As early as 1940 the War Department was using short-wave radio broadcasts to inform and educate Americans overseas. In 1941 entertainment was added the mix. Departing troops were issued "B" kits ("B" for "Buddy") that consisted of radios, phonographs, 10-inch shellac 78-rpm phonograph records and 16-inch 33-rpm transcription discs of popular radio shows. Within 3 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the War Department began producing original variety shows to beef-up troop morale beginning with "Command Performance."
The Armed Forces Radio Services was formally established 26 May 1942 to generate additional programming for the troops. Initially AFRS programming included mostly transcribed commercial network radio shows such as the Kraft Music Hall with the commercials removed. Soon numerous original AFRS programs such as Mail Call were added to the mix. At its peak in 1945 the AFRS was generating about 20 hours of original programming each week. The AFRS could command the services of the best writers and performers without regard to their network or studio contractual obligations. It was on Command Performance, for example, that baritone Bing Crosby was paired in song with tenor Richard Crookes. And the AFRS got these services for free.
The first original product of the AFRS was Mail Call. Other popular shows included "G.I. Journal," "Jubilee," which featured mostly black entertainers, and "G.I. Jive."
The following is a partial list of the Armed Forces Radio broadcasts made by Bing Crosby during the 1940s. Most frequently he appeared on Command Peformance, GI Journal or Mail Call. Unlike network programming in the States, AFRS programs were recorded for later broadcast, and only the dates of their recording are indicated below. These original programs were broadcast to the troops overseas, and usually were not heard by Americans at home. Contents are listed where they are known.
COMMAND PERFORMANCE USA!
Command Performance was widely considered the best of all the original AFRS programs. The idea behind Command Performance was that soldiers could write to the show to "command" a celebrity perform. The first Command Performance was recorded 1 March 1942 in CBS studios in New York City and was broadcast overseas via shortwave by 11 stations one week later. Command Performance moved to the CBS studios in Hollywood the following month where the bulk of the programs were recorded. During the War each program began "Command Performance USA ... coming to you this week and every week until it's over, over there." The theme song was George M. Cohan's "Over There." Initially Command Performance was produced by the Radio Division of the War Department's Bureau of Public Relations. The AFRS took control of the show in December of 1942. Original productions continued until 1949. Dinah Shore made the most appearances on Command Performance with 35, Bing was second with 29 and Bob Hope was third with 26. Ken Carpenter was the most frequent announcer. Bing sings each listed song unless otherwise indicated.
Starring Bing Crosby:
COMMAND PERFORMANCE #17 (6-11-42) hosted by Don Ameche 1. Johnny Doughboy COMMAND PERFORMANCE #30 (8-30-42) w Kay Kyser Orchestra (From a performance at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.) 1. My Darling Clementine 2. Stardust COMMAND PERFORMANCE #31 (8-30-42) w James Cagney, Connee Boswell, Bert Wheeler, Kay Kyser (From a performance at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.) 1. I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Connee Boswell) 2. Clementine 3. Give Our Regards to Broadway (w James Cagney) 4. Down by the Old Millstream (w Cagney) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #36 (10-13-42) w Dinah Shore, Mary Martin 1. You are my Sunshine 2. Oh, Do It Again (Mary Martin) 3. Wait Til the Sun Shines Nellie (w Mary Martin) 4. Ride, Red, Ride (Charioteers) 5. I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo (Dinah Shore) 6. My Old Kentucky Home (w Shore) 7. Stardust COMMAND PERFORMANCE #44 (12-24-42) Emcee Bob Hope (This was the last program produced by the Bureau of Public Relations and was broadcast inside the United States as well as overseas.) 1. Pennsylvania Polka (Andrews Sisters) 2. Jingle Bells (Spike Jones) 3. Saving Myself for Bill (Ginny Simms) 4. Basin Street Blues (Bing Crosby and Charioteers) 5. Dinah (Ethel Waters) 6. Praise the Lord (Kay Kyser) 7. Why Don't You Fall in Love with Me? (Dinah Shore) 8. Friendship (Jack Benny, Fred Allen) 9. Star Spangled Banner (orchestra and chorus) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #52 (2-13-43) w Richard Crookes 1. Abraham 2. Miss You 3. Ave Maria (Crookes) 4. Camptown Races (w Crookes) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #54 (2-24-43) w Dinah Shore, Bob Hope 1. Moonlight Becomes You (Dinah Shore) 2. It's a Long Way to Tipperary (w Shore) 3. You are my Sunshine COMMAND PERFORMANCE #60 (4-1-43) w Dinah Shore, Bob Burns 1. Great Day (Bing) 2. Taking a chance on love (Shore) 3. There are smiles (Burns) 4. Were you there? (Charioteers) 5. Easter Parade (Bing and Dinah) 6. As time goes by (Bing) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #71 (6-19-43) w D. Shore, Vaughn Monroe, Mel Blanc, Fanny Brice (as "Baby Snooks") 1. I don't want anyone at all (Dinah Shore) 2. When I grow up (Vaughn Monroe orchestra) 3. It can't be wrong (Bing) 4. Baby Snooks sketch 5. Lets get lost (Vaughn Monroe) 6. Summertime (Dinah and Bing) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #75 (7-11-43) w Betty Grable, Arthur Rubinstein, Harry James, Helen Forrest, Leo "Ukie" Sherin, Trudy Erwin 1. Wait for Me, Mary (w Trudy Erwin) 2. My Melancholie Baby (w Ukie) 3. I Never Mention Your Name COMMAND PERFORMANCE #81 (8-28-43) w Judy Garland, Kay Kyser, Jimmy Durante 1. Embraceable you / The man I love (JG) 2. Ma, he's making eyes at me (KK and vocalists) 3. Sunday, Monday or always (BC) 4. Comedy (JG / BC) 5. Ink-a-dink (JD) 6. Medley with special lyrics: You made me love you (BC), I remember you (JG), That old black magic (JG/BC), I'm always chasing rainbows (BC), Over the rainbow (JG), Moonlight becomes you (BC) Why don't you do right (JG), This love of mine (BC) You'd be so nice to come home to (JG), It's three o'clock (BC), Where the blue of the night (JG), I ain't got nobody (JG), It's a great day for the Irish (JG) 7. People will say we're in love (JG/BC) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #86 (10-25-43) w Bob Hope, Francis Langford, Tony Romano 1. You'll never know (Frances Langford) 2. Pistol Packin Mama (Charioteers) 3. Priceless (Tony Romano) 4. Moonlight bay (Bing w Charioteers) 5. These foolish things (Bing w Langford) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #97 (12-18-43) w Dinah Shore, Skinnay Ennis, Leo "Ukie" Sherin 1. Over There (Ken Carpenter) 2. Basin Street (w Charioteers) 3. Mister Crosby And Mister Mercer (w Shore) 4. How Deep is the Ocean (Shore) 5. Comedy routine with Ukie Sherin and Dinah Shore 6. Shoo Shoo Baby (Charioteers) 7. Song medley with Dinah Shore 8. Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (w Shore) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #104 (2-1-44) w Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore 1. Blues in the night (Dinah Shore) 2. Speak low (Frank Sinatra) 3. Candlelight and Wine (Crosby) 4. Sinatra/Crosby medley COMMAND PERFORMANCE #115 (4-15-44) w Yehudi Menuhin, Dinah Shore, Shirley Mitchell, Lulu Belle and Scotty 1. Mexicali Rose 2. Sunday, Monday or Always (Mitchell) 3. It's Love, Love, Love (Shore) 4. Dancing in the Dark (w Shore) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #118 (5-6-44) w Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Gypsie Rose Lee 1. Swinging on a Star (Crosby) 2. Pigfoot Pete (Hutton) 3. Long Ago, Far Away (Crosby) 4. A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody (Crosby) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #122 (6-3-44) w Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope 1. Dixieland band (Garland) 2. I love you (Crosby) 3. All the things you are (Sinatra) 4. You're the top (Crosby, Sinatra, Hope) 5. Something to remember you by (Crosby and Garland) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #123 (6-3-44) w Connie Haines, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Jerry Colonna 1. If I Had My Way (Bing, Frank, Bob) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #125 (6-17-44) w Jack Benny, G Cooper, Harpo Marx, Georgia Gibbs 1. You Must've Been a Beautiful Baby (Crosby) 2. Stormy Weather (Georgia Gibbs) 3. Blue Heaven (Crosby) 4. One Alone (Crosby) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #129 (7-15-44) w Crosby, Andrews Sisters, Judy Garland 1. Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby? (Crosby with Andrews Sisters) 2. Long Ago, Far Away (Garland) 3. I'll Remember April (Crosby) 4. All Time Flop Parade (Crosby, Garland & Andrews Sisters) 5. Medley (Crosby & Garland) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #142 (10-14-44) w Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Andrews Sisters (This program was assembled from previous shows.) 1. Life's Full of Consequences (Lena Horne, Rochester) 2. Lydia, the tatooed lady (Groucho) 3. Going My Way (Crosby) 4. Dena (Danny Kaye) 5. All time flop parade (Crosby, Garland, Andrews Sisters) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #154 (12-16-44) w Bob Hope, Lauren Bacall, Andrews Sisters, Stan Kenton, Anita O'Day 1. Rum and Coca Cola (Andrews Sisters) 2. More and More 3. Don't Fence Me In (w Andrews Sisters) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #155 (12-16-44) w Bob Hope, Andrews Sisters, Ann Sheridan, Benny Goodman, Bill Mauldin 1. Accentuate the Positive 2. More and More 3. Put it there, Pal (w Hope) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #160 (2-1-45) w Gloria DeHaven, Jack Carson, Carmen Miranda 1. An Irish LullabyCOMMAND PERFORMANCE #162 (2-15-45) "DICK TRACY IN B-FLAT"
COMMAND PERFORMANCE #165 (3-8-45) w Frank Sinatra, Frances Langford, Liz Taylor, Roddy McDowell, Margaret O'Brien, Bing Crosby's 4 Boys 1. The trolley song (Sinatra) 2. Our waltz (Langford) 3. Brahm's lullaby (Sinatra) 4. Where the blue of the night / Sunday, Monday, Always (Gary Crosby) COMMAND PERFORMANCE #169 (4-5-45) w Johnny Mercer, Marilyn Maxwell, Lionel Barrymore, Dame May Whitty 1. This Heart of Mine 2. Mr Crosby and Mr Mercer (w Mercer) 3. Dear Old Girl 4. Fifth Marines COMMAND PERFORMANCE #172 (4-26-45) w Jimmy Durante 1. My Dreams are Getting Better All the Time 2. A Little on the Lonely Side 3. After Awhile COMMAND PERFORMANCE #182 (7-5-45) w Martha Wilkerson (G.I. Jill), Tommy Dorsey, Ella Mae Morse, Spike Jones 1. Sentimental Journey 2. Don't Fence Me In / Paper Doll / I'll Walk Alone 3. I'll Be Seeing You COMMAND PERFORMANCE VICTORY EXTRA (8-14-45) Japan announced it's surrender Aug. 14. Recorded Aug. 14. Transmitted August 15. Partial list of contents: 1. I'll walk alone (Dinah Shore) 2. You'd be so nice to come home to (Ginny Simms) 3. You're the top (Sinatra-Crosby) 4. The House I Live In (Sinatra) 5. San Fernando Valley (Crosby) 6. GI Jive (Johnny Mercer) 7. White Christmas (Crosby) 8. Star Spangled Banner V.J. DAY (9-2-45) hosted by BING CROSBY Produced by AFRS and broadcast live at home and abroad. (This was the day Japan formally surrendered.) 1. America the Beautiful (Dinah Shore) 2. Bob Hope reads Ernie Pyle 3. The House I Live In (Sinatra) 4. We Gather Together (Frances Langford) 5. President Truman speaks to the world 6. Frank Sinatra introduces Bing 7. White Christmas (Crosby) 8. Prayer read by Orson WellesSeventy years later New York Times columnist David Brooks cited this radio program as evidence that America once marked triumph without boasting. "I was really struck at this supreme moment of American triumph that they weren't beating their chests," he told NPR's Audie Cornish. "They weren't super proud of themselves; they were deeply humble. And I found that so beautiful and so moving. And I thought there's really something to admire in that public culture."
COMMAND PERFORMANCE #212 (2-21-46) w Hope, Ann Sheridan, Dame May Whitty, Anita O'Day (an assembled show) 1. Dear Old Girl (w Charioteers) COMMAND PERFORMANCE (4-6-46) - Army Day Bob Hope: comedy Diana Shore: Shoo Fly Pie Bette Davis sketch with Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, CROSBY, and Sinatra. Frank Sinatra: Oh, What It Seemed to Be Sinatra, CROSBY, Hope: You're the Top (parody) Spike Jones: You Always Hurt the One You Love Andrews Sisters: Chickery Chick Bob and BING introduce Chief of Staff, US War Dept. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower: message Medley: Chorus: Aura Lee Sinatra: What Do You Do in the Infantry? Dinah: This Is the Army, Mr. Jones BING: Caisson Song
M A I L C A L L ! "A letter from home."MAIL CALL made its debut 11 August 1942. It's format was to serve as a letter from the folks at home to the troops overseas. Early shows included clips from Hollywood movies. Later this was replaced by programs that saluted one of the United States, such as Minnesota (#91) and Hawaii (#102), although Hawaii was not yet a state.
Starring Bing Crosby:
MAIL CALL #11 (11-4-42) w Fred Astaire, Fibber McGee and Molly 1. I'll Capture Her Heart (w Astaire) 2. White Christmas 3. Easy to Dance With (Fred Astaire) 4. Abraham 5. Hit the Leather (w Fibber McGee and Molly) MAIL CALL #21 (1-20-43) w Alice Faye, Tommy Dorsey, Cesar Romero, Chet Huntley MAIL CALL #54 (9-2-43) w Ben Lyon, Robert Benchley, Merry Macs MAIL CALL #61 (10-20-43) w Frank Morgan, John Conte, John Brownlee, Nora Martin 1. MacNamara's Band 2. White Christmas MAIL CALL #73 (1-12-44) w Dorothy Lamour, Skinnay Ennis, Jerry Colonna 1. San Fernando Valley 2. It Could Happen to You (Dorothy Lamour) 3. Iowa 4. I Love Life (Jerry Colonna) 5. Something to Remember You By (w Dorothy Lamour) MAIL CALL #78 (2-16-44) w Richard Crookes, Connie Boswell, Les Paul 1. My Ideal 2. Timber (w Richard Crookes) 3. You are My Sunshine (w Richard Crookes) 4. Begin the Beguine (Les Paul Trio) 5. Between 18th and 19th on Chestnut Street MAIL CALL #91 (5-17-44) w Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, Arthur Treacher 1. The Trolley Song (Garland) 2. It's Love, Love, Love (Crosby) 3. Can Do, Will Do (Garland) 4. Amor (Crosby) 5. Groaner, Canary and the Nose (Crosby, Garland, Durante, Treacher) MAIL CALL #102 (7-26-44) w Harry Owen, Connie Haines, Betty Grable, Les Paul Trio 1. Hello Hawaii 2. Blue Hawaii (w Haines) 3. Sweet Leilani MAIL CALL #120 (11-22-44) w Peggy Ryan, Gary Moore, Andrews Sisters, Rise Stevens 1. Accentuate the Positive 2. Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby (w Andrews Sisters) 3. The Day After Forever 4. We're Going In (The Amphibian Battle Hymn) MAIL CALL #122 (12-6-44) w Betty Grable, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, Jo Stafford Bing walks on to deliver a rope to hang Hope. MAIL CALL #128 (1-24-45) w Martha Mears, Cass Daley, Lauritz Melchior 1. Accentuate the Positive 2. More and More 3. One Meat Ball (w Melchior) MAIL CALL #138 (3-28-45) w Bette Davis, Barry Fitzgerald, Leo McCarey, Jack Benny, William Frawley 1. Swinging on a Star 2. You Belong to My Heart 3. Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral (An Irish Lullaby) 4. Ida (w William Frawley) MAIL CALL #154 (7-18-45) w Johnny Mercer, Marilyn Maxwell 1. Along the Navajo Trail 2. Small Fry (w Mercer) 3. Mr Crosby and Mr Mercer (w Mercer)
GI JOURNAL! "The newspaper of the AEF."The first GI JOURNAL was recorded in Hollywood 29 June 1943. The program modeled itself after a newspaper. The variable host was the "editor-in-chief" who introduced celebrity guests and jokes and poems contributed by troops. Regulars on the show included Mel Blanc as the stuttering "Private Sad Sack" and Harry Mitchell, announcer.
Starring Bing Crosby:
GI JOURNAL #9 (09-10-43) w Jimmy Durante, Trudy Erwin, Falstaff Openshaw, Ish Kabibble, Linda Darnell 1. Wait for Me Mary (w Erwin) 2. Riding Herd on a Cloud 3. It's Always You 4. Oh What a Beautiful Morning (w Erwin) 5. Home on the Range GI JOURNAL #11 (09-24-43) w Jerry Colonna, Falstaff Openshaw, Arthur Q. Bryant, Linda Darnell, Mel Blanc, Ukie Sherin 1. McNamara's Band 2. If You Please 3. Cuddle Up a Little Closer 4. What Do You Do in the Infantry? 5. Let Me Call You Sweetheart GI JOURNAL #12 (10-9-43) w Jerry Colonna, Ish Kabibble, Georgia Carroll 1. Thank Your Lucky Stars 2. Poinciana 3. Victory Polka 4. Bicycle Built for Two GI JOURNAL #15 (10-08-43) w Rochester, Linda Darnell, Ransom Sherman, Gloria DeHaven, Mel Blanc 1. Iowa 2. September Song 3. I've Got a Crush on You (Gloria DeHaven) 4. After You've Gone 5. I Want A Girl GI JOURNAL #20 (12-11-43) w Rochester, Linda Darnell, Anita Ellis 1. Paper Doll 2. How Sweet You Are 3. The Dreamer (Anita) 4. Put Your Arms Around Me 5. McNamara's Band 6. Harvest Moon (group) GI JOURNAL #31 (2-18-44) w Linda Darnell, Gloria DeHaven, Ransom Sherman, Rochester, Mel Blanc 1. Iowa 2. September Song 3. I've Got a Crush on You (DeHaven) 4. After You've Gone 5. I Want a Girl Like the Girl that Married Dad GI JOURNAL #33 (3-3-44) w Hedda Hopper, Andy Devine, Mel Blanc 1. Shoo Shoo Baby 2. Paper Moon 3. I Can't Get Started (Anita Ellis) 4. My Ideal 5. Back Home in Indiana GI JOURNAL #41 (4-28-44) w Jerry Colonna, Judy Garland, Mel Blanc 1. Sunday 2. The One I Love 3. People Will Say We're in Love (w Judy Garland) 4. You Tell Me Your Dream (Crosby, Garland & Audience) 5. I'll Be Seeing You GI JOURNAL #44 (5-19-44) w Jerry Colonna, Mel Blanc 1. Great Day 2. Long Ago and Far Away 3. Swinging on a Star 4. Sweetheart of Sigma Kai (group sing with Colonna) GI JOURNAL #48 (6-16-44) w Lena Horne, Mel Blanc, Henny Youngman 1. Bless em all 2. September song 3. Day after forever 4. Honeysuckle Rose (Horne) 5. Girl of my dreams GI JOURNAL #52 (7-14-44) w Linda Darnell, Helen Forrest, Andy Devine 1. Snoquolomi Jo 2. I'll Get By 3. The Man I Love (Helen Forest) 4. Stuttering skit 5. My Merry Oldsmobile (Crosby and audience) GI JOURNAL #53 (7-21-44) w Peter Lorre, Lynn Bari, Jo Stafford 1. Bombardier Song 2. I'll Remember April 3. Love is Just Around the Corner (Jo Staffard) 4. Down By the old Mill Stream (group) GI JOURNAL #69 (11-17-44) w Joan Blondell, Jimmy Durante, Pat Friday 1. Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby? 2. Too Ra Loo Ral 3. There's A Long, Long Trail (Crosby & Audience) GI JOURNAL #86 (3-16-45) w Marilyn Maxwell, Allen Jenkins 1. You Belong to My Heart 2. You Made Me Love You 3. Beautiful Love 4. In the Good Old Summertime (w Maxwell) GI JOURNAL #94 (5-11-45) w Mel Blanc, Andy Devine, Chili Williams 1. Aren't You Glad You're You 2. These Foolish Things 3. Personality 4. By The Light Of The Silvery Moon (group sing) Model Chili Williams arranged a date for Bing with a "Georgia Peach." (This program was repeated in 1946 and numbered 133.) GI JOURNAL #105 (7-31-45) w Frank Sinatra, Claudette Colbert, Mel Blanc 1. After you've gone (Crosby) 2. Good, good, good (Sinatra) 3. Madamoiselle from Armentiers (Crosby, Sinatra, Colbert) 4. Dream (Crosby)
Jubilee was an Armed Forces Radio Services program that featured mostly African-American musicians. The first half-hour program was produced Oct. 9, 1942. The original series ran through 1949. Bing Crosby appeared twice on the show. On Jan. 10, 1944 program #60 he sang "Shoo, Shoo, Baby" with the Charioteers. On Aug. 8, 1945, he sang "Gotta Be This or That" accompanied by Count Basie's orchestra. This was Bing's only recording of this song made famous that year by Benny Goodman's orchestra. The show was not numbered and was broadcast the following December.