“The first novel (1951) by James Jones (1921-77), who was serving in the US infantry in Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Twice promoted and twice reduced to private, he fought at Guadalcanal and was wounded in the head by a mortar fragment. The novel, which won a National Book Award, draws on his own experiences in Hawaii and caused a sensation for its expose of army brutality and its outspokenness about sex and military mores. The film (1952) was a slick, sexually oblique version directed by Fred Zinnemann. The title comes from the poem ‘The Gentlemen Rankers’ (1889) by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) about oppressed junior ranks:
‘Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha’ mercy on such as we.'”
Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.