The Military Jeep

Jeeps were on their way out when I first enlisted in the military.  My motor transport operator school had us learn how to drive military trucks on one.  It was the only time I saw one; after that, it was replaced by the CUCV (pronounced CUC-V), which is like an SUV.  That was replaced by the Hummer.

So “Jeep in a Crate” caught my eye.  It was actually a scam–get people to buy the government auction lists, but there are some pictures of jeeps being packed for shipping overseas during World War II.  I wonder if the original shape was designed exactly so they could be packed into a crate and then loaded in a shipping container.

And if you want entertainment, check out the story that follows the jeep article for Nazis and flying saucers.


The Effects of War (A Christmas and Hollywood story)

I always like to read the behind the scenes of movies and TV series.  I’m not interested in back biting or childish antics of actors, but the personal side of working in a creative environment.

Sometimes even war affects that, like in one of the best known Christmas movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which starred Jimmy Stewart.  Mr. Stewart had just come back from World War II, after serving as a pilot and suffering from PTSD (probably called shell shock then).

When he came back, he struggled to find roles and couldn’t figure out where he fit. I think that’s the case for a lot of veterans, because we come back and everyone’s a stranger to us.  Even the world we lived it looks very different.

And there’s anger.  I remember that when I came back.  It was a weird, unfocused anger.  That turns up in the movie, too:

There’s a scene in the movie where he questions his sanity and he’s got this wild look about him. That’s one scene that really struck me, watching it on the big screen. And the other scene that always made me uncomfortable, but now means so much more to me, is when he’s in his living room and he’s throwing things and screaming at his kids — and his wife and children look at him like, “Who is this man? Who is this monster?” And that is so reflective of what millions of families faced, looking at these strangers who came back from the war with this rage. Stewart played it beautifully. He just lets it out.

Read the article and then watch the movie again.  I know I will.

Stuff and the Army

This post was inspired by comments on moving when I lived in the barracks.  There always seemed to be the assumption that somehow we all lived like monks who had taken a vow of poverty.  In fact one of the biggest impressions that barracks life left me was that where I was living was always considered “temporary.”

I lived in the barracks for six years.  Hardly temporary.

I think some of this comes from World War II military. Despite the fact that WWII was over 70 years ago, it’s still very much a part of our culture.

We have a local insurance company that uses a cartoon general.  WWII fatigues, steel pot helmet, and five stars (a rank that no longer exists).  And Beatle Bailey, which has the same type of uniform, the fat sergeant (who would be kicked out today), and the bay barracks.

So it seems like the imprint WWII made on our culture also impacted the military’s own image of soldiers living in the barracks.

Then, the soldiers would have been temporary, drafted for the war.  Once they finished their hitch, they would go back to civilian life.  It makes sense that everything was temporary.

But it’s seventy + years, and the world’s changed a lot.  What were the soldiers supposed to do once they got off work at 5:00?  Eat dinner, come back, and clean up the barracks and go to bed every night?

For six years?

So there was always that disconnect.  The sergeants sometimes forgot that we did have lives outside of the military.  No one thought hat we might want a place we spent a lot of time in to look halfway decent and not like a place to park for the night.

The Origins of Military Cadences

One of the first things in Basic Training the Drill Sergeants did was march us.  We marched everywhere — to the mess hall, to the ranges, to the barracks.  To help keep us in step, and in some cases, just to keep going, the Drill Sergeants called cadences.

You’ve probably seen them if you watch any movie that has the characters visit a military post of some kind.  It’s pretty iconic.  Soldiers in formation run past the camera singing something like “Hey, hey, Captain Jack!”

Sometimes the songs were fun, and sometimes they were very sexist.  There was also some humor that the male soldiers found funny and left the women soldiers scratching their head and wondering why the men thought it was funny (a particular song about a canary comes to mind).

Keepers of Tradition calls it a verbal art form:

“…military cadence calls are also a way to take one’s mind off strenuous tasks, vent dissatisfaction, mock one’s superiors, or build morale by boasting, poking  fun, or talking dirty.”

The cadences were actually intended only for men to hear, and even the ones that were screened for a mixed audience sometimes went over the top.  These are the lyrics for some of the cadences.  The majority of these we did sing, though there are a few I haven’t heard of.

But the modern military cadence originated in 1944 with a Black private named Willie Duckworth, who was raised by sharecropper parents in Georgia.  He was a wheeled vehicle mechanic, which is army-speak for a truck mechanic (because there are military vehicles that are not wheeled).  But the cadences were something that were used out in the fields for workers, and it was a logical thing to use for the military as well.

Of course, one of the purposes was to help everyone stay in step, and that never did much for me!