Are wars won on the playing fields or the battlefields? This question, which has been a matter for lively debate since the days of the Roman centurions, gets a fresh appraisal in Bil Gilbert's survey of modern military sport beginning on page 74. His conclusions are likely to surprise you—they surprised us, so much so that we conducted a brief inquiry into the military-sporting life of some of our editorial colleagues.
"We wrestled," Senior Editor Bob Creamer says. "You'd be down on your hands and knees, and the thing was for the other guy to pull your hand out from under you and twist your foot up behind your back. We soon found this was a lot easier if the victim cooperated. Whoever's turn it was to be fall guy would dutifully pull his hand back and his foot up, and the instructor would say, 'That's good.' One time my partner missed, and I was lying there with my hand out and my foot halfway up my back. Fortunately, the instructor wasn't paying attention either."
"On a middie cruise for ROTC we played baseball at Guantànamo, a savage game," William Johnson recalls. "Guys were ripping themselves up sliding into second, on dirt and gravel, just wearing shorts. Several came down with blood poisoning."
"I was on the weight-lifting team," admits Marty Nathan, a mild-mannered and not very muscular associate art director. "I did it to get out of calisthenics. The sergeant would yell, 'Weight lifters, fall out!' and here would come all these big guys—aaargh. And I'd come too." Wasn't that an odd way of avoiding calisthenics? "Not at all. I'd go to the gym, get two barbells and go to sleep in the corner."
"I was a swimmer," Tex Maule says. "During World War II I spent a lot of time swimming to life rafts. We got torpedoed twice in the Gulf of Mexico. Of course, if you've got to get torpedoed, that's the place for it. The water is nice and warm, and you can really enjoy a swim. I got my only medals that way, although they were no great cause for pride. They gave you a little silver torpedo each time."
One staffer, Gil Rogin, came upon a new interest. "I discovered that boxers, due to roadwork, couldn't eat breakfast at the same time as everyone else—which was very early. The boxers ate at a civilized hour, in the WAC dining room, where they were served freshly cooked food. Since I was the editor of the camp paper, I assigned myself to cover boxing."
And one maverick actually skipped breakfast, lunch and sleep to do his thing. In classic Army style, Curry Kirkpatrick's base scheduled classes from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. "They woke us up about 9 a.m. and then we had this ridiculous pseudo-reveille at 11," Kirkpatrick grimaces. "Four of us would then skip 11:30 brunch, 4 o'clock lunch and a cleanup detail in between to sneak in nine holes of golf every day. We'd tromp into the clubhouse in fatigues and big combat boots, grab a sandwich among all the big brass in golf clothes and medals and change into terrible scummy outfits." Kirkpatrick remembers approaching the 11th hole one day when the bugler started playing retreat. "I didn't hear it," he says, "but I looked up, and there were four guys standing at attention on the 12th green with golf caps over their hearts. I swear I thought somebody had died, zonked by a golf ball."
And so you see that many of us here have garnered sporting experience—of one sort or another—from our days in uniform.