Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Was The Magazine Of The Vietnam War

History
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In late 1965, Lt. Jack Price of the 173rd Airborne’s 503rd Infantry Regiment bought his company a lifetime subscription to Playboy. The magazine had just launched a crazy promotional offer: The first issue of the subscription would be delivered in person by a Playboy playmate. Price was deployed in Vietnam.


By the time Playmate of the Year Jo Collins arrived in Saigon, Price was lying in a hospital bed at Bien Hoa airbase recovering from a gunshot wound. Collins flew in on a Huey to hand him the first issue of his subscription. The rest of Price’s company — nicknamed “Bloody Bravo” because of the exorbitant number of casualties it had sustained — was still in the field, locked in a fierce battle with a Vietcong regiment that lasted 10 days.

According to the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Collins was waiting for the soldiers of Bloody Bravo on the edge of the landing zone when their choppers touched down. Playboy called it a “hazardous goodwill mission.”   

Playboy founder and American icon Hugh Hefner died on Sept. 27 at the age of 91. An Army veteran who had served as an infantry clerk during World War II, Hefner remained a champion of the troops over the course of his long life, and through Playboy his deep appreciation of those who serve influenced the way generations of Americans perceive the military.   

Playboy was the magazine of the Vietnam War. And it wasn’t just the photographs of nude women — distinguished by their all-American “girl next door” sex appeal compared to the high-fashion models featured in other magazines at the time— that made voracious readers of American G.I.s. Beyond the centerfold, the magazine tackled the controversial issues of the ’60s and early ’70s through hard-hitting feature articles, some of which were deeply critical of the war and the people running it.

However, as historian Amber Batura recently noted in The New York Times, Playboy made it a point to always celebrate the men on the ground, encouraging readers to support the troops even if they didn’t support the war. “We admired their bravery and their idealism, their courage and dedication in the face of endless problems,” journalist David Halberstam wrote in Playboy in 1971. “We believed that they represented the best of American society.”   

The magazine’s reader-response section also provided a forum for deployed troops to express their own opinions about the conflict, its justifications, and the impact of drugs, race, and homosexuality in the military. Meanwhile, the column gave Americans back home a rare window into what soldiers were actually experiencing in Vietnam, where the company’s bunny logo was plastered all over military bases, vehicles, and aircraft.

“Adopting the symbol of Playboy was a small rebellion to the conformity of military life,” Batura wrote, “and a testament to the impact of the magazine on soldiers’ lives and morale.”

In 1991, during the first Gulf War, Playboy launched what it dubbed “Operation Playmate.” Deployed service members who wrote letters to playmates would receive autographed letters from the playmates in return. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf called it “a major morale boost for our troops.” The operation was revived in 2001 for troops participating in the invasion of Afghanistan, and again as the march to Baghdad was getting underway.

“The boys will be able to send an email to their favorite Playmate and she’ll send them a headshot of themselves or of them wearing shirts and T-shirts,” Playboy spokesman Bill Farley told the Associated Foreign Press in April 2003. “Hef has said we’ll keep this latest effort going as long as their is a call for it.”

He added: “I don’t know his views on this conflict, but when it comes to the troops, he feels that we should support them 100 percent.”

An Austrian Jagdkommando K9 unit conducts training (Austrian Armed Forces photo)

An Austrian soldier was apparently killed by two military working dogs that he was charged with feeding, the Austrian Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.

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Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario has seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya, and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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Photo: ABC News/screenshot

Federal court judge Reggie Walton in Washington D.C. has ruled Hoda Muthana, a young woman who left her family in Hoover, Alabama, to join ISIS, is not a U.S. citizen, her attorneys told AL.com Thursday.

The ruling means the government does not recognize her a citizen of the United States, even though she was born in the U.S.

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Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Marine Corps could train as many as eight co-ed companies at boot camp each year, and the general overseeing the effort is hitting back against those complaining that the move is lowering training standards.

"Get over it," Maj. Gen. William Mullen, the head of Training and Education Command told Military.com on Thursday. "We're still making Marines like we used to. That has not changed."

Mullen, a career infantry officer who has led troops in combat — including in Fallujah, Iraq — said Marines have likely been complaining about falling standards since 1775.

"I'm assuming that the second Marine walking into Tun Tavern was like 'You know ... our standards have gone down. They're just not the same as it they used to be,'" Mullen said, referring to the service's famous birthplace. "That has always been going on in the history of the Marine Corps."

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