Soldiers’ own press
Besides making headlines for their conquests in the battlefield, fighters early felt the need to create their own press, the captured in a faithful way the war’s reality.
On November 7th of 861, in broad American Civil War, the Union battalion camped in the practically deserted city of Bloomfield, in Missouri.
By exploring the city, the soldiers found an abandoned newsroom of the Bloomfield Heraldand decided to print their own newspaper.
On November 9th, The Stars and Stripes was born.
Witness of one of the biggest conflicts of the 20th Century, it is interruptedly published since 1942 in Europe and since 1945 in the Pacific, being the oldest and most renowned war publication.
The Stars and Stripes longevity wasn’t followed by the majority of war journals.
“Have you ever sat in a trench in the middle of a battle and corrected proofs? Try it.”
The adivce is Captain F.J. Roberts’, editor of The Wipers Times, the most popular English trench newspaper during the First World War.
According to the legend, the official and the Lieutenant Jack Pearson discovered a printing machined in the ruins of Ypres, in Flanders.
In February of 1916, The Wipers Times was born, so called due to the incapacity of the British soldiers of pronouncing «Ypres».
The newspaper was published until December of 1918, with exception of the periods when the battle intensified.
Beyond the technical difficulties, the production was also marked by the continuous treat of attacks.
According to Captain Roberts, the newspaper was “produced when the air was generally full of shells... Often one had to stop writing an article in order to 'stand to”.
Far from being a flag stand of the British propaganda machine, the publication gathered a unique combination of dark and subversive humor, private jokes and satire of the live in the trenches.
Stories about food, rum rations and rats, to critic to journalists of the war front and even to the censorship itself, The Wipers Times presented the war seen from the perspective of those who fought it.
A common characteristic of the publications that multiplied for all Europe, during the First World War.
THE PRESS IN THE TRENCHES
The newspapers produced by soldiers came, in part, as a reaction to the press published in the troops’ homelands.
The official journalism seemed to them, most of the times, inappropriate, since the controlled and auto-censored press tended to produce patriotic, optimistic and confident reports that, many times, made a wrong representation of the war for reader in the domestic front.
The trench journalism tried to maintain the moral and develop a military culture, by creating means through which soldiers could socialize, to share conquests and to get off their chests the frustrations of the life in the battlefield.
This type of press also made famous the individual deeds of the unity and promoted healthy rivalries in sports events, debates, music and other less conventional competitions.
From simple pages written in pencil and copied with carbon copies, to publications of several pages reproduced in printing machines, it is known that there were published more than a hundred British newspapers and more than four hundred French publications.
The Portuguese also succeed in the trench press.
On January 1st of 1926, Liga dos Combatentes started the publishing of the magazine A Guerra.
«The “Liga dos Combatentes da grande Guerra”, starting today the publishing of this magazine, has as end to make more known its intents and giving a broader expansion to its activity», it was read, in the editorial, signed by the Major Ribeiro de Carvalho.
The magazine was a Liga’s communication organ; «those who work in it, make it absolutely for free and even with some material sacrifices...».
The publication auto proclaimed «in the Portuguese press as the only speaker of the rights of all those who fought together, making the country great and honoring the race».
THE TESTIMONY OF CONFLICTS
The First World War reached its end in 1918, but the entrepreneur spirit of the soldier-journalists didn’t end with it.
The press produced and dedicated to fighters was reignited during the Second World War.
Egbert White, who worked in the Stars and Stripes, proposed the creation of a new publication: the Yank, the Army Weekly magazine.
IT was published in 1942 and became an immediate success.
From humoristic cartoons to war stories, to images of American pin ups, the magazine went worldwide.
The numbers were edited in the city of New York and sent to several bases, from the Mediterranean to the Western Pacific, where editors would add articles about the local reality.
With a world circulation of more than 2.6 million copies, the magazines became the most read in the military history of the United States.
Peace called its end; the publication ceased in December of 1945.
15 years after, the United States involved in one of the most problematic – and controversial – conflicts of its History: the Vietnam War.
The war opposition spirit travelled among the combat units through the press.
The GI movement, an anti-war initiative, used newspapers as a way to illegally disseminate through the bases the ideas of opposition to the conflict, estimating that more than 300 titles had been published during the war.
The involvement of active soldiers in the production and distribution of this kind of press meant a disciplinary sanction.
The Vietnam GI was one of the most influent publications of the Vietnam War.
The newspaper’s first edition was printed in the end of the 60’s, by the war veteran Jeff Sharlet.
The youngster had enlisted in the beginning of the decade, but came back to the United States disappointed with the country’s involvement in what he considered to be a Vietnamese civil war.
Along with other war veterans and conscience objectors, he created the magazine, with the goal of giving voice to the opposition that spread among the north-American forces.
In the first month of publishing, the Vietnam GI hit a circulation of 30 thousand copies.
With the death of Sharlet, in 1969, the newspaper ended up closing doors.
In Portugal, the Colonial War oppened new horizons in this type of press, which became part of the everday life of thousands of soldiers.
In January of 1960, the first Jornal do Exército came out, with a 20 thousand copies circulation.
In the first years of war, the newspaper published a series of «Advices to Soldiers Overseas», that mixed humor with critic to motivate the soldiers and prepare them for the challenges to come.
The publication counted with the talento of thousands on the ground, like Vicente da Silva and José Rui, among others that, later, had success as cartoon drawers.
The humoristic pages, which caricaturized the troops’ missions and the situations lived in the several phase of the commission, helped the soldiers to integrated in the war’s reality.
From the 19th century until now, the history of journalism crosses with war history in several occasions.
Publications destined to soldiers became professional and reached other formats: nowadays, many are produced by newsrooms composed by journalists and published in platforms like the internet.
A military press distant from the first battle newspapers, created by the soldiers themselves.
More than just informing, to cement the comradery and common mission spirit were some of the main goals of these publications.
A kind of journalism made by soldiers, to soldiers.