WORLD WAR II FROM A TO Z
Sports and some news from home
Broadcast, boost moral
What a way to bring entertainment to the U.S. troops on Independence Day. At 5:45 pm on July 4, 1943, the U.S. Army began broadcasting from London during World War II from borrowed facilities and equipment from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The first broadcast was less than five hours and included recorded shows, BBC news and sports broadcast. Formed in 1942, the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) broadcasts were beneficial to the moral of the troops.
That day, Corporal Syl Binkin became the first U.S. military broadcaster heard over the air. The signal was sent from London via telephone lines to five regional transmitters to reach U.S. troops in the United Kingdom as they made preparations for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.
The BBC feared competition for civilian audiences and initially tried to impose restrictions on AFN broadcasts within Britain. Transmissions were allowed only from American Bases outside London and were limited to 50 watts of transmission power and a minimum quota of British produced programming had to be carried. AFN programs were widely enjoyed by the British civilian listeners who could receive them, and once AFN operations transferred to continental Europe (shortly after D-Day) AFN was able to broadcast with little restriction with programs available to civilian audiences across most of Europe, (including Britain), after dark.
One of the programs produced for the radio was Command Performance. It was a radio program which originally aired between 1942 and 1949. The program was broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Network (AFRS) with a direct shortwave transmission to the troops overseas. It was not broadcast over domestic U.S. radio stations. The program was produced before an audience in the Vine Street Playhouse in Hollywood, California, and recorded via electrical transcription. The weekly listening audience of military personnel was estimated at 95.5 million.
Troops sent in requests for a particular performer or program to appear, and they also suggested unusual ideas for music and sketches on the program, such as Ann Miller tap dancing in military boots. Top performers of the day appeared, including Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and The Andrews Sisters.
An article in a 1943 issue of Tune In magazine estimated the value of the talent appearing on Command Performance as follows: “Presented by a commercial sponsor, ‘Command Performance’ would have a weekly talent cost of $50,000. For Uncle Sam, there are no charges.”
The final episode of Command Performance — the 415th in the series — was produced in December 1949.
A is also for Axis Powers