Wakefield%20Building%20Strong%20Men

Wakefield%20Building%20Strong%20Men - BUILDING STRONG MEN...

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Unformatted text preview: BUILDING STRONG MEN AND NEW FACILITIES FOR ANOTHER WAR Many of us find it hard to imagine the time between the first and second world wars, when America had only a small military establishment requiring minimal financial support. Even as the country lost the postwar economic confidence that had inspired the boom of the 19205 and slipped into Depression, few ascribed the boom or the subsequent bust to the cost of maintaining the army and navy. And even fewer suggested that the country could spend its way out of the Depression by creating a larger more aggressive military to reinforce the overseas diplomatic and economic policies of the United States, or to serve as a place for the employment of the young men with limited prospects abandoned by the economic collapse. Instead, during the 19205 and 1930s the American military establishment was faced with the challenge .of justifying its existence and providing employment for the officers and men who remained in the service after World War I, or who enlisted in the service during the two decades. Officers commanded theReserve Officer Training Corps programs at colleges and uni— versities and during the Depression they worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps. And both officers and men maintained national outposts and served the United States’ interest from the Philippines to the Caribbean. During the 1920s regular conferences among the nation’s military officers provided a forum for discussing the lessons of the previous war, and planning for future engagements. At the same time, young men interested in military careers attended the military academies or studied skills necessary for those in uniform through the Reserve Officer Training Programs at many universities. Years later, many officers with long careers were interviewed about the appli- cability of what they learned during the interwar period to their army experi- ' ences. In retrospect, the men indicated that their participation in sports and athletics were a critically, important component of their lives. Indeed, the interviews show that these men were convinced that success in sports led to success in the military. ,. 6O ‘ Playing to Win Describing their experiences, they emphasized that aspect of their education having to do with athletics. In explaining how the lessons learned through sports helped each individual command troops, those interviewed connected physical domination to social dominance. Thus, the officers seem to have believed that the most athletically adept men within the military neces— sarily were the men best prepared to lead other men when war came. In other words, in the memories of those interviewed, the systematic creation of a hierarchy based on physical coordination and strength presaged the recreation of that hierarchy elsewhere within the military. Despite the apparent economic successes of the 19205, the end of that decade saw the United States slip into the Great Depression. Whereas previously a man’s worth might be defined by his ability to support a wife and children, men unable to find work during the Depression often found their masculinity challenged as they were unable to meet their families’ needs for food, clothing, and shelter. This was particularly true where they were forced to rely on their wives’ or daughters’ income to keep their families off of the relief programs that were being established both at the local and federal levels. The strategies the newly poor relied on to retain their dignity in the end led to a strength and self-reliance that the military drew on during the Second World War. \But during the Depression, many observers wondered whether men would ever be able to recover the masculinity that had been lost with their jobs.ll As the young men who would lead others into battle were studying military skills at the end of the 19305, and as men and women in Asia and Europe again faced war, the United States began a military building program. Built initially by employees of the social welfare agencies developed by the Roosevelt admin— istration to create a new system of roads, bridges, armories, rifle ranges, and airports, this infrastructure proved critical to America’s own war effort after Pearl Harbor. Then, with the institution of the first peacetime draft in American history at the end of 1940, bases were expanded to train the draftees and the units of the National Guard that were being called into national service as it became ever more likely that the United States would be drawn into war. Having determined that in the future the army should provide its own sports and recreation program, the men planning for this expanding military ordered the construction of athletic facilities on bases alongside the construction of barracks, runways, storage depots, and command posts. The development of the fields, stadia, and gymnasiums, and of the sports programs that would use the new facilities provides an opportunity to see how the lessons of the First World War were being applied to preparations for another armed conflict. That story also demonstrates the extent to which those in the military hierarchy remained Building Strong Men ‘ 61 convinced that a good soldier must be an athletic soldier, and that masculinity required an interest in sport that should be assiduously cultivated by any means necessary. One of the first things a visitor notices when entering the Gen. Omar Bradley Museum at the Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania, is the prominence given to Bradley’s pre—World War I sports career at the Military Academy. Football and baseball game balls are on display along with photographs of the General and his fellow classmates participating in athletics while at West Point. And preserved in the memories of those who care about west Point football are the words of General Bradley’s contemporary at the Point; Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said that he would prefer his entire staff to be composed of ex-footballers as they were the men who he could be sure would fill the leadership rolesdemanded of them in the army.2 During the years between the first and second world wars, future officers were trained at the Military Academy and at other institutions for their military careers. In reflecting on their training, they have consistently connected their career success to sports. Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s belief that athletics should be an important part of every young officer’s military education was apparently an influence on many of these men during the interwar period. While superintendent at West Point, MacArthur reorganized the academy’s educational system, making sports and athletics a critical part of that process. Cadets received instruction in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, track, tennis, golf, and hockey, while an elaborate system of intramurals was also established. MacArthur explained his reasons for placing sports at the center of Academy education in 1922, saying, “Nothing more quickly than competitive athletics brings out the qualities of leadership, quickness of decision, promptness of action, mental and muscle coordination, aggressiveness, and courage. And nothing so readily and so firmly establishes that indefinable spirit of group interests and pride which we know as morale.”3 ‘ Whether future officers played or coached while studying for their military careers, In retrospect many seem to believe that their participation in sports was valuable in their professional lives. It was they who were the beneficiaries of the postwar decision that the army create its own sports program, which required that they be prepared to serve as athletic models to their men. But where did that leave men who were less athletically adept? In the obviously hierarchical world of the military, athletic ability, and particularly athletic ability ‘ 1n rigorous and dangerous sports, created a parallel hierarchy. Even those young men who were not interested in sports, but who wished to serve their country 62 Playing to Win in the military, were locked into a system that rewarded those who believed in a connection between sports and war and were consequently judged by their ability to meet the demands of that system. A hierarchy of gender based on athleticism demanded no less. Many retired officers who were young men before World War H and who continued in the service for many years after that war have recently been , debriefed. Aside from specific recollections about their experiences in combat, and their understanding of strategy, tactics, and the changing nature of warfare, the men also discuss important influences on their early career and whether they participated in sports, either during their officer training, or after they had received their commissions.4 For the young men who received their commission during the interwar years, organized physical activity seems to have had great personal importance. Indeed, according to Lt. Gen. Hobart Raymond Gay, he chOSe to remain in the service after World War I precisely because he became a member of the army’s very successful polo team.s The sports which the young, officers played also apparently served them well within the military as they were influenced by more senior officers whose athleticism provided them with a model. For example, Charlie Gerhardt served as an inspiration for Gen. James H. Polk’s early professional life, because according to General Polk, Gerhardt “was a tremendous athlete and tremendous man who excelled in all things.” Charlie Gerhardt also influenced the career of Gen. Robert W POrter, Jr., due to his skills as a polo player.6 ,, V While serving in a cavalry regiment during the 1930s, General Polk competed in a variety of equestrian sports, racing horses: playing polo, and jumping in shows. In his View, this personal interest in horses and horsemanship helped him and his fellow officers maintain good relations ~with the civilian community as they invited the townspeople of El Paso, Texas, to post horse shows and polo tournaments. The idea that military—civilian relations could be enhanced as the military providedpthe civilians with sportsentertainment of course was not new since the Army encouraged soldier baseball teams to compete with professional teams during the 1918 spring training season. These military—civilian contacts through sport were repeated elsewhere in the years before World War II and continued during the war as civilians were exposed to military sports both on base and off. Thus, Polk’s experience in El Paso reflected the use of sports by the military to forge bonds between the state and civilian society. By contrast to General Polk, who primarily discussed his athletic life after being commissioned, Gen. Robert W. Porter, Jr, found that the sports l l l l l l Building Str0ng Men 63 he played before attending West Point helped shape his life. According to Porter, he used sports to overcome his small size (as a high school football center he weighed only 110 pounds). During one high school football game he was struggling to control a larger player on the opposing team until they fought with each other. Porter’s father afterwards commented that it was a great “little fistfight.” Later, while playing scratch baseball, General Porter missed the pitched ball, but swung so hard he hit the much larger catcher in the head with the bat. Although he feared that the catcher would want to fight with him, Porter discovered that the catcher instead respected him for how hard he could hit.7 From these encounters and from the approval he received for fighting back and hitting hard, Porter learned that aggressive response and physical strength were the attributes he should cultivate in order to be accepted in his cultural milieu. This valorization of aggressiveness, even where occurring outside the rules of the game, as happened during the football game in which Porter engaged in fisticuffs, as well as his father’s approval of his violent response to his inability to control the larger man otherwise, reinforced the message that V a man’s worth might be measured by his ability to subdue another. It also implied that a man unable to establish his place through aggression would be less worthy of approval. In Porter’s view, the West Point intramural program established by General, MacArthur served himself and his fellow officers very well, “because as quickly as the officers went to their regiments, they had to coach, referee and deal with problems of athletics and sports in their outfits. . . . If he [the young lieutenant] was nothing but a bookworm, he would have trouble getting through to some of these people [the enlisted men in the regiment] 3’8 For General Porter, then, a young officer’s main duty was to establish control over his regiment, with sports as the means of gaining that control. From the time of World War I military sports had been justified as a means of creating group unity among the diverse members of a unit. As General Porter suggests, that unity could only be achieved if everyone understood that the officers demanded that unity through sport. A. young officer unfamiliar with sports, or uninterested in athletics, or lacking in athletic ability, must surely have learned that a successful military career demanded that he embrace sports nevertheless. Even if that young officer tried to avoid participating in sports, or tried to find ways to occupy his time other than by attending athletic events, his commander might demand his presence. Lt. Gen. Stanley R. Larsen found that an officer’s absence from an athletic event could lead to censure by his com— mander. General Larsen, who graduatedv'from the Military Academy in 1939, was assigned to a post in Hawaii later that year, where he served as a track 64 ‘ Playing to Win coach. Although Larsen enjoyed athletics, his enjoyment was tempered by an element of coercion that demanded he devote his social life and leisure time to the support of the post sports program. In Larsen’s words, “Wewere required to support all evening athletic events, such as boxing. The Regimental Adjutant knew when we weren’t there. We were expected to attend daylight games as well.”9 1 Carl Ulsaker, who spent the summer of 1937 preparing for entry into West Point, would apparently have agreed with General Porter’s assessment of the need to use sports as a means of communicating with enlisted men and noncommissioned officers. He worked at the Camp Bullis mess that summer with a mess sergeant who had been playing service football for about ten years. Ulsaker found that he was able to establish rapport with that mess sergeant because he shared an interest in sports. According to Ulsaker, the football played at the Point was the most important of all sports because of its resemblance to war. As Ulsaker said, football “embodied the use of strategy, tactics, and tough, concerted action to achieve its objectives. It employed various formations, required intensive training to prepare for its ultimate commitment to action, and it provided a means for developing leadership and teamwork.”10 Maj. Gen. Earnest L. “Iron Mike” Massad, who received his commission from the Reserve Officer Training Program at the University of Oklahoma, where he was a football All-American in the late 19205, also believed that playing football had a profound effect on his later ability as a commander. But by contrast to some of his fellow officers who valued the games they played for the social skills they' taught, or for the mental skills they required, General Massad argued that his own athletic experiences were most important because they made him physically fit. At the end of his career, he concluded that it would be impossible to be “an effective leader if you were weak and didn’t have the‘energy to participate in all military activities.”11 Massad’s emphasis on the physical fitness benefits to be/obtained from athletics, particularly football, reflects his belief that the conditioning required to play sports inevitably led to a strOng body. But Massad’s own experience as a football player, and the culture within the military which valorized the more violent sports, resulted in a conflict between the desire to condition soldier— athletes and the possibility that those soldier—athletes might suffer disabling injuries while playing their games. Indeed, as Michael Messner has shown, the bodies of most retired athletes, especially football players, are so broken and battered from sport that those men in fact have more physical disabilities than men who never participated in violent contact sports. Although the men of Massad’s generation, and men like General Eisenhower whose knee was Building Strong Men 65 ruined playing football at the Military Academy, wished to overlook the danger of injury in violent sports like football and boxing, during the wartime emergency the army did take steps to keep the soldiers fit to fight. Thus, during World War II contact football was deemphasized for most recruits, both because of the cost of the equipment, and because of the attendant dangers to the bodies of the soldiers who would be required to “give‘up” their bodies in other ways.12 In his retirement, Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster also emphasized the value of physical fitness. To Goodpaster, who didn’t discuss any sports he might have played before attending the Military Academy, or any sports he might have played while at West Point, the key to a West Point education, aside from the academic, moral, and military preparation it provided was in its demand for physical development. As he put it, the physical testing and physical demands put on a young cadet left that cadet, “as a young officer, physically fit and able to do the things that he would have to do.”13 ‘ General Goodpaster also provides an insight into the state of physical fitness among the new recruits he encountered after graduating in 1939. He was first stationed at Camp Claiborne, headquarters for the 390th Engineer Regiment, which was at that time an African-American unit. Goodpaster recalled that the soldiers under his command were “wretched physical specimens, hungry, weak, [with] poor teeth [who] needed to be built up.”14 Since the Country was just coming out of the Great Depression in 1939, and since the effects of the Depression were even more profound in the rural areas from which the men of the 390th Engineer Regiment were drawn, Goodpaster’s assessment ' of their physical condition allows us to see how years of .‘poverty and neglect can destroy the fitness of any man. Therefore, even aside from the other benefits to be derived from physical training through sports described by Polk, Porter, Ulsaker, Massad, and Goodpaster, it was critical that the young men entering the military in the late 19303 and early 1940s be fed enough to have the energy to work their bodies. \ During the interwar years there were, however, at least a few occasions when questions were raised about the value of sports for training the soldier. According to Massad, in 1935 he was ordered to create artillery football, baseball, basketball, and equestrian teams to compete with teams from the cavalry. After beginning football practice with every man on his post who weighed more than 175 pounds, Massad was called to headquarters by his battalion commanding officer, who asked him, as Massad recalled, “How in the hell am I going to tr'ainthese people to fight a war and you’ve got them out on a football field?”15 As Massad discovered, sometimes, and in some cases, despite the almost universal belief among military officers that sports provided 66 ‘ Playing to Win an excellent forum for developing the mental and physical skills and attitudes necessary for war, sports could not serve as a total replacement forother types of military training. As the United States prepared for another total war, and the time reserved for training soldiers for combat decreased, the conflict between giving soldiers the specific skills they needed to meet the enemy and providing soldiers with athletic instruction and opportunities to play games was resolved in favor of the former goal. After all, manhood did not need to be established on the playing field when there would shortly exist ample opportunities for proving it in battle—opportimities available even to the uncoordinated and nonathletic soldier. While some young officers were playing sports between the two world wars, Gen. James Alward Van Fleet, like Massad, was coaching football. Although Van Fleet, who is remembered in West Point’s 1915 yearbook for the sixty minutes he played in the army’s 20—0 football Victory over Navy, certainly played the game, he believed that his experiences as a coach, both at the University of Florida, where he commanded ROTC and coached the football team, and as commander of the all-army enlisted men’s football team in its game for the 1927 President’s Cup against a team of Marines, were even more valuable when he was asked to command men in war. As coach,gVan Fleet said he learned how to create morale and the desire to win in his players. Since football had, in Van Fleet’s estimation, all the elements of war, he concluded that the opportunity to combine his familiarity with the game with the knowledge of how to handle men gained from coaching served him well in his career, as it would serve any young officer.16 . Gen. James Alward Van Fleet’s suggestion that athletics were valuable to the young officer not only for what they did personally for him in learning how to handle himself physically, but for what a knowledge of athletics could do for the officer called on to coach his men appears to have resonance for other officers. Since the coach has been commonly recognized as a leader, with the best coaches being deemed to have the best leadership abilities, it comes as no surprise that officers believed they could translate those leadership qualifies onto the battlefield. Certainly, General Massad and General Porter believed that the ability to coach was useful for the army officer. But again equating coaching athletics to leading men in battle leaves out those men whose ability : to lead may be manifested in other ways. It also valorizes a hierarchical style of relationships among men that may not have translated well into the fluid situations faced by soldiers in the hedgerows of Normandy, for example, where cooperation among men whose units were mixed, and whose command struc— tures were destroyed, was critical.17 Building Strong ~Men 67 The American army of the 1920s and 1930s was quite small. Because the terms of the First World War’s recruitment and draft legislation allowed most soldiers to be discharged on the war’s conclusion, the size of the AEF decreased even more rapidly after the First World War than did the Union armies raised for the Civil War. After the post—Armistice discharge of 2,608,218 enlisted men and 128,436 officers, fewer than 150,000 men remained in the army on January 1, 1920, with that force further depleted to 118,750 men by 1927. Furthermore, at the time of the 1927 reduction in force authorized by- an economy-minded Congress, more than one thousand Regular Army officers were also ordered to be discharged.18 ' Despite the hope of most Americans that future wars could be avoided, by the end of the 1930sCongress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to recognize that German and Japanese expansion might need to be met with force. Accordingly, from 1936 through 1938, Congress authorized a slow growth of the military to a strength of 165,000, while the President asked for additional appropriations to accelerate the naval building program that he, as a former Assistant Navy Secretary, had been promoting since 1934 when the Japanese withdrew from joint U.S., British, and Japanese talks about the limitation of their respective navies.19 The Congress also provided for an expansion of facilities thanks to Depression-era works projects. ‘ Although the Depression did not lead to the expansion of the military as a means to support the vast number of young unemployed men, some young officers, like Gen. George C. Marshall and Maj. Gen. Ernest L. Massad, were sent to command Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps after being com— Inissioned.20 For these officers, the chance to govern a CCC camp provided a command opportunity that might otherwise have been unavailable within the small peacetime army. And in many communities Works Projects Administration (WPA) workers were employed creating the infrastructure that would later be ready when the military expanded.21 These WPA workers built armories, roads, and bridges that would prove critical to the nation’s ability to move men and materiel around efficiently with mobilization, while other WPA workers provided sports and recreation assistance at military bases.22 Thus, by 1940, at least some of the work necessary to future mobilization had already been done, either through planning within the Regular Army or through civilian projects that facilitated the military’s expansion. Meanwhile the .army continued to grow from its earlier low levels, with Congressional authorization during 1939 allowing an increase to 210,000 men.23 As the “phony war” of late 1939 and early 1940 gave way to the German invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, Congress became even more willing to authorize 68 Playing to Win the army’s growth, finally ordering the call—up of the National Guard on August 27, 1940, and passing the Burke-Wadsworth act providing for selective service on September 16.24 For military planners, Congressional authorization for the first peacetime draft in US. history provided new challenges. As Russell Weigley explains in his History of the United States Army, although plans had been formulated since the last war for the rapid mobilization of troops, no one had envisioned the need for the vast system of camps within the United States to feed, house, and train the new soldiers.” By contrast to the First World War, where limited state- side training was followed by more intensive training overseas, during the period before Pearl Harbor, and even after, the majority of military training was conducted on American soil. To accommodate the troops, old bases were expanded and new oneswere built, and as those bases developed, facilities for an elaborate sports and recrea— tion program were constructed. Five representative military bases demonstrate how these sports sports programs developed. Scott Field in Illinois, Bowman Field in Kentucky, Fort Sam Houston in Texas, Louisiana’s Camp Claiborne, and Borinquen Field in Puerto Rico, were all the site of new construction and population growth during 1940 and 1941. This expansion put stresses on the surrounding communities that the respective sports programs at each base were in part designed to alleviate. . As each of the facilities described here expanded, the men and women on the bases and in the towns and cities around the bases were forced to consider their relationship with the growing military. Since everyone wanted to maintain the fiction that the United States was not necessarily preparing for armed confrontation with fascism, an effort was undertaken ‘to make life on the bases as much like civilian life as possible within the constraints of military discipline. The athletic program developed on each base therefore helped to reinforce the similarities between the two worlds, adjacent to, but necessarily apart from one another. Scott Field, Illinois, was the location for an army radio school and ultimately also served as an important location for flight training. Beginning on February 11, 1941, a base newspaper, the Scott Field Broadcaster, devoted itself to describing the changes occurring as the growing army demanded an expansion of the Field’s facilities. What the discussion of sports at Scott Field during the following months reveals was the military’s struggle to develop through sport an adequate level of physical fitness in all soldiers while providing high-level competition for the most athletically talented. The Scott Field Broadcaster’s sports reporters also found themselves faced with the challenge Building Strong Men , 69 \ of encouraging sports participation among their fellow soldiers, while at the same time justifying the value of some of the nontraditional sports chosen by Scott Field athletes. Thus they found themselves explaining how the sport of fencing was a masculine sport, the practitioners of which should not be con— demned for lacking the manhood to play violent contact sports. From the very first issue, news about the sports played both on and off the base was an important part of the Scott Field Broadcaster. In that issue, writers reported that Scott Field had representatives in eleven of the sixteen finals of the Illinois State Golden Gloves boxing tournament. Although this athletic success directly involved only eleven men on the base, another article in the February 11 issue explained that they had been chosen after an extensive base tournament, involving many more men. Even for those men who did not put on gloves and get into the boxing ring, however, the reporting on the tourna- ment provided an opportunity to place the experience of boxing within the context of the soldiers’ larger purpose at Scott Field. Just as in the First World War, soldiers preparing for the possibility of America’s involvement in another war learned about war through the metaphor of sport. Since the men at Scott Field were training for flight, the newspaper used air war metaphors. Thus, that February 11, 1941 article explained how “Scott Field found itself with a bombing squadron of first-flight performance in the persons of a team of highly potent punchers as a result of the post’s annual boxing championship tournament.”26 In the following months, representatives of Scott Field competed not only in state boxing tournaments, but in the Illinois Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) state basketball finals, playing against other independent basketball teams. In the spring, a post track and field meet was, held to select an athletics team to compete off of the post against other army teams and against civilian track athletes. During the summer, over one hundred candidates participated in tryouts for the Scott Field baseball team that was scheduled to participate in the local community baseball league.27 According to Pvt. J. Edgar Kirk, in his column “Sport Pen,” Scott Field’s AAU basketball championship team gave all men on the post the sense that they were part of ateam, but Kirk also noted that the emphasis during the summer of 1941 would be on softball rather than baseball, as it was a game that more men could play.28 As Pvt. Kirk’s column suggests, despite the success of some post teams, the problem remained of how best to involve everyone in sport, not only because post commanders believed that sport increased physical fitness, but because they assumed that sport also encouraged team spirit. To encourage participation in athletics, particularly after it was discovered that only 15 percent of the 70 Playing to Win soldiers on base were involved in any sporting activities whatsoever, a number of steps were taken at Scott Field during the summer before Pearl Harbor. Clearly, if the military was going to develop morale around athletics, and if manhood was going to be defined by success in sports, more than 15 percent of its troops were going to have to be themselves part of the project of sports. First of all, the program of athletics was expanded to meet the varied skills and interests of the trainees. Interbarracks volleyball and table tennis tournaments were conducted, and more than three hundred men began working out for the chance to compete on the post track and field team.29 Furthermore, four new physical training instructors were brought down from Chanute Field to work with the various squadrons and direct athletic activities for novices and beginners as not all young men entering the service had previous sports experience.30 Yet despite the arrival of the new physical training instructors, in August, Gen. Rush B. Lincoln found on inspection that 85 percent of the Air Corps Technical students at Scott Field were still getting no exercise, neither through sports nor through calisthenics and drill.31 In light of this evident disinterest in athletics, other strategies" were developed to encourage soldier interest in sport. New facilities were completed, including a football field, twelve hard—court tennis courts, two baseball and eleven softball diamonds, and a fifty—by-fifty—feet swimming pool, along with the bowling alleys built by the post utilities office as a morale section project.32 To generate maximum participation that autumn bribes and prizes were offered ' to the members of the winning post softball and baseball teams, as well as the winners of the officers’ tennis tournament, with Liggett and Myers providing free cartons of Chesterfield cigarettes to the officers and free packs of Ches— terfields to the enlisted men. Apparently all of this effort generated some enthusiasm among the men, who, if they did not participate, did, in the words of Pvt. J. Edgar Kirk, appear to “root for their favorites as long and loudly as if it were the deciding game in an important series.”33 ‘7 As Scott Field grew in size, and as more and more men came to Scott Field for their training, the military’s sports program served as a mechanism for relieving civilian concerns about the soldiersin their midst. In fact, the people of the St. Louis area were not alone in their anxiety about the strains being placed upon their communities by the presence of so many unattached young men with money to spend and women to meet. Indeed, as the military grew and expanded, Gen. George C. Marshall felt it necessary to invite over two hundred public relations and morale officers to Washington to discuss how best to ensure good military—civilian relations.34 Building Strong Men 71 One way to alleviate the fear of the new recruits among the local population adopted at Scott Field and at other posts was to invite the men and women of the surrounding communities to watch athletic competitions being conducted on base. Thus, on the one hand, the people of southwestern Illinois were welcomed as spectators for the post track and field meet held in July, 1941. Unlike World War I athletic competitions, this track and field meet offered no special “military” events like grenade throwing, perhaps reflecting the govern— ment and military’s need to continue to play down the possibility of war in the face of isolationist opposition.35 On the other hand, civilians were occa— sionally specifically banned from attending base athletic contests. Thus, out- siders were not permitted at the Joe Louis versus Tony Zale boxing exhibition held on October 11, 1941.36 That bout was preceded by matches between Scott Field and Jefferson Barracks boxers. Perhaps civilians were not invited because Joe Louis, then at the height of his fame, would have drawn so many fans. Or perhaps civilians were not invited because in this case at least the exhibition’s sponsors wanted to create something special for the men in uniform. Another means of enhancing civilian-military relations resorted to by the commander at Scott Field was to encourage his soldiers to’attend community athletic events. Soldiers used the pool at the Turner’s Club of Belleville and area golf courses for their recreation as well. And men from Scott Field were invited to the opening days for the St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park in the City.37 In November, 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, convoys also transported soldiers from Scott Field to St. Louis for wrestling, boxing, and hockey, while the varsity basketball team left on a fourteen—hundred— mile road trip.38 As the number of men on the base grew, there seems to have developed an anxiety about changing definitions of manliness, and how to determine a h1erarchy based on masculinity on the post. Sports served as one means of establishing that hierarchy among the soldiers at Scott Field, with those most athletically adept being placed on the so—called varsity teams while others were left to play lower-level sports among themselves. But one individual soldier’s athletic success posed special problems. Captain Fred W. Siebert was a fencer chosen for the 1940 Olympic team that did not compete because the war led to the Games’ cancelation. In 1940 he was the national epee champion as well. And Captain Siebert proposed to form a fencing team at Scott Field. Despite the apparent danger and romance of swordplay, most troops at Scott Field apparently concluded that they wanted no part of fencing because they seem to have believed that it was a “sissy” 72 - Playing to Win sport. Despite Captain Siebert’s national success with the sword, at the end of July, 1941, Pvt. J. Edgar Kirk was still reassuring his readers that if they would only go and watch fencing, they would understand that it was not, as he put it, a sissy sport, but a sport played by men.” The soldiers at Scott Field in 1941 lived on a base in flux. Not only were their numbers rapidly growing, along with the facilities to train and house them. Their relationships with the community around Scott Field and with the men in their military community were also being redefined, with sports helping to ease the transition between civilian and military life. At Fort Sam Houston, headquarters of the Army’s Second Division, a sports and recreation program similar to that at Scott Field was established by 1941. Soldierstraining at the Fort were treated to athletic competitions to which they were invited as fans, and were also encouraged to part1c1pate in base athletic activities. More than two thousand men attended post boxing bouts in early April, 1941, while the best of the Fort Sam Houston boxers also competed against local civilian boxers. The boxing matches against the Boys’ Perpetual Health Athletic Club involved not only the promotion of good nnhtary— civilian relations, but also verified that the men of the army possessed “superior” masculinity. As the reporter for Fort Sam Houston’s Spearhead put it, “Fighters from the Boys’ Perpetual Health Athletic Club learned this week that the Army is never down 3’40 To further establish the superiority of the army men, twenty— six men from the Fort entered the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation boxing tournament in May. Meanwhile, as was the case with the Scott Field—Jefferson ‘ Barracks boxers, fighters at Fort Sam Houston prepared for all-army bouts, fights to which former boxing champion Navy Lt. Comd. Gene Tunney was invited.41 These all—army bouts were sponsored by the American Legion under the auspices of the National Defense Recreational and Service Committee of San Antonio, a civilian group promoting good military-civilian relatlons. Significantly, although a civilian group sponsored the boxing matches, the soldiers were trained by their fellow soldiers within the army’s own athletlc system. This stands in contrast to the sports program conducted during the World War I, when civilian agencies not only organized military athletics, but provided civilian instructors. ' Of course, not all soldiers were prepared to commit themselves to, becoming boxers, nor even if they had was there time and coaching available to allow mass participation in that sport. Accordingly, at Fort Sam Houston, as at other posts, athletic officers created an ambitious program of mixed athletics. Since Congressional appropriations in 1941 were barely adequate to meet the armament needs of the army, whose soldiers continued to drill with Building Strong Men 1 73 v mock-up weapons, the officers at Fort Sam Houston turned to the Red Cross for the funds necessary to purchase needed athletic equipment, including baseballs, softballs, footballs, basketballs, and boxing gloves.42 Once that equipment became available post baseball and softball leagues were formed, with a six—team round—robin schedule involving a team from each regiment, along with a team from the division artillery,'and two teams from the special units. Some of the best players from the post were also selected to represent Fort Sam Houston in the San Antonio City Softball League, where according to Yhe Spearhead, they exhibited “exceptionally fine spirit and team—work?“3 The culmination of the summer’s sports activity at Fort Sam Houston were the finals of the post baseball tournament held at Christy Mathewson Field, named for the baseball hero of World War I. As in civilian baseball play-offs, a local dignitary was chosen to throw out the first pitch, with Brig. Gen. Fred L. Walker handling that duty at Fort Sam. Although not every soldier could play in the finals, according to Yhe Spearhead the troops did come out to support their favorites.44 Later that year, military units at Fort Sam Houston fielded football teams to play each other and to play against local Texas junior colleges. A team from the Fifteenth Field Artillery played the Twenty-third Infantry’s team, and then traveled off-base for a game against a civilian team. Local fans were invited to the post games, although they were charged admission, while members of the military got in free. Furthermore, The Spearhead announced that an all- star team from the Second Division was to be chosen to play for the Third Army title, with the possibility that the winner would be invited to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl in January.“ ‘ As at so many military bases before and during World War 11, new construction included not only barracks, runways, and other training facilities, but the erection of athletic arenas and fields. At Fort Sam Houston, a new athletic arena was built during the summer of 1941 to accommodate winter sports, especially basketball and boxing. That new arena was designed to have 3,750 seats for boxing and wrestling matches, with seating for 2,750 when reconfigured for basketball. Even as the US. Army was unable to provide each newly inducted soldier with a real training weapon, these efforts at Sam Houston and other bases to provide athletic facilities went forward with no opposition.46 This suggests the extent to which military planners were convinced of the‘ benefit and value of sports to the men under their command. At Fort Sam Houston, then, a system was created to ensure maximal use of the new sports venues. According to The Spearhead, each regiment, battalion, and special unit had a day reserved for 74 Playing to Win their use at the new arena. Significantly, the arena also provided women’s rest rooms, thus suggesting that the soldiers would be sharing their space with those civilian women expected to come onto the base and, as wives or dates, watch Fort Sam Houston’s athletic competitions.47 Although few expected American women to be actively recruited into the army and navy in the future, the notion that women had a place beside their men as sports spectators had a long tradition, which was upheld in the new physical space provided for boxing and basketball at the Fort. At Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky, the athletic program conducted during 1941 resembled in many respects the programs at Scott Field and at Fort Sam Houston. Intrasquad baseball and softball tournaments were conducted as a means of keeping the troops occupied, while a base team was created to represent Bowman Field in community and interarmy games. Good military— civilian relations were also encouraged through sports. As The Bowman Bomber reported, a trophy was donated to the winner of the Field’s intrasquad baseball competition by an anonymous civilian, said to be “interested in the morale of the men stationed at Bowman Field .” Furthermore, when the base softball diamond was destroyed in a road-building project, the diamonds at Louisville’s Seneca Park were employed for post athletics, affording interested civilians the opportunity to watch the soldiers play. Even admission prices to University of Louisville and local Louisville high school football games were reduced to encourage the men to go out into the community and support civilian‘athletic activities.48 Despite the destruction of Bowman Field’s softball diamond, construction was undertaken to create new sports facilities. One new facility was a miniature golf course built by the Fiftieth Bomb Group. Of course, a miniature golf course was not likely to provide the type of strenuous activity deemed necessary for future soldiers. For more physical recreation, a post basketball league was scheduled to begin as soon as fall maneuvers were completed. Furthermore, on the first of December, 1941, The Bowman Bomber announced a large-scale training program designed “to utilize fully those recreational and physical conditioning facilities contributing to morale, which will increasingly become available . . . through a selected and competent group of mass exercises and games, athletics, combative contests, aquatic sports, relays and many other , items.“9 v At Bowman Field, as at other training sites, athletics served many pur— poses. Sports helped develop physical fitness and coordination in the troops. Sports also helped maintain morale and esprit de corps. However, by placing sports at the center of each soldier’s recreational life, military planners seem Building Strong Men 75 to have forgotten about the needs of those men with minimal interest in sports. Rather than bring all of the men on the base into a community based on a common love of sports, this emphasis on athletics may have alienated and marginalized many soldiers who remained unable to embrace that culture. At Louisiana’s Camp Claiborne, 1941 also saw the construction of many new athletic facilities. For one regiment a bare plot of ground was converted to five softball and three baseball diamonds, as well as four tennis courts, four basketball courts, and four badminton courts. In addition, as was the case at Fort Sam Houston, the regiment received two thousand dollars from civilian sources for the purchase of athletic equipment. Each company and detachment in the regiment was expected to have two softball teams, while eight baseball teams in the regiment played to determine which players would be selected to play on the regimental team.50 The creators of the athletic program for the Thirty-fourth Division, training that summer at Camp Claiborne, anticipated that a broadly conceived program of sports and recreation would not onlyrpromote the general morale of the soldiers but good relations between the soldiers and the civilians in the surrounding communities as well .51 This program clearly aimed at maximum participation, as the Division’s fall football schedule provided for both tackle and touch football leagues. Furthermore, every company, battery and detachment was issued its own footballs so that every one who wanted to play would have that chance. Once the war began touch football was promoted as a less expensive alternative to the contact sport that required, even in the 19405, elaborate pads and helmets and threatened serious injury on every down. But as early as October, 1941, the presence of seven-man touch teams at Camp Claiborne signaled the military’s desire to encourage physical fitness even among those who were uninterested in engaging in full-contact football .52 To further encourage mass participation, the sports of golf and archery were also offered, as archers from the 133rd competed in the Louisiana State Archery Tournament and golfers from the 34th’s artillery units were said to be going directly from the mass athletics program to local golf courses to work on their game?3 In contrast to the other bases already considered, a number of African— American units were stationed at Camp Claiborne. The strict segregation that had prevailed in the army during World War I persisted, particularly in the Southern states where Jim Crow laws had not yet been successfully challenged. Although once the war began military athletic teams were occasionally inte— grated, at Camp Claiborne. the military’s segregation policy demanded the creation of a separate Negro baseball league, the champions of which were a team from the 367th Infantry. Some of the men of the 367th also participated 76 ‘ Playing to Win in boxing competitions, which seemed only appropriate to The Clarion’s sportswriter who noted that the “colored” unit had the “example of Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong, and Ray Robinson to draw on.”54 The segregation of troops at Camp Claiborne reflects the casual racism within the military, a racism repeated at Clark Field in the Philippines, where a basketball game between the 745th Ordnance detachment and the Twenty—sixth Cavalry ended in the Ordnance detachment’s defeat, as according to the sports reporter for the Clark Field Prop Wizsh, “The speed of our little brown brothers left the Ordnance flatfooted and in the dust.”55 . As the Army expanded, officers needed to establish their authority over the new draftees, and over those members of the National Guard who had been i called up and placed under new command.56 One means of doing so was by ‘ ensuring that the officers had a physically commanding presence. The Clarion ‘ contributed to that process by detailing the athletic experience and physical attributes of the officers it introduced in its pages. Thus, Col. A. C. Ott,_ Commander of the 125th Field Artillery, was described as a powerful man, being well over six feet tall, who still participated in “the most strenuous forms of sports activity: Tennis, Basketball and rowing.”57 Colonel Anderson of the 185th was also said to be “athletic in type,” a tall, solidly built man fond of baseball, football and basketball.58 If the young men being brought into the army during 1940 and 1941 were sports fans, used to recognizing heroism on the athletic field, then this valorization of the physicality of these officers might ‘ have led them to look up to the officers as they admired other sports heroes, But if a young soldier didn’t care for sports, there was little in these officers’ introductions that would persuade a disinterested soldier that he should follow their lead. . Not all American soldiers and sailors were stationed within the continental United States in 1940 and 1941. In Puerto Rico, the military’s establishment included Borinquen Field, headquarters of an Army Air Force bomber wing. In 1941, the soldiers qstationed at Borinquen participated in basketball, baseball, and softball tournaments, while playing Ping—Pong on a recreational level. Furthermore, the base champion basketball team competed against a champion team from the navy in the spring of 1941 for the General Daley Trophy.59 During that summer the Field’s baseball leagues provided an opportunity to establish a hierarchy among the competitors, as distinctions between officers and enlisted men were maintained on the teams. When the officers of the Forty— fourth bomb squad lost to the officers of the Tenth, the Borinquen Bomber reported that the officers of the Forty-fourth claimed a moral victory because Building Strong Men 77 the Tenth had two enlisted men on their team.60 Thus, despite efforts to establish the physical superiority of the officer corps, and prove their right to lead by virtue of their physical presence, in claiming a moral victory, the officers admitted that ordinary enlisted men were thought of as more rugged. As at other bases, teams from Borinquen Field were chosen to represent the Field in local civilian sports competitions and to represent Borinquen in a Puerto Rico Army league. In September, 1941, the Borinquen Bomber announced tryouts for a baseball team to compete in the Insular Army League and the Puerto Rico Semi-Pro League. According to the newspaper, especially exceptional baseball players were needed for Borinquen Field’s team to be competitive, since the Semi-Pro League served as the winter home of many of the stars of the Negro Professional League.61 The Borinquen Field athletic program was designed to ensure that every soldier would find some sort of sport in which he could shine. Thus a number of so-called minor sports were offered alongside the basketball, baseball, and softball competitions. Borinquen Field’s twelve-hole golf course accommodated approximately sixty players daily. The minor sport of horseshoes featured an islandwide tournament. Another sport offered was fencing. By contrast to the situation that prevailed at Scott Field, the masculinity of the Borinquen Field fencing enthusiasts was apparently accepted without challenge, especially when the whole fencing team advanced from Class C to Class B in the Insular Fencing Tournament, while Lieutenant Manzo and Staff Sargeant Bradley moved up to A. level competition. And the newly acquired table tennis tables allowed the Athletic Department to fulfill its plan, “in all minor sports competition, of giving all troops ‘not a small group of specialized and skillful players’ the benefit of the Sports Program.”62 Finally, the Athletic Department at Borinquen Field conducted a series of boxing matches leading to the Borinquen Field Individual Boxing Tournament, held in November, 1941. As Borinquen Field was the base for a bomber wing, we should not be surprised by the metaphorical language used to describe that tournament. According to the Borinquen Bomber, “After a month of silence, Borinquen’s skies again resounded with the thud of pent-up punching power as boxing once more captured the sports spot—light.“3 The young soldiers training at Borinquen who had never experienced combat and who may in fact have feared how they would react as their planes were caught in the spotlight and came under fire, were being told, as had been the doughboys in France during the previous war, that if they could interpret that experience as being like the experience of sport, they would have nothing to fear. 78 l , Playing to Win Despite the military’s small size during the 19205 and early 19305, young officers continued to receive training in how to command for a future war. As they learned how to lead men in combat, they also came to believe that leadership could and should be developed through sports. Later, the expansion of military facilities within the United States and in its territories during 1940 and 1941 posed new challenges to the relationship between the military and the civilian population. The creation of athletics programs at the growing bases helped reassure Americans that military life would not materially alter the attitudes and values of the young men who answered their nation’s call to serve and limited conflicts between civilians and those in the armed services. The athletics programs at each post helped shape attitudes about the proper relation between ) enlisted men and their officers, and between men and women on base as well. I They helped to develop and reinforce expectations about masculine behavior, stressing strength, aggressiveness, and competitiveness rather than cooperation. Furthermore, at each post, the struggle to create a large military establishment in peacetime, with inadequate funding and without the dedication of civilian" production to military needs, was reflected in the way in which the sports programs were conducted. Finally, the prevailing emphasis on mass participation in sports was consistently undercut by the soldiers’ needs to maintain the personal fiction that they were still free to choose to play or to watch others play even though they were caught up in the great mobilization for war. As the United States approached the shock of Pearl Harbor and full- fledged entry into World War II, both its army and navy had begun to grow. ‘ A mechanism for filling the ranks had been put in place with the implementation of a draft, as well as the call to federal service of many National Guard units. Old bases had been expanded while new bases were being planned. Young officers had been prepared to lead their men through the challenges that lay ahead. And a system to provide soldiers and sailors with opportunities for sports and recreation had been developed that would set the standard for the coming years. xx, ‘2) v“ CREATING THE MILITARY SPORTS MACHINE: SPECIAL SERVICE OFFICERS AND WORLD WAR II ‘ My mother says that she can remember where she was, and what she was doing when she heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On the one hand, for her, and for most Americans, the years after that attack, driring which America’s soldiers and sailors served on every continent in the fight against the Germans and Japanese, brought unprecedented challenges. Unlike the First World War, the new war required not only the mobilization of the civilian work force and the induction of huge numbers of men into the armed forces, but required as well years of continuing sacrifice. This war, like the Civil War, would not end quickly. And unlike previous wars, this war would be truly global, putting literally millions of Americans into countries where they could have never imagined they would be. The face of the military, and the jobs soldiers and sailors would be asked to do, would also be quite different. This war would be fought not only on the land and ocean surface, but deep beneath the ocean, and most significantly, in the skies of Europe and Asia. And for the first time, substantial numbers of women would openly wear the nation’s uniforms. On the other hand, for the individual soldier or sailor there would be much in this wartime experience that was not dissimilar to that of previous wars. The processes of learning to work as a team and discovering unknown strength, agility, and coordination each member of the military faced were" challenges met in earlier conflicts. During the Second World War as well, members of the armed forces benefited from lessons learned during the last world war about how best to develop unit pride and cohesion, avoid boredom, and recognize some common ground from which to approach the task of war. For this war, the military provided its own athletic officers to instruct and train servicemen and women in sports. They organized competitions on many fronts, and worked to ensure maximum participation. As had occurred during and after World War I, athletic competitions during World War II often ...
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