Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Historical Note on GI Joe

“In times of peril, look to youth for inspiration”

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

In April of 1941, the United States was on the cusp of unknown warfare. Frank Barton, an engineer stationed in Pearl Harbor, was tasked with surveying the surrounding waterways from Hawaii to Midway and Guam. While aboard the USS Nero en route to Midway, Barton met a physician named Yamaguchi Motoomi, who was sanctioned by the United States Navy to aid in the development of modern field surgery aboard warships. Motoomi used small model men to show incoming medical recruits the proper procedure for the caring of wounds. Barton was awed by the detail and flexibility of Motoomi’s model men, which were clothed in make shift uniforms and showing battle scars and wounds. Motoomi gave Barton a case of his discarded models upon request, which he then brought home to his wife Mary, a nurse stationed at Fords Hospital on Kauhua Island. Mary Barton distributed these ‘dolls’ in the children’s ward, and reported the children’s immediate enthusiasm to her husband; the children soon began making toy weapons and outfits to supply their own toy soldiers. After the bombing in December, Vice President Wallace visited Fords hospital and was overwhelmed by the patriotism and spirit the children displayed. Wallace was quoted, calling the children, “not your average Joes.” Barton began calling his dolls “Joe’s,” and continued to supply children’s hospitals with the dolls for the remainder of the war. Barton sold his idea for a soldiers toy line to Hasbro in 1947. Backed by a grant from the Board of Economic Warfare, which was then chaired by Wallace, Hasbro changed the name from ‘Joe’ to ‘G.I. Joe’, which stood for General Infantry Joe. The first GI Joe action figure hit stores on May 6th, 1950.

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