RARE ARMED FORCES RADIO SHOWS FROM THE 1940'S
The month of September 2014 will include a long-planned labor of
love as the “Star Spangled Radio Hour” presents the Army Air Forces
Training Command (AAFTC) Radio Production Units under the command of
Lt. Col. Eddie Dunstedter and Capt. Robert Jennings with musical
directors M/Sgt. Felix Slatkin and M/Sgt. Harry Bluestone. SSRH 223 and
SSRH 224 will present original broadcasts and recordings by the First
AAF Radio Production Unit/39th AAF Base Unit (Radio Production) at
Santa Ana Army Air Base, California and the Second AAF Radio Production
Unit/38th AAF Base Unit (Radio Production) from the AAF Technical
School at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Neither was directed
by Capt. Glenn Miller although both were heavily influenced by the
AAFTC Director of Bands.
The AAF was very serious about recruiting leading radio and
musical talent and started its radio production program before
Glenn Miller enlisted in September 1942 and became Director of Bands in
January 1943. The AAF was far ahead of the Army and Navy with regard to
its thinking and plans for the assertive use of radio and film. At the
same time the AAF First Motion Picture Unit was formed at Culver City,
the first AAF radio production unit was the Santa Ana organization
commanded by the then-Capt. Dunstedter in the summer of 1942. M/Sgt.
Bluestone and M/Sgt. Slatkin were serious Hollywood musical talents
recruited to staff a large concert orchestra for future network radio
programs promoting the AAF and assisting in recruiting young men and
women to this branch of the armed forces. This organization became the
First AAF Radio production Unit handling several network radio
assignments in Hollywood and producing music for AAF 1st MPU films.
During 1943 Bluestone was transferred to AAFTC HQ at Fort Worth, Texas
to start a second radio unit. The Fort Worth unit was first commanded
by ex-NBC executive Maj. Frank Healy who was assigned to AAFTC HQ as
radio planner. Healy would eventually transfer to New York as CO of the
Second AAF Radio Production Unit with Director of Bands Miller as
musical director of an elite orchestra (and you all know the rest of
the story). The Bluestone Forth Worth unit produced the Mutual series
Your AAF and replaced the Miller unit for New York network radio duties
when Miller’s rebranded Army Air Forces Band (Special) was loaned by
the AAF to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and
shipped to the European Theatre of Operations. The Bluestone unit took
over Miller’s NBC I Sustain the Wings series. They brought with them
singer Cpl. Bob Carroll, who had previously been assigned to the Miller
unit and announcer and actor Lt. William Holden. Among the arrangers
for the orchestra was Sgt. Elmer Bernstein, later to become a
well-known Hollywood talent. Miller’s announcer Lt. Donald Briggs had
been assigned to Fort Worth before he was assigned to Miller.
April 1, 1945, M/Sgt. Slatkin and M/Sgt. Bluestone switched
assignments and orchestras. At this time, their units were producing
eight network radio series over NBC, CBS, Mutual and the Blue Network.
They were making recordings for Office of War Information (OWI) to be
broadcast over the Voice of America around the world and for the Armed
Forces Radio Service, including the Uncle Sam Presents series.
Representative music, dramatic sketches and announcements from these
programs have been assembled for our programs. September
will feature the Santa Ana (or Hollywood) west coast radio production
unit and sub-units (mostly M/Sgt. Slatkin). September
will feature the New Haven (or New York) east coast radio production
unit and sub-units (mostly M/Sgt. Bluestone).
Please plan to join us for these important programs offering a
glimpse of the Army Air Forces radio production programs of 1944 and
1945 of which Glenn Miller was a key contributor and as we spotlight
his talented AAF colleagues. These programs represent the important
collections of the Glenn Miller Archive containing the historic
acetates and tapes of the AAF and OWI radio series, including the
Edward Burke Collection and especially the Felix and Eleanor Slatkin
Collection courtesy of their sons Fred Zlotkin and Leonard Slatkin. Our
essential effort to preserve the AAFTC radio units is not possible
without the irreplaceable assistance and enthusiasm of Bill Freytag.
Several living veterans of the Lt. Col. Eddie Dunstedter AAF First
Radio Unit will be listening in and we will proudly mention their
service during the programs as will Eddie’s daughters who we wish to
thank for their support along with Fred, Leonard and Bill.