This commander prepped for war by organizing a beard growing contest

Blake Stilwell
Updated onJul 12, 2023 1:27 PM PDT
1 minute read
military beard


Given the chance, most active service members will let their beard grow to epic proportions, and they were no different in the 1940s.

In May 1941, the United States was on the brink of war. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed an "unlimited national emergency" and ordered American forces to prepare "to repel any and all acts or threats of aggression directed toward any part of the Western Hemisphere." While the situation seemed grim, at least one commanding officer decided to lighten the mood. He allowed his men to participate in a beard growing contest in what would be the most hirsute event in the U.S. military until Robin Olds headed to Vietnam.

Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8th, 1941. Six months later, the Philippines fell and the American troops who survived were submitted to the harshest treatment of any POWs in the Pacific War. The Allies did not retake the Philippines until October 1944.

Participants in the beard growing contest. (National Archives)
National Archives
National Archives
Your winner, ladies and gentlemen. (National Archives)


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