For today’s generation, there are Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah and Bill Gates. Their success encourages young people to emulate them.
We oldsters had our own idols who inspired us. Sinatra’s songs made us cool crooners. The Beatles brought dreams of becoming rock stars. Others among us idolized Ronald Reagan.
For me, it was a movie starring the young Reagan. Way, way back in 1943 I saw, “This Is the Army.” The big, technicolor production was based on a musical that had run on Broadway with an all-Army cast.
Sergeant (then actually Army Captain) Reagan was the on-screen stage manager of the song and dance troupe. Along with the World War II story line, there was music by Irving Berlin, with classics, “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and “This is the Army, Mr. Jones.”
Halfway through, the movie was interrupted by shouts from the on-screen theater audience. Then, a bunch of sailors in their white uniforms swarmed down from the balconies and ran up the aisles . Of course, it was all part of the script when the sailors took over the stage and sang, “How About a Cheer for the Navy!”
To me, that Navy song was the most enjoyable part of what was primarily rah-rah Army propaganda. America had suddenly been thrust into a world war, and an Army of 500,000 needed to be quickly built up to millions by volunteers and the draft system.
My thoughts then were on my older brother in the Air Corps, and already serving overseas. I assumed until then I’d enlist in the Army. However, Ronald Reagan and that song by the movie sailors inspired me to change my mind. Several months later, shortly before my 18th birthday, I went to the recruiting office and joined the Navy.