Remembrance

WW II bomber nose art, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

WW II bomber nose art, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Four things greater than all things are, —
Women and Horses and Power and War.
  –  Rudyard Kipling, “The King’s Jest”

Ninety-five years ago tomorrow, at eleven o’clock in the morning, the armistice that ended the First World War went into effect; the anniversary was immediately established as Armistice Day among all the Allied nations.  Though it retains that name in France and Belgium, it was changed after the Second World War to Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth and Veterans Day in the United States, and its function was expanded to memorialize those who died in any war*; in the UK, most of the ceremonies take place on the second Sunday of November, called Remembrance Sunday.  And because ever since men first marched off to war, whores have followed very close behind, it has been my custom every year to commemorate some aspect of that relationship.

In the last century, however, there has been an unfortunate and growing tendency for officials to pretend that this relationship either does not exist, or that it does but is somehow pathological.  The Vietnamese and Ouled-Nail prostitutes who served as nurses during the siege of Dien Bien Phu have almost been erased from history, as have the women of Honolulu’s tolerated brothels who served the same function after Pearl Harbor and entertained the Navy for the rest of the war.  The French pretend that women who survived by providing services to the occupying Nazis were somehow different from the others who were forced to deal with them; the Japanese still deny the extent or even the existence of the military brothels in which they enslaved (mostly Korean) women for the “comfort” of their troops.  And the American military establishment continues to demand that its men avoid the company of professionals no matter how much this policy angers the host country or how many sexual assaults result from it, thus prioritizing the wishes of prudish fanatics above the health and happiness of the troops of both sexes.

Of course, this sort of pompous idiocy is only possible between serious wars; while they’re going on, politics takes a back seat to reality and the necessity of dealing with the sexual energy of fighting men can no longer be subordinated to the bluenosed sensibilities of repressed civilians.  The military governor of Hawaii did everything he could to make the hookers of Honolulu happy; Hitler ordered that his troops be issued blow-up sex dolls; the American authorities distributed condoms; and the Japanese resorted to the abominable “comfort women” scheme (which was also used in reverse form, with Japanese whores for American troops, during the first year of the occupation).  Women were also a vital part of the entertainment provided by the American USO; not sexual services, obviously, but even the sight of a Hollywood sex symbol like Rita Hayworth or “All-American girl” like Judy Garland, or the opportunity to talk to or dance with a pretty girl, went a long way for those men starved for female affection and company.  And while those women could not accompany the men into battle, their pictures certainly could: the iconic pinup of Betty Grable  was merely the most famous of the hundreds of photos and illustrations of feminine pulchritude which brightened barracks, bunks, tents and even the noses of bombers.  On British planes, those paintings were often of Jane, a shapely Daily Mirror comic-strip character who would always somehow manage to lose her clothes by the last panel, usually in some incredibly unlikely fashion; Christabel Leighton-Porter, the model upon whom she was based, also posed for nude photos which were literally dropped in bundles to the troops to increase morale.

Obviously, none of this could happen today; Western countries in general (and the US and UK in particular) are paralyzed by a neo-Victorian aversion to sex which preaches the ludicrous catechism that young, healthy men can simply be ordered to be asexual.  Pinups and sexy art are branded “sexual harassment”, and officers are expected to enforce these schoolmarmish decrees.  But all things must pass, the bad as well as the good; these hysterical attitudes will eventually vanish as anti-sex culture fades, and warriors of the future will be shocked to learn that their grandfathers were prohibited from enjoying the simple joy of cheesecake art, and punished for seeking a balm for their stress in the arms of willing professionals.

*Technically, in the US this function is served by Memorial Day (at the end of May), while Veterans Day honors all veterans, living and dead.

(Cross-posted from The Honest Courtesan).

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