"Don't Lear at Me, Just Go Yoo-Hoo": Army Discipline and the American People in 1941

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0009-0008-8324-2190
Arnold, Thomas, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Zelikow, Philip, AS-History (HIST), University of Virginia

On a hot and humid summer’s day in 1941, a military convoy rambled through Memphis, Tennessee, en route to its home base near Little Rock, Arkansas. Crammed into the backs of bouncing cargo trucks, the weary soldiers were exhausted by their hours-long journey home after an extended training exercise; however, their spirits quickly surged when they spied a group of young ladies dressed in shorts near the Memphis Country Club. Perhaps a little too enthusiastically, the men began vying for the ladies’ attention, catcalling and “yoo-hooing” at them. The soldiers’ conduct was uncalled for, but not lascivious. Public accounts of the incident cast it as a good-humored and innocent affair. Unbeknownst to the love-struck soldiers, Lieutenant General Benjamin Lear, the commanding general of the Second Army, happened to be playing through on the club’s golf course. As their commanding general, he took it upon himself to restore order that morning. The ladies’ attire, the men’s behavior, and the general’s reaction ignited a national debate that became a public relations fiasco for the U.S. Army. The affair was known at the time, and widely remembered afterwards, as the “Yoo-hoo Incident.” This essay uses a microhistorical approach to uncover what happened and explore why it resonated so strongly with the public before the United States’ formal entry into World War II, revealing the moment in America’s pre-war mobilization period when the people began to claim ownership of their Army.

MA (Master of Arts)
Yoo-Hoo Incident, Ben Lear, Army Public Relations, Military Scandal, World War II, Civil-Military Relations
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