No matter the season, mid-century Americans in unprecedented numbers were venturing out into the cold war world traveling abroad as never before spending billions of dollars on fun for all vacations.
But tourists weren’t the only ones packing their passports and spending oodles of money.
American soldiers were seeing the world too. Uncle Sam had gotten into the travel business offering soldiers a trip of a lifetime.
For over 75 years, Uncle Sam has racked up some serious frequent flyer mileage in his role as peacekeeper of the world.
Peace is Our Most Important Business
In the post war years Uncle Sam enlisted the help of thousands of young men to be his Ambassador’s of Peace, globetrotting around the globe spreading democracy and freedom.
After WWII the armed forces had demobilized and war-weary soldiers sent home. Yet the government had pledged to defend friendly states around the world. As the world’s policeman we promised to protect the underdog from the big bullies and keep them safe. (Besides which, the booming military industrial machine that had been so profitable during the war couldn’t be allowed to erode.)
But keeping units of our army in ever-expanding overseas bases, a sea power that patrolled the oceans and an air force that guarded the sky, required manpower.
It was important to safeguard the hard-won victory of WWII and that meant building up our peace-keeping force of soldiers. By 1946 a massive campaign was launched to recruit men to join the new army and US Air Force whose snappy mid-century motto was “peace is Americas most important business!”
And in a nation of big business, the military industrial complex was the biggest.
The call for volunteers went out: “The Army seeks young men who respond to the call of adventure.”
Sure Americans were peace-loving people but we had to be prepared and stay strong to meet the post war Communist threat.
“By our victory we have won the respect of the world,” wrote General Dwight Eisenhower former supreme commander of the Army, hero of WWII in one recruiting ad. “We can lose that respect and with it our influence toward a just and peaceful world order, if we reduce our military forces to the point where they become week or ineffective.”
Opportunity of a Life time
As newly minted “Ambassadors of Peace” the adventure of a lifetime would be yours if you joined the army. No worries about layoffs- there always someplace on the globe where we are needed to protect democracy.
“Forget about the fun and adventure I get out of my army job,” begins a recruiting ad from 1946. “ Forget about the chances to see foreign countries at the government expenses, and the top-notch training I’m getting.”
Your New Army
The adventures one could have in your new army were explained in this 1948 ad:
“Find out what a fine proposition the army offers- money wise and every other way. You realize it when you and your gang get aboard ship to go overseas as personal representatives of Uncle Sam.”
For those with wanderlust, occupied Germany was the place to go. Of course with the Soviet imposed Berlin Blockade in 1948 the same year this ad ran, that might prove difficult. Despite this first real crisis of the cold war, if one is to believe the copy, Germany was one big fun fest filled with bratwurst, biergartens and lederhosen.
“After hours– Like you and the fellow next door, the soldier has time for recreation and relaxation,” the copy explains. “For example these members of the First Infantry Division- now stationed in Germany to help guard the peace have time after hours for taking part in sports, seeing the sights and visiting places of historical interest.”
Join for the adventure…come for the food.
Army life was a tempting adventure for the taste buds as well as a real gourmets delight. All he needs to enjoy Army life is a healthy appetite and if he has a streak of glutton he will find himself in excellent company. Guarantee of good eating in café de luxe on base or al fresco on maneuvers .
Uncle Sam’s larder was carefully chosen treasures of the morning market, the reader learns: “Today’s soldiers gets the best food in the world-the finest meat and vegetables grown! Diets and menus varied and interesting.”
“Democracy at Work” is explained:“ Your army helped win the peace…today its members are working to protect it. Wherever they are-in Germany Korea or Japan-they spread the American way of life. These members of the First Cavalry Division for instance are your ‘on-the spot’ ambassadors of good will in Japan.”
Uncle Sam Wants You
Despite these tempting offers, the enlistments were not keeping pace with our growing needs. Uncle Sam still needed more Ambassador’s of Peace to act as “advisers” to inspire good will and ensure confidence to troubled millions across the globe.
With the Cold war casting a big chill across the globe, the draft was reinstated in 1948 guaranteeing men 18-26 the adventure of a lifetime.
The Great Getaway
It wasn’t long before American GI’s were taking off by the hundreds of thousands in a big exodus whether an exciting fun-filled off shore cruise sailing over the sparkling blue seas showing our military strength or a more permanent stationing of armed forces. Best of all, Uncle Sam lets you stay free of charge at any of the hundreds of bases in his chain.
Uncle Sam’s boys were everywhere to be found.
From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…far from the humdrum of life at home Uncle Sam offered so may travel plans promising a date with adventure…pack your bags..join your friends…it was hard to refuse.
And after the Selective service Act of 1948, no passport needed…only a draft card was necessary.
A Trip of a lifetime
Some lucky lads might be off to the Mideast where Aladdin never had it so good, as storybook pictures come to life.
Or perhaps the lure of the Greek Isles was more to your fancy. Maybe Latin America the glamor capital of the New World where you can live out your daydreams you’ve had for so long as a travel adventure awaits you in sunny Guatemala or any number of puppet run banana republics.
And of course the exotic orient beckons you to return again and again and again.
All the foreign flavor of a romantic city are yours to enjoy in sunny Beirut…life takes on a new sparkle when you enter Tokyo. Double your fun in Berlin…enjoy unparallelled views from Korea…the breathtaking splendor that lies ahead Laos..romance under the stars is the perfect setting for an evening filled with thrills in Tehran…the land where yesterday meets tomorrow in the Belgium Congo where surprises are in store for you.
You’ll Love Everything About Vietnam
For long-lasting adventure South Vietnam was the place to go.
Take this journey for pleasure and you’ll capture some of the happiest days of your life. You’re recruiting officers will tell you of the unspoiled beaches…when you sun on the sands you’ll feel like you re stretched out on a soft pink cloud and gone drifting off to never-never land. It has everything you’ll want…for gaiety and glorious hospitality the old world colonial charm of sparkling Saigon will keep your cameras clicking.
Only a wash of waves on pink sands, the rustle of palms in the breeze and laughter of village children fleeing a burning village, disturb the remoteness and calm that have become so rare these days.
Have Gun Will Travel
Wherever Uncle Sam sends you, you could be sure there’s a welcome mat.
In more than 100 countries…over 58 million times each day, someone enjoys the always welcome lift of the US Military; the sense of right that belongs to the US alone…erect a military installation anytime, anywhere- your on the spot ambassadors of good will.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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