YANK, the GI weekly magazine of WW II . . .


15 assorted issues $49.95
Reprints from the original 1942-45 ETO collection


Here comes YANK!

In the early 1940’s, American soldiers and sailors were being hustled to remote outposts in foreign lands a half world away. Host countries were friendly but quite unlike Kansas, Ohio or Rhode Island. In most villages, cities and ports, the locals babled in strange jargon. The new arrivals couldn’t decipher a newspaper, magazine or book if one could be found.

Those landing in English-speaking countries got on well with locals, but England, already at war two years, imported its newsprint. London, Liverpool, Glasgow and provincial publications were a fraction of normal heft; ditto for Wellington, Sydney and Brisbane. Canada had plenty of newsprint but trans-Atlantic convoys could make room only for meager tonnage. Fuel and food supplies in Great Britain were down to about six weeks in 1942 because German U-boats were having great success against North Atlantic convoys.

The GIs and Middies were reared reading Sunday supplements in hometown newspapers along with comics. The War Department (nowadays it’s the Department of Defense) in November 1942 launched YANK Magazine. It was designed to provide weekend reading for far-flung soldiers, sailors and airmen. The tone was strictly GI. Writers, photographers, cartoonists and editors were given wide latitude doing their thing. YANK was speeded by air to readers in sand-blown World War I-vintage pup tents in North Africa, improvised shacks on Pneumonia Ridge in the Aleutians, grass shack villages in tropical Polynesia, or “somewhere in England,” where Quonset huts were sprouting overnight on U.S. air and army installations.

YANK did a commendable job boosting morale. Each 24-page issue featured a full page (tabloid size) pin-up featuring Hollywood lovelies such as Betty Grable, Susan Peters, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Lucille Ball, Lena Horne. No self-respecting pin-up collector would be minus a pasted-up newsprint photo of Heddy Lamarr who, according to a May 1943 YANK, was scheduled to appear in M-G-M’s “Starlight.” Each issue featured Mail Call, where GI letters to the editor let it all hang out; a full page of News from Home; Yanks at Home in the European Theater; Yanks at Home Abroad and, always, A Week At War–a roundup of events in the
conflagration that seemed capable of going on forever.

Sergeant Don Polier edited Sports. Appearing each week was a full page Sports at Home. A May 1943 issue told of Al Simmons returning to the Big Leagues at age 40 as an outfielder, batting .300 and set to rescue the Boston Red Sox. Periodically a page was devoted to Hometown USA, such as Arkadelphia, Arkansas; Cheyenne, Wyoming; New York City, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Crack reporters covering action on all fronts included Sergeants Bill Richardson, Ralph G. Martin, Ralph Stein, Joe McCarthy, Pete Paris, Durbin L Horner, Robert G. Ryan. An Army sergeant named Andrew Rooney was part of the same crowd, but he hooked-up with London-based Stars & Stripes, a GI five-day a week tabloid launched simultanously with YANK. Andy Rooney was reporting three decades later for CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes.”

Globe-trotting YANK staffers were mostly “non-coms,” occasionally a lieutenant such as Dave Breger, who drew the popular panel titled G. I. Joe. Captain Arthur Gordon, an occasional contributor, became postwar editor of Guide Posts.

No WWII veteran will forget the sorry Sad Sack created by Sergeant George Baker. The piteous little and lowly Sad Sack was constantly badgered and belittled by a gnarling top sergeant with outside teeth. Sad Sack’s wet dream episode is still discussed by graybeards in veterans’ clubs.

The London edition was the flagship of YANK’s overseas editions. Later came printings in Cairo, Naples, Paris, Honolulu, etc. Much content was common.

The Brass was in a hands-off mode, dictated by the War Department, despite occasionally being lampooned. Artie Greengoin, PFC was the title of a weekly feature until its gifted creator and a general had a difference. Greengroin was the pen name of the satirist who found himself transferred to the desert. Being sent home would have been a reward. Artie’s silence was never explained in print.

On his overseas journey from PFC to captain, Nebraskan Carroll “Cal” Stewart pondered YANK’s historic value. He greased palms at the 93rd Bomb. Group’s postoffice and PX and never passed up latching onto undamaged stray copies found here or there. Periodically he hauled bundles to Fletcher’s Printing & Binding in Norwich, East Anglia, where they were organized in vaults. After V-J Day, he arranged with Mr. Hodgkinson to bind six-month volumes with gold-leaf lettering on the covers.

While the war was still going on, then-Brig. Gen. Edward “Ted” Timberlake was curious about his aide de camp’s proclivity for the magazines. The general asked if there might be a few spares for him. Stewart agreed. Then came James Stewart (no-kin), the actor turned colonel and Timberlake’s new chief of staff. The three shared the same office. “How about me?” the newly-minted colonel asked. “Yes, sir,” the collector responded but stipulated, as he’d done with the big boss: “General Ted’s set is subordinate to mine and yours will be subordinate to the general’s.” The ground rules were understood.

A year or so after the war the Nebraskan ordered the YANKs shipped: Hilton Head, Hollywood, Nebraska.

After establishing a printing company in Lincoln years later and obtaining Department of Defense permission to reproduce, the ex-aide panicked when he discovered his set incomplete. The proper and aging Mr. Hodgkinson had provided General Ted with the full complement; Hollywood, runnerup; the Nebraskan, third- rate.

Three-star General Ted, whose career ended early due to illness, told his ex-aide by phone: “They’re in storage back there with my lawn mowers. I’ll have them on the way tomorrow.”

That was in the 1970s. Sets were reprinted.

By and large YANK was strictly GI en toto.

For a trip down memory lane for the rapidily shrinking ranks of the greatest generation or to provide historic insight for “youngsters”:

Remit $49.95 (checks only), UPS and handling prepaid, to:

Nebraska Printing Center (YANK Reprints)
P.O. Box 5325, Lincoln, NE 68505-5325

(Nebraskans add 7% sales tax)

Allow at least 3 weeks for delivery