HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: No Time for Sergeants
Author: Mac Hyman
Publisher: University of Louisiana Press, reprinted in 1995
Language level: 3 (some cursing and profanity)
Reading level: Ages 16 and up
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Hyman, Mac. No Time for Sergeants (published in 1954 by Random House Inc.; republished in 1956 as a Signet Book by The New American Library of World Literature Inc., 501 Madison Ave., New York City, NY 10022). I picked up this book at a library used book sale because I recognized the title. Years ago, we watched on television the movie, starring Andy Griffith, that was based on this book, and I remembered it being very funny. It is the story about a drawling, easy-going Georgia boy named Will Stockdale who was drafted into the United States Army and assigned to the Army Air Corps during World War II. With his new friend Ben Whitledge, he gets in all kinds of misadventures involving officers, KP, latrine duty, and an induction-center psychiatrist. There is even a Mark Twain-Tom Sawyerish twist where Will and Ben attend their own "posthumous" medal awards ceremony after a plane crash.
Ira Levin adapted the novel for a play which originally appeared as an episode on The United States Steel Hour television series in March 1955, starring Andy Griffith. It was later adapted into a popular Broadway play that opened later that year, again starring Griffith along with Don Knotts, and closed in 1957. The film version, which also included Knotts, was made in 1958 and was largely responsible for launching the careers of Griffith and Knotts. The setting for the film was updated to reflect the peacetime forces of the 50’s and the characters were members of the now separate United States Air Force. No Time for Sergeants came to the small screen as a short-lived ABC television series in the fall of 1964, starring Sammy Jackson, which lasted only one season. However, it was also the inspiration for the much more famous CBS television series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. which aired from 1964-1969.
Someone noted, "A bigger problem is that No Time for Sergeants AND Gomer Pyle BOTH ripped off their premise from The Good Soldier Schweik, a novel that is very famous in Europe but which appears to be utterly unknown to everyone in America (except the guy who ripped it off for these two TV shows). Schweik is a moronic klutz of an army private who just wants to be ‘a good soldier’, but his efforts to please his sergeant only reap disaster." The book is definitely funny. Bennett Cerf, a popular reviewer of the time, wrote, "I always thought ‘I laughed till I cried’ was just a figure of speech–until I read this book! It’s a four-star, one hundred per cent wowser." A lot of the humor is a bit crude by refined standards, and some of it would be considered politically incorrect today. However, for a book about military life there is surprisingly no vulgarity or obscenity, and very little bad language. The "h" and "d" words each appear once, except that toward the end of the book the term "God-d" is used a couple of times. However, the terms "by God" and "Lord" are used frequently as interjections (which is taking the name of the Lord in vain). There are numerous references to drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and gambling. This would not be a good book for small children, but older teenagers and adults, especially those who are interested in things military, might enjoy it.