Dan Pinck was working discreetly in China with the Office of Strategic Services (a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency) when the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy to liberate France from the Nazis. But last week, when President Obama paid tribute to US service members on the 70th anniversary of D-day, Pinck, who lives on Brattle Street in Cambridge, was at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, just a few feet from the leader of the free world.
“Somehow I got onto the invitation list,” says Pinck, still charming and funny at 90. “[Obama] came across as a very fine person. His talks were entirely his own and he related to everyone in a succinct and honest way.”
It’s not often that a man like Pinck gets a chance to talk to the president, and he didn’t waste his opportunity.
“I told him I have a few favors to ask. One is, when I get this photo of us, would you send it to the Sidwell Friends School to put in their bulletin?” said Pinck, referring to his alma mater in DC, where Obama’s daughters attend. “He laughed and said he would. And then I asked for an autograph for my wife.”
As interesting as his World War II resume is, Pinck also appeals to us because, after the war, he worked at The New Yorker, where he was a legman for A. J. Liebling and sometimes held up the cover art for editor Harold Ross to inspect. But best of all, he said, were the times when New Yorker contributor J. D. Salinger came to watch the magazine staff play softball.
“At least half the time, Salinger came to watch me pitch because I used to knock the [expletive] out of those people,” said Pinck, chuckling. “Softball in New York in those days was really like hardball.”Mark Shanahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MarkAShanahan. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeredithGoldste.