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Learning the Ropes: 1942

Learning the Ropes: 1942

October 1942. "High school Victory Corps. In true commando style, this young student at Flushing High School, Queens, New York, is learning to take care of himself no matter what the circumstances may be. High cliffs and walls won't stop him when he is old enough to serve in the armed forces." Medium format negative by William Perlitch for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Rope climbing

At a street fair this summer I watched as various passersby tried their luck at a rope climb, about 12 feet high. Those who wrapped a half-coil of rope around one foot to prevent downward slippage expended a lot less energy than those using only their arms. Of course, the little kids scrambled up like monkeys, lickety-split.

Former Event

This style of rope climb was once an official gymnastics event, along with the likewise now-discarded flying rings. The climber began seated on the mat and at a signal climbed to the top of the rope, using only his arms. Apparently, the number of spine compression fractures produced in the course of falls during this timed event produced sufficient pressure that it was abandoned, at least in HS and college meets, by the late '50s.

Military rope climbing very much involves using the legs, a slower method but much safer, especially when burdened by 50-100 lbs. of combat equipment. To my knowledge, nobody even attempted to go up the cliffs hand over hand at Pointe du Hoc.

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