A ham sandwich?

          When World War II drew to a close, the United States Marine Corps found itself faced with a whole new set of worldwide responsibilities. One of these responsibilities involved supervising the peaceful disengagement of the Japanese Army from mainland China. The task of doing this fell to the 1st Marine Division, in which my father served. Shortly before the 1st Marine Division shipped out to China, a group of officers and their wives collected for a goodbye party at the Officer’s Club at the Parris Island. Also in attendance was a recently retired officer, Brigadier General “Bigfoot” Brown, who had extensive experience in pre-war China.

          General Brown, a committed and lifelong bachelor with a peculiar sense of humor, had spent his entire adult life in the Marine Corps. During the course of the party, several of the wives of the Marines who were heading to China questioned General Brown about why the Marine Corps wasn’t allowing them to accompany their husbands to China the way the U.S. Army was letting dependants go to Europe. General Brown with a sincerely perplexed look on his face replied, “Wives to China? Ladies, that would be like taking a ham sandwich to a barbeque!”

          My father said that the Marines at the party spent most of the rest of the evening attempting to respond to their wives’ question,

Honey, what did General Brown mean by “a ham sandwich to a barbeque?”