For the Boys: The Racy Pin-Ups of World War II, by Max Allan Collins, Collectors Press, Portland, Ore., 2000, $39.95.

What the guys in combat wanted as a reminder of one of the things they were fighting for–God, country and family–was the idealized female of their dreams.

The pictures, photos and illustrations of women that they pinned on barracks walls and painted on the noses of their airplanes and bomber jackets served to remind them of the girl back home–or at least the girl they fantasized about. Today it may seem sexist or politically incorrect, but those pictures apparently helped keep airmen focused on the often grotesque job of killing the other guy before he killed them. Looking at pictures of bosomy women with inviting smiles was somehow able to help snap combatants back into a quasi-reality that helped them through the terrors of war and gave them a carrot to fight for.

Bob Hope, the quintessential GI entertainer, knew what it was all about. When he toured, he was always accompanied by good-looking, good-sport female entertainers to let the troops know that they were not forgotten by the folks back home. Traveling around the world, he always brought a songstress or actress who drew wolf whistles from the assembled GIs. To the troops, it seemed these were the “girls back home” who magically appeared on lonely, strife-torn Pacific islands in the mid-’40s, often not very far from where shells were tearing up terrain and troops.

For the Boys is loaded with pictures from many famous illustrators, including George Petty, Alberto Vargas, Gil Elvgren, Merlin Enabnit (who drew pin-ups for Britain’s servicemen), ZoĆ« Mozert, Rolf Armstrong and even some cartoon cuties by Al Capp and Milton Caniff.

For the Boys inspires our renewed appreciation of the combatants and support personnel as well as the women who urged them on to victory.

Arthur H. Sanfelici