Chapter 4 ~ The Hitchhiking Sergeant

In October, 1944 Sergeant Gordon Aadland was in Hollywood on furlough from duty in the Aleutian Islands. He was staying in West Los Angeles with his brother’s family and his mother. On his last night before returning to duty, he decided to take his sister dancing at the Hollywood Palladium. Her husband and three of his brothers were overseas in the service.

Late in the evening, he recalled, “I ended my time with my sister by seeing her on a streetcar to her apartment in Hollywood, and headed to Sunset Boulevard to catch a ride to the Clover Club, where my brother would be getting off work as bartender at 2 a.m. I would then ride home with him.” He said, “My sister would have caught the streetcar on Hollywood Blvd. She worked in the J.C. Penny store in Hollywood, and her apartment was about a mile east of the corner of Hollywood and Vine.”

On Sunset Boulevard, near the Palladium and the Hollywood Canteen, he started looking for a ride. “No sooner did I get on Sunset and motioned with my thumb, than she pulled up in a coupe. She asked, ‘Where to?’ I told her.”

Georgette was heading west. She talked about her boyfriend in Texas and said she was expecting a telephone call from him that night when she got home. She dropped Aadland off “after a few miles.” During the ride, he thought of telling her that it was unwise of her to pick up strangers on the road, but said nothing, not wishing to appear ungrateful. Aadland got another ride which took him closer to his destination. He spent, by his own estimation, about 10-15 minutes with Georgette. Many years later, he said, “She seemed like a friendly girl and I appreciated the ride, but she never should have picked up a soldier around midnight.”

After serving as quartermaster on the island of Attu in the Aleutians, Aadland was sent to California and served at Birmingham Hospital in Van Nuys, California. “I spent a year in the Los Angeles Military Police (MPs), despite my protests I went on patrol and also served as non-com in charge of training.”

“At Friday night after duty I would usually hitchhike through the mountain passes to my brother’s and mother’s home in West Los Angeles, and return the same way. It was easy to catch a ride, because it was the patriotic thing to do the pick up a soldier.” Hitchhiking “was my chief means of transportation in and around L.A., but usually a man was the driver.”

The day after Georgette dropped him near the Clover Club, Aadland’s brother drove him to Los Angeles Union Station to begin the first leg of his trip to Fairbanks, Alaska and then back to the Aleutians. He said he found a discarded copy of the L. A. Times on board the train and saw the headline about an oil heiress that had been killed. After reading the article and realizing that the murdered girl was the same young woman who had given him a lift hours earlier, he wrote a letter to the Los Angeles police chief and mailed it in Sacramento.

Years later, he said, “In retrospect, probably the key to our short conversation is that when she got home, if there was a message from her boyfriend in Texas, she would fly there. That’s what made me make the connection to her when I saw the Los Angeles paper’s story about the horrid affair.

“When I wrote the letter to the police, I probably said two things that misled them. I said she dropped me off on Sunset and then turned right. That is because at that place, the only turn was right. The probable truth is that further along is a left turn off Sunset, which she probably took to get to her apartment.

“The other possible misinformation I gave in this letter is that she seemed nervous. I assumed that because she kept looking out the rear view window. The reality is that she was doing that while switching lanes; some drivers don’t trust their rear view mirrors.” Aadland also said, upon reflection, “There should have been my fingerprints on the passengers side, from where I got in and out of the car, but the police never contacted me about it.”

Sergeant Aadland was never brought back to Los Angeles to be interviewed or to testify, but an officer from the provost marshal was sent to questioned him.

It is quite possible that Sergeant Gordon Aadland was the last person to see Georgette before she was killed.