"A good luck charm and drinking game all rolled into one", the Short Snorter was a uniquely American tradition with obscure origins but popularized by air crews during WWII. Back then, a "snort" was slang for a stiff drink, and a short one was something less than a full pour. A "short snorter" was both a member of the military who had flown across the Equator or from country to country, and the membership card of this fraternity: a one dollar bill signed by two other short snorters. The currency of other nations and territories were often added to a short snorter in chains that could reach over six feet in length.
"Some guys had short snorters with more than a dozen bills covered with names. They became something to do, something to show off and something to talk about(e.g.)who we flew with, where we flew, and a way to remember some of those who signed who had gotten shot down. They were also considered to be a lucky token to have on our persons. Sort of kept the Flak
away and kept the engine, etc., running smoothly." Howard R. Dentz, USAF Res. Maj., Ret.
The more signatures one had on his short snorter, and the longer the list of countries visited or length of bills taped end to end, the greater the status of the bearer. Airmen at the bar could be asked "are you a short snorter", and the one with the shortest snorter picked up the tab. One could also collect the signatures of famous personalities, and there are existing examples of short snorters signed by Charles Lindbergh, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Bob Hope, among others.
My grandfather, Dr. Robert H. Barker, Lt. Commander, USNR, was a short snorter while a surgeon with Marine Air Group 15 in the Pacific in 1944-1945. His short snorter was a 1935 Hawai'i territory Silver Certificate 1 dollar bill. The obverse of this bill is printed at the head of this post, and the reverse at right is inscribed on the edge "SNORT SNORTER BARKER." He must have started his short snorter in Hawai'i before boarding ship for the Gilbert Islands. Although faded, you can trace the places and islands he visited along the margin of the bill: San Francisco, Oahu, Apamama, Majuro, Engebi, Mullinix, Tarawa, Makin, Kwajalein. I have no idea were "Mullinix" was. The signatures of the two other short snorters that made his official are equally faded but can just be made out as "Harold H. Marshall" and another man with the surname of "Libby." Click to enlarge.
Perhaps he was not a particularly active member of the short snorter fraternity - though by no means a teetotaler - for in some respects his snorter is short. All the island hoping he did certainly took him to many places, as indicated on his short snorter, as well as others like Saipan that he did not record. I suspect that the importance of his short snorter was as a talisman of good luck and a form of insurance to bring about a safe return to wife and family.
The short snorter tradition was maintained by Apollo astronauts but in this age of global air travel it is no longer practiced. Every short snorter has a story, and each is a unique record of the people who served in those extraordinary times.