Gertrude was ready to quit the stage when Buzz entered the military, but there was an acting obligation in May. She starred in Old Friends, a premiere work produced, ironically, by Charles Frohman, Inc. His company had persisted long after his untimely passing. The play was by James Barrie, who had penned Peter Pan for Frohman in 1905. That same month, the dramatic film The Iron Heart was released to theaters. G er trude played the devoted (and suf fering) wife to a tyrannical nouveau riche factory owner. The owner is eventually given his comeuppance, after which his loyal wife welcomes the broken man with open arms.
Buzz wanted to go to France, and he had heard artillery service was the ticket. His goal was to be a commissioned officer. Buzz was one of two men selected for officer training in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. While down South he convinced the military brass that he was a bugler, a lie concocted to avoid the sweltering marching drills. Before Buzz played a rudimentary “Taps” one evening, a rowdy, lights-out pillow fight occurred in his barracks. He hadn’t dressed yet, but he reached for his bugle. All of a sudden a bunch of his bunk mates pushed him out the door. There he stood, in nature’s own, playing “Taps” for the company. He wasn’t aware that he had an audience of one: the Officer of the Day. As the young enlistee turned on his points in a textbook military aboutface, he came face to face with his superior. A bare Buzz was escorted humiliatingly to the gatehouse, stopping briefly to nervously don his standard-issue bronze collar and tunic.
Persistence paid off. He got his wish and was sent by ship to France to the Saumur Artillery School. A rumor that the purser on board willingly accepted bribes made Buzz and a friend seek out his company. They wanted some of the officers’ chow as an alternative to the standard-issue gruel and were willing to pay for it. The purser lifted what he could from the ship’s cargo, supplying the boys with French staples: champagne,