A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 22, 2014
“If the military wanted you to have a family, they’d have issued you one”

A military career is a difficult path to raise a family. “If the military wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one” is an old joke.

“If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one” was cited in print in 1956. “If the military wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one” was cited in 1978. The saying appears to date to World War II (1940s).


11 May 1956. Floyd Valley Farmers News (Lemars, IA), “Seasoning...,” pg. 12, col. 4:
There was a young Marine who had married his girl just before being “abducted” into the service. After less than a week of honeymoon bliss, he found himself in the unromantic atmosphere of Camp Lejeune.

Since his home was too far away to get to and from on a weekend pass, he kept pestering his Sergeant for a longer leave, explaining his terrible need to see his bride and be with her. Each time his pleading became more passionate but the Sergeant was adamant.

Finally the Sergeant said, “Look, son if the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they’d have issued you one. So shut up!”

Google Books
Time
Volume 68
1956
Pg. 13:
As they told my husband, while he was on active duty: “If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.”
MRS. H. P. REILAND
Wichita, Kans.

Google Books
17 December 1956, Life magazine, pg. 14, col. 3:
Sirs:
High-handed General Pate evidently endorses the legendary credo, “If the corps wanted you to have a wife, they’d have issued you one.”
PHILIP PEPPIS
Mount Vernon, N.Y.

23 February 1961, Dallas (TX) , “Big D” by Paul Crume, sec. 1, pg. 1, col. 1:
“In the GREAT WAR some 16 years ago,” he writes, “a gunnery sergeant in that great and glorious Marine Corps supplied a classic answer to the quest, ‘What can we do with our wives?’

“His epic answer...’Son, that’s your problem. If the Marine Corps had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one.’”

17 February 1963, Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, “Political Underdogs” (editorial), pg. A4, col. 2:
Witness the unofficial and traditional Marine Corps attitude towards matrimony: “If the Corps wanted you to have a wife, private, they would have issued you one.”

11 September 1964, The Progress (Clearfield, PA), pg. 14, col. 6:
G.I.: “May I have a weekend pass, sir? I want to get married.”
C.O.: “Sorry. If the Army wanted you to have a wife, they’d have issued you one.”

2 April 1970, The News (Van Nuys, CA), ‘Service Wives Advised on What Not to Do,” pg. 10, col. 5:
“Back in 1942, the military seemed to say ‘If we had wanted you to have a wife, we would have issued you one.’ But today is different,” Mrs. hearn said.

Google News Archive
9 January 1978, Fort Scott (KS) Tribune, “Pentagon: Family Planning?” by Martha Angle and Robert Walters, pg. 2, col. 1:
WASHINGTON—(NEA)—“If the military wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one.”

It’s a hoary old gag line, all too familiar to anyone who has ever donned a uniform in the service of Uncle Sam.

Google News Archive
9 December 1980, Reading (PA) Eagle, “Family Navy’s New Concern” by R. D. Gersh, pg. 12, col. 1:
NORFOLK, Va. (AP)—If the Navy wanted you to have a family, the old saying goes, it would have issued you one in your seabag.

OCLC WorldCat record
“If the Army wanted you to have a wife...” : family housing at Fort Sam Houston.
Author: Fort Sam Houston Museum.
Publisher: Fort Sam Houston, Tex. : Fort Sam Houston Museum, [between 1985 and 1998]
Edition/Format: Book : English

Google News Archive
8 February 1991, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), “In the ‘90s, war work is family affair” by Ellen Goodman, pg. B7, col. 4:
In the favorite phrase of Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., “The army’s attitude is: If we wanted you to have a family, we would have issued you one.”

Google News Archive
23 August 1993, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “Marines tried to jilt married types” by Ellen Goodman, pg. 11A, col. 1:
It harks back to the old saying that if the military wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one.

Google Books
Staying Alive-the Life and Times of an American Baby Boomer
Part 2: The Serendipidous ‘70s

By Gene Baumgaertner
Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing
2011
Pg. ?:
His Captain had once told him that if the Marine Corps had wanted him to have a family, they would have issued him one.

Twitter
Melissa Treece
‏@NoJudgingWords
@morval11 Of course there’s also: “If Uncle Sam had wanted you to have a family, he would have issued them to you in boot camp.”
2:40 PM - 21 Apr 2012

Twitter
Doctrine Man
‏@Doctrine_Man
Do you remember the days of “If the Army wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one!”? http://fb.me/2EJGXTKk1
7:03 AM - 22 Oct 2013

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, October 22, 2014 • Permalink