Monday, October 27, 2008

A 1945 Army guide on behavior for GIs returning from overseas service

During one of my periodic efforts to clean up old personal files, I recently found a copy of the Army Adjutant-General's Office Order 4110.99, dated Jan. 5, 1945. The order provides guidance on how to behave for GIs returning to the States after overseas service during World War II. [Full disclosure: The order is fictitious and may sound dated. But it's good for a laugh, especially for those of us still around who served overseas during that war.]

To: All units.

1. In compliance with current policies for rotation of armed forces overseas, it is directed that, in order to maintain this high standard of character of the American soldier, and to prevent any dishonor to reflect on the uniform, all individuals eligible for return to the U.S. under current directives will undergo an indoctrination course of demilitarization prior to approval of their application for return.

2. The following points will be emphasized in the subject indoctrination course:

A. In America there are a remarkable number of beautiful girls. These young ladies have not been liberated, and many are gainfully employed as stenographers, sales girls, and beauty operators or welders. Contrary to current practices, they should not be approached with "How much?" A proper greeting is: "Isn't it a lovely day?" or "Have you ever been to Chicago?" Then say: "How much?"

B. A guest in a private home is usually awakened in the morning by a light tapping on his door and in an invitation to join the host at breakfast. It is proper to say, "I'll be there shortly." Don't say, "Blow it out your ______."

C. A typical American breakfast consists of such strange food as cantaloupe, fresh eggs, milk, ham, etc. These are highly palatable and though strange in appearance, are extremely tasty. Butter, made from cream, is often served. If you wish some butter, you turn to the person nearest it, and say quietly, "Please pass the butter." You DO NOT say, "Throw me the goddamn grease."

D. Very natural urges are apt to occur when in a crowd. If it is found necessary to defecate, one does not grab a shovel in one hand and paper in the other and run for the garden. At least 90% of American homes have one room called the "bathroom"--i.e., a room that in most cases contains a bathtub, wash basin, medicine cabinet, and a toilet. It is the latter that you will use in this case. Instructors should make sure that all personnel understand the operation of a toilet, particularly the lever or button arrangement that serves to prepare the device for re-use.

E. In the event the helmet is retained by the individual, he will refrain from using it as a chair, wash bowl, foot bath or bath tub. All these devices are furnished in the average American home. It is not considered good practice to squat Indian fashion in a corner in the event all chairs are occupied. The host will usually provide suitable seats.

F. Belching or passing wind in company is strictly frowned upon. If you should forget about it, however, and belch in the presence of others, the proper remark is, "excuse me." DO NOT say, "it must be that lousy chow we've been getting."

G. American dinners in most cases consist of several items, each served in a separate dish. The common practice of mixing curious items such as corn beef and pudding, or lima beans and peaches to make it more palatable, will be refrained from. In time,the "separate dishes" will become enjoyable.

H. Americans have a strange taste for stimulants. The drinks in common use on the continent, such as under-ripe wine, alcohol and grapefruit juice, or gasoline bitters and water (commonly known by the French term "cognac") are not ordinarily acceptable in civilian circles. These drinks should be served only to those who are definitely not within the inner circle of friends. A suitable use for such drinks is for serving to one's landlord in order to break an undesirable lease.

I. The returning soldier is apt to often find his opinions differ from those of his civilian associates. One should call upon his reserve of etiquette and correct his acquaintance with such remarks as "I believe you have made a mistake," or "I'm afraid you are in error on that." DO NOT say, "Brother, you're really f----d up." This is considered impolite.

J. Upon leaving a friend's home after a visit, one may find his hat misplaced. Frequently it has been placed in a closet. One should turn to one's host and say, "I don't seem to have my hat. Could you help me find it?" DO NOT say, "Don't anyone leave this room. Some S.O.B. has stolen my hat."

K. In traveling in the U.S., particularly in a strange city, it is often necessary to spend the night. Hotels are provided for this purpose, and almost anyone can give directions to the nearest hotel. Here, for a small sum, one can register and be shown to a room where he can sleep for the night. The present practice of entering the nearest home, throwing the occupants into the yard and taking over the premises will cease.

L. Whiskey, a common American drink, may be offered to the soldier on social occasions. It is considered a reflection on the uniform to snatch the bottle from the hostess and drain the bottle, cork and all. All individuals are cautioned to exercise extreme control in these circumstances.

M. In motion picture theaters, seats are provided. Helmets are not required. It is not considered good form to whistle every time a female over eight or under ninety crosses the screen. If vision is impaired by the person in the seat in front, there are plenty of other seats which can be occupied. DO NOT hit him across the back of the head and say, "Move your head, jerk, I can't see a damn thing."

N. It is not proper to go around hitting everyone of draft age in civilian clothes. He might have been released from the service for medical reasons. Ask for his credentials, and if he can't show any, then go ahead and slug him.

O. Upon retiring, one will often find a pair of pajamas laid out on the bed. (Pajamas, it should be explained, are two-piece garments which are donned after all clothing has been removed.) The soldier, confronted by these garments, should assume an air of familiarity and act as though he is used to them. A casual remark such as, "My, what a delicate shade of blue," will usually suffice. Under NO circumstances say, "How in the hell do you expect me to sleep in a get-up like that?"

P. Air raids and enemy patrols aren't encountered in America. Therefore, it is not necessary to wear the helmet in church or at social gatherings, or to hold the weapon ready, loaded and locked, when talking to civilians in the streets.

3. All individuals returning to the U.S. will make every effort to conform to the customs and habits of the regions visited and to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible. Any actions which reflect upon the honor of the uniform will be promptly dealt with.

For the commanding general:

[Signature illegible]


Blogger Sylvia K said...

Well, that is definitely the very best laugh of the month! Thanks for sharing it, Mort, just what all of us need right now -- some humor and some perspective.

Thank you!

Monday, October 27, 2008 3:37:00 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

That was a lot of fun to read. My favorite was about the movies. Thanks for posting this, Mort.

I can't look at my usual Reuter's tab these days. The polls they site there indicate a tiny lead for Obama, differing from the polls I prefer to read right now. My husband and I will be canvassing neighborhoods in our little town for Obama-Biden both Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 3:32:00 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Funny! I think I'll forward this to my son who is an overseas veteran and see if he thinks the rules would hold for him and his pals.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 4:12:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

I laughed out loud all the way through. It is really funny.

Unfortunately, returning veterans suffered terribly from what was then termed battle fatigue. Many wives met their husbands in C. S. and rented rooms and cabins from us wile their husbands were being mustered out. Some of the stories of that period are too grim to relate here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 1:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you....that was really fun to read...i laughed out loud. i just finished scrapbooking an album of my dad's ww2 pictures..taken in the the phillipines and new guinea....and the pictures made me cry over and over. my dad made it home but there are many pictures of him with his cousin, who did not make it home......sigh! so many young men who did so much for all of us......i hope i never forget! and my dad always had a bit of sense of humor about his years with macarthur too; dad would not sleep in a tent, would not camp, disliked the beach and sand..(he figured he had already done that for enough years, 17 yrs. old to 31 yrs. old!!) would not fly on a commercial flight because no one would give him his own parachute...and when we were little kids he bought a bunch of metal trays from the military and we actually ate on them!...we thought it was great fun! i love my dad and miss him every day! thanks again for the memories!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chancy said...

Funny stuff Mort. Reentry to civilian life had to be difficult but with laughs like these the way was made smoother.

Thursday, October 30, 2008 9:44:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew Tennison said...

LOL Funny To Read
"If vision is impaired by the person in the seat in front, there are plenty of other seats which can be occupied. DO NOT hit him across the back of the head and say, "Move your head, jerk, I can't see a damn thing.""
Proberly the funniest thing

"If it is found necessary to defecate, one does not grab a shovel in one hand and paper in the other and run for the garden."

Friday, October 31, 2008 4:38:00 PM  
Blogger Norma said...

Very funny--thanks for sharing.

Saturday, November 01, 2008 6:02:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I just found a copy of this letter in a box from my grandpa

Monday, March 30, 2020 8:54:00 PM  

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