Top sergeants have been called the backbone of the army. G.I.s refer to them as a lower part of the anatomy. They make a fetish out of being tough but can often be silly or softhearted in their private lives. Most of them are career army types who are so immersed in military life they think a civilian is an alien species.
Beetle Bailey daily strip, April 7, 1955.
Beetle Bailey represents the typical downtrodden G.I. Joe (G.I. stands for “government issued,” which is the degree of anonymity most G.I.s feel). They’re herded like cattle, treated like dirt and praised for being the protectors of our freedom…which they give up the minute they join the Army. Their duty, as they see it, is to work as hard as possible to avoid work…then stay up all night having fun.
Beetle Bailey daily strip, June 19, 1952.
Some of Mort Walker’s best ideas come from personal experience, as in the strip above. When Mort first joined the Army he saw a bulletin announcing that there were ten openings for Officers’ School. “I asked permission to take the test,” Mort recounted. “My sergeant thought it was humorous that a mere private should have such lofty ambitions. When his laughter subsided he gave me permission. Four hundred applicants showed up for the test. I took one look and recognized a test I had taken before. I breezed through it and was on the train for O.C.S. that night.”