“THIS IS THE ARMY!” part one (1)

“This Is The Army”

The most successful and popular patriotic show of World War II and one of the most unique productions in the history of entertainment was Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army, which originally began as a Broadway musical. General George C. Marshall gave Berlin permission to stage a morale-boosting revue early in 1942 to raise money for the military.

Rehearsals were held at Camp Upton, New York, beginning in the spring of 1942 in an old Civilian Conservation Corps barracks called T-11. At one end was a large recreation room with a stone fireplace, where Berlin placed his special piano.  It was next to a latrine, which had a hot water tank. Berlin liked to lean against the tank to warm his back.

Rehearsal

Berlin completed most of the score by the end of April. The show was then auditioned on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor for General Irving J. Phillipson.  Immediately thereafter, Berlin received the approval he was waiting for.

The musical, which was directed by 24-year-old Ezra Stone (radio’s Henry Aldrich), opened on Broadway with a cast of 300 uniformed soldiers on July 4, 1942, to rave reviews. The most popular songs from the revue were “This Is the Army Mr. Jones” and “I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen.” Other notable numbers include “I’m Getting Tired So I Can Sleep,” “How About a Cheer for the Navy,” “American Eagles,” and “With My Head in the Clouds for the Air Corps.”.

Irving Berlin

The show was so successful that the initial four-week engagement was extended to 12 weeks followed by a national tour, and then with a greatly reduced cast to tours of the European, Far East, and Pacific Theaters. Berlin ingeniously inserted new songs into the show depending on the audience and location. In England, he added “My British Buddy,” and in the Pacific he included “Heaven Watch the Philippines.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt saw the show several times during its first weeks at the Broadway Theatre and became a devotee. She desperately wanted her husband to see it, but he was unable to travel to New York City. A special matinee command performance was arranged for October 8, 1942, at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., for the president.  He thoroughly enjoyed the performance and invited the complete cast and crew to the White House the following day. The president shook hands with the entire company, over 350 soldiers, which kept him up until 1:30 the following morning.

This Is the Army was an exposition of patriotism as well as pure and simple entertainment, and the musical theater was an exceptional vehicle for boosting wartime morale. The show was a rousing, captivating musical tribute to Americans in uniform, including those in the Navy and Air Corps.

Irving Berlin with his cast

The story of Army life was told simply in song and dance, with a bit of added comedy. No battle scenes, no deaths, and no destruction were introduced. Girls, sweethearts, and mothers were the objects of songs. Kathleen E.R. Smith, in her book, God Bless America—Tin Pan Alley Goes to War, contends that the impression of Army life presented was more like a summer camp vacation instead of the serious matter of preparing for war.

By the time the national tour of This Is the Army concluded on February 13, 1943, in San Francisco, about $2 million had been raised for the Army Emergency Relief Fund for deserving wives, children, and parents of servicemen and women.

Irving Berlin & the Royals

The international touring company of This Is the Army first went to England in November 1943, and Irving Berlin met King George VI and Queen Elizabeth after a London performance. Berlin also received an invitation to lunch with Prime Minister Winston Churchill at his 10 Downing Street residence in error.  The invitation was intended for Isaiah Berlin, a well-known English philosopher and political thinker who was assigned to the British embassy in Washington at that time. Churchill did not realize the error until well after the meeting, when he was informed that his lunch guest that day was the famous American songwriter.

To be continued……

Click on images to enlarge them.

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Personal Shout Out – 

For the coming of a new decade – may I wish each and every reader who passes by here a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!

Happy New Year, From Over “The Hump”

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Jackey D. Blosser – Grafton, WV; US Army, Korea, Cpl., D Co./1/32/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin)

Jack B. Farris Jr. – Charlotte, SC; US Army, Vietnam, Grenada, Pentagon, Lt. General

Michael J. Goble – Westwood, NJ; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class, 1/7th Special Forces Group, KIA

Larry Heinemann – Bryan, TX; US Army, Vietnam / author-historian

George M. Johnson – Seaford, DE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 2nd Lt., 38 BS/30 Bomb Group, B-24J co-pilot, KIA (Tarawa)

George Larsen – San Francisco, CA; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, Chief Petty Officer

John V. Phillips – Mineral Springs, MO; US Army, WWII, PTO, Sgt., HQ Co./31st Infantry Division, POW, KIA (Cabanatuan)

Richard Robertson – Gonzaleles, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Lowell S. Twedt – USA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, P-38J pilot,71 FS/1 st Flight Group, KIA

William Winchester – Mount Hope, AL; US Army, Korea, 1/24/25th Infantry Division, KIA (Camp # 5)

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 30, 2019, in Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 133 Comments.

  1. I’m not a fan of Hollyweird as I used to be but wasn’t this Broadway musical the basis for the movie with our Uncle Ronnie?

    Liked by 1 person

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