Beetle and Sarge still at it

It must be all of those naps that keeps one of the Army’s oldest enlisted men going.

Pvt. Beetle Bailey must be going on about 80, we don’t know for sure. He was probably 18 or so when he left home for Rockview College. On March 13, 1950, Beetle enlisted in the Army and, one might say, he has made it his career of it.

In today’s Army Bailey would have been long discharged for his habitual laziness and insubordinate attitude, not to mention his naps, which Bailey takes at quite regular intervals. For that matter, he would have been long gone in many of the day’s Armys in between. Likewise, his longstanding superior Sgt. 1st Class Orville Snorkel, would likely have been a goner as a career non-commissioned officer in some of the various incarnations of the U.S. military. For example, Sarge would have probably been given his walking papers for the first 1,000 or more times he pulverized the slacking Private Bailey.

Pvt. Bailey reporting for duty, sir.
Pvt. Bailey reporting for duty, sir.

Perhaps it is fortunate for both private and sergeant that they possess a love-hate relationship that has kept the two in the service all these years, and on Camp Swampy with some of its dubious military characters rather in combat through six major U.S. wars.

That “Beetle Bailey” the comic strip has persevered all these years is largely due to its creator, Mort Walker. Walker celebrated his 90th birthday last week. Walker was born on Sept. 3, 1923, and his successful strip debuted on Sept. 4, 1950. He served in Army intelligence and as an investigator during World War II. Perhaps it was his Army experience that made Walker see the oxymoron Army and intelligence could often present to both those in the civilian world and those in the service alike.

Although once in awhile Walker can ruffle some military feathers, the stripĀ  has the genius of presenting in a reflective way the absurdity that is inherent in huge bureaucratic entities such as the Army and the Defense Department. His humor isn’t biting and at some times sentimental. Still, the strip has a way of reaching the vast diffuse bunch that is the armed forces. That it is probably why such a diverse group of dignitaries sent Walker well-wishes recently on his 90th birthday. That group ranged from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Prince Albert II of Monaco, as well as another famous pair, Dolly Parton.

The strip along with Walker’s “Hi and Lois” — Lois is Beetle’s sister — is a family endeavor that has gone on for years with the creator and his sons helping and is likely to go on past Mort Walker. That is the kind of consistency military people don’t mind having from time-to-time. Beetle will most likely be napping — and probably getting pounded by Sgt. Snorkel for years to come.

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