Friday, March 30, 2007

Fishing Tackle for Soldiers: A Historical Perspective

An interesting movement is afoot to provide soldiers overseas with fishing tackle. You can view the details of this project here:

It is interesting to note that there is a long tradition of this. Classic Angling, a fine British publication that covers fishing history in great detail, recently profiled efforts of British citizens to provide fishing tackle to World War I soldiers fighting in France. This idea passed over the Atlantic, and in World War II, a similar movement developed to provide American soldiers with fishing tackle.

The movement to send fishing tackle to overseas soldiers and sailors was spearheaded by Michael Lerner of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), who declared on 05 September 1943:

"Millions of our boys are stationed in places where recreational opportunities are limited. And yet, fishing is available in almost every region to which our boys have been sent. When out boys find themselves on the world's finest fishing ranges--oceans, lakes, rivers--so keen is their desire to fishing during the periods of leave from billets, bombs, and barrages they are trying to make fishing hooks out of discarded wire, scraps of metal, and even safety pins in order to get a crack at local fishing."

Lerner ordained a movement to send fishing kits to soldiers. These kits cost $2 to assemble, package and ship, with donations taken at the IGFA headquarters, and the cause was popularized by the Isaac Walton League, American Museum of Natural History, and Tom Moore McBride (fishing writer for the Washington Post) and Lincoln Werder (fishing writer for The New York Times), among others. There was some debate over whether this was a good idea or a bad one, but in the end the fishing kits were provided in limited numbers. More importantly, the movement spurred the government to commission more "fishing survival kits" to be given to select soldiers and sailors, some of which have survived down to the present.

It is an old idea but a good one and one that I support wholeheartedly. I get a large number of ROTC soldiers in my classes, and currently have a dozen or more former students fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For them, and for others like them, I am putting together a box of several thousand extra hooks I have accumulated and sending it on to the distribution site. You can never have enough fish hooks! And I think one of the better memories a soldier could have would be catching a fish out of the Tigres or Euphrates rivers.

--Dr. Todd

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