May 23, 2009

Why jumpers yell "Geronimo"

Legend of Geronimo’s bones one of manyGeronimo’s name even is emblazoned on some patches worn by U.S. Army Airborne soldiers, which Spivey said stems from a World War II-era paratrooper who had seen a Western movie about Geronimo the night before a scheduled jump. As he leapt from the plane, he yelled, “Geronimo!” a motivational cry that youngsters still use when jumping from a swing or jungle gym.

Miller said another myth is that Geronimo jumped hundreds of feet off a steep cliff at Fort Sill while being chased by the U.S. Cavalry during an escape attempt.

“This idea of jumping off Medicine Bluff during an escape is just nonsense,” Miller said.

“As (American Indians) became less dangerous, they take on this romantic element, and Geronimo kind of feeds into that as the most famous of these romantic people who are still around.”
Why do parachutists yell "Geronimo!" when jumping from an airplane?

Comment:  Cecil Adams notes that the first jumper yelled "Geronimo!" followed by an Indian war whoop. This tells you what's really behind the "motivational cry." People see Geronimo and other Indians as foolhardy, crazy, death-defying to the point of suicide. In other words, savage and uncivilized.

No one would think of yelling "Custer" or "Patton" to indicate someone willing to throw his life away, literally, to win a war. But we believe Geronimo and other Indians are just that wild and irrational. They don't care about human life the way we do, we tell ourselves. They're like screaming madmen, banshees, or beasts compared to us.

For more on the subject, see Review of Geronimo.

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