And one Veterans Day-After

Camp Swampy may not ever have been a fighting base, but as this shows, they were not entirely outside a world where military conflict was a reality. And we can count all who served as veterans, whether or not they were in active combat or even in a war zone.

This strip seems to be dated 1964, and early enough in that year that “Viet Nam” did not yet mean all of what it would soon take on. Still, isn’t it a bit shocking that this might strike some of its audience as simply funny?

9 Comments

  1. As noted, the date puts it quite early in the conflict – before the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the subsequent escalation (and the draft). In fact, the American troops in Vietnam at the time were supposedly “advisers.” So the intended connotation at the time might have been “he’s going to be sent far, far, away, where he won’t bother than general,” rather than “he’s being sent off to die.”

  2. The strip initially was published on April 21, 1964. The war between North and South Vietnam then had been going on for many years, although the heightened U.S. involvement following the Gulf of Tonkin resolution had not yet occurred. There were thousands of U.S. “advisers” in South Vietnam, although these were as yet only a small fraction of what there would be. Newspaper readers would have known about the war and the U.S. involvement.

    Presumably Gen. Halftrack suggested that the talents of someone with so many ideas would be useful in Vietnam. It was not really plausible that an army officer would not know where Vietnam was, but Lt. Fuzz has always been presented as clueless. I expect that the strip was seen as quite funny at the time; in another year it would have been too cutting for this strip’s brand of humor.

  3. Walker started drawing “Beetle Bailey” in the early 50s, when the US military enjoyed a fairly untarnished, positive image among the American public. I think it’s clear that all the General meant was “Get out of my hair, or I’ll send you to the front lines!“, which has been used (elsewhere) for humorous effect in various WWi and WWII contexts without any serious consequences. If this strip had appeared a dozen years earlier, Lt. Fuzz’s “mysterious destination” would simply have been “Korea”. On the other hand, this strip would not have worked at all a decade later, and might have generated a lot of complaints, since by then the pointless, destructive nature of the Vietnam war had been revealed.

  4. Kind of like the 8 million times Col. Klink threatened Sgt. Schultz with a trip to the Russian Front, I guess.

  5. @ padraig – I’m not about to try to collect any realistic statistics, but I think Klink’s threat would have had a much higher mortality potential than Halftrack’s.

  6. It’s …. weird. But I think the U.S. has always had a strange attitude that it’s okay, funny, and good to criticize, even severely, our state given that we assume it’s not that obvious we are up to our neck in muck. (We’re in a pointless conflict that will be messy with no resolution in sight… but what are ya gonna do? Here’s a gag….) It’s only when we realize that we actually are up to our neck that it becomes edgy.

  7. Kilby: Yeah, I think the American mortality rate in Vietnam in 1964 was probably quite low, comparatively speaking.

  8. P.S. I guess the comparison shows that even today, Mort Walker’s comic strip doesn’t bother me nearly as much as having seen reruns of “Hogan’s Heroes” on German TV.

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