Gallows Humor Wanted

Two talented Vietnam veteran writers–former photojournalist and psy opsman Tony Swindell and one-time 1st Cav medic Marc Levy–are putting together a book of combat jokes. “It’s not going to be Reader’s Digest   ‘Humor in Uniform, ‘ ha-ha type, ” Levy told us in an electronic communication. “We’re looking for jokes of the grim, cruel, gallows-humor variety, which is expressive of how soldiers have always dealt with wars horror. “

The authors hope, Levy said, “to solicit enough jokes to write a book to provide civilians with the necessary non-academic context to understand what happens to the hearts and minds of men and women in war, and how grim jokes reflect that change, but at the same time help troops survive the dull routines and sudden unspeakable chaos” in the war zone.

Levy offered an example of the kind of joke they’re looking for: 

A colonel and his sergeant major chopper out to a landing zone to see for themselves the aftermath of a large and bloody firefight. There was heavy fighting, and many casualties on both sides.  When they arrive, the American KIAs are lined up shoulder to shoulder in back of the makeshift aid station, covered with ponchos and waiting for the choppers to come fetch them.  There are many, many bodies. 

The colonel and the sergeant major slowly make their way down the line, lifting the flaps of the ponchos to view the faces.  The colonel looks more and more troubled the farther down the line he goes, and is truly upset.  Finally he looks over to the sergeant major and says, “All so young.  What a pity.  What a waste.  Sergeant Major, how old do you think these boys are?”  The sergeant major looks at the colonel, and says, “They’re all dead, Colonel.  That’s as old as you get.”

If you’d like to contribute, email Levy at


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