During World War II, just about everyone got involved, from enlisting to saving their kitchen grease to build ammunition.
And radio pitched in too. After all, servicemen needed to stave off their boredom, which, combined with terror, led to low morale.
So when the U.S. entered the fray, every soldier was issued a buddy kit: a radio and a few records of music and radio drama. The War Department (now the Department of Defense) also bought into the power of radio by creating an Armed Forces Radio Service in 1942.
The radio industry kicked production into high gear, producing shows especially for the troops. One show, Command Performance, was a favorite. It featured the biggest stars, like Bob Hope, Bette Davis and Frank Sinatra.
Soldiers were encouraged to write and request an appearance by their favorite star, and the stars obliged.
The tone was cheery: “Well ladies and gentlemen, this is Bob Command Performance Hope. Yes sir, it is a great thrill and an honor to be on this Command Performance show on this Christmas Eve, a time of year when everyone has a feeling of love. Boy you should see all the young couples walking in the park. The fellow with his arm around the girl and the man from the draft board with his arm around the fellow.”
Radio wasn’t only entertaining the enlisted, of course. A whole host of heroic shows dramatizing the war effort were created to encourage patriotic support in the U.S., shows like “Wings to Victory,” which dramatized the true tales of the Air Force.
Even wartime doctors had their own show with “The Doctor Fights,” starring Lt. Commander Robert Montgomery “in a thrilling true story about a doctor in World War II.”
The military’s demand for weapons and electronics elevated American manufacturing, and radios became cheaper because of it. But that also ushered in radio’s greatest competitor.
By 1952, radio’s golden age was over as the nation fell in love with television.