Someone’s taking “Beetle Bailey” too literally…

Everybody loves Beetle Bailey, the military comedy comic strip about life at Camp Swampy.  You know – Beetle Bailey, Sgt. Snorkel, General Halftrack, Ms. Buxley (on Wednesdays), all the fun stuff.

In addition to 65 years of newspaper comics, Beetle Bailey was also made into a series of animated cartoons in the early 1960’s.

Okay.  As we can see from these cartoons, the world of Camp Swampy is a humorous locale, similar to the pen-and-ink locations of dozens of newspaper comic strip neighborhoods.  And the storylines in Beetle Bailey are supposed to be humorous and funny, similar to the “Humor in Uniform” features in Reader’s Digest.

Well, apparently someone didn’t get the memo.  And this someone wrote a letter to his local newspaper, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel.  And based on the tenor of this letter, methinks the letter writer must have taken these comic strips just a smidge too seriously.  The letter is reprinted here verbatim from the newspaper’s website.

As a retired member of the U.S. military I am concerned about the impression left by the cartoon “Beetle Bailey” carried by your paper. Readers of the cartoon could possibly get the impression from the cartoon that it is acceptable for a senior noncommissioned officer (as depicted by Sarge) to physically assault a junior enlisted man.

It seems that quite often the story line of the cartoon depicts Sarge brutalizing or threatening to brutalize Beetle. I am aware that the cartoon has been around for quite some time and it was based on the U.S. Army during the time frame of around the Second World War, but even then, it was something not sanctioned or tolerated by the military. If any concerned family members were to take the actions depicted in these supposedly funny frames as the norm in the U.S. military, then the Walker family is doing a disservice to our military members.

I certainly wouldn’t encourage any son or daughter of mine to become a member of such an organization. The truth of the matter is that any officer or noncommissioned officer found to be physically abusive to a junior enlisted man would be up on charges and, at a minimum, demoted if not removed from the service. I am sure that there have been instances of abuse at times in the military service, but the habitual abuse depicted in the cartoon would not have been tolerated. When Gen. George Patton slapped an enlisted man back in World War II it caused an outrage that almost ended his career.

If the Walkers can’t find a different story line for their cartoon, maybe they should end it. In my years in the military I never met a senior staff NCO or an officer who didn’t treat junior enlisted men with anything but care and concern. Even when trying to push men to test their ability to withstand pressure that nowhere near replicated combat, which included plenty of pressure and loud voices, it never included the kind of beatings that are commonplace in the cartoon “Beetle Bailey.” Hopefully readers recognize this as fiction.

Anthony W. Gensic

Okay.  I guess I have to clear up a few things here.  Sir, I understand that you might take offense by some of the actions in the Beetle Bailey comic strip, but you can rest assured that the storylines are fictitious and satirical.  In fact…

Just so we’re clear…

  • Schroeder cannot play full-fledged symphonies on a toy piano.
  • Dagwood may not be too effective in his job, but he is at least a capable enough employee that Mr. Dithers does not fire him on the spot.
  • Neither Bucky nor Satchel can speak to Rob.  At least not in English.
  • The tiger does not come to life; it only appears to do so in Calvin’s imagination.
  • Zonker has not overdosed.
  • There are not little “Ida Know” and “Not Me” ghosts floating around the Family Circus.
  • I don’t know why Mary Worth has to butt into everybody’s business.
  • Cats do not normally eat lasagna.
  • Little Orphan Annie really does have eyeballs.
  • There is no crocodile-only fraternity of Zeeba Zeeba Eata.
  • Zippy really is the smartest character in the comic strips.
  • Billy and the Boingers really are reuniting.

You know… just in case you need to correct the comic pages for any other errors or transgressions or slights. 🙂