Rural Missouri - April 2013 - (Page 44)
Daily Newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces
in the European Theater of Operations
THE SOLDIER’S PAPER
Museum returns Stars and Stripes to its roots in Bloomfield
James Mayo holds a recent copy of the Stars and Stripes newspaper in the Stars and
Stripes National Museum and Library. James and his wife, Sue, opened the museum in
Bloomﬁeld to showcase the history of the U.S. military’s independent news source.
by Neal Fandek
photos by Kyle Spradley
Stars and Stripes National Museum
and Library, located in Bloomﬁeld.
The GI newspaper began in the
Bootheel in 1861, and today, the
museum preserves historic editions,
n July 1966, Gary Cooper is with
photographs and hundreds of items
a 12-man squad less than half a
from America’s wars that chronicle the
mile from the Cambodian border.
history of the U.S. military’s indepenAs dawn approaches, the soldent news source.
diers trudge back to base
The museum is the brainthrough thick jungle after
child of James Mayo, a former
a long night watching for
artillery forward spotter and
They don’t ﬁnd any.
history buff. While serving in Europe, Mayo was
Suddenly, the squad leader
surprised to ﬁnd Stars
throws up a hand. Everyone
and Stripes originated
freezes. He spots three Viet
in his hometown and
Cong. But the enemy spots
worked hard to make
them, too, and they open up
with AK-47s — a lot of AK-47s.
a museum a reality.
He and his wife, Sue, who also
“It doesn’t take long to realize there
serves as the organization’s librarare more than three,” Cooper would
ian, gladly take visitors through the
later write. “Many more.”
museum to point out exhibits of
The GIs dive for cover but there
unusual interest, including a metalisn’t any — only 4-foot-tall elephant
and-wood replica of the paper’s ﬁrst
grass. One man drops, a hole in his
printing press. Also on display is an
chest. Another slumps against a tree.
original copy — not a replica — of
He’s been shot in the head. The noise
the ﬁrst issue of Stars and Stripes. Only
two other copies are known to exist,
“The Viet Cong, now maybe 50 or
one in the collection of the Library of
60, have us surrounded,” wrote CooCongress and one housed at the Uniper. “They’re screaming and yelling,
versity of Michigan.
hoping to panic the squad. It sounds
The paper did not have an auspilike a Western movie with Indians
cious start. In November 1861, Fedwhooping.”
eral soldiers from Illinois converged
But this is no movie, and this Gary
on rebellious Bloomﬁeld and took it
Cooper is no actor.
without a shot. Some of the recruits
Cooper, a Stars and Stripes photoimmediately began to loot the county
journalist, drops his Nikomat camera,
seat. “Women’s bonnets, girl’s hats,
grabs an M-16 and shoots back. The,
mallets, jars of medicine, ﬂat irons, a
notoriously ﬁnicky riﬂe jams. The
nice side table and I don’t know what
jungle turns dead quiet.
wasn’t there,” Mayo quotes one sol“Suddenly it hits you. You’re ﬁghtdier as writing.
ing for your life,” he adds.
But another group of soldiers
Cooper’s terrifying tale is one of
found something much more interestmany that visitors will ﬁnd inside the
ing — the intact printing press of the
Bloomﬁeld Herald, abandoned when
its publisher skedaddled with the proConfederate Missouri State Guard.
These soldiers took it upon themselves
to produce a newspaper.
The Stars and Stripes appeared the
next day as a morale booster, its subhead reading, “THE UNION. IT MUST
AND SHALL BE PRESERVED.” But the
newspaper also provided a hard, honest look at the terrible conditions soldiers faced in the then pestilent-laden
swamps of Stoddard County and what
to do about them.
The ﬁrst edition had the kind of
clear-eyed appraisal that has since
characterized the paper. It included a
review of new “two-horse wagons,”
plus a roster of the two early companies of Stoddard County’s State
Guardsmen the Federal soldiers faced.
During the Civil War, the military
Stars and Stripes was published in only
a few areas of the trans-Mississippi
West, and it was discontinued with
peace. When World War I broke out a
half-century later, Missouri-born Gen.
John J. “Black Jack” Pershing revived
the broadsheet as a news source.
American forces were dispersed
throughout the Western Front, often
mixed at the unit level with British,
French and Italian forces. The mission of Stars and Stripes was to provide
these scattered troops with a sense of
unity and an understanding of their
part in the overall war effort. The
eight-page weekly featured news from
home, sports, poetry and cartoons.
The staff used a network of trains,
automobiles and motorcycles to deliver the news to the doughboys.
One Stars and Stripes issue probably
went further than Pershing wished.
Headlined, “Uncensored RAW WAR
in Pictures,” it featured photos of the
effects of poison gas. This tradition of
telling it like it is was continued into
World War II, when the paper became
a daily, printed in dozens of editions
in Europe, the Paciﬁc, North Africa
and other operating theaters. Bill
Mauldin’s grubby “Willy and Joe” cartoons, several of which are on display,
feature those weary, disheveled “dogfaces” ﬁghting the stupidity of brass as
much as Axis forces.
On display at the museum, you’ll
ﬁnd Stars and Stripes front pages that
record momentous events in U.S. and
world history. Among them are a 1945
edition that reads, in giant type, “HITLER DEAD” and a 2011 edition that
simply reads “AT LAST,” detailing the
death of Osama bin Laden.
The museum also contains photos
ﬁrst published in the paper, including
those taken by Cooper and several
World War II photographers. Some of
these shots have become part of our
collective memory — GIs huddled in a
Battle of the Bulge bunker, mammoth
German guns overlooking Omaha
Beach after D-Day, GIs teaching German kids how to play baseball.
That’s really what makes the museum unique, says Mayo. “It carries the
history of the whole country. What
makes Stars and Stripes so special is
that it isn’t the generals’ history but
that of common soldiers.”
The Stars and Stripes National Museum and Library is located at 17377 Stars
and Stripes Way and is open weekdays,
except Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Admission is free, but donations are
accepted. For more information, visit
or call 573-568-2055.
Fandek is a freelance writer from
A collection of uniforms worn by U.S. Armed Forces during World War II is one of
many pieces of military history featured at the museum in Bloomﬁeld.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - April 2013
Rural Missouri - April 2013
Table of Contents
It’s all about redemption
Best of rural Missouri
Hearth and Home
Marmaduke’s Cape expedition
The soldier’s paper
Rural Missouri - April 2013