By Sgt. Ray Duncan

I asked for “Horrible Harper,” my favorite comic book, but the PX girl gave me Harper’s magazine by mistake. I got all the way to the barracks before I discovered the error. By then it was too late, so I read the Harper’s article on “What Soldiers Are Thinking About.”

“Service in the armed forces changes men in numerous ways,” it said. “More than anything else it stimulates thinking.” Later on it pointed out that “the main point is that a yeast is working.”

Hurriedly I finished my business in the barracks and set out to watch the yeast work. First man I came to was a corporal who was gazing thoughtfully down the company street and belching yeastily.

“A penny,” I said coyly, “for your thoughts.”

“Say sarge,” he grinned, “have you got an extra liquor-ration coupon?”

“Okay, a liquor-ration coupon for your thoughts.” I handed him the coupon and suddenly  asked, “What do you think about an International Police Force?”

“Policemen!” he spat. “I hate their guts!”

The speculative look came into his eyes again.

“What you doin’ tonight, sarge?”

“Well—,” I fenced skillfully.

“My little chick has got a friend,” he said. “She’s really a lot of fun.”

“I wish you hadn’t said that,” I sighed, “but I’ll chance it.”

My date really was a lot of fun. Each time we passed an officer above the rank of captain she cried, “Hiya big shot!” and flipped off his hat.

She had a nice figure and low-cut dress, so pretty soon the marines were crowding around our table in the barroom.

“Do you mind if we establish a beachhead?” They grinned, drawing up chairs.

“What are you fellows thinking about?” I asked suddenly, whipping out a pencil and paper.

“We could tell you, junior,” they replied, leering at my girl friend, “but it would only lead to bloodshed.”

Over in the corner was a lone soldier at a table, fondling a glass of beer. He had a faraway and thoughtful look in his eye. “Here,” I told myself, “is a soldier who is thinking about something. I must get him for my survey.” But when I put the question to him he only smiled crookedly.

“Waitress, he said at length, “another beer.”

He blew a cloud of cigarette smoke in my face.

“So you want to know what I’m thinking about?”

“Yes!” I cried eagerly, pencil and paper poised. A half hour passed and he said nothing more. After another 45 minutes it was cloning time, and the waitress brought him one last beer. At last he roused himself and said to me:

“Moral determination may have already been present in men when they entered the Army, and the greater fitness of body and knowledge of arms gained in training are important; but it is the comradeship, or esprit de corps—call it whatever you want—that has more than anything to do with making the civilian over into a soldier. It is the grasping hand for the long, hard and dreary effort.”

His words had a familiar ring. Familiar, hell—they were right out of that Harper’s article.

“You read that somewhere.” I said cunningly.

“Don’t you get cunning with me,” he cried in a rage of embarrassment, and leaping drunkenly to his feet he overturned the table, glass and beer in my lap. Then he began working me over, aided by the six marines, who seized this opportunity to eliminate me and get my girl. Luckily some sailors came in the door about that time.

A captain heard the battle a few minutes later and came in to stop it. My girl friend said, “Hiya, big shot!” and flipped off his hat. She was really a lot of fun, and it was a wonderful evening. The yeast was working that night, all right. The old yeast was really working.wwii soldier cartoon

For More Reading Check Out:

The Good War: An Oral History of World War II

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