I bet the proud sailors of the United States Navy dislike the fact that their service is virtually synonymous with, as Winston Churchill put it, "rum, sodomy, and the lash." Being obsessed with World War II era propaganda, though, I am starting to think the Navy has done things to encourage this line of thought. Not encourage it explicitly, of course, but some of their propaganda did little to dissuade the public perception that naval service was mostly about glistening, shirtless Seamen ramming long, stiff objects into appropriately-sized holes. To wit (and these are all real, courtesy the National Archives, and not modern faux-vintage snark), here is a composition entitled Man the Guns:

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Let's give the Navy every benefit of the doubt here.

Yes, it was very hot in the Pacific Theater and God knows how hot the decks were with all that burning gunpowder, so perhaps work was best done without a shirt. And, well, that long, rock hard, and round-tipped artillery shell certainly needed to be thrust into the cannon's magazine. Otherwise the cannon would not be able to have an explosion and cover the face of the Earth with American firepower. But I have to say, U.S. Navy, that this is kinda gay. I'm sure that my creative imagination running away with things.
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OK. Navy, maybe you should think about this a little more.
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The message communicated by this poster is supposed to be "Stop Accidents." But what it's really saying is "Stop Accidents – or else." While threats can sometimes be good motivators, why is the Seamen A) shirtless yet again and B) threatening the viewer with the omnipresent penis-shell, held here at a semi-threatening, semi-aroused angle? And as far as intimidating our enemies, well, all I have to say is watch your cornhole, Tojo. OK, Navy? Good talk. I feel like you understand my concerns. Back to work.

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Oh, for fuck's sake!

10 thoughts on “IN THE NAAAAVY!”

  • The guy's muscles in the first poster look like they're chock full of not-so-subliminal sexual images, a la Wilson Bryan Key's "Subliminal Seduction."

  • I was a career USN type and I have to call bullshit on your post. In my day, the primary objective for the crew when the ship pulled in was to find the best, if not closest, place to get drunk and get laid by the ladies. Those who were known or suspected to be gay were accepted on board as long as they did their job and kept their activities private, regardless of public policy. The posters you have on display were made by an ad agency or a government equivalent and are an attempt to create some sense of glorification of a mundane task based on somebody's fantasy who probably never set foot on a combat ship on a real cruise, the same as recruiting materials made today. Its not "do you want to meet this guy;" rather "don't you want to be this guy." Every time I see one of those Navy recruiting ads on TV I think of it as the highlight reel they managed to make out of a 100 day underway period. BTW, the safety enforcement has significantly changed since these posters were made. Modern sailors would be required to have safety shoes and wear protective clothing and PPE in the situations depicted. As for the "or else" comment, I must add there are situations sailors are in, like handling certain types of explosives, that are quite dangerous. I can't consider something like "if you screw this up you lose a finger" to be a threat when that is the best case scenario for a mistake. In closing, safety posters have long been a requirement. Some of them, like the ones above get ignored because they aren't very good portrayals of reality. The ones that show photographs of actual blood and guts and twisted metal are the ones that stop people in their tracks and make them think.

  • Actually, Churchill didn't say, "The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy, and the lash." It was one of his aides who said it. But what I find delightful is that Churchill confessed that he WISHED he'd said it.

  • Not being from Indiana, imagine my surprise when I went on a softball recruiting visit to Butler University with my daughter a couple years ago and found the Butler softball coach hosting their annual "Cornhole Tournament."

    I had to Google that one to make sure I understood.


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