OPINION

Fighting 'The Good War' at home

Ed Rood

When it comes to gifts, the standing order around our house is: “Don’t give Ed any books or magazines.” The reasoning behind it is that I will start reading whatever it is and be oblivious to anything else the rest of the day.

That might be stretching things a bit, but I must admit I love to read and do so every chance I get. 

Ed Rood

Although I’ll read just about anything, one of my true loves is old magazines — especially those from the days of World War II.

Recently, I came across a real winner while browsing through an antique shop. The magazine, “The Open Road for Boys,” was probably printed by the publisher of “Boys Life.” (Both publications deal with Boy Scouts.) 

The entire magazine — even the ads — concentrate on the war effort and how each boy can help his country down the road to victory through a variety of ways.

The inside cover full-page advertisement is by B.F. Goodrich and deals with, of all things, rubber-soled canvas shoes (basketball and tennis shoes.) 

The ad’s headline states: “Here’s one sacrifice that hurts” under a picture of three boys walking barefoot through a wooded area. It then explains that the rubber normally being used for sports shoes is now part of 3,000,000 life vests, 100,000 life rafts or 60,000 bulletproof gas tanks for planes. 

The ad ends “The game in which these things are used is no sport. They play that game for keeps ... and that’s why America’s younger sportsmen are gladly taking this sacrifice in stride.”

Another full-page ad features a picture of a boy with a rifle, a horse and a dead coyote. Its headline says: “I’m sorta in the Army now!” 

The ad’s text notes how the boy’s father asked him “How would you like to be in the Army? I said I’d like it swell, so he said okay, soldier, you’re now on coyote detail.

“Well, I’d never thought that knockin’ off coyotes had anything to do with the Army, but Dad said it did, and I can see why now. 

“Take this fellow here, for instance. He’s raised heck with our stock for a long time. And that meant less meat for our armed forces, who are knockin’ off some even bigger coyotes on their own account.”

Each story inside also centered around the war. Some told of true-life soldier adventures, some dealt with such things as planting a victory garden or starting a community-wide scrap drive, and some were movie reviews of war flicks. 

Without a doubt, the most unusual story dealt with “Starting Your Own RANGER UNIT.”

The author begins his piece “Uncle Sam’s Rangers, now training ‘somewhere in Scotland,’ are patterned after the British Commandos.” He compares their fighting techniques with the American Indian. 

He goes on to suggest that a boy’s own back yard might be a good place to start a Ranger training unit so that he and his friends can become physically and mentally fit in case they are needed as soldiers in the future.

Some of the training in the article deals with using a stout knife for a bayonet, blackening one’s face and heads with a burnt piece of cork and starting small fires in the yard. Hmmm, I wonder what most mothers thought of those suggestions? 

The most impressive advertisement by far was contributed by the Magazine Publishers of America. The bottom-third of the ad shows two sinister enemy soldiers, with rifles, above it the headline shouts: “If they win ... only our dead are free.” 

Now if that didn’t get readers’ attention, I don’t know what would.

The text reads: “These are our enemies. They have only one idea — to kill, and kill, and kill, until they conquer the world. Then, by the whip, the sword and the gallows, they will rule. No longer will you be free to speak or write your thoughts, to worship God in your own way.

“Only our dead will be free. Only the host who will fall before the enemy will know peace. Civilization will be set back a thousand years.

“Make no doubt about it — you cannot think of this as other wars. You cannot regard your foe this time simply as people with a wrong idea. This time you win — or die. This time you get no second chance. This time you free the world, or else you lose it. Surely that is worth the best fight of your life — worth anything you can give or do.”

It ends simply: “EVERY CIVILIAN A FIGHTER!”! 

That’s some pretty strong stuff but today we call it the good war. Back in 1943, when the outcome of the war was very much in question, I’m sure it was considered anything but the good war. 

Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.