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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“.

 

5 Comments on “LT. Dick Ryan’s Army Rodeo

  1. Eloise

    Ryan was 54 years old when he arrived in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, acquired space in the VFW building in which he installed lots of telephones, then hired young local women to use those phones to sell tickets to a large star-studded concert he had organized to be held in the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh. The girls sold many tickets, but Ryan never paid them for their work. I know, because I was one of those young ladies. He kept promising he would soon pay us our wages in full when the ticket sales money came in. He never paid us. But that wasn’t the worst of it. There was no concert. The many recording stars he had announced as the performers for his big concert knew nothing about it. On the appointed day of the concert there were long lines of ticket buyers waiting outside the Syria Mosque to gain entry into the building and be seated for the show. Turned out that the Syria Mosque knew nothing about it. A large group of kids from the School for the Blind were provided ice cream treats by local officials as a small gesture of recompense for the disappointed blind kids. Dick Ryan was caught by the police before he could board a train out of Greensburg with a suitcase full of money Ryan had amassed from the thousands of ticket sales for his fake concert. The news media covered the story as it unfolded. One of the young women who sold tickets over the phone for Ryan had developed a crush on him as she thought he was glamorous. She helped him by taking him home to her parents because the rascal had no money and no place to stay in town while awaiting his day in court. I got paid for my work when Ryan and the young woman came to see me at my home to find out what I would testify to in court. They handed over the wages I was owed without getting any information from me. I believe the money was I received was from the young woman, not from Ryan. Ryan had his day in court. It was a travesty. The judge allowed Ryan to take center stage in the court room after all the testimony and evidence of fraud had been presented by the prosecutors. The judge encouraged Ryan to entertain the all the many court attendees with stories of his rodeos, his Japanese Emperor’s horse, and all the other exciting adventures of his (misspent) life. It was disgusting. Half the jurors slept through the court proceedings. Ryan walked out of that local courtroom a free man. Who says crime doesn’t pay? Where he went from there I cannot say. I saw the young woman who helped him escape justice one day when she appeared by chance in the store where I was clerking, and I could see that she was surprised and embarrassed to see me there. She had nothing much to say, and left quickly. Her father had reportedly and sadly died of a heart attack while Ryan was their guest. Dick Ryan was a selfish, sociopathic con man. Where is he now? Where indeed.

  2. David Eilers

    Hi Eloise,

    Thanks for your comment and insights. I’m sorry to hear Ryan cheated you; it sounds like the trial was a kangaroo court, which just added salt to a wound. Hopefully, Ryan encountered some karma for his treatment of you and the other women.

    Best wishes,

    – Dave
    eWillys.com

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