The Best of Andy Rooney

The other day, I started making a list of famous people I knew during World War II. I was prompted to do this because of the 67th anniversary of D-Day.

During the war, as a reporter for the Army newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, I often had occasion to interview Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. He was the first and one of the best famous people I ever knew. I was a private and Eisenhower was a 4-star general but it isn't going too far to say we were friends. I called him "General" and "Sir," but instead of "Private," he called me "Andy."

I interviewed Eisenhower at least 25 times in his office at 20 Grosvenor Square in London. Ike liked to talk to me because he knew I had a closer connection and more first-hand knowledge of his soldiers than he did.

I knew Gen. George Patton, too, but I didn't like him. Ike and Patton went to West Point, where they were in the same class. Everyone liked Ike, but few people except, maybe, Ike, liked Patton. George Patton was an arrogant ass. Some people considered him a good general but I never thought so.

I met the great actor Clark Gable in London during the war. Clark was an Army officer in the public relations office of the B-17 bomb group. I visited him in his office often and found him to be a nice guy.

The Stars and Stripes offices were in the London Times building near Fleet Street, where all the other newspapers also had their offices. The offices of the wire services AP, UPI and INS were nearby.

Because I covered the Eighth Air Force, every time they went on a raid over Germany I went to an air base to interview the returning fliers -- if they returned. I got to be good friends with reporters from all the London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas newspapers. It was the experience of a lifetime for a young man who'd just come from editing his college newspaper.

The great Hal Boyle became my friend, as did Dick Tregaskas, Jack Thompson, Charles Collingwood, Bob Considine and Walter Cronkite. They took me in as one of them. The great advantage I had over them was that my stories appeared in the Army newspaper in London. All the soldiers in Europe could read them.

As a reporter, you can't beat that because you have to be honest and accurate, but you're also appreciated. You know someone is reading what you write. If you were in France during the war and your story appeared in a Chicago newspaper, it could days or weeks before you knew. Every newsman wants to see what he wrote today in the paper tomorrow.

I think journalism is the most interesting and important work there is.

Most people think their business is interesting. My father sold the felts on which paper is run off on wet sheets and he thought this dull process was the most fascinating business in the world. I realized when I got to know this about Dad that everyone thinks whatever they do is interesting. (I think, by the way, that I have the most interesting job in the world doing commentary for "60 Minutes" and writing this column.)

The thing that interests people most about their job is often the money they make doing it. That seems wrong, and I feel sorry for anyone who works for the money alone. The only fun they have is when they get paid. I like the money, but I love my work.

Don't tell my bosses, but I've been working for a long time now and I like it so much that I might even do it for nothing.

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