Professors, Soldiers & Jungleology

Tales as tall as the Andes and as colorful as the stories of W. H. Hudson are coming out of USO reports today on its work in the jungles of Central and South America. With wartime restrictions lifted, the story can be told of the vast network of USO outpost services for men stationed at isolated spots from Guatemala to Peru. By plane and crash boat, by tuna-boat and converted private yacht, its outpost workers have traveled thousands of miles a month to take information, recreation and a breath of America to men hungry for reminders of civilian life.

Throughout the war years the USO, at Army request, put on a sort of “triple-threat play” at these jungle outposts, in teaching the men how to recognize and avoid dangerous reptiles and other hazards of jungle life, in organizing jungle trips to capture notable species of wildlife, and in demonstrating hobbies that make use of crocodile skins, and other animals and plants indigenous to various regions. An important part of their work lay also in the sheer entertainment they could provide, through live talent shows, dances, and radio and dramatic features. Most practical and valuable, perhaps, has been the Jungleology program conducted by Stanley M. Hamilton, Director of the USO Atlantic Outpost Service, and Clarence H. MacDonald, Director of the USO Pacific Seaboard Outpost Service, with the active operation of Kenneth W. Winton, Professor of Science at Balboa (Canal Zone) Junior College and an expert in junglelore. ‘

“When we do not fly,” wrote Mr. MacDonald, “we Pack our specimens in an old station wagon and sally forth to air force positions available by road and adjacent to Panama. We carry along bottled specimens of most poisonous snakes, insects and plants that might injure service men. We also carry along a few boa constrictors. These are a great help in breaking down phobias and superstitions about Nature. It is interesting to see the lifelong horror of service men of snakes, spiders, scorpions, etc., break down within an hour of straight talk about the environment in which they are now living, the jungles.”

On one trip by plane to the Galapagos Archipelago off the coast of South America, Mr. MacDonald took along a cage of snakes. Just as the plane was about to take off, two startled colonels found themselves face to face with the reptiles, which were staring with ophidian fascination at their silver eagles. The officers wanted to know what was going on. When Mr. MacDonald explained, the colonels, mollified, used the top of the snake cage for a game of cards that lasted 800 miles. At the next Jungleology lecture they were both in the front row

Source by David Bunch

Ben Wills

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