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LT. Dick Ryan’s Army Rodeo

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images

I received a copy of the book “The American Jeep In War and Peace” By Kurt Willinger and Gene Gurney today that I bought on eBay.  Between the purchase price and the shipping I don’t think I paid more than $7 total.  With more than 350 illustrations, the book contains some drawings and some photographs I’ve never seen elsewhere.

 

One of the photographs I hadn’t seen shows a Jeep jumping over another jeep in a large Tokyo stadium.  The captions reads “A rodeo put on by the military command in Tokyo in November 1945 would not have been complete without a demonstration of jeep-jumping”.  After reading that, I jumped on the Googler to see what I could find.  I didn’t find much in the picture department, but I learned plenty about Lt. Dick Ryan and his Army Rodeo. For example, I found this post by Wade Burck at The Circus No Spin Zone:

Army Rodeos were staged by Lt. Dick Ryan throughout the South Pacific. Many Rodeos were held for the entertainment of servicemen stationed in overseas bases–including Brisbane, Sydney, Grafton and Townsville, in Australia…Port Moresby, New Guinea; Hollandia, Dutch Indies and Manila…and a final victorious show in Tokyo on Armistice Day in 1945. Dick Ryan a Lieutenant in the United States Cavalry had an interesting and varied career. He was a circus rider, rodeo performer, Hollywood stunt man, motion picture double and finally the owner and producer of his own world famous rodeo and stunt show.

One of Ryan’s signature events was jumping a jeep over another one, as shown in the picture above.  According to the US Military Forum (here and here), this image is photo of Ryan jumping a jeep in Brisbane, Australia.

And here is a program from a November 1946 event in Japan that was auctioned in 2007:

Not every one was a fan of the rodeo though. I found an  excerpt from a diary written by Herbert L. Martin and published in a book in 2003 where Herbert recorded traveling eighteen miles to see “the much publicized rodeo at the Meiji Stadium in Tokyo” on November 11th, 1945.  (This could mean that Herbert saw the very same rodeo in the picture at the very top of this post).   Herbert wrote, “To be frank, the rodeo was a flop.  The cowboys had no wild steers.  They were tame and evidently tired. . . . the bronco busters had no vicious broncos either.”  The only good news Herbert recorded that day were two football scores:  “Army over Notre Dame, 48 to 0; Navy over Michigan, 33 to 7.”

Finally, I guess Lt. Dick Ryan made enough of an impression on the troop entertainment circuit, that Dick Haynes would play him in the movie “Four Jills in a Jeep“.

 

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