The new Army recruiting ad, featuring the now famous (infamous?) CPL Emma Malonelord has received a lot of negative attention thanks to many conservative politicians and talk-show hosts. But this is far from the worst recruiting ad for the Army. 

So let us take a walk back through the Army’s recruiting ads and take a look at the highs and lows of each era starting from the most recent to the days of Uncle Sam and beyond. 

What’s Your Warrior: Present

Army Recruiting Has Come a Long Way From Uncle Sam: The Best and Worst
An image from one of the ads that triggered so many people during the Army’s new recruiting campaign.

The newest Army recruiting campaign has lots of good stuff. But I hate anime, and that was a nose-wrinkler for moi right off the bat. The Army is shooting for greater diversity, so the newest recruiting ads have soldiers and officers from several different races. That was no doubt the goal there and it hits the mark. 

The job quiz, career match, and the listing of critical-need jobs for the service are excellent. The webpage was well put together with sections on benefits and either full or part-time service in the Reserves or Guard. For the first time in my memory, the Army is advertising for Army Civilian careers which is definitely something new. 

But I can’t get past the anime. (My son is a huge fan of Japanese anime. So, when I told him what I was writing about, he told me to check out his latest favorite anime. I can’t imagine where he gets that smartassery from?) 

For the record, I could care less about which soldiers have two moms or two dads. That goes right out the window once the rubber hits the road. Is the man/woman next to you reliable and will they be there for the team? That’s what matters.

Nevertheless, this Army recruiting campaign didn’t resonate with viewers and the Army disabled comments on it…. ouch. However, overall, it wasn’t bad. 

Army Strong: 2006-2018 

This one replaced the absolutely worst recruiting campaign ever. So, whatever the Army came up with was bound to be an improvement. However, this was more than that. They simplified the message, promoting Army values and teamwork over individuality and showed a bunch of cool-looking vignettes of soldiers doing cool stuff. 

The definite theme of this Army recruiting campaign was “strength.”

The campaign was aided by an excellent musical score that sounds like a cross between a John Williams Star Wars theme and the old NFL Films videos music by Sam Spence. The only thing missing was the golden voice of John Facenda, for those too young to remember, he would have made a great voice for the Army recruiting effort. 

The Army gets kudos for that one, especially given what came before it. 

Army of One: 2001-2006

Somebody was asleep at the switch with this one. The campaign replaced the traditional Army ethos of teamwork and appealed to the individuality of the day’s youth. It was a disaster. The Army spent $150 million on this dog… and although it was short-lived, it is inconceivable that it lasted six years. 

No question, this has to be one of the worst ideas that someone approved at the highest level. 

Be All You Can Be: 1980-2001

Army Recruiting Has Come a Long Way From Uncle Sam: The Best and Worst
Be All You Can Be screenshot. (YouTube)

This one came around during the later stages of the Cold War as the all-volunteer force, which was having issues hitting its recruiting goals, needed a shot in the arm. And this proved to be it.

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It replaced the “This is the Army,” slogan which was too busy for most ad campaigns.

The reason this campaign lasted so long was that it worked, had an effective message for the time, and had a nice musical number attached to it. This was a jingle that Charlie Harper would have been proud of. 

Check out some old Army ads above. Some of them are cringe-worthy but are interesting to see through the lens of time. The Ranger ad campaign was done with an actual member of the Ranger Battalion. A good buddy of mine who was in the Battalion said the Ranger who played in the clip was a good guy but got constant ribbing over that. No doubt. And how about the paratrooper who jumps out of a C-130, jumps into a Gamma Goat (who remembers those?), and tips his canteen cup of coffee to the 1SG… yeah right. That would go over like a lead balloon. 

Today’s Army Wants to Join You: 1971-1980

This one was a swing and a miss as the Army was changing from a draftee heavy force in Vietnam to an all-volunteer force in the early 70s. Further, at the time, most citizens didn’t have the same type of respect for the military as they do today. 

The Army tried to adjust fire halfway through the time period by changing the slogan to “Join the People Who’ve Joined the Army” in 1973. This later evolved into “This is the Army” in the late 70s.

I remember seeing the posters during the day advertising getting stationed in Europe and showing a GI in need of a haircut (some SGM would go nuts), and sitting with a hot European girl at an outdoor cafe. 

Choice, Not Chance: The 1950s-1971

This was the recruiting ad campaign during the height of the Cold War and Vietnam years. It was an attempt to get guys to enlist, by emphasizing that enlistment would allow them to choose their MOS and at least their first duty assignment. Whereas, being drafted wouldn’t provide such benefits.

For those who were of draft age, it was an effective campaign. Of course, after 12 months, many found their way to Vietnam regardless.

The campaign was augmented by the “Modern Army Green” ads which played upon the issue of the Army’s new Class A uniform. 

I Want YOU for the US Army: World War I, World War II, Korea

The classic Uncle Sam. The drawing was created by James Montgomery Flagg, a commercial artist. It was a runaway success. This was the longest, and most successful recruiting campaign ever launched by the Army. Flagg’s first Uncle Sam poster debuted in the July 6, 1916 issue of Leslie’s Weekly with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?”

More than four million copies of the poster were printed in World War I. It continued with World War II and the Korean War. While it seems dated today, it is a classic and there are still works that incorporate Flagg’s immortal design. 

Army Recruiting Has Come a Long Way From Uncle Sam: The Best and Worst
Civil War Army recruiting poster

Civil War Army Recruiting

With massive numbers of German and Irish immigrants streaming to the United States during the Civil War, the Army tried to play upon patriotic themes. So its posters featured eagles with wings spread, flags, cavalry officers with raised swords, battle scenes, or pictures of George Washington.

Some of the recruiting campaign posters targeted specific segments of the population, with ads written in German or French or decorated with harps and shamrocks to appeal to Irish-Americans. 

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