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...
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:
and also this report:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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, now a Staff Sgt, celebrated his 29th birthday with fan friends in December, but the best gift he received came the following month when, on Saturday 6th January 1946, he became a civilian once more.