Wednesday, July 6, 2011

20 - U.S. Army's Grand 60th Birthday Party for PS: Part A

Please forgive us, folks! We missed getting our blogpost up last week because both Joe and I ran away to Alabama. On Monday, June 27, we met up at Redstone Arsenal where we had been invited to participate in the splendid celebration the U.S. Army had laid on to recognize the Sixtieth Anniversary of PS Magazine. It was so impressive that we plan to present a sub-set of at least three postings regarding the event, to make sure that all the many facets involved are covered.

In short, it was a magic moment in time where there was a constant mingling of praise and appreciation of the successes of the past with vigorous visions of creative future avenues for sharpening the PS-edge in the communications revolution that is upon us.

The image above shows the Front Cover of the impressive four-color program for the event, held in the Bob Jones Auditorium of the Sparkman Center—home of the Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA), a key element of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC). LOGSA is PS’s parent group. AMC is the embodiment of the Army’s over-arching logistics overhaul initiated in the 1960s.

The image below shows, left to right: Joe Kubert; Lieutenant General Dennis L. Via, Deputy Commanding General of AMC; Colonel Robert P. Sullivan. LOGSA Commander; and Paul E. Fitzgerald. We were chatting shortly before the opening of the event.

Both Colonel Sullivan, as the welcoming host, and Lieutenant General Via, the keynote speaker, heaped fulsome praise and encouragement on PS. We plan to post their complete remarks as soon as transcripts have been processed.

The image above shows the birthday cake prepared for the occasion. In a subsequent posting, we’ll show you a picture of the cake-cutting event, a facet of the celebration that out-did any wedding-cake efforts that I’ve ever observed.

The “challenge coin” (or medallion) created for the occasion is pictured below.

Following Colonel Sullivan’s welcome, I was the leadoff speaker with an assignment to “tell us how PS began.” You’ll find my remarks toward the bottom of this blogpost. Joe followed me, and then handed things off to Lieutenant General Via.

Joe was accompanied on this expedition by Pete Carlsson, his right-hand man at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and in fulfilling Joe’s contract with PS for creative art, design and pre-press production services. My driver/bodyguard/aide-de-camp was my youngest son, Clay, who took the pictures displayed here.

In our next blogpost, there’s a possibility we may have some video and/or video clips for you. And, in the one after that, we’ll tell you (and show you) our meeting with the current PS Magazine staff.


To say that I was impressed by the warmth displayed on this occasion would be the understatement of the decade. Spending time with Fitz and his son, Clay, was the cherry on top of the whipped cream.

The soldiers, officers and E were absolutely great. They confirmed our own feelings of the value of PS to lives of soldiers all over the world. I felt humble and proud at the same time.

On top of all that, I thought they were gonna draft me into the Army—again. Seriously, though, the entire experience was fantastic!


Remarks made by Joe Kubert

June 27, 2011, Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama

Following in the footsteps of someone like Will Eisner can be both daunting and rewarding. He described so many times the effectiveness of the combination of the written word and illustration in terms of communication and teaching. His theory: you can take any subject be it as dry as a bone—maintenance—and make it interesting and absorbing if done in an amusing, entertaining manner has been proven over and over again—every month for the last 60 years. It was in this way he applied himself to the subject of maintenance for the army; a well-traveled path that Pete and I have tried to follow.

JOE at the lectern.

But what he did then and what we do today is not just a matter of drawing funny pictures. There has to be a definitive flow, done in such a way that the presentation of the "story" seems natural and legitimate to the reader—including its entertainment value. In this way a subject less conducive to be read and followed—say an announcement about NSN numbers—will be absorbed by a less than interested reader, simply because he is being entertained and learning, whether he realizes it or not. Our mission with PS Magazine is to follow the road Will has beaten clean. We have to be innovative, creative, interesting and accurate. I'm not sure which one is the most difficult.Story-telling and sequential art demands a smooth transition when done in panel form and sometimes hopefully a startling surprised reaction from a one-panel form. Armed with the knowledgeable information afforded to us through the Editors our task is to select the proper illustrations utilizing the characters HALF-MAST, CONNIE, BONNIE and BLADE in describing the proper care and maintenance of materials used by the Soldiers in the Armed Forces. All of us understand and realize the seriousness of our mission. We try to be precise and correct in delineating the various equipment and their usages and maintenance. Added to that, we mix some humor (or try to) so that the medicinal dose goes down smoothly and that the recipient is hardly conscious of the fact that he's learned something. We know that the men and women in the Armed Forces stake their lives on their equipment, and the maintenance and understanding of it, every day. Our relationship with the staff of PS has been terrific. And we continue to look forward to working with them into the foreseeable future.

Remarks made by Paul E. Fitzgerald

June 27, 2011, Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama

My assignment today is: “Tell us how PS began.” That is going to involve a “blivet.” “Blivet” was a World War Two slang term. Its polite definition would be that it involves getting ten pounds into a five-pound bag. Let’s start with this morning’s Magic Words: Sixty years!

How sweet it sounds! Has a ring to it. Sixty years ago, we at PS would have laughed at the thought. There were times when we were sweating out the next sixty DAYS. In plain language, the early, toddling PS was almost smothered in its crib. The sad part is that much of the problem was caused by those most closely involved in its birth and early, shaky steps.

FITZ at the lectern.

The first recorded, official action, involving PS Magazine occurred shortly after the Korean War started in June of 1950. Army Field Forces—later Continental Army Command—at Fort Monroe, referenced the success of Army Motors during World War Two, and requested that a similar, updated program be initiated. Similar sentiments began to arrive through technical channels from Ordnance officers in Korea and Europe. It was viewed from the outset as an Ordnance matter.

Plans for a new-and-improved publication were packaged with a revived program of technical assistance representatives. A new organization—the Preventive Maintenance Agency, under the purview of the Field Maintenance Branch of the Office, Chief of Ordnance—was established and located at Aberdeen Proving Group. That command line and physical location loomed large in some of the PS problems that eventuated.

The tossing of PS into the 1951 mix of Army publications provoked cultural-clash criticisms that ranged from “undignified” through “the prejudice of good order and discipline.” Other problems arose from the Reader Service Letter program—a close, direct, and mutually affectionate relationship with its readers—that helped shape the product. Paradoxically, it also turned out to be a major source of friction in our relations with the technical people who reviewed our manuscripts

Not all Reader Letters were love-notes. In preparing responses to these letters, PS shared them—without identification—with our technical reviewers. In many instances, it was unpleasant news, and we all are familiar with ancient custom regarding messengers bearing bad news. PS was the messenger. The resentment choked our manuscript flow to a trickle. Technicians began to tinker with the PS writing style. Reviews were delayed. That caused an immediate disruption of the publication schedule that was not resolved until intervening higher authority imposed turnaround deadlines and limited review action choices to either “Approved” or “Approved with technical changes as indicated.”

Other problems came from internal deficiencies. In less than three years, our first editor was released when PS only published seven issues in twenty months. In one sixty-day period, PS had THREE editors. It’s only had six more in the fifty-seven years since then. The third editor was James R. Kidd, a twice-decorated infantry officer and member of the West Virginia University School of Journalism faculty, who had been cleared, hired, and was on the staff as a summer intern. He lasted 29 years, and it took him the first ten of them to establish that ours was a communications mission based on timeliness, technical accuracy, an innovative writing style, and artistic creativity.

At the time, I was the Managing Editor of a newspaper near Aberdeen. Kidd knew me as a WVU-SJ student and graduate. He hired me as the magazine’s first Managing Editor and I went to work there early the next month—October 1963. We agreed to a Good Cop / Bad Cop understanding, cleared out a warren of makeshift cubicles, created a newsroom environment, and established standards and controls. Sequential production deadlines were set for a year in advance. At the end of three months, we returned PS to an on-time, monthly publication schedule. In the fifty-seven ensuing years, there have been only two publication delays—both caused by outside organizations.

Even though the magazine was marching in the right direction, the frictions and failures of the early years were in our jacket. In January of 1955, we were moved out of Aberdeen—seemed like in the dark of night, with burlap wrapped around the horses’ hooves—and reported for duty at Raritan Arsenal in New Jersey. The fit was not comfortable for anybody. Raritan had long been the home of the Ordnance Corps Publications Division. The very existence of an outside-the-tent PS was like a genetic aberration at a family reunion.

It was encouraging, though, that many recognized the potential of PS as a communication tool with a logistics-wide potential, but there was no command mandate for it. In that era of sweeping change, Colonel William B. Latta, in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, moved to resolve the various contentions. In April of 1959, while we were still in exile at Raritan Arsenal, a Logistics Directive formalized—for the first time— the Scope and Objectives of PS Magazine, including the mandated participation of all technical services and the Reader Service Program with its confidentiality. It also recognized a policy relationship between PS and the Army Maintenance Board at Fort Knox. Later, in October of 1962, we were moved to Fort Knox and the command of Colonel George C. Benjamin, the President of the Maintenance Board.

We had found the Home we had never known.


¶ A Covey of Connies: World War II to Today

¶ Eisner Saluted Gunsmoke in PS

¶ Best of Zeke Zekely in PS

PS Characters in Animation

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