ACKERMAN'S
WAR

(1942-1946)


Private Forrest J Ackerman - photo JMRosenblum album

There's a lot about Forry Ackerman out there, both in print and online, so this page will cover a specific part of his life usually only lightly touched on: namely his time in the military during WWII, which he served entirely at Fort MacArthur. I have relevant material to hand and this aligns with the other stuff I've posted on this site about early LASFS, so a page covering his time in uniform seems appropriate. For his off-base activities with LASFS during these years see the Morojo then Tigrina pages, links below.

SHANGRI-L'AFFAIRES #6 (Sep '42) reported Ackerman's call-up in the club minutes:

AUGUST 7, On this date our leading member, and fandom's number one face was inducted into the United States Army. Previously, Ackerman was feted in the usual manner of the dear departing. Although his fan activity will be seriously handicapped by his induction, 4e intends to carry on as well he might. Mr. Ackerman has turned the actual publishing and editing of VOM over to Morojo and Barbara Bovard, securing Director Willmorth's financial support on art work, but continues in a supervisory position over the contents and appearance of the fmz. The disposal of the magnificent Ackerman collection has already been widely publicized, but it will do no harm to mention here the worthy project of the Science Fiction Institute. If Forrie is carried into actual combat and is thereby liquidated, one thousand Dollars and the actual collection is to be the embryo of a foundation dedicated to the preservation of science fiction It would definitely be someplace to will those well-beloved collections to - a symbol for the whole of Fandomania to grasp and reverate. Your editor's personal donation will contain original illustrations for which he has paid more than a hundred dollars along with other items such as mags and books. Science Fiction Forward!!!!

Here's what Harry Warner Jr has to say about Ackerman in uniform in ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (Advent, 1969):

In the summer of 1942, selective service got around to Ackerman. Despite a job in a defense industry, in which he operated a machine that nobody else could run, Ackerman was inducted on August 15. He prepared for this event by writing in the blackest possible terms about his probable inability to adapt to army life. He replaced his "green phantom" glasses (the first masculine harlequin style), wrote a will that left $1,000 to establish a science fiction collection foundation, and publicly proclaimed that he wept on the day the induction papers came.

All of the above Ackerman laid out in a six-page letter to his "Dearly Beloved Fandom" that you can read in its entirety here. However, as Warner continued:

These preparations for tragedy proved to be a waste of time. What followed could serve as a symbol of all the fans who have disproven charges of inadequacy to meet the real world, by scoring success therein. Ackerman promptly gained fifteen pounds, and soon found himself at Fort MacArthur, California.

In October in VOM #26, the fanzine he co-edited with girlfriend Morojo, Ackerman described his life in the Army:

Bob ((Hoffman)) was inducted the other day, and on his way thru the Reception Center made his way to the "dogtag" division where I work, and got the secret off his soul before departing for Destination Unknown. Status of yed? (just call me the Starambler) - Well, I'm a First Class Private stationed about 30 mph from Shangri-LA, able to get to town about twice a week. Yecoed works six days out of seven and overtime for the War Dept; and devotes the rest her time to keeping FJA Inc operating by proxy as near normal as possible. My life now consists of operating a murderously monotonous and rackety machine, enduring the army routine, and manipulating myself like a contortionist with seven year itch to manage time and passes for work and sf fun with the nearby stfans...


Rear: T. Bruce Yerke, Roy Tackett. Front: unknown, Pfc Forrest J Ackerman, Cpl Milton Rothman
- photo courtesy of Andy Porter.

The leading US fannish newszine at this point was FANTASY FICTION FIELD, published *weekly* by Julius Unger of New York. It billed itself as an "Illustrated Newsweekly" and this was no idle boast; every issue had a photo attached, either sponsored by readers or by the prozines (usually of forthcoming covers in their case). An almost complete run of the zine is available at fanac.org but, alas, most issues are missing the photos. Sadly, this is true of FFF #109 (4 Nov 1942) which carried the first news of Ackerman since his induction:

ACKIE IN KHAKI!!

First foto: Forry in Uniform! Attached to Service Command Unit, at Fort MacArthur, California, FFF Weekly presents Forrest J Ackerman. Since pic was taken a few weeks ago, "something now has been added": His firstripe for raise in rank to 1st Class Pvt. With the exception of the first few unsettled "processing" weeks, he has managed to attend LASFS meetings regularly as of old, regardless of heat or cold, hitchiking hazards or what-have-U, traveling some sixty round miles, and overcoming such obstacles as being scheduled next morning for Queen of the Latrine (or Orderly for the Gent's Powder Room), or having a nite-shift and working two consecutive periods to get off. Yes, the sponsor of this snap thinks Forry Ackerman has quite a future ahead of him as an actifan.

- Morojo

and also this report:

JOY FOR 4SJ!

Fandom's own No. 1 Face, Forrest J Ackerman, spends a day with Carole Landis! He was winner of a contest sponsored by 'The Fort MacArthur Bulletin', for the best "SNAFUcius Say" gag, which, pictorialized, takes up one-fourth of the first page of its third issue. Text: "About Face! Left Face! Right Face! LOSE FACE!"; pictures show Mr. Jap doing it.

- HW

Ackerman had a report on the LASFS Xmas party in FFF #110, and a long review of Anthony Boucher's 'Rocket to the Morgue' in FFF #111. Using the thin pseudonym of 'Pfc Ack Ack', Ackerman had quickly wangled himself a regular column - 'Barrack Bunk' - in 'The Fort MacArthur Bulletin', and then a second - 'Casually Speaking'. However it wasn't long before he'd managed to offend the women on the base, as laid out in the front-page article "Ack-Ackermaniac Exposed" . This was followed up in FFF #118. However, while FFF had attributed that front-page article to Ackerman this wasn't the case, which led to an apology:

Correction: Ack-Ack did not write the "Ack-Ackermaniac Exposed" story as stated in Feb. 17 FFF; 'twas the work of Will "Red Barry" Gould, the Sgt-Ed of the Fort MacArthur Bulletin. Mistake resulted from Shaw's misunderstanding of 4e's marking system. Sorry, 4e 'n' fellers.

Sgt Will "Red Barry" Gould was Will Gould, creator of the highly regarded pre-war 'Red Barry' adventure strip. He went on to be a screenwriter after the war. This was the first time those who had never seen the newspaper would've seen his name mentioned, though he would go along to at least one LASFS meeting that June.

FFF reprinted a number of Ackerman's newspaper columns, one of which can be read here. Seeing an opportunity, he had the bright idea around now of publishing a fanzine on dog tags, something which would've been unique. However, things didn't quite go to plan according to FFF #124 in April:

4sJ distributing "Metalomag" to a chosen few, there being only 21 "copies" of this one and only grafotypt "mag", which was all 4e was able to complete before being transferred from the dogtag division, so he was unable to make the full 55 needed for official FAPA distribution. Forrie further writes that "that damn movie star date goes on forever", despite his having requested to call the whole thing off. Latest cine-lady linked with his name is red-headed Susan Hayward.


Cpl Forrest J Ackerman - photo JMRosenblum album

In May 1943, Ackerman was promoted to Corporal and soon after finally got his date with a movie star. Here's the report he wrote for the base newspaper, now renamed 'The Fort MacArthur Alert', as reprinted in FFF:

FRUSTRATED CPL ACK-ACK LANDS LANDIS

At a late hour a week ago Wednesday nite, Cpl. Forrest J. "Ack-Ack" Ackerman consummated a date won with Carole Landis sponsored by this paper. The date was set a mere matter of thirty weeks ago. But directly ((on hearing)) who'd won, she beat it to Britain. When Ack-Ack said he would wait she fled into the heart of deepest North Africa. Finally, in desperation, she got married. In rapid succession the prize package for the "SNAFUcius Say--" contest was changed from Landis to Lucille Ball, to Ann Sheridan, to Gene Tierney, Betty Grable, Simone Simon, back to Ball, again to Simone, switch to Susan Hayward, return to Simone ... then, out of the blue, Ack-Ack's old love, Landis, turned up at the Outdoor Show! Observers report the corp. was on the edge of his seat from the moment Carole made her happy Landis on the RC stage. His thots were visible on his face. Would the MC pull a fasty on him and call him onto the stage for a kiss from Carole? Acky had an answer for that: He'd say, "Miss Landis, if I told you you had a beautiful figure, would you hold it against me?" And then, triumphantly embracing her; "This LANDIS Mine!" But there was no snack for the Ackermaniac. So, after the show, and after an elaborate buildup, our hero was paged backstage for an introduction to Carole. "Miss Landis," said Pvt. Steven Crane, "This is Cpl. Ackerman, the winner of your contest." The comely Carole was autographing a notebook for another soldier. As she looked up the pen slipped from her hand. Ink stained Pvt. Crane's newly pressed trousers. Carole apologized profusely. "Sour milk will take it out!" she suggested hopefully. Ack-Ack stood silently in the background. Suddenly, remembering her forgotten fan, the luscious Landis started to shake hands. Just then an unidentified civilian called, urgently, "Carole!" The Ping Girl ponged. Ack-Ack was left alone with his memories. Better late than never, he had had his great date with a movie star.

Here's a photo of the office at Fort MacArthur from which the newspaper was produced, its walls festooned with signed photos of movie stars and the like:


Cpl Ackerman and (presumably) Sgt Will Gould, then editor of THE ALERT. (photo JMRosenblum album)

VOMaidens?

VOM #27 appeared in September, the first issue in almost a year. Ackerman explained why inside:

Well, a yr ago we - Forry the Ack-Ack - "went to war". We never got farther than Ft MacArthur, approximately thirty miles away. So far. So good. Rap tap'on wood.

I left LA expecting to wind up anywhere in the world: Australia, Alaska, Africa. I was leaving Morojo & Bovard behind to manage VOM as best they could, with some inchoate idea in mind of forwarding the letters to me for editing and comment once I got settled.

Paradoxically, VOM might've appeared oftener had I been shipped farther from home. For here is the situation that has arisen: War has brought fans to Los Angeles by the gross, and that's no gross exaggeration. The list gross & gross! Whereas a year ago the local outlook was plenty pessimistic... everybody was going to be drafted... there wasn't going to be any Pacificon... how would we keep up room rent?... there was no use publishing any more...etc - today, despite the fact a flag hangs in our luxurious NEW HQS proclaiming that eighteen of Los Slangelenos are in the armed forces, the society is going greater guns than ever. No less than twenty-eight attended the meeting of Aug 26, which I think was two more than the time before!

The greatest contributing factor to the procrastination of VOM's appearance has been the incredible influx of fans. Some have been here from as short a time as 60 mins to 60 days. In effect it's proven a perpetual Pacificon. With the establishment of our clubroom, it came to pass there was rarely a night passed but what at least a half dozen fans could not be found congregating here. Now my thoughts are beginning to flow thick and fast and I don't know what to get down first. I like the army so little that any time I can escape I'd like to do nothing better than spend my time in the company of stfans. But not tied down with something specific to do, just help on this mag, an article for that one, off to a show with the gang, down to the beach with the crowd; work if in the mood, but probably more often relax and just enjoy the gang's company. So I grant you I haven't worked as consistently on VOM as I could've. I haven't had the drive. I guess I don't particularly have to apologize ...nobody would expect me to? And Morojo has ever had enough to do without urging me about getting my part of the mag done so she could do hers: the stencilling & mimeoing.

To revert to what I was going to say: And even if you did get a pass and arrived uptown tired but determined to work--it was already 7:30 and you had to leave for the army again at 4:30 in the morning...to exercise and drill and do a day's legwork and brainwork on the campaper and mebbe not get to bed to 10:30 that night - and lo and behold who should you find here but Lew Martin or MISKE!

Well, are you going to stuff yourself away in a little cubicle and work on your fanmag and miss this precious opportunity to gab with a fan? If you could "keddy on" under such circumstances, I admit you're a better fanmag editor than I am, Gunga Djinn! And that situation has happened I don't know how many times.


unknowns, Ackerman, Morojo

By the time November rolled around Ackerman was now associate editor of 'The Alert', as reported in NEBULA #18 (no relation to the later UK prozine of the same title):

Ackerman has sent out several copies of the Fort MacArthur Reception Center ALERT's first annish. The camp paper, twice its usual size, devotes three pages to reprints of headlines and cartoons from previous issues. Of interest to fans are Cpl. Ack-Ack's Barrack Bunk" column, also much larger than usual, in which he reprints some of the year's "best" puns; and the feature story about the growth of the ALERT which devotes a paragraph to Ackie's work on the sheet and how he became associate editor....

Another Ackerman reprint from 'The Alert', this time from the 4 Feb 44 issue, appeared in FFF #161-162. Purporting to be a letter from the future, it described how important war bonds had been.

The cover of VOM #29 was a rare instance of Ackerman featuring himself in uniform in his fanzine, though he later used a cartoon of himself ("stencilled by Wild Willie WATSON") as the back cover of #42:

FFF #180 reported that "effective May 8 Forrest Ackerman (4e to you guys and gals) was made a full fledged Sarg. Now who'll win - Sarg Saturn (Oscar Friend) or Sarg Ack-Ack when it comes to 'pulling rank' on the opposition???"

During the year a stage show 'Hey, Rookie!' that had been created by Fort MacArthur's resident entertainment troup the Yardbirds was turned into a movie of the same name. Ackerman got the first of his many bit-parts in movies in this playing, essentially, himself. He can be seen in the background of one shot poring over proofs for an edition of 'The Alert'. This venture was so successful that it paid for a swimming pool at the base.

Somewhere between May and October 1944, Ackerman became full editor of 'The Alert', both FANEWSCARD #82 and FFF #203 referring to him as such when reporting that 'The Fort MacArthur Bulletin/Alert' had been voted second best base newspaper in the nation out of 1200 submitted. FFF also made that issue a special devoted to VOM and to Ackerman.

In SHANGRI-L'AFFAIRES #18 (Sep '44):

An artist was working in my office, at the Fort. About the third day, and just before he was shipped away, he asked me about the "Scientificinematorially Speaking" cut from old FANTASY Mag that I have pinned up.

"That was for a supercallifedulisticespialladocious column I used to do," I explained. (In Fantasy Mag.)
"Say", he said, "do you know about the science fiction club up in LA?"
"I'm a member."
"Well, maybe you know a fellow...what's his name?..he had something to do with a magazine the club puts out...was always asking me to draw cartoons out at N. American..."
"Daugherty?"
"Walt Daugherty! Yeah."
"Why, I know Walt! Sure! See him all the time! He's in the movies now. Look, here, here's a gag just you and I will know: I ran his picture in the paper last week--see this photo? That's Walt, standing in for Errol Flynn in 'Objective Burma'."

So Pvt Doug Heyes was set to come up and caricature the members; but the uncooperative military shipped him first. Sna-fooey!

Heyes was a cartoonist whose career later extended into TV writing, directing and producing.

FANEWS #103-105 (Jan '45) reported on Ackerman and Daugherty's involvement with 'Objective Burma', and included this photo:


Walter Daugherty, Sgt Forrest J Ackerman, and actress Dorothy Tuomi

In his column in SHANGRI-L'AFFAIRES #22 (Jan '45), Ackerman commented on a recent encounter at the Fort with another fan:

Lives there a fan with soul so dead who never to himself hath said, "What if I should be inducted - and stationed at Ft AckArthur?!" The answer - surprise! - is YES. The fan has been found. Bill Rotsler, our cover artist this issue, was taken from the ranch in Camarillo, Cal., a couple weeks ago, and processed at Mac. It was not until the day before he shipped that he thought about Ack! Instead of KP he could have been on the STF detail, he could have drawn pix all week instead of pots; I could even have fixed it for him to get a mid-week pass (not ordinarily permitted inductees) so he could have come to the Club and met the fans. As it was, he only got to talk to Laney on the phone, and meet me briefly before boarding the train for Docpin.

On New Year's Day 1945 Alden Ackerman, a Pfc with the 42nd Tank Battalion 11th Armored Division and Forry's kid brother, was killed in action in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. The news took several weeks to reach Forry, who reported the death in 'The Alert' and in VOM #39, which featured him on its cover. Ackerman later announced he would also be starting ALDEN PRESS, whose first offering in March was a memorial to Alden. Forry's request to Robert Heinlein for a contrubution resulted in this utterly despicable letter from Heinlein.

Towards the end of the year, in FANEWS #242 (Nov '45) editor Dunkelberger reported:

We proudly announce that.Fandom's own, Forrest J (no period) Ackerman achieved the unique distinction of being made Editor-in-chief of ALL news services at Fort MacArthur; promoted to Staff Sergeant and became a year older all in the same month.

The retirement to civilian life of the Editor of the Fort MacArthur ALERT and his associate left the Post with only The Bulletin from the Reception Center, Edited by Acky, as the newspaper of the Fort. A decision of the "powers that be" elected that the Bulletin become the only Fort paper and Acky Editor-in-Chief. A short time later the promotion came through. November 24th old man time tacked another one on Acky. Congrats!! The Fort paper, combined, will be known as the ALERT.

Ackerman included a page from the 5 Nov 45 issue of 'The Alert' ("that fanzine the Army pays for" - Speer) with copies of VOM #48, one devoted entirely to science fiction and fandom. Click on small image for full-size page.

Ackerman celebrated his 29th birthday with fan friends in November, but the best gift he received came six weeks later when, on Saturday 6th January 1946, he became a civilian once more.

***

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