Before we read this chapter I must make some remarks after I got a bad comment on the original post. My father as well as many of the men’s collections I have worked with were not there when this happened. A lot of the men of the 110th QM were not proud of the incident and would have rather took the punishment and brushed the whole darn thing under the rug. We are talking about approximately 300 men in this convoy and only a handful did the Yoo Hoo-ing and a lot of the men did not even see this incident happen. When they got punished they all were punished not that handful of men. Trust me when I say there were a lot of men who were ashamed and quite a few that were mad about it. I am not sure how the press got a hold of the story but they are the ones who literally blew this incident out of proportion. I recently spoke with a daughter of one of the men from the regiment and it affected him deeply and not for the good. It haunted him until his death. Yes there were some who rode the coattails of the incident and were famous for their role and they were the ones who after the war revived the incident and called themselves “The Yoo Hoo Regiment.” But what about those who were not there or those who did not want the incident public? They had no say in the matter. In this story I intend no disrespect to General Ben Lear he like the men were just caught up in the media frenzy. This one event should not deter from the fact that these men all went overseas and fought for their country. The incident is what it is and that is now a small part of history.
With that said here is the story of the Yoo Hoo incident with new updated images.
The Yoo Hoo Incident
It is here in the timeline that the incident that made my father’s regiment famous happened. Dad was on furlough at this time, falling in love with my mom and hanging out with her family in Brookville, Kansas. Even so, news of this incident provided the “mothers” of the soldiers a reason to campaign. This is where Dad’s regiment and Lieutenant General (LTG) Ben Lear were granted the first nicknames of World War II.
General Ben Lear (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
The 110th Quartermaster, 35 Division, still at Camp Robinson was providing ground transportation for the 2nd Infantry to and from the Tennessee training grounds which were about 145 miles away. The training exercises were headed by a newly promoted Lieutenant General (LTG) Ben Lear. From reading my father’s letters at 62 years old he directed and trained his soldiers like a conductor conducts a band, with precision. Lear expected his soldiers to exhibit good manners as well as learn to fight and live like soldiers.
On a hot day in July 1941, the 110thQM rolled into Memphis Tennessee. It was returning to Camp Robinson after six weeks in the field in a convoy of 80 trucks and over 300 men. The men had been praised for being top notch in their field maneuvers and they were proud. They had to remove their hats because their heads had gotten quite big with all the praise they had gotten.
They were almost giddy (if a man can be giddy) as they began their return trip. The Division knew they would be sleeping in their bunks back in camp with full bellies, and a warm shower rather than bathing out of their helmet as they had just learned to do. They broke out in song and tried to pass the time, loosened their ties, and unbuttoned the top button of their fatigues to help with the unrelenting heat. They passed through Tennessee on that hot day and being only 45 miles from Camp Robinson the soldiers were anxious to get some well deserved rest.
It was then the convoy reached a Country Club and there just happened to be a group of beautiful woman in short golf skirts which were all the rage in 1941 They had just finished a round of golf. As boys will be boys and men will be men the soldiers hollered out to the woman with many whistles and lots of Yoo Hoo’s. I am sure many other words were said. They also started razzing the other golfers trying to throw them off their game. At this point an unassuming old man came out from the golf course. He arrived sporting Oxford golf cleats, a pair of cotton seersucker knickers, his matching knee high socks, brown vest and his golf club clutched in his hand. He shook it at the trucks in anger. When the soldiers saw him, it added more fuel to the fire as they laughed and made fun of the old geezer. He stomped and hollered spewing his displeasure in not so many words. The end of the convoy was abreast when the man was finally recognized by the commanding officers riding in one of the last trucks. It was LTG Ben Lear in the flesh. He certainly did not look like a Lieutenant General in his golf clothes. He was certainly not doing a happy dance. He was disgusted with the men’s lack of respect for the lovely ladies and ashamed of them exhibiting such inappropriate behavior while wearing the Army uniform. As the Commanders tried to calm him down, the first of the 80 trucks were so far ahead not everyone knew what had just transpired. Lear got even angrier and demanded that the men return to camp night and they stay loaded in their vehicles until he got there to address them.
Now remember, the convoy was so long that the front did not even see LTG Lear and had no idea why they were told to hold their positions on their loaded trucks. There were many baffled soldiers wanting to get the trucks unloaded so they could relax. The smell of dinner filled the air and the men were excited to catch up on the mail that they had missed while they were gone. LTG Lear appeared in his uniform with his stripes and stars and demanded that every man on that convoy turn in their resignation or face their punishment. A lot of them did not know why they were being punished until Lear left that night. The men were aghast with shame as they learned the identity of the man with the golf club, the man that most of the men did not see. LTG Lear was now a face not one of those men would ever forget, and this incident would bind the regiment together long after the war. The regiment was told to go back to the airport in Memphis, set their tents up and fall in the next morning for a field inspection. There was no shower that evening. Although they got the food it was ice cold and not many ate. More than half of the convoy was paying for the remarks of a couple truck loads of men. In the morning they would stand as one.
If you look at our service people today you might say, fifteen miles is not such a hard thing to do especially if they are doing only five miles at a time. But these men had only begun training and were only six weeks into field training. Up until now their training was behind books. Most of them were farm boys who had entered the National Guards with the lure of money, a twenty dollar paycheck each month. They were now finding themselves training for a war they did not think they would have to fight Most of the men were truck drivers, clerical workers, secretaries, typist, and officers. Lastly, it was hot and humid having topped the chart off at 97 degrees. Many men fell off the lines that day due to heatstroke and dehydration.
The “Yoo Hoo March,” as it had come to be known was about to climb its way to too being the biggest controversy so far in the men’s training. Apparently there was a club of moms, called The Arkansas Department of Army Mothers. Once they caught wind of the incident and learned of the plight of the soldiers it was on! I have seen how protective moms can be of their sons. I cannot even imagine how those moms’ made the incident and their displeasure known. Within the month the whole United States knew about the fifteen mile hike and the opinions were flying. Congressmen and senators weighed-in with their opinions. The commander of the 35th Division was Major General Ralph E. Truman, cousin to then Senator Harry S. Truman. The Major General voiced his support for the discipline being too harsh for the infamous incident. It seems from all accounts the only people who did not complain much were the men from the 110 QM. With all the press around they thought they were stars. The crowds lined the streets all the way back to camp with people cheering the men on.
LTG Lear and the 110th QM would receive the first nicknames of World War II forever being branded as Yoo Hoo Lear, and the 110th Yoo Hoo Regiment. It was also the first time a Civilian would write a song about World War II. The stories went wild and made plenty of newspapers. It also spread by word of mouth. Eventually the story was featured in Time Magazine in July 1941. Two songs were written about the incident: The “Yoo Hoo Song” was sung to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”; and a song called “Yankee Doodle 1941”, with words like “General Lear was playing golf (he is twelve years over fifty), pretty girls were playing too and boy did they look nifty.” There was a Yoo Hoo pack of cigarettes, there were candy bars made, and there was even a Yoo Hoo club started with membership cards.
“Those poor men did nothing wrong,” A group of young Texan woman reported in a newspaper article about the incident. It featured four beautiful college women from San Antonio Texas holding a sign that says, “YOO HOO ALL YOU WANT TO BOYS, Lear isn’t here,” and “Come on down fellows!” There was talk of asking for LTG Lear’s resignation but he defended his decision. I cannot imagine something like this getting into the press these days but our country was trying to learn just how to do this thing called war and LTG Lear was dedicated to making these boys into soldiers.
Dad writes about the incident
13 July 1941
That deal about those boys walking home from Tennessee. I guess the general was playing golf with some lady friends and one of the boys hollered and told him not to get it in the wrong hole. That is what started the whole thing.
And in the same envelope he writes to my grandma.
Sure was glad to hear from you. I guess everybody feels the same about the Generals deal on that convoy. Part of it those boys had been on maneuvers for the past 6 weeks. One captain is in the hospital over it and about 10 passed out on the way. The papers down here have sure been full of it. Last Sunday one paper had a full page of letters written in by people along the way.
Then on 29 July 1941 he writes.
I was in town to a show Sat. nite and they had a phase in the news reel about the Yoo Hoo boys. That sure covered a lot of territory. We have heard about it being used in Oregon. They were making fun of it up there.
Our father’s regiment became famous and because of the Yoo Hoo incident they would always be remembered as the “110th Yoo Hoo Regiment.” It was on the brochures of each of their reunions and the story told and retold. The name also stuck with LTG Lear and followed him home three years later. As the ship docked that he sailed home in Lear walked to disembark and was met by hundreds of GI’s shouting “Yoo Hoo!” LTG Lear with a blank face and no acknowledgement of what was shouted stormed ashore keeping his head up, shoulders back, gut sucked in ignoring the Yoo Hoo’s. To this day if you look up LTG Ben Lear you will find that the Yoo Hoo nickname follows him even in death.