It’s here, the review copy of “Semi-Private” by Sergeant Edward J O’Leary with illustrations by Leonard Sansone, both of them Norwood soldiers. And for those who read it, there is a gag and a laugh in every line.
“Semi-Private, Or How To Be< A Soldier In Ten Easy Lessons” is a compilation of the serial column of the same name which Sgt, O’Leary wrote for the Fort Belvoir, Virginia, magazine, “The Duckboard ” Sgt. O’Leary edited the magazine and Corporal Sansone was its art director until he was transferred to the publication, “Yank “.
In book form, “Semi-Private,” published by G P Putnam’s Sons, New York, is neatly packaged between a brown and tan cover displaying one of Sansone’s cartoons. There are eighteen of his cartoons in the book, illustrating one or another of the hilarious episodes of Army indoctrination.
The volume is dedicated “to my mother who is responsible for all this”, and its introduction is written by Major Joseph W. McNeal, Corps of Engineers, Special Service Officer, Port Belvoir. He calls attention to its value as a worthwhile morale builder by finding humor in the serious job of soldiering.
Humor there is in almost every line of the book. Gag follows gag in rapid succession from the day the inductee gets his “Greetings” notice to the fateful December 7th when he explains the difference between a Jap and a Chinaman to his buddies on guard duty “You just wait until one or the other steps from behind you and if you pull a knife out of your back he ain’t a chinaman.”
As the book jacket says “This hilarious book about Army life was written for. and will be read by, the same hearty Americans who have made Olson and Johnson Broadway fixtures, who are laughing at Abbott and Costello, and who think Maggie and Jiggs are funny. It has the pace of a Bob Hope radio show and a laugh in every other line.
“Semi-Private” is a collection of the gags that the soldiers in Fort Belvoir have laughed at and copied in their letters and sent home to be read by their parents and friends. It does not necessarily paint a picture of any one part of the Army and its training of the selectee. The incidents chronicled are universal to all branches of the service. “Semi-Private” will appeal to everybody having any connection with the Army and these days, that includes all of us in uniform or civilian life. It is written for those who like to laugh.
Before entering the Army, Sgt. O’Leary was connected with the Washington Post. Corporal Sansone was on the staff of a New York magazine. The two met up at Belvoir when O’Leary was looking for an illustrator for his book. It was their first meeting since they sat at neighboring desks in English class at Norwood High. Out of it came the collaboration: which makes “Semi-Private” a| thoroughly entertaining volume.
The Norwood Messnger- April 2, 1943
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