by James J. Cooke
Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri, 2012. Pp. xii, 206.
Illus., notes., biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0826219845
Keeping the troops happy during World War II.
In this work Prof. Cooke (emeritus Missouri) follows up his Chewing Gum, Candy Bars, and Beer: The Army PX in World War II, about the U.S. Army’s PX system in WW II, by looking at the army’s efforts to promote and sustain morale during the conflict. He begins, however, with a review of how morale was maintained in the nation’s earlier wars, a matter that prior to the First World War was primarily left to private civilian initiative and some social organizations.
In American Girls, Beer, & Glenn Miller Cooke looks at thing like the PX system, the Stage Door Canteens in New York and Los Angeles, the USO, and the many private groups helping to keep morale up, such as the North Platte Canteen, which served literally hundreds of thousands of troops.
This includes the many entertainers who often gave performances literally at the front. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is his account of the army’s “Special Service Division,” which eventually consisted of more than forty 100-man companies. Their mission was to show motion pictures, distribute books, and provide similar services to the rest of the troops, but they were also trained and equipped for combat, and at times entered the front lines, such as during the Battle of the Bulge.
In the course of telling this story, Cooke looks into the sometimes complex legal and organizational aspects of the various programs, including arguments over what goods should be free for the troops and what should they be required to pay for, and how much they should pay. He also takes a look at some politically sensitive matters, from providing beer for the troops to arguments over segregation or integration of facilities, such as the PX.
This is an interesting and informative treatment of how the Army adjusted to the needs of the modern soldier.