceans. "The Filet of Pompano known as the Demoiselle of the Atlantic, placed in a paper bag with the nomenclature 'Greetings from the Poseidon.' "The Breast of Chicken served in a little nest to represent the safety of the ketch, with its escort of vegetables and green salad."

"An excellent dessert bearing the nomenclature 'Ritorna vincitor' from Aida, and little galettes. A sweet liqueur to seal the anticipation.

"The price of this manoeuvre, including wines, champagne, gratuities, flowers and music, will be in the vicinity of one hundred dollars, with which we hope your little cache is fortified for complete victory."

Frankly, unless you have private resources, I think it is entirely unnecessary to spend so much money. I would be happy to make a reservation for you in the Wedgwood Room and will see to it that you have a very nice table, the best of attention, flowers - and you and your girl order directly from the menu whatever intrigues you. You certainly can have a couple of cocktails and very nice dinners and a bottle of champagne for one third of what René Black suggests. However, you are the only one who can make the decision so let me know how you would like to have us arrange your little party.

Best wishes.
Cordially yours,
Henry B. Williams

P.S.: I think your delightful letter inspired our Mr. Black.

I was thunderstruck with excitement and gratitude. But also dismayed. I didn't have even close to one hundred dollars saved. Regretfully, I wrote Mr. Williams that he had made a closer estimate of my resources than had Mr. Black, and I would appreciate it if he would reserve a table for me.

Days went by with no confirmation of my reservation. I was sure that my letter had never reached Mr. Williams, or that the whole thing had been taken as a joke. Finally, it was the weekend of November 27. The Brigade of Midshipmen watched their inspired team hold highly favored Army to a 21-21 tie in a thrilling football game. Afterward, I rushed to meet Jean, and she was just as pretty and wonderful as I had remembered her.

On the train to New York I showed Jean the letter from Mr. Williams. I told her that I wasn't sure we had a reservation, or whether we should even go to the Waldorf. We decided that we should.

We walked into the lobby. To the right, at the top of some steps, was the Wedgwood Room. There was a velvet rope at the bottom of the steps, and another at the top, with a major-domo posted at both places.

A crowd of fashionably dressed couples was waiting for admittance. I looked at Jean, and she at me.

Finally, I gulped, "Here goes," and went fearfully up to the first major-domo. "Sir," I said, "I am Midshipman Ince, and I wonder if you happen to have a reservation for me."

Like magic he swept away the rope! "Indeed we do," he said, and we saw the headwaiter at the top of the steps smiling and saying, "Midshipman Ince?" "Yes, sir," I managed. "Right this way," he said, and snapped his fingers. A captain led us across the room toward a beautiful table. Two waiters were leaning over it, lighting tall white candles...

Jean: Walking ahead of Bud, I looked in amazement at the table. Centered between the candles in a low white vase were flowers, a white stephanotis and pink sweetheart roses. When the red-coated waiter seated me I saw a box at my place. I opened it and found a corsage of white baby orchids.

The menu was hand-painted in watercolor. A gray Navy ship steamed toward the upper righthand corner, and highlighted on the left was a sketch of a girl's head with blue lovebirds in her hair.

At the moment our excitement over the flowers, the table and the menu had subsided to a point admitting of intrusion, our waiter said to Bud, "Would you like a cocktail?"

We agreed that we would like a Manhattan, and that was the only question we were asked all evening.

The dinner began. Silver sparkled and crystal glistened in the candlelight. Eddy Duchin and his orchestra played in the background. Service was constant, attentive, unobtrusive, and each course was more lovely than the one that came before it.

About halfway through our dinner a distinguished gentleman with silvery-gray hair and a large Gallic nose approached our table. "I am René Black, I just came over to make sure that you were not angry with me." Bud leaped to his feet and I beamed, as we poured out our thanks to the man who had planned this evening. He drew up a chair and sat down and talked, delighting us with anecdotes of his continuing love affair with his wife and of the origin of omelets, and a wonderful tale of a dinner party he gave his regiment in France during World War I. When we asked him if he had painted the menu, he smiled, turned it over, and quickly sketched the head of a chef with his pen. Under it he wrote, "Si l'amour ne demande que des baisers à quoi bon la gloire de cuisinier?" (If love requires only kisses, of what use is the fame of the cook?)

After Mr. Black left, I looked at Bud. I had made plans to come to see the Army-Navy game and to spend the weekend with him. But I wondered how I would feel about the dashing midshipman I had met so briefly last summer.

Now, here we were in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. We had just talked with the famous Ren Black; we had been served a dinner to delight royalty and were sipping wine together. How wonderful!

Bud: A few moments later Eddy Duchin left his bandstand and came to our table. The legendary orchestra leader was warm and friendly as he talked about the great game Navy had played that afternoon; he himself had served in the Navy during World War II. When Jean's attention was distracted for a moment, he leaned over to me and whispered, "'Navy Blue and Gold' at midnight. Good luck!" He rose, grinning, and walked back to his piano.

We were sipping a liqueur when the waiter told me there was a telephone call for me in the lobby. I followed him, wondering who in the world could be calling, only to find the headwaiter waiting just outside the door. He handed me the bill and said, "We thought you might prefer not to have this brought to your table." I turned it over fearfully and looked at the total. It was $33, exactly what I had written Mr. Williams I could afford. It was clear to me that this amount couldn't even begin to cover the cost of the evening to the Waldorf, and equally clear that the reason the bill was presented with such finesse was to save me embarrassment had I not had $33. I looked at the headwaiter in amazement, and he smiled and said. "Everyone on the staff hopes that all goes well for you."

Jean: Bud came back to the table gleaming, and, in answer to my curiosity about the telephone call, said, "It was nothing important. Shall we dance?" I felt his hand on my arm, guiding me gently to the dance floor. Other couples danced about us, chatting and smiling. I saw only Bud. We were living a fairy-tale evening, and it was all real. "I'm in Iove!" I thought. "How wonderful. I'm in love."

Bud: At five minutes till midnight, we were sitting at our table in a glow of happiness. Suddenly the wine steward appeared at my side with a small bottle of champagne. He opened it with a subdued "pop" and filled two crystal goblets with the sparkling wine. I raised my glass to Jean, and at that moment the orchestra drummer ruffled his drums. Eddy Duchin turned to us and bowed. He raised his hand and brought it down; suddenly we heard the melody of that most beautiful and sentimental of all college alma maters. "...For sailormen in battle fair since fighting days of old have proved the sailor's right to wear the Navy Blue and Gold." I looked at Jean, my wonderful Jean, and with a lump in my throat said, "Will you marry me?"

Jean: Bud and I were married the following June. Now, 30 years later, with our five children grown and the Midshipman a Rear Admiral, we sometimes turn the pages of the lovely wedding gift we received from Mr. Williams, a handsomely bound limited edition of the history of the Waldorf-Astoria. In it one can read of the princes and potentates, presidents and kings, who have been guests of that glamorous hotel. But there is one evening that is not included there, an evening in which kind, warmhearted, gently romantic men opened a door of happiness for a young couple in love. That evening is ours, and its testimony is Mr. Black's wedding gift. Framed and displayed in a place of honor on our dining-room wall, it is a watercolor sketch of a little chef tending his spit in an ancient kitchen. Printed in Mr. Black's familiar hand across the top, the words are repeated:

Si l'amour ne demande que des baisers à
quoi bon la gloire de cuisinier


Anonymous said...

Admiral Ince played a speaking part in a few movies and was quite a good actor I thought.

Anonymous said...

There has NEVER been a finer gentleman in the Naval Security Group. Never.

Anonymous said...

RADM is my husband's Grandfather, and an amazing and inspiring man. What a treat to find this family story here.

Anonymous said...

"Captain" Ince was DIRNAVSECGRUEUR when I was stationed in London from 72 to 75 and was an all round nice guy to work for.

Scott said...

Eugene Ince, my uncle, passed yesterday, December 13th.

Mike Lambert said...

Deeply saddened to hear this news.