All At Sea

     It has been suggested to me that my notes on postcards dealing with the military, particularly during World War II, have not been fully representative.  The Army, including the Women’s Army Corps (ch), is well-represented, but what about the Navy?

     In fact, the Navy was considered just as rich a service for postcard humor, and humor generally, during the war.  Movies tended to be made in California, which had a goodly number of naval bases, and while a lot of radio comedy came out of New York and Chicago, neither of those places was short on ships and sailors.  (You may be thinking that New York is a logical spot, but Chicago?  Well, it was the home of a major naval training base, possibly, as Donald Kaul pointed out about Iowa, it is, after all, about as far from one ocean as the other.)

     So a life on the sea was considered pretty fair game.  Some day, when I can do it without getting queasy, I will cover the whole subject of seasickness in postcards.

     This can be countered by a stereotype often associated with people on long sea cruises: lifting a knife and fork is the most exercise some people were believed to get.

     And if army life was associated by comedians and cartoonists with peeling potatoes, the Navy automatically made them think of swabbing decks.

     HOWEVER, there was one chore sailors were connected with in the popular view even more than scrubbing.  The soldier on leave had a reputation with the ladies, but for a sailor this was considered a primary function.  People felt they went to sea just for a rest between romances.

     In an America where men were being taken away for training every day, the sailor who had only one girlfriend was simply not doing his part to keep up morale.

     There was that saying about having a girl in every port, or…you got that one, eh?

     The tradition goes back to before the Second World War, of course.  Once upon a time, the sailor, however much work it was, had the quickest mode of transportation to cities around the world.

     I have been told that, given a choice, a lady of the evening who specialized in military encounters preferred soldiers, who tended to be so tired from marching everywhere that they fell asleep quickly, to sailors, who were rested up and had had all that time on a ship to make plans.

     Not that there weren’t opportunities at sea as well.

     The postcards covered all of this and, as you may have noted from most of the above, also reinforced the belief that the boys taken from their homes and put in uniforms to fight were having a generally good time.  Even if life afloat seemed unnatural to most landlubbers, Navy men often, according to this frequently reused verse, came to realize it was the life for them.

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