Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


U.S. troop newspapers in both Spanish and English appeared in the Great Plains soon after the Mexican War (1846–48). These soldier newspapers included the Anglo-Saxon, the Santa Fe Republican, the Flag of Freedom, and the Picket Guard–one of the first substantial troop papers of the U.S. Army. The papers included items on American troop victories, the preparedness of Mexican troops, the need for accurate reporting, the rivalry between regular and volunteer troops, and the need to keep enlisted men's morale high. Although they generally lasted a short time, these small, letter-size sheets accustomed troops to having their own papers, even in combat zones.

In 1864, during the American Civil War, the Frontier Scout, a four-page, three-column weekly, appeared at Fort Union, Dakota Territory. The same name was used for a paper started in 1865 farther down the Missouri River at Fort Rice, Dakota Territory. It is likely that the same printing office produced both papers. Prisoner-of-war publications were not uncommon. On a sheet of unruled letter paper, a captain in the Connecticut Volunteers produced a handwritten publication, the Old Flag, at Camp Ford, Texas. Each single copy was read aloud to prisoners.

Post publications reflected the military's growing professionalism between the Civil War and the beginning of World War I. Weekly newspapers were established at several Plains military installations to help relieve boredom, inform troops, and recount life on the frontier. In articles, poems, drawings, cartoons, and editorials, readers learned about military policies and were informed about life at the post. Great Plains newspapers included the Chugg Water Journal, Fort Laramie; the Phil Kearny Scout, Fort Philip Kearny, Dakota Territory; the Daily Telegraph, Fort Bridger, Wyoming; and the Plains, Fort Larned, Kansas. The frontier soldier papers resembled their civilian counterparts with their mixture of wit and satire and their boosterism.

Publications were also established by veterans and other military groups. In 1888, for example, the United States Cavalry Association issued the U.S. Cavalry Journal from Leavenworth, Kansas, and after 1910 the Artillery Association published the Field Artillery Journal from Washington DC and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

During World War I, camp newspapers typically were seven-column, four-page papers costing two cents a copy. Weekly issues aimed to boost troop morale and promote high moral standards. Many soldier papers were launched following the Armistice, including the Jayhawker in France, the "Unofficial Organ of the 137th Infantry," a unit with Kansas connections. A hospital paper, the Fort Bayard News, was published near Silver City, New Mexico, by the U.S. Army General Hospital. And in 1922 the first monthly issue of the Military Review was published at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The Review has been labeled the "Professional Journal of the U.S. Army" because of its articles on military philosophy and tactics and its influence on army doctrine.

Long before Pearl Harbor, GI papers were started to help train draftees. Two of these papers were the Camp Wolters Longhorn, published near Mineral Wells, Texas, and the Rainbow Reveille at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. During the war, other troop newspapers emerged, including BAM, published in 1943 at the Naval Air Gunner's School, Purcell, Oklahoma. World War II military publications observed tight editorial controls that produced items that were bland, traditional, and predictable. Most were weeklies printed by letterpress or offset, although several were mimeographed issues. Writers with little or no actual journalism experience produced many of the camp papers.

Several Great Plains military post publications continue journalistic traditions that began in the nineteenth century. Some of these are the Field Artillery Journal (a magazine) and Military Review.

See also WAR: Military Bases.

Peter E. Mayeux University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Cornebise, Alfred Emile. Ranks and Columns: Armed Forces Newspapers in American Wars. Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

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