'Yank' Glorifies Army's Average Enlistees, Published Here and Abroad by Noncoms
We're Running a Paper, Not A Peepshow, Editors Claim
Civilians picture "Yank, The Army Weekly" as a legendary newspaper published by Army brass hats and soft-job seeking soldiers: a cross between printed morale tonic, a military trade paper, and legalized pornography.
Yank touches none of those extremes. It looks a little like PM, even living on a 5c-per-copy circulation, reads like Time without the Yale education, and flaunts the corny characteristics of the home town weekly.
Yank is not comparable to any combination of civilian periodicals. It is not even a newspaper. It is unique; doing a unique job in a unique way. Published every week entirely by 104 enlisted men, Yank prints five editions in three countries, posts correspondents at 17 world news spots from Chungking to the Alean Highway, and is sold on almost every battle front and ocean on the globe.
No officer or civilian can write for Yank. Its staff consists exclusively of Army enlisted men plus two sailors and a marine sergeant. Every one has endured the tortures of basic training and most of them take their turn at an overseas front covering troop life and action for Yank.
Thrilling action stories have already been sent back by these field correspondents. One sergeant crashed in the jungles of Brazil and spent two bitter weeks chopping his way out. He wrote his story and was immediately shipped to the Indian front.
An artist-in-khaki hiked up and down the front lines in Tunisia, and finally sent home a whopper of a story with typewriter instead of pen and ink. Another soldier made 10 action flights out of Chungking and cracked up on his eleventh. On his hospital bed he received his reward: promotion from sergeant to staff sergeant.
No Commissions for 'Yank' Editors
But commissions are unthinkable to these men: shoulder bars would prove too burdensome, literally making their work impossible.
With all this effort and sacrifice, you will never find a copy on any newsstand, and few civilians will ever even see an issue. Yet the editors of Yank are planning even further expansions, and are organizing the world's first attempt at "chain store journalism."
Yank is not to be confused with the other three Army publications. The daily Stars and Stripes is published in London chiefly as a substitute for the hard-to-appreciate English newspapers. The Caribbean Sentinel and the CBI Roundup, distributed in China, Burma, and India, are both regional weeklies.
When Yank is full grown it will be published in New York, London Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, and Cairo. Already it is printed in the first three of these places. The main offices will remain in New York City where they now are, and mats of the pages will be flown especially to the chain branches. There the weekly will be run off by civilian letter press and distributed easily to the armed forces overseas as soon as the men at home receive it.
This chain network it a creation entirely new to journalism, and is made possible only by the size, dispersion, and uniformity of Yank's audience. (Yank's circulation figures are one of those non-military military secrets.)
The vitals of this octopus exist on the fourth floor of a New York office building across the street from the white skyscraper of the New York Daily News. In large, airy quarters the home staff conceives, organizes, lays out, and creates each edition of Yank.
Except for the armed guard at the door, the khaki uniforms and the rack of chevron-emblazoned coats, the office looks like any other publication's editorial rooms, even to the crimson coke machine and the maps on the walls.
Handful of Officers in Charge
Supervising the work and discipline are a handful of officers with Lt. Col. Franklin S. Forsberg as Officer in Charge. Major Hartzell Spence, former United Press executive, holds the official title of editor and bears the responsibility for Yank's printed word. But discipline is no problem for the men are given a daily $2.75 maintainance allowance and plenty of liberty; no man is added to the staff without the approval of the enlisted men.
Actual Number One man who makes the final decisions is tall, serious Technical Sergeant Joe McCarthy, the managing editor. Just 28 last Saturday, Sgt. McCarthy is characteristic of Yank's staff, probably the youngest, and lowest paid, board in journalism.
Coincidentally, McCarthy knows more about Harvard than 99 percent of periodical editors. He was born on Mt. Auburn St. at Harvard Square and his home for 20 years was on the corner of Brattle and Hilliard. Attending B.C., he worked on the Boston Post for several years. After he graduated in 1939, he worked on sports publicity with Frank Ryan until he was drafted from PBH in the Yard in February '41.
In the Army he led a pack artillery mule at Ft. Bragg for a year, and then was shifted to public relations. He wrote "Caught in the Draft" for the Post and became friendly with Private Marion Hargrove, who was assigned to Yank as soon as it was organized last spring. Then for weeks on end Hargrove annoyed Major Spence to call up McCarthy as sports editor for the new weekly.
Spence finally weakened and McCarthy came to New York. He wrote a sports column, predicting at one point that the Dodgers would win the pennant, but was soon made assistant managing editor under 23-year old Sgt. Bill Richardson of Raleigh, N.C., who now heads the London bureau. When Richardson was shipped over in September, McCarthy stepped into his shoes.
Under McCarthy, Yank has grown--especially out of his belief that Yank should be edited solely for the enlisted men, disregarding the taste and know-all of its editors. He scraped off the polish and made it, as he frankly admits, "realistic and corny."
Glorified Enlisted Men
He is less willing to admit, in so many words, that Yank is, objectively approached a morale builder for the masses of the Army; the privates, corporals, and sergeants. But Yank is that; its prime but never outspoken theme is the Glorified Enlisted Man. It also plays the more formal role of purveyor of information to the ranks. McCarthy feels the functions of entertainment and information are divided "fifty-fifty" in his paper.
He has a staff with plenty of experience. Feature Editor Staff Sergeant Douglas Borgstadt was formerly Post Scripts editor of the Satevepost. Picture Editor Staff Sergeant Leo Hofeller was picture editor of the Daily News and has had extensive experience with the Armored Forces. Art Director Staff Sergeant Arthur Weithas takes charge of layouts, and was an advertising layout are before the war.
Now, Sergeant Marion Hargrove is probably the best known of Yank's staff. He is now furloughing with his bride and preparing to take his turn at overseas duty for Yank.
Harvard Mon on Staff
Until recently, Yank boasted three Harvard men, two of them also writers for The New Yorker. Staff Sergeant Harry Brown '38 is Richardson's assistant in London. An ex-Advocate editor and writer of by-lined verse for The New Yorker, Brown has just finished a book, "It's a Cinch, Private Finch," with cartoonist and unofficial Gremlin designer of Yank, Sergeant Ralph Stein. Their humorous study of the building of a soldier will be out this month.
Sergeant John Hay '38, grandson of Secretary of State Hay and one of the reviewers of the Monthly while at Harvard, is now assistant picture editor. Before the war, he was Washington correspondent for the Charleston News and Courier.
But the third Harvard alumnus, Jack Kahu, Jr. '37, has just accepted a promotion to Warrant Officer and had to be dropped from the enlisted men's weekly. He has returned from the South Pacific, and is now writing a book and working on a Profile of General MacArthur for The New Yorker.
In the beginning the desk men in New York did all the writing for Yank. The weekly was started with a bang last June, before field correspondents could be distributed. Now most of the writing is done in the field, and the copy is rushed back from overseas in intelligence packets which are flown to headquarters. Unsolicited cartoons, sports news, and yarns such as on life in Miami hotels and what to take with you overseas frequently turn up.
Volume 1, Number 1, dated June 17, 1942, was 24 pages like the 37 later issues, but since then publication has been shifted from Tuesday to Friday. For that first edition, President Roosevelt wrote a letter wishing the men good luck for their paper which he called, "a publication which cannot be understood by your enemies."
As the paper grew, the London bureau and edition were established to solve transportation problems and because soldiers overseas, it was found, resented stories about nightclubs and good times and often wanted articles that men at home would find dull.
Pin-Up Girls Still In
During the summer the full page pin-up girl was cut down to save space, but violent objections flowed in. Yank's India correspondent found the girls decorating all the barracks in that corner of the world. There has been one in every issue since.
These and a sprinkling of smaller photos of movie stars are all there is to the idea that the morals of the paper are weak, if you omit the private collection in the photo room. Even the interview with Gypsy Rose Lee was nothing a family tabloid would refuse to print.
By the time McCarthy took over with the September 30 issue, the weekly was clicking along. In trying to make it more of a magazine, he has dropped the front page headline and stresses features from boys in camp and oversease, news notes from their home towns. Occasional editorials give advice and explain policy, or, like the one a year after "the day the roof fell in," just sound off like editorials.
Stories and headlines are short, easy to read. Most punchy head yet is in the current issue:
There's No Front Line in New Guinea, but most of them read more like:
Navy Picks a Lady Named
Mildred to Rule the Waves.
Cross word puzzles, short wave radio programs, games, notes entitled Strictly G.I., a cartoon strip "Sad Sack," and a column of letters (only opening for officer contributions) are by now popular features. Special editions on the Air Force and the Navy have been printed, and special praise has been extended vigorous officers like Uncle Joe Stilwell and Major General Gerhardt, who is photographed shirtless, riding a horse through a raging stream. Maps, scarce and in great demand overseas, are now printed in every issue; and a service of advice and features like Milt Caniff's "Male Call" is sent to hundreds of camp newspapers.
Sergeant-Editor McCarthy is consciously seeking to develop confidence in and respect for his Army weekly "by the men . . . for the men in the service," in anticipation of another problem yet to be met. When victory is won, McCarthy foresees a morale problem among the men wishing to get home. He hopes to make Yank just as useful then, after the war is over, as it is while his staff and reader are helping win it. Meanwhile he only admits. "None of us can tell just what kind of a job we're doing till it's all over."