Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The mysterious history of Sherry Britton, whose sultry contours enslaved admirals and enlisted men alike.
Well, it was this way. She was Miss Sherry Britton, a girl who used to take 'em off every night in a place called Leon & Eddie's in New York City. Miss Britton was brought to Kwajalein in a special service capacity, a sort of morale-builder first class. She made her home in the studios of WXLG, an Armed Forces radio station.
Sherry is the kind of girl who fits exactly into the hour-glass hand pattern traced in the air by any wordless wolf who needs to describe his finest mental image. Her face, with its insolent, inviting eyes and bee-stung lower lip, is the only part of her which bears description on this page.
Sherry's job as easy for her. All she had to do was let the members of the military forces look at her. That's all - just look. And that's what they did - with varying results. There were those who came, and saw, and walked away with a dreamy look in their eyes. Some broke out in a cold sweat despite the 120 degrees of temperature. Some had to be led away. Or carried.
The far-flung fame of Sherry Britton reached even to the ears of admirals and generals in the Pacific Ocean areas. It was only natural then to expect the big brass to make inspection tours of this little rock. The Air Transport Command and the Naval Air Transport Service later said they never had seen so many star-studded planes. For a while they considered the necessity of several new pages in the book of military protocol. What else could determine whose plane would land first - that of a lieutenant general in the Army or that of a vice admiral in the Navy?
All of those brains-behind-the-battles descended in droves on the WXLG studios where Sherry was living. For a few days the broadcasting boys who were the guardians of Sherry were fearful that the sight of scrambled eggs and glittering stars would sway her, just as many another lass has succumbed to metal insignia in preference to arm stripes. But Sherry remained true and appeared to be more alluring than ever to the enlisted men.
(This case of a girl turning to enlisted men instead of officers has been written carefully for preservation in War Department archives, and the Medical Corps already has prepared a physio-neuro report on the phenomenon, a report which strives to show that a beautiful body often harbors a twisted mentality.)
And then it happened. Sherry Britton was kidnapped! This curvesome young creature, who had given her all for the morale of the garrison forces, was snatched from the WXLG studios one drizzly night. It was past the regular viewing hours for Sherry, but the kidnappers gained entrance by asking to come in out of the rain. One of the boys at the studio later admitted that he should have suspected a plot from the first moment. Because very few of these coral-crazy guys, after spending from 10 to 20 months on Kwajalein, know enough to come in out of the rain. But that's the way they got in. Shortly thereafter the rain stopped, the boys left, and so did Sherry Britton!
Well, those platter-spinners at WXLG almost went nuts. On top of the fact that all of them were crazy about Sherry themselves was the added realization that they were responsible for the safety of this number one morale-uplifter. In allowing Sherry Britton to be kidnapped they had violated the trust of thousands of men.
For eighteen hours the horrible crime was kept secret. But then, after some replacements from the States had been escorted to the studios for their inaugural three-second glimpse of Sherry and had been denied entrance, the thing couldn't be held back any longer.
The news broke on the air the next afternoon and immediately threw the entire Marshall and Gilbert Island area into an uproar. It hit everybody right between the eyes with a terrific shock.
Men reacted in strange ways. Three big Seabees, who had all day been driving fence posts into the rock with sledge-hammers, wept openly and unashamedly in the mess hall. A clerk in the Army personnel office jumped through a window and began to pull up the fence posts with his bare hands. Pilots climbed into their planes and gunned them into the wild blue yonder in an effort to forget the earthly catastrophe.
The law enforcement agencies of Kwajalein were called into the case instantly. Clues were scarce, however. No ransom note was received and so it was deduced that the motive for the kidnapping of the strip-teaser was not one of financial gain.
It was thought for a few hours that Sherry would be smart enough to leave a trail of bits of clothing so that he abductors could be followed. Being accustomed to taking off her clothes, she would have no inhibitions on that score. But then it was remembered that Sherry had been very lightly clad. As a matter of fact, unclad would be a better word.
A few days later a clue developed. A Navy man drew an issue of greens and asked for a shirt with a size thirty-six chest and a size twenty-four waist. The storekeeper was alert, however, and promptly turned in an alarm because he suspected that the specification for a size thirty-six chest was a direct clue to the whereabouts of Sherry Britton. When questioned, though, this Navy man stated that he was going back to the States and wanted to look sharp on board ship in a suit of tailor-made greens. He denied all knowledge of Sherry Britton, especially as to he measurements.
All those false clues served only to increase the feeling of hopelessness which crept over the island in those dark days. It is difficult to describe the maddening surge of nausea which occurred when WXLG reported every hour, on the hour, that "there is no news at this moment in the mysterious case of the kidnapped strip-teaser."
Sure, the war was over. It had ended about three days after Sherry disappeared. Nobody seemed to know the exact date. All right, so the war was over. So what? So there were no nude blondes to cavort in a lily pond during the V-J Day celebration, no girls to kiss, no bartenders to set 'em up. The morale of the men was low.
It was that way for weeks. Even the glorious news that 200 men would be sent home for discharges after 600 replacements had arrived failed to stir the gloom.
And then, as suddenly as it had happened, the thing was all over. Sherry Britton was found. Oh, it was nothing sensational. As a matter of fact, it was very simple. And when all the facts were known, the men took it bravely and went on with their daily occupation duties, painting, building new barracks, remodeling the island open-air theaters, and so forth.
The tip-off came from a Medic who was leaving and who had seen Sherry. He left an anonymous note with the Red Cross.
What happened was this: The deed was done by one of those men who had been placed under observation in the hospital because he had gazed too long and too well at Sherry Britton, one of those Section 8's. Sherry had become an obsession with him. He had sneaked from the hospital on that fatal, rainy night and had immediately gone to the radio station for another glimpse of his heroine. When he saw his chance, he spirited her out of the place and took her back to the hospital disguised in his hospital robe. The next day he was taken to another island, an island which actually had trees, and of course he took Sherry with him in the group.
A high-ranking officer was flown to this island to bring Sherry back. But he didn't return with her. It seems that this rock-happy lad was so enamored of Sherry Britton that to deprive him of his great love would have meant his complete physical collapse, as well as mental. Death would have followed.
An official bulletin explaining this was published, broadcast and read at Kwajalein.
The bulletin said, at the end:
"Never in the history of any military installation has a pin-up picture meant so much to so many. The picture of Sherry Britton was part of the life of this island. Its value as a morale builder cannot be measured by any standards. It is a tribute to you men that you withstood the awfulness of the past weeks after being deprived of our beloved picture. Let us take comfort in the knowledge that our picture has saved the life of the deluded soul who now has it in his possession. And now that you know all the facts - carry on!"
by Cpl. PAUL FREYE - December 7, 1945 edition.