The "Yoo-Hoo" incident (7-6-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (July 8, 1941)


Soldiers to be penalized for whistling at girls

Memphis, Tenn., July 8 (UP) –
1,200 soldiers discover today the penalty for whistling and “yahooing” at girls in shorts. They were afraid it would turn out to be a 150-mile hike.

The soldiers made the mistake of doing their whistling and “yahooing” on the presence of Lt. Gen. Ben Lear, commander of the Second Army.

General Lear was playing golf Sunday. On the course nearby was a girl foursome. A 45-car troop caravan rolled by on the road. The soldiers spotted the girls and there was a tremendous bedlam of whistling and cat-calling. General Lear, bristling with indignation, went over to remonstrate and was greeted with a number of wisecracks. The soldiers didn’t recognize a lieutenant general in the angry, elderly golfer.

The troops, a battalion of the 110th Quartermaster Regiment, 35th Division, were en route from maneuvers to their station at Camp Robinson, Ark. When they arrived Sunday night, they found orders waiting for them to return at once to Memphis and report to General Lear.

The officers were on the carpet yesterday and the nature of their dressing-down was not revealed. The soldiers were billeted at the Memphis Airport and will be required to pass through Memphis “in a more orderly manner.” The soldiers were afraid that the passing through this time would be afoot and that they would continue afoot until they reach Camp Robinson.


Oh God, it’s eerie reading this. Considering that later this month a victim of the same misdemeanor would be born, and be paid for it with his life.

1 Like

Forgive me, but could you clarify?

1 Like

Emmett Till would be born on the 25th this year, and would be accused of whistling at a girl which didn’t end happily…


And the accusation was false. Also, the killers got away with their deed because of a corrupt racist jury.


The Pittsburgh Press (July 10, 1941)

The Battle of Memphis –

’Misconduct’ called for immediate discipline, Lear asserts

Ben Lear1
Gen. Ben Lear (Source: LIFE)

Memphis, Tenn., July 10 (UP) –
Lt. Gen. Ben Lear informed Rep. Paul H. Kilday (D-TX) by telegram today that the punishment he meted out to 350 soldiers who yoohooed at some girls was neither “unjust nor severe.”

Mr. Kilday had directed a scorching telegram o General Lear, who is outranked only by Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, and rose from the rank of private. He demanded to know whether the soldiers’ activities:

…came to your attention while in the field with our troops on important maneuvers or while on a golf course.

General Lear replied:

The misconduct of the unit subjected to discipline was directed at young ladies and civilians on the gold links. The action called for prompt and immediate action, I saw fit to take such action…

A high state of discipline is the foundation upon which all military attainment is based. Loose conduct and rowdyism cannot be tolerated. So long as I am commander of the Second Army, soldierly standards of conduct will be demanded of all individuals on uniform. I am confident there will be no repetition of the offense that occurred in Memphis.

General Lear required the 350 members of a Quartermasters’ Battalion of the 45th Division to hike 15 miles because in passing through Memphis Sunday en route back to Camp Robinson, Ark., from maneuvers, they yoohooed and whistled at girls wearing shorts and playing golf on a course adjacent to the road. General Lear, in golfing togs, was also playing on the course. When he started to remonstrate, he was treated to wisecracks.

1 Like

Congress defends soldiers who have an eye for girls in shorts

Washington, July 10 (UP) –
Congress last night came to the defense, if too late for the rescue, of 350 footsore soldiers of the 35th “Yoo-Hoo” Division who yelled at the right girls but the wrong general on a Memphis, Tenn., golf course.

Lt. Gen. Ben Lear, commander of the Second Army, who forced the men to march 15 miles in a broiling sun to atone for whistling at short-clad girl golfers and hooting at him, was assailed on the House floor as:

…a grouchy, golfing old general.

The troops, members of the 110th Motor Transport, were passing by a golf course headed for Camp Robinson, Ark., 150 miles west. Some of them yelled appreciatively at the girl golfers and derisively at what appeared to be a middle-aged civilian but turned out to be General Lear, outranked in the U.S. Army only by Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff.

Rep. Paul H. Kilday (D-TX), a member of the House Military Affairs Committee, demanded that General Lear inform him whether the soldier’s misconduct:

…came to your attention while in the field with your troops on important maneuvers on while on a golf course.

Contemplates action

Mr. Kilday informed General Lear he was:

…contemplating introduction of a resolution to investigate your severe punishment.

He said he had the impression that General Lear’s action:

…in the name of discipline was actually to assuage your personal resentment because of remarks directed at you while you were not in uniform and your identity not known.

Rep. Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL) prefers soldiers who have an eye for pretty girls to “sourpusses.” He told the House he didn’t know whether public funds should be spent by some grouchy, golfing old general to develop sourpuss soldiers. He said:

For my part, I’ll take the kind of soldiers that these boys are.

But today Rep. Charles I. Faddis (D-PA), a World War I officer and a member of the House Military Affairs Committee, called on Congress not to interfere with disciplinary actions of Army officers.

He spoke after Rep. W. F. Norrell (D-AR) called for a Congressional investigation of the incident, charging that:

General Lear is not the kind of general we need standing on the brink of war.

He said one of the chastised soldiers lay prostrate on a highway in his state “near death” because of the severity of the punishment.

Mr. Faddis said:

I rise at this time to state I don’t believe this is a matter for the House of Representatives.

I don’t think we can raise the kind of Army we are going to need if the House attempts to regulate what officers shall do to enforce discipline.


Well, it’s beginning to look like an army. We refer to that incident in Memphis where a detachment of soldiers yoo-hooed some gals in shorts while slogging past the country club, and then, to compound it, razzed a lieutenant-general who, disguised in mufti, undertook to shush them.

The general then made his identity known in traditional military style. He gave men and officers a dressing down in language it had taken him 40 years in the Army to learn. Just to spice up the dressing, the general then ordered a 15-mile hike by all hands in the detachment.

And as they marched those weary miles, the men sang a little ditty which contained pointed references to the quality of the general’s golf game, said ditty set to the tune of a famous bawdy song about a certain mademoiselle. That squared the account, in Army style.

It’s a yarn for the book. An epic of Army anecdote that will be told and retold over the years, and like the “first man over the wall” in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, the number of men involved in this incident will increase with the years and with the telling.

It might be that General Lear has performed what amounts to a public service. He has changed the character of his command from “draftees” to “soldiers.” He has created an “old soldier” tradition in an Army which up to now seems to be distinguished chiefly for hostesses, mechanical potato-peelers, few salutes, and general circumspection.

There are a lot of things which go to make up an Army, and not the least of them is the tradition built up from personal and intimate anecdote. That also is one of the priceless things about baseball. Dugout “jockeys” make effective use of such anecdote, and baseball anecdote, like Army anecdote, becomes in time part of the folklore of the nation. For instance, the story about Hughie Jennings, who when manager of the Detroit Tigers took his team to Cornell University for an exhibition game, Cornell being Hughie’s alma mater. When the game was over, Hughie ran stark naked from the dressing room to the indoor swimming pool hard by, shouting over his shoulder:

Last one in’s a rotten egg.

Hughie then made a sweeping swan dive into the pool – in which there was no water. For years the “jockeys” ride him with the chant:

How deep was the water, Hughie?

General Lear’s men will probably engage in many a skull-and-knuckle battle when someone yells “yoo-hoo,” but secretly they will feel throughout the Army this incident represents a sort of accolade. When they yoo-hooed, they did what soldiers everywhere do when they see gals to yoo-hoo at, and General Lear dished out what soldiers usually get when they are caught being themselves. Truly, they’re in the Army now.


The Pittsburgh Press (July 14, 1941)




By Florence Fisher Parry

Another Colonel was kept waiting in a supply store while rookies were treated like gods by the patriotic salesman who, pushing the Colonel aside, said brusquely:

Sorry, but the Army comes first. You’ll have to wait.

Now this came, of course, from the lamentable fact that the Colonel was affecting civilian clothes, and so should take, with manly grace, the consequences.

The trouble is once authority is vested in a human being, it cannot easily be laid off with one’s clothes. The germ of it sticks and at the slightest provocation begins to act up. That is why human nature being the thing it is (EVEN in the U.S. Army). I think the only solution to the present difficulty is to devise some kind of military order which would OBLIGE all superior officer to wear their uniforms while at large.

They should, I dare say, be permitted the surreptitious doffing them at night in the sanctuary of their own bedrooms in favor of the routine nightshirt or at best summer pajamas.

Which reminds me of a pleasant little story about one of our high dignitaries of the Church, a certain Bishop of unexampled dignity who made up for his deafness with a thousand courtly social attributes.

One evening at dinner he was placed next to a severely inhibited old maid who found his august proximity almost too overwhelming. Casting utteringly about for conversation she spied a beautiful wax banana nestled in an elaborate fruit centerpiece, and forthwith queried.

Your Excellency, are you fond of bananas?

To which her distinguished companion replied, after weighty consideration:

Well, no, ma’am. I must say I still prefer the old-fashioned nightshirt.

Generals can take it

It is told of General Smedley Butler how he was refused entrance to a Marine barracks by a Private who was keeping guard at the gate. The General fumed, raged, let forth the most impressive invective, proclaiming his identity to the resounding hills, all to no avail.

The guard persisted:

Sorry, sir, my instructions…

The General retried, beaten and went back to his post. Next morning, the Private was made a Sergeant by his delighted General, who knew a good soldier when he saw one.

The nicest thing about the Yoo-Hoo incident (and of course that regiment is destined to go down in military history as the Yoo-Hoo Regiment) is the attitude of the boys who were penalized by General Lear. They resent very much the public razzing their General has received and the Congressional defense given them. Far from objecting to their punishment, they recognized its fairness and are completely in sympathy with their General’s point of view.

Indeed, it is said in Army circles that the only superior officer who is observed to strut his authority is the Second Lieutenant. As the Colonel said to the offending recruit:

O.K., by me, fellow, but just see that you don’t let it happen to a Second Lieutenant!

Stuff and nonsense

I’m getting just a leetle bit weary of the long-suffering martyred mothers who are already looking upon their sons’ service in the Army as a personal sacrifice. This thing of “giving up my son” has a sacrificial odor which is a poor substitute for the true spirit of patriotism.

Sacrifice nonsense. Nine times out of 10 it’s the break of their sons’ lives. What our boys are “giving up” is considerable, may be compared with what they’re getting as an all-out gift from Uncle Sam. They’re being released by the thousands from their mothers’ apron springs, for one thing.

They’re being treated for the first time in their lives (many of them) like MEN instead of pampered little boys. They’re having their health checked upon and the necessary deficiencies supplied without cost.

They’re living a healthy out-of-door life, being provided the greatest opportunity to get FIT that is ever likely to come to them, and a physical hardening-up training which will stand them in good stead all their lives.

They’re being given to chance to learn to have respect for obedience, equality, fraternity, and what it means to be a social creature in a social world.

There isn’t a thing they’re learning, outside the bare mechanics of warfare, that they can’t utilize later when they return to civilian life. No REAL experience is ever wasted. It ALL can later be utilized in one form or other.

Best training

Even supposing the training is hard, is disappointing, reacts badly upon the recruit who can’t take it, MORE THAN EVER is just that kind of experience needed for him.

And besides, it’s HIS experience, it’s HIS life, it isn’t his parents’.

I am sacrificing my son. I am giving him up. If anything happens to him what will I do?

Shame, mothers, to indulge such selfishness. It is the rankest kind of self-centeredness. It is worse than the whine that is sometimes heard by a bereaved wife or mother.

What is to become of ME?

Mourning their own plight instead of their dead!

War or peace, ahead, this experience for our boys is the best of all training for whatever is to come to America.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (July 15, 1941)

Henry McLemore’s viewpoint –

Army officer disregards all dangers and becomes man of the hour (EDT, PST, MDT); monuments likely

By Henry McLemore


In a time of emergency, such as exists in the United States today, a country needs a hero.

Nothing is more helpful in uniting a nation than a powerful, dominant man who has caught the public’s fancy, and around whom it can rally.

Luckily, this country has just such a man.

He is Lt. Gen. Ben Lear, commander of the Second Army.

Until a few days ago, his light was hidden under a bushel of epaulettes, gold braids and stars.

But destiny in the shape of some shapely Memphis girls on shorts, presented the General with a crisis, and his masterly performance in the face of it made him the man of the hour, not only on Central Standard, but on Pacific, Rocky Mountain and Eastern Daylight Savings Time as well.

General Lear was playing golf on a Memphis course when his opportunity to join America’s military immortals presented itself. In foursomes ahead of and behind him were a number of Tennessee eyefuls wearing the type of shorts which make it perfectly clear why shorts are called shorts.

Welcome sight

Along the highway that borders the course came truckloads of men of the 110th Motor Transport, 35th Division, returning from Camp Forest to Camp Robinson after was maneuvers in the wilds of Tennessee. The sight of the girls gracefully three-putting and topping shoots was a welcome relief to the soldiers after weeks of association with nothing prettier than squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and buck-toothed beavers.

So the soldiers yelled and whistled and flirted as well as a man can flirt when traveling 35 or 40 miles per hour in a bumpy army truck.

Scorns danger

General Leart saw them and heard then and a moment later he had acted, with the same hair-trigger alertness that earlier American generals displayed in a crisis.

Exactly what General Lear said to the officer and men of the 110th Motor Transport is not known, and probably won’t be until future historians deal more fully with this momentous event. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was not appreciated at the time. The now-famous sayings by Ethan Allen, Commodore Perry, Stonewall Jackson, William T. Sherman and other great leaders were not familiar to their contemporaries.

All we know now is that he gave the men what Sherman said war was, with trimmings, and finished by ordering punishment for them. His start toward disciplining the malevolent men was to make them turn around as soon as they reached their Arkansas camp and return to Memphis for a night of al fresco sleeping on the grounds of the municipal airport, while faced with the prospect of having to walk at least a good part of the way back to their home base.

Kissing due next

Good for you, General!

Good for you, for putting a stop to such goings-on as this.

What would this country come to if its soldiers were allowed to smile or whistle at pretty girls? Why the next thing you know we’d have kissing in this country, wouldn’t we, General? Just because Adam smoked at Eve in the Garden of Eden is no reason for recognizing the attraction of women for men as anything more than a passing fad.

You go right ahead and stamp about, General, though I must say you have cut out a right smart task for yourself.

But there isn’t a man or woman in the country, General, who hasn’t gained a measure of comfort from your stand on the matter. It is bound to give one a feeling of security to know that his country has an army under the command of a man brave enough and confident enough to tackle the business of defeating the way of a man with a maid. And a General who feels that he is capable of that is more than equal to the job of defeating enemy tanks, dive bombers, flamethrowers and parachutists.

Monuments likely

There’ll come a time when General Lear will have a statue in his honor. This country is blessed with many public squares and much marble, and is always willing to pay tribute to its military geniuses.

Your guess as to what form the General’s statue will take is as good as mine. There is no end to the possibilities.

He could be shown on a Vermont base whacking Cupid, wearing the uniform of a private first class, over the head with a brassie. That would be very simple and appropriate.

So would a marble group showing the General court-marshalling such triflers as Romeo and Juliet and Dante and Beatrice and Brenda and Shipwreck.

So, for that matter, would be just a slab of marble showing the General as a bust.

For some reason, this last possibility seems to appeal to me most of all.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (July 17, 1941)


Washington, July 17 (UP) –
Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson said today that the War Department supported the disciplinary action meted out by Lt. Gen. Ben Lear to 350 soldiers who yoo-hooed at shorts-clad girls on a Memphis, Tenn., golf course.

Mr. Patterson said the matter was closed as far as the War Department is concerned. General Lear, he said, submitted a full report – which will not be made public – on why he ordered members of the 110th Quartermaster Battalion to march 15 miles as a disciplinary measure.

He added:

We always support our generals. Where would we be otherwise? We have matters of far more pressing importance in the War Department than that.


The Pittsburgh Press (July 18, 1941)


One dispatch says the boys of the Yoo-Hoo battalion are indignant over criticism of General Lear who disciplined them with that long hike in the hot sun. While all the returns are not yet in, and while criticism still flows, that reaction from the soldiers wouldn’t be especially surprising.

For there is something about being in the Army that is hard for civilians to understand. Soldiers don’t picket the general’s tent or demand tome and a half for overtime. They don’t expect the 40-hour week. They quickly accept discipline as a hard but necessary factor in military life. Why?

Here is an interesting comment from an ex-soldier:

The power of discipline is undoubtedly abused by some officers, just as authority is abused by some people in every walk of life. However, the purpose of military discipline is not to inflict unnecessary or silly restrictions or punishment on a soldier, nor to justify the existence of a commissioned officer. The purpose is a fundamental and important one – to save the lives of soldiers.

I believe that for the most part discipline in the Army is enforced properly and not abused; enforced in the spirit of its purpose, which is in the interest of the soldier and his life. Obviously, well-disciplined troops who obey commands promptly and are completely trained in teamwork – which is what discipline fundamentally is – are less likely to die of drinking bad water or eating poisoned food or of blood-poisoning from uncared-for blisters, or intestinal trouble from over-indulgence in canteens, or ailments due to improper hygiene, or in combat from bullets and other instruments of death, than those soldiers who are not trained to obey. The whole thing has a highly practical and highly desirable aim.

Most soldiers, when they are honest about it, much prefer a strict commander to a loose disciplinarian. They respect the former and don’t respect the latter – even though they may like the latter and dislike the former. Soldiers won’t follow with intelligence or willingness an officer whom they do not respect. Soldiers who will not follow an officer are likely to be soldiers who will be left dead in an engagement.

You never hear old soldiers boasting about how easy “Old So-And-So” was. You always hear them boasting how hard-boiled their commanding officer was. It is not only a matter of pride in the ability to endure severe living – it is an intuitive sense of safety which causes the soldier to respect, to follow, and, deep in his heart, to like a strict rather than a loose disciplinarian.

So, if I were a soldier in that particular battalion, and much as I might resent the severity of the action of General Lear’s, I would choose him as a pretty good man “to cross the river with” when the going got tough.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (July 22, 1941)


Camp Robinson, Ark., July 22 (UP) –
The “yoo-hoo” battalion of the 110th Quartermaster Regiment was highly praised yesterday by Lt. Gen. Ben Lear after a rigid inspection.

The 62-year-old general who only two weeks ago ordered 350 members of the outfit to march 15 miles as punishment for “yoo-hooing” at shorts-clad girls on a Memphis golf course, said the men comprised the best supply regiment in the entire Army.

General Lear did not mention the Memphis affair during his inspection of the camp.


The Pittsburgh Press (July 24, 1941)

We, the women –

Lack of censure of girls wearing shorts shows success of gentler sex to get rights possessed by men

By Ruth Millett

Girls, we’ve come a long way in our struggle for equality. Only a few years ago (and don’t say you can’t remember that far back if you’re 25), if a girl, by wearing shorts where she could be seen from a highway, had been whistled at by a passing man or men – it would have been the girl’s fault.

And if her Papa had found out about it – there would have been trouble and plenty of it. Even Papa would have believed that it was his daughter’s own fault, “for running around with practically no clothes on” – as men used to say in the old days.

But you know what happened when that very incident recently occurred. The young men, who happened to be soldiers, were punished and the girls went right on playing golf, as innocent of starting anything as any girls could be.

That’s coming quite a way from the days of the Bloomer girls, when it was considered any man’s right – almost his bounden duty – to let out catcalls and make personal remarks at any woman seen wearing that unfeminine, “revealing” form of dress called bloomers.

It’s sort of nice to look back and see just how far we’ve come on the long road to equality.

Maybe in our own lifetime we will see the man branded as rude and a bore who makes fun of women’s hats, says “that’s a woman for you” about a woman driver or thinks that the fact that a woman is pretty and is alone after dark gives him the right to try to pick her up.

And that, girls, will be true equality – so far as the verdict of public opinion has anything to do with it.


The Pittsburgh Press (July 31, 1941)


Anniston, Ala., July 31 (UP) –
Fifty soldiers of the 27th Division, former New York National Guardsmen, were marching along a highway near Fort McClellan yesterday.

A party of girls in a roadster came by.

“Yoo-hoo!” the girls called, “Yoo-hoo!”

Those soldiers are tough and hardy now, but some of them turned pale. They kept eyes rigidly front and went on marching. There was no sound from them but the rhythmic shuffle of their feet. In a little while, the dreaded girlish greeting faded in the distance and everyone breathe easier.

The 27th is part of the Second Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Ben Lear.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 3, 1941)


Well-trained army called vital need

Camp Robinson, Ark., Aug. 2 (UP) –
Lt. Gen. Ben Lear today told officers of the 35th Division that:

Discipline and leadership go hand in hand.

Making plain what he means by discipline, the Second Army Commander said the foundation of the Army rests upon discipline.

The soldiers who marched 15 miles at the General’s command for yoo-hooing at girls on a Memphis, Tenn., golf course, are undoubtedly not in need of the General’s definition of discipline.

General Lear said:

At all times, whether in the field, camp or hometown, a well-trained, well-disciplined officer or soldier will conduct himself in an exemplary manner. This is pertinent not only at home. It is more than ever an obligation at foreign stations and among foreign populations.

The respectful relationship of the soldiers with the civilian must be required at all times and in all places. We never want the unworthy behavior of a soldier condoned – because he is a soldier.

General Lear said the development of discipline comes from training that corrects, molds, strengthens, perfects and adds to a man’s pride.

The one thing I am greatly impressed with at this stage of training is the genuine and heartfelt willingness of these men to be effectively disciplined, trained and fed.

He said the Army had the finest:

…human material in the world, and the opportunity to create for our country an invincible Army.


The Pittsburgh Press (August 11, 1941)

By Frank Beck

Screenshot (505)
Life’s little lessons.

1 Like

The Pittsburgh Press (August 18, 1941)

Gen. Lear says –

Public has become weak-minded, officer says

Prescott, Ark., Aug. 18 (UP) –
Lt. Gen. Ben Lear said today he did not believe the morale of the American Army is poor but added that:

If it is poor, it is only because the morale of the people is poor.

Discussing recent magazine articles which characterized the Army morale as at a dangerously low ebb, Gen. Lear declared:

Perhaps there is something wrong with the military system of this nation. Many of our people have become soft and weak-minded. They are not willing to put put. They are willing to get but not to give.

Gen. Lear, commander of the Second Army which is just launching maneuvers in southern Arkansas, held an informal conference today with his staff officers in which the magazine articles were discussed.

I am not prepared to agree with the articles on Life and Time. If they are correct, we are in a critical state. If morale is not high, it is no fault of ours. We have done everything within reason to promote the welfare and comfort of the trainees. If the morale is poor, it is only because the morale of the people is poor.

Gen. Lear attracted national attention recently when he disciplined a company of soldiers because they “yoo-hooed” at girls playing golf in slacks on the same course where he was playing.

1 Like