The Armed Services Officer.  (1960).  Office of Armed Forces Information and Education, Department of Defense.  DoD Pam 1-20/DA Pam 600-2/NAVPERS 15923A/AFP 190-1-12/NAVMC 2563.

I collect U.S. Military texts, when I find them at used book stores.  Rather than military history, I look at them as military cultural studies.  I found the above book (hereinafter called AFO) at a charity book sale, and purchased it for USD 1.  I am not military material in either temperament or inclination, but I find this book to be an interesting guide to comportment, skills, and qualities necessary for leadership, whether in the military or out of it.

From the Foreword:

The Armed Forces Officer is a guide to the philosophy, ideals, and principles of leadership in the United States Armed Forces.  Although intended primarily for junior officers newly embarked on their commissioned careers, the book should be of value to officers with longer experience.
This volume, originally published in 1950, has been revised and brought into line with recent concepts of warfare and military leadership.  It deals with the two major roles of the officer–as a leader of men, and as a loyal, efficient member of the Nation’s defense team.    . . . 

This edition of AFO is written just at the beginning of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam WarWACS in Vietnam.  The original 1950 date, and 1960 date of revision also sets the social context:  On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the military by race.  1960 is however, before the full spate of civil rights movements in the U.S. were formulated for race, gender, and sexuality.  This battle of course is far from finished.  As a woman, I understand that the phrase “officer and a gentleman” or “leader of men” rather ruthlessly excludes my sex from consideration.  Nevertheless, I am undeterred. 

AFO, with whatever shortcomings it may have, contrasts favorably with most self-improvement books I have seen, sold, or read: these books are generally of two varieties.  The first type is experiential: name your feelings, know your weaknesses, understand your words.  The second type is just brutal: do what you’re supposed to do and stop whining.  The AFO instead appears to marry command with self-command far more intimately.  Its purpose marries the practical and the aspirational; its tone is sensible, matter-of-fact, and understated.  For this reason, I have chosen to view the non-inclusion of my gender in the book as a charmingly antediluvian and frequently humorous reminder to read critically rather than a barrier to reading it at all.

As “a scholar and a lady”, I equally wish to have facility with problems of rank and management; greater self-discipline; a noble and gallant spirit. 

If you check back periodically, you will find posts on my exploration of the 26 chapters of this book on proper living of the junior officer.  Its category will be ASO-1960. 

I welcome discussion from all comers, like a virtual book club.  One audience I would be interested in hearing from would be world military personnel, who might describe how this philosophy has changed or been adapted to new circumstances or other countries and cultures.  Those who have had to use or discard these ideals, or change how they formulate them under critical conditions are especially encouraged to write in (if you can stand it, anyway).  Another valued audience (and not mutually exclusive, either)  may want to challenge the book’s moral certainties, philosophies, and talk about alternate views.  All are welcome.  Most of all, I think it will be both fun and instructive to revisit the ideals of 1960, decide which are timeless, and which have passed into the dustbin of old assumptions. 

Whatever of these ideals and behaviors we might embrace or toss aside, examining them will surely make us better persons.  Studying them from the assertions of nearly fifty years past might also help us understand our own cultural milieu, through a prism of time and/or cultural tradition.

My version is 250 pages: there is a 61-page updated version on the Internet.

Photo: MAJ. KATHLEEN 1. WILKES AND SGT. 1ST CL. BETTY L. ADAMS, the first WAC military advisors in Vietnam, observe the issue of uniforms to members of the Women’s Armed Forces Corps, Republic of Vietnam, 9 March 1965.  From Chapter 9 of Betty Morden’s  The Women’s Army Corps, 1945-1978.

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