‘Off on a spree … doomed from here to eternity’


The military’s effort to censor the book about Osama Bin Ladin reminded me of a lower profile case in the 1950s when the Navy banned the movie “From Here to Eternity” from its ships and bases.

I was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Atsugi, Japan (1952-54), when word came down that the Navy banned the movie because “it made officers look bad.”

Some enlisted men chuckled and muttered “maybe so, maybe not.”

To prepare for this column I looked up the movie ban on the Internet, and found a summary of it by Turner Classic Movies. At one point, the Navy said it banned the movie out of respect for the Army. (I don’t know for sure that the Navy has ever done anything out of respect for the Army.)

If any military agency had cause to ban this movie, the Army did, but it didn’t.

Whatever the reason for the ban, the Navy would not show the movie on our base.

Easy solution: My two buddies — Billy Harper of Indiana and Dorsey Gilliam of Kentucky — and I put on our dress blues, hopped a fast train to Yokohama and saw the movie in a Japanese theater.

The theater was filled with Japanese civilians because they loved American films. We were lucky to find three seats on the second row from the screen, and settled in just as the movie started.

It was a great movie, and it will always be one of my favorites. I see it at least once a year on Turner Classic Movies.

It was the debut novel of James Jones. and according to Wikipedia, was based on Jones’ experience in the pre-World War II Hawaiian Division in the 27th Infantry.

All went well while we were watching the movie until near the end when the screen projected Japanese Zeroes strafing and bombing Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese audience went wild, jumping and screaming banzai (hooray) loud and clear until the attack on Pearl Harbor was over.

They settled down, but it was the first time I saw Japanese lose their composure.

As for the movie, I didn’t see any reason for the Navy to ban it, and with a cast of Bert Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Cliff, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra how could a movie not be good.

While reading about the history of the ban, I learned that the title of the book, “From Here to Eternity,” came from the drinking song: “Gentleman songsters off on a spree … doomed from here to eternity.”

I often wondered about a possible deeper meaning of the title “From Here to Eternity.” Obviously, it just means when you are doomed “from here to eternity” you are certifiably doomed.

As for the military’s response to the book about the raid on Osama Bin Ladin’s “house” in Pakistan, the military’s job is to be concerned about security. This means they will always object to openness.

I watched the interview on “60 Minutes,” with the former Navy SEAL who wrote the book, “No Easy Day,” under the name of Mark Owen. He is a remarkable young man, and I appreciate what he did.

And I am so thankful that the Pakistan security was so inept that they never realized what was

going on. Our people were prepared, they knew what to do and how to do it. And our White House had the leadership to direct them. It reminded me of the Jimmy Dolittle raid over Tokyo. (Yep, I am that old.)

Now all we have to do is to make a few trillion dollars to pay our bills.


Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at morgarg7@aol.com


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