The date is November 9, 1861. Union soldiers occupying the little southeast Missouri town of Bloomfield start passing around a new newspaper. It offers advice advice for moving wagons of equipment through swamps, poked fun at the Confederate forces that had left the town and urged loyalty to the Union.
It was the first edition of The Stars and Stripes; a paper that today some call the official newspaper of the U.S. Military. Its website says it is now read by about 420,000 people daily. In addition to the online edition, versions are published for Europe, Japan, Korea and the Middle East and it is delivered to homes in nine countries.
AUDIO: Past President of the Stars and Stripes Museum Board Jim Mayo tells the story of the creation of the Stars and Stripes – 4:36
Four more issues were printed during the Civil War in other locations, but historians agree it began in Bloomfield. The paper next appeared in France during World War I. General James Pershing of LaClede is said to have been instrumental in its publishing as an effort to boost the morale of his troops. Mayo, says General Pershing issued an order to the effect that no officer could manipulate the paper to further his career.
AUDIO: Jim Mayo says he thinks there is a direct connection between the men who printed the first Stars and Stripes in Bloomfield, and those who resumed printing it during World War I – 1:42
The paper resumed production in April of 1942, during World War II when it was published in Europe and North Africa and later from Tokyo. Publication has not stopped since then. Director of Southeast Missouri State University’s Center for Regional History, Dr. Frank Nickell, says it was then-general Dwight Eisenhower who said he wanted the Stars and Stripes to be the soldier’s newspaper, and it would not be censored.
Today, three copies are known to exist of the first Stars and Stripes newspaper. One is in the Library of Congress, another is at a library at the University of Michigan, and one is at the Museum in Bloomfield.
Read a reprint of the first copy of the Stars and Stripes below: