Selections from old LIFE magazines that I found notable when I reread them. Newer issues at the top.
1944 May 22 -- the issue with the Japanese soldier's skull on the desk
. p 12, you know Google Earth? Before it came along, people had
to get down on their hands and knees on huge tables to make a useful
map of, for instance, a glacier. This reminds me of how many
millions of work hours are saved every day because of one computer
. p 20, a potpourri of national news carried the essential item that
"The girl Marines in Washington put on light green seersucker uniforms,
with short sleeves."
. p 35, the skull of a Japanese soldier, shipped home from the Pacific
theatre, rests on a desktop as a pretty young lady ponders it; caption
"Arizona war worker writes her Navy boyfriend a thank-you note for the
Jap skull he sent her." This must be the most talked-about story
ever from LIFE. Her boyfriend, a young officer, was punished, but
not severely. The practice of sending home body parts was frowned
upon, but not worried about.
. p 53, ad for Statler hotels: rates in Washington DC $4.50;
rates in NYC $3.85.
. p 71, ad for the New York Central railroad, with a cutaway sketch of
a mail car -- which delivered the mail, at 3 cents a stamp, a lot
faster than the ramshackle postal service. Why oh why did we ever
fall for the nonsense that the postal service should be run like a
business instead of a public service?
. p 108, article about the Hatfields & McCoys finally at peace with
. p 119, what we now call child pornography was called "cute," 70 years
1944 May 15
. p 2 letters to the editor about an editorial called "Negro
Rights." Ah, the Southrons of old: "The majority of our
Negro population wants to rights in addition to those they already
have." "We have good schools ... for Negroes. There are
very few of them who object to Jim Crow regulations." "What we
are afraid of is that three-fourths of the nation will gang up on the
South as you did before in Reconstruction days and try to force us to
do things which no true Southerner will stand." "If you agitators
would only stay out." "There is no place for the black man in our
white Navy." Never take equality for granted; we're just barely
out of the puking jungle that was the Southron mentality.
. p 21 American troops mass in England for the invasion (which at this time was only three weeks away).
. p 28 how to handle disabled troops. My favorite part:
"Hospitals work hard at restoring confidence. In one, for
instance, pretty girls come to the bedsides of men who are totally
deaf. The girls engage the men in 'conversation' by writing
questions down and letting the men talk. After several such
'talks,' in which the girls catch the men's talk perfectly normally ...
the girls reveal in an offhand way that they, too, are totally deaf."
. p 33 white supremacy in the 1944 elections in the south. From Alabama: "Support the Democratic Doctrine of States'
Rights and White Supremacy. Vote for Jim Simpson for U. S. Senate."
Gawd, the deals with the devil that FDR had to make to keep the
Democratic party together. Now all the same pinheads have gone to the Republican party, of course.
. p 53 the "Monty" legend, about the Field Marshal, of course
p 65 high school girls were wearing men's clothes, white bobby socks,
and loafers (pennies not mentioned). "The only radical fad among
boys is their
deliberately sloppy way of wearing short shirts outside their
pants." And, the same day I posted this, I find in Rolling Stone
an ad for "Finally! An untucked shirt of the perfect
length. UNTUCKit". How about that. Shirt length
problem solved by American know-how, only 70 years after the war ended.
. p 78 movie of the week "The Hitler Gang." Now that we were at
war with Germany, Hollywood could make movies that seriously criticized
Nazis. Doing that before the war hurt profit margins.
. p 85 American fighter aces, 11 of whom had shot down 254
planes. Dick Bong had shot down 27, and Joe Foss and Pappy
Boyington had each shot down 26 -- and when I was in the Air Force 25
years later, everybody still knew their names.
1944 Apr 3
. the cover, a dog almost as cute as several I've known
. p 6, an ad for Vaseline Hair Tonic, showing "How Paratrooper Dennis
licks Dry Scalp menace!" because bailing out makes his hair look rough
and tumbled. Only neat Americans need invade?
. p 14, a kind of ad I haven't seen lately: actress Joan Bennett
is entranced by a canary, in an ad for French's Bird Seed. "Own a
canary ... the only pet that sings!"
. p 35, "Palm Beach Spectacle," about how rich parvenus "are giving
Palm Beach its biggest season in all its fabulous history. Houses
rent for $3,300 a month. Hotels charge up to $96 a day ....
Automobiles hire at $100 a week.... The result of all this, as in
Miami, is that the servicement and women stationed at or near Palm
Beach can find no places for their families to stay ...." LIFE
gave just one page to this feature, did not dwell on the 1% v. the 99%.
. p 36, an article about mass suicides by Japanese soldiers who had
lost the battle for Attu, one of the Alaskan islands invaded during the
war. Many detailed, unretouched photos of Japanese soldiers who
had suicided with grenades. "Looking on the masses of exploded
bodies, one American officer was heard to comment: 'That just
. p 38, "Utah Polygamy Trials: Federal, state authorities arrest
50 men and women" including Leona Jeffs, whose exact relationship to
Warren Jeffs I can't figure out, even after reading more about these
particular multiple marriages.
. p 43, "The Powerful Filarets," a girls basketball tem from Rochester
NY just made a streak of 160 victories, beating the high school record
of 159 wins, by a boys' team from Passaic NJ. (As far as I know,
the longest girls' basketball streak ever was Baskin High in LA:
218 games.) Their uniforms look ... odd, like bloomers from 1900.
. p 51, an ad for Ansco film and cameras captions a photo "Why not get your womenfolk like this?"
. p 64, painter Floyd Davis portrays England after 4 years at war,
including, almost inevitably, a painting of Old Skinose making the
troops break up laughing.
. p 81, an inspirational article about a town in Texas that goes "all
out to serve wounded veterans in Army hospital." It goes without
saying, and went without saying, that, this being Texas, the hospital
would be segregated. LIFE makes up for it by showing a picture of
two Negro patients holding hands with colored maids.
. p 83, an ad by the National Dairy Products Association shows 10
piglets suckling their mother. No, despite what you may think,
the ad was not promoting pig milk. "As lard, sausage, pork chops,
ham sandwiches and ration stamps, these little pigs are potentially a
big part of your 1944 diet." They sure are cute pigs. (And
here's Ron Swanson about getting to know your pig before you eat
it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS7EAcOY8tI )
. p 87, a feature on young actress Margaret O'Brien. Irresistible.
. p 102, a feature on young politician Wendell Willkie. Resistible.
. p 117, jumping beans explained.
. p 122, the Stage Door Canteen explained, with several pictures of
Killer Joe Piro teaching jitterbug. Killer Joe, as old people
recall, went on to become the big teacher of The Twist about 15 years
1944 Mar 6
. Pages 2 and 3, a terrible juxtaposition of ads. Page 2 is the
inside cover, so pages 2 and 3 are side by side when you open the
issue. Page 2 has an ad about a GI attacking a pillbox but
holding a grenade in one hand a little too long; page 3 has an ad for
Trushay hand lotion to guard a housewive's hands "even in hot, soapy
. P. 6, an ad involving a duck and Shinola brings to mind an old
joke: a duck walks into a dime store and says "Give me a can of
Shinola." The clerk asks, "Will you pay by cash?" The duck
says, "No, put it on my bill."
. A story on paying income tax; and judging from the 18 pix on the two
opening pages, only white people paid income tax.
. A story on the incredible amount of arms being stored in England toward
the invasion -- only three months away. Nobody can say
the Germans weren't warned.
. A story about federal taxes. The federal budget for 1944, the
peak of World War II, was over a hundred billion dollars. For
comparison, the budget for 2015 is almost 4 trillion dollars:
that's four thousand billion -- about 40 times the budget for
1944. Tell me about inflation, or the military-industrial
complex, or something. FDR, faced with a Senate that just didn't
want to spend so much money, vetoed a budget bill, calling it "a tax
relief bill providing relief not for the needy but for the
greedy." What's the deal here? Do Republicans never change,
and do Democrats never remember?
. P. 55 begins a thumbsucker by Charles A. Beard (a god when I was
growing up; I suppose almost forgotten now) about whether to reorganize
the federal government. Should be interesting to the Tea
Party. P. 60 has the youngest picture I've ever seen of Everett
Dirksen, who achieved fame in the Senate in the 1950s as "the wizard of
. P. 74, a movie you'll never forget! Gene Kelly! Rita
Hayworth! Phil Silvers! Jinx Falkenburg! A person
I've never heard of -- just like the movie.
. P. 78, ad for cough drops, showing the Smith Brothers, Trade and Mark.
. P. 82, the show "Oklahoma!" will be a year old -- and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein looks amazingly like Jimmy Hoffa.
. P. 87, who needs the National Snoopier? A hotshot Washington DC
criminal lawyer, who, with his pencil mustache, looked something like
Hitler, shot his wife's lover, a distant relative of Abe Lincoln, to
death for seducing the killer's wife.
. P. 122, a visit to a Penny Arcade! The Sultan's Harem! The
Kiss-O-Meter! Take your own picture for a dime! What Every
Serviceman Should Know!
. Back cover: you can't make this stuff up: Ernie Pyle, of
all people, in an ad for Chesterfield cigarettes. The Cochise
County library has a slug of his books. They are the best example
I've ever read of genuine empathy with people in hard times.
1943 Sep 27
-- Inside front cover: an ad for Ethyl antiknock additive for
gasoline, with the theme, what do personal names mean? Stephen
meant "a crown," with a drawing of little Stephen wearing a dunce
cap. Clara meant "brilliant," with a drawing of little Clara
waving her hand at the teacher because she knows that 2+3=5, 4+6=10,
and 5+3=8. Meanwhile, one seat back, little Schuyler, meaning
"scholar," is aiming to shoot a paper clip at Clara via stretched
rubber band. And Simon, meaning "attentive," is asleep at his
desk. Four little white kids, 2 blonds, 1 redhead, and a brunette
with one pigtail.
-- Page 1, a Bell system ad about a "new art called Electronics," with
over 1,250,000 electronic tubes in service in the entire telephone
system for the whole country. Nowadays, the CPU in your home
computer may have 3-4,000 times as many transistors.
-- P. 2, Stratford pens showed a soldier writing a letter home from the front -- using a pen with a nib, to dip in an inkwell.
-- 5, the Book Of the Month Club offers a combo of The Song Of Bernadette plus Victory Through Air Power, for $3.
-- 7, Dodge advertised its Sperry gyro-compass, about the size of an
auto engine, with over 10,000 parts. Think how much work your GPS
-- Lots of ads for pairs of womens' stockings, going up about 16" above the knee.
-- Page 37, the picture of the week: a sign over a road in
Guadalcanal, motivating troops to fight: "Kill the
bastards! Down this road marched one of the regiments of the
United States Army ... Twenty of their wounded in litters were
bayonetted shot and clubbed by the yellow bellies ... Kill the
-- P. 43, Ann and Nancy, two very well-fed middle-aged friends, meet at
a department store. Nancy is clerking, to free up war
workers. Ann "How about Charley -- did he mind? You know
how stuffy some men are." Nancy answers: "He was
delighted! He said: 'Sugar, good luck to you!' As a
matter of fact, most girls our age are working."
-- 48, a story about "Soldiers Still Sing," mentioning songs that Tin
Pan Alley didn't write, like "The Fly Flew in the Grocery Store," "The
Old Flannel Drawers That Maggie Wore," "Dirty Gertie from Bizerte" and
copies like "Filthy Annie from Trapani," and of course "Bless 'Em All,"
all considerably bowdlerized so that Ann and Nancy (see the above item)
wouldn't be shocked by our naughty, naughty soldier boys.
-- 56, an ad from the American Meat Institute about "the six key people
who are working together to help our country in its wartime meat
crisis" -- the (white male) livestock producer, the (white male)
farmer, the (white male) meat packer, the (white male) sausage maker,
the (white male) meat-man, and the (white female) housewife.
-- 57, an article about the Navy's new Grumman Hellcat fighter.
This was a very successful, long-lived plane. Check out
Wikipedia: 12,275 made, they shot down 5223 enemy planes, stayed
in service with the Navy until 1954, still flying today, over 80 years
later, for air shows!
-- 59, an ad for Revere Copper quotes one William Hayes as saying "If
you work and use your head, any man can get along. I've been at
Revere for 19 years. During that time I've been able to buy a
house and two acres of land. I don't owe anybody a nickel."
That kind of self-reliance seems to have permeated Revere; according to
Wikipedia, the company is today employee-owned. Though you can't
tell it from the black&white photos in this ad, a text box says
"Many of the workers at the Revere plans are Negroes. William
Hayes is representative of their high standard of endeavor, their
wholehearted interest in winning the war...." Yes; we can talk
about him because he is a credit to his race.
-- 60 begins a feature about MGM movies. Lotsa pix of stars &
behind-the-scenes. A pic of Lena Horne -- in which they darkened
her up! In her natural color, you'd never know she was a credit
to her race.
-- 83, an article on the special training required for WACs' feet,
because vanity has made many women ruin their feet in high heels.
-- 113, an article about the Army's new bazooka "rocket gun."
-- 115, an ad for a postwar house, 2 bed / 2 bath, featuring Timken Silent Automatic heating and air conditioning. $3500.
-- 119, an article, "Life Visits the Harvesters of America," says
"Whole families worked together in the fields. Labor imported
from Mexico, Jamaica and the Bahamas worked beside women, children and
volunteers from the city.... all were touched by the deep sense
of fulfilment, the elemental happiness that always seems to rise from
the land at this time of fruitful climax. They breathed the ripe
smell of growing things, sang as they worked, laughed at their own
weariness ...." How can such pleasant jobs have trouble
attracting workers today?
1943 Mar 29
. p 3 an ad for the dear departed Bell System, saying that dial
telephones handled 75 million calls a day -- and that 160,000 human
operators handled other calls. Today, in 2015: about 500
million tweets a day, and no human operators in sight.
. p 9 an ad for Farnsworth Television, makers of Capehart phonographs
& radios, says that someday there will be television receiving sets
for your own home.
. p 13 the stories in this special issue about the U.S.S.R., which had
then existed 25 years (and would fall apart in another 48 years, ending
the Cold War -- an end which everyone wanted but has somehow not made
the world happy.) America was shipping food to Iran, and putting
together trucks, locomotives, tanks, etc., there, then transferring it
to the USSR.
. There was a war on, and Stalin's Russia might be a bloody dictatorship but it was our ally, so:
. -- p 20 "Russia should realize that she has strong friends in
the U.S.; and she should give these friends help and encouragement by
opening the channels of information and good will."
. -- p 23 "the race of Great Russians [is] a prolific,
gregarious, talkative, aggressive and friendly mass of blond Slavs who
have conquered and colonized a sixth of the earth's land
surfaces.... They were one hell of a people long before the
revolution. To a remarkable degree, they look like Americans,
dress like Americans and think like Americans."
. -- p 29 "Perhaps the greatest man of modern times was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. He took the name Lenin ...."
. -- p 40 "In 1941 ... the Commissariats of State Security and
Internal Affairs were merged into the United N.K.V.D. (a national
police similar to the FBI)".
. -- p 49 Former Ambassador to the USSR Joseph Davies is asked a
question, and answers it. Q, "Can we assume that the rulers of
Russia are men of goodwill toward other nations and that they desire a
peaceful, stable world?" A, "Yes."
1942 Dec 7
. a lot of encouraging talk about how the war isn't going so bad, the tide is turning, etc.
. p. 41 Remember in the movie Casablanca, the Marseillaise scene
in Rick's place? Apparently the same kind of thing happens
whenever France is at war; in particular, in the opera The Daughter Of
the Regiment, there's a scene where the Marseillaise is inserted into
the opera. Well, on November 23, 1942, the New York Met went one
better. Not only did they insert the Marseillaise, but they had
The Daughter holding not the tricolor, but the flag of the resistance,
with the Cross Of Lorraine. You can read a review --
unfortunately tepid -- of the performance here in the Brooklyn Eagle.
. p. 42 If you remember Eddie Rickenbacker, here's a picture of him
being rescued after 22 days in a raft after his plane crashed into the
Pacific. It had run out of gas. The Navy seaplane that discovered
Rickenbacker and two other survivors (out of the nine total survivors)
was so small it could only hold one passenger, so two rubber rafts were
tied to the seaplane floats, and the plane taxied 40 miles back to
base, with Rickenbacker in one of the rafts.
. p. 44 The death of 47 patients at an Oregon insane asylum. The
cook stored roach poison next to food in the pantry. The
resulting menu was deadly. Pictures show sheets covering bodies,
with the sheets very lumpy because the victims died contorted in agony.
. p. 63 An ad for Regent cigarettes, with an oval cross-section and in
a crush-proof box, taunting any leatherneck who was still smoking
old-fashioned cigarettes. The gi doing the taunting is unlikely
to live very long, as he stands there with his rifle butt on the ground
and the barrel pointed straight at his helmet.
. p 82 The previous ambassador to Japan warns "I know Japan; I lived
there for ten years. I know the Japanese intimately. The
Japanese will not crack. They will not crack morally or
psychologically or economically, even when eventual defeat stares them
in the face. They will pull in their belts another notch, reduce
their rations from a bowl to a half bowl of rice, and fight to the
bitter end. Only by utter physical destruction or utter
exhaustion of their men and materials can they be defeated. That
is the difference between the Germans and the Japanese. That is
what we are up against in fighting Japan." And on p. 83, "the
Japanese have been careful to develop a tremendous fighting spirit in
their amed services and people alike. Indeed, the Japanese armed
services and the Japanese nation have become so closely identified that
it is difficult to tell where one stops and the other begins."
Something to think about when people say that we should have run a
conventional invasion of Japan.
. p. 99 Wonderful cartoons by Charles Addams and Gluyas Williams.
. p 132 How a movie would follow the guidelines of the Office of War
Information -- culminating, on p. 139, in something you may never see
again, a "Sally Victor" hat.