Clark Gable headed off to Miami to attend Officers Candidate School right after being sworn into the Army in August 1942. He finished 700th in a class of 2,500. At the graduation in October, he was persuaded (probably not willingly) to give the graduation address.
Up until now, I only had a clipping of his speech, which was blurry and incomplete. Thanks to a dear fan (who has a signed original!), here is Clark’s speech in its entirety:
What’s happened to you, gentlemen? Why have you changed so much in twelve weeks? Look around you. Look at each other. What you see if a picture of discipline that did not come easily. It’s proper that that .we should have learned it the hard way. We’ll keep it longer because of that. Officer Candidate School knows its business on that score–and today we know it, too.
Frankly, I didn’t know it when I came here twelve weeks ago. I didn’t know what a gig was then–a G-I-G, gentlemen. I thought it was something pulled by a horse. I learned quickly that it was something pulled by an officer candidate when his basic sanitary equipment was not sanitary enough to pass inspection.
It was a good lesson. It doesn’t take a fantastic imagination to see where the gig for a blunder or a mistake can lead. Gigs on the battlefield are measured in terms of blood of men. You don’t see it at first, perhaps, but it is the business of OCS to see that you do by the time you come to a day like this.
While at this school, I had the good luck to run into a chap who has seen discipline in action where it means the difference between life and death. He had served with the Flying Tigers in Burma and China. I asked him, a fellow who knew what it was all about, what element was the most important in the difference between winning and losing on a battle front.
“Discipline,” he said, without a second’s hesitation. “The kind of discipline that does a thing on the very nose of the second when it is supposed to be done.” Those boys made it work, we all know that.
As one of you these last twelve weeks, I’ve watched you–some of you soldiers when you started, others, like me, fresh from civilian life–learn discipline the tough way. I’ve worked with you, scrubbed with you, marched with you, sweated with you, and worried with you over whether this day would ever come. The important thing, the proud thing, I’ve learned about us in that time is that we’re men. No one could say a finer thing about us. As mean, you know that you no longer are individuals whose laxity is purely a personal matter. Your individual degree of discipline has a national value, a world value today. If I had learned nothing else in OCS, that would be a lesson to prize all the rest of my life. Multiply us by millions of other Americans and you have what it takes to win the war, and what will cost us victory if we don’t have it.
In a few minutes, gentlemen, we will put on the uniform of an officer which symbolizes a stage in our development where indivdiual effeciency counts more than anything else. How we look in it is a very important thing. How we wear it is a lot more important.
Gentlemen, I’m not going to say to you “get on the beam.” You’re on it. The job is to stay on the beam until–in victory–we get the command: “Fall out.”