Thursday, 14 May 2009
World War II Pointer Magazines
Recently a package arrived here containing a treasure trove—a year of old The Pointer magazines from February 1944 through January 1945. The initial volume, dated 4 February, was vintage, Old Corps Gloom Period. The cover showed cadets in long overcoats, under arms, gathered in the darkness in front of old South Guard Room. At first glance, it appeared to be nothing more than the conclusion of an area formation on Central Area. Closer inspection, however, revealed that the cadet officers conducting the formation wore pistol belts, not sabers, and the cadets armed with rifles wore cartridge belts. This was a guard mount during World War II, and the cadets were carrying live ammunition!
Inside, a cartoon by Hayman ’44 conveys another wartime message. A cadet sits in his room disconsolately; he has just read the headlines of the New York Times proclaiming, “Invasion Jump-Off Expected Soon.” Above his head is an image of his young son-to-be asking him, “Daddy, tell me whut you did in th’ Big War—Huh?” The ring on his finger indicates that he is a first classman. On the day he graduated, Allied Forces from the United States, Britain, France and Poland were landing at Normandy, but many of his classmates saw some combat in “th’ Big War.” Even the advertisement on the inside cover, for Westinghouse, said, “When the lights go on again in Grigoriopol.” This town in the Russian Ukraine had been ravished by the Nazis, but Westinghouse eventually hoped to turn the lights back on using a POWER-TRAIN of eight rail cars capable of providing enough portable, emergency power to serve a community of 15,000—in the Russian Ukraine or elsewhere in war torn Europe.
The first feature article is about Mountain Training, essentially ski warfare, and notes the improvements made to the fledgling ski slope and the arrival of LT Victor Constant and SSG Hans Kolb from Camp Hale, CO, as instructors. It noted that mountain climbing training would be offered in the spring. Another feature article praised the long range communications capabilities of modern SCR 508, 510, 528 and 610 radios. The top-rated records reviewed were by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Kate Smith, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, and the Andrew Sisters. The inside back cover was devoted to “Cadet Quarters are at The Barclay,” a hotel at 111 East 48th Street in NYC that was “the Official Headquarters of the Army Athletic Association.” The back cover had a full-color ad for Chesterfield Cigarettes (“They Satisfy).
Two weeks later, however, the 18 February issue had undergone a sea change. The cover has a drawing of a Plebe minute caller (in a long overcoat), and the Barclay advertisement has displaced Westinghouse on the inside cover. The theme is Winter Sports, but a short feature discussed a gyroscopic stabilizer for tank guns that permitted them to be fired accurately on the move. Another feature described Abandon Ship drill (complete with sodden cadets on a cargo net), and a page was depicted to cadet cartoonists trying their level best to mimic Milton Caniff’s “Terry and the Pirates” comic strip. Yet another feature is on unarmed combat and is titled, “Fight to Kill.” The record review is of the Mignon Overture by Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. It shares billing with selected poems from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” read by actor Ralph Bellamy.
The 3 March 1944 Pointer notes the death of CDT Richard Rowe ’44 on page one, while a short feature discusses opposition to a proposed ban on Regular Army promotions for the duration of the war. Other features chronicle the 100th Night Show and the Cadet Mess. Records reviewed are by Artie Shaw and Toscanini, facing an unusual ad for Corning Glass. The headline is “Sand in Adolf’s eye” and praises the American glass industry for its work on optics for bombsights and developing glass (like Corningware) to take the place of metal needed for military uses. The back cover again has a Chesterfield ad, this time featuring Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle lighting up. After marching with his beloved “grunts” in the European Theater of Operations, he later was killed by Japanese machinegun fire on Ie Shima in April 1945. He is one of the few American civilians to be awarded the Purple Heart (posthumously). He also championed “fight pay” for the Infantry, similar to “flight pay” for pilots and crews. Congress approved the “Ernie Pyle Bill,” and a $10 per month stipend was added. Another endearing point about Ernie—he thought the Navy in the Pacific had it pretty soft compared to the combat Infantry, and said so in print.
The 17 March 1944 Pointer has a beautiful cover photograph of Battle Monument in the snow and a poem on page one entitled “A Sergeant’s Prayer,” by SGT Hugh Brodie of the RAAF. The prayer asks for no shield from fate or “petty victory” over the enemy. It merely asks that God be at his side and “Teach me the way that I should die.” The rest of the issue is far less dramatic. Army did beat Navy in basketball, 47-40. The issue of 31 March 1944 is the popular, Old Corps, “Femmes Issue,” compiled by Cadet “drags,” as “the Ladies who come up in June (and every other weekend)” were known. The opening poem is entitled, “It’s Lonely Here Too,” and the first long feature is by a woman who is a daughter of 1909, wife of 1935 and sister of 1946. Cameo portraits, arranged by Cadet Companies A-1 through H-2 presumably are fiancés. The artwork is quite good, and the tongue-in-cheek Femmes sports coverage is unique. By the way, during this era, every Pointer contained a two-page spread called “Off Limits with the Femmes” containing poems and such from female authors. It is humorous, sentimental and cynical is equal measures. More to come in a future Gray Matter.
Thanks to Daniel Montano for the box of old Pointer magazines.
Your humble servant, J. Phoenix, Esquire
Please forward guest articles, comments and suggestions for future topics to mailto:JPhoenix@wpaog.org
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