|DD: Yes. I was afraid of him. I got to the point where I was afraid to speak. I mean I’m still partially deaf from being punched in the ear. It swelled to about twice its size. It went forever from the purple stage to the yellow stage to the…. I was in the fifth grade at the time. But, I was always so afraid of him, like when he would go over my homework with me. I would think the wrong answer even when I knew the right answer, if you know what I mean.
JH: Did he hit you because you didn’t play sports?
DD: No, I’d said some wise-ass
remark. But he went too far, and he knew it, and he was upset about
JH: How did you like it when you got shipped off to boarding school? Was that a relief for you?
DD: Yeah. It was a relief to get away from my father. My brothers get upset when I talk about it and think it’s disloyal. I don’t want to be disloyal to him. He was a wonderful man. He was a great heart surgeon. When he died there were thousands of people [at his funeral]. He was an extraordinary man, but he had this bug against me. And we never got it straightened out. Never.
JH: What did your mother think about your being treated the way you were?
DD: You know it was so interesting—my mother didn’t come into her own until her widowhood. She was the wife. In her widowhood, one time I tried to talk to her about it, and she said, "That didn’t happen. Why do you say these things?" My brothers are the same. It was something about me. I’ve long since come to terms with that. But, what parents don’t realize is that if you hurt a kid’s feelings, it can have lasting effects.
When I went off [to war] at 18—I got drafted—he drove me to the induction center in New Haven. There were some fights in the car going, and I was crying. I wasn’t crying because I was saying goodbye. I was crying because he had hurt my feelings just when I was going into the war. On the other hand, years later I found letters that he used to write to me overseas, and he said about my letters, "You should think about becoming a writer." And when I found those years later, I couldn’t believe he had said that.
JH: Given all of your success since the war, how do you think your father would feel about you now? Would he be proud of all your accomplishments?
DD: Oh, I’m sure he would. I’m sure he would.
was in the Battle of the Bulge and I saved a man’s life. I got a
Bronze Star, and it was in all the papers, and he was proud of that.
But my older brother was the glamourous one. It was a horrible thing to him.
He spent the whole war in Officer’s Training School, and the sissy
brother comes back....
JH: Were you treated as a hero at home?
DD: No (laughing). It was a Thursday when
I got back. It was the cook’s night out, and we went to the club
for dinner, the whole kit and caboodle—six kids. And I was in my
uniform. I had just gotten home that day and nobody mentioned the
Bronze Star. Everyone was embarrassed. See, that was supposed to
be Dick, my older brother, who would be the one who did all this
stuff. Instead, this schmuck comes home and everyone was embarrassed.
No one said anything.
So we got up to the club, and I’ll never forget this moment.
I had a great friend when I was a kid called Charlie Shepard in
West Hartford. And Charlie Shepard’s mother was coming down the
stairs and I was standing there, just
back...and she came over to me and put her arms around my neck and
she said, "We are all proud of you," and I started to cry. After
that, then [my family] could talk about it. Do you see?
JH: I think a lot of families do that to
some respect. They don’t want to over-blow it and make it look like
they’re boasting, but once someone else talks about it, it’s okay,
because that person opened the door. What did you do to
save this person’s life?
DD: There was another preppy
kid with me, Hank Bresky. He was a terrific guy who had gone to
Choate. We stuck to each other for three years; we totally understood
each other. When our packages would come from home, we’d have tin
boxes of Louis Sherry chocolates, and these other people would get
Milky Way bars that were falling out of their packages. We were with
the toughest guys. They called us the Gold Dust twins and made fun
And so on this night, it was raining. It was muddy. We were
out of range of the enemy and in retreat. There was artillery fire
over our heads. The Germans were approaching us and somebody came
up and said to the lieutenant there were two men back there that
were wounded. And the lieutenant said, "My orders are to retreat.
We can’t go back." And my buddy—the other Gold Dust guy—and I went.
We looked at each other. We never said one word to each other, and
we both ran back toward [enemy lines]...in the pitch dark!