The Significance of Entertainment in WWII
Some have said that troop entertainment was vital to win the war. Although the entertainment did not participate in the actual on-the-front fighting of the war, it participated significantly in other non-violent ways. With music, comedy, and the beautiful looks of pin-up girls' pictures, the entertainment served as a way of reminding the troops what they were fighting for: home, safety, and freedom.
Having a sense of home was very important to the servicemen in WWII. The soldiers longed for home while they were abroad, and the performers that were brought in by the United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) to entertain them knew that this was so. To them, home represented a place of safety, comfort, and warmth with loved ones, things which were not at all associated with the military, let alone with war. As Bob Hope recognized, “The reason for our overwhelming welcome from troops all over the world...was that we spelled, more than anything else, ‘home’” (7). Hope was dedicated to bringing smiles to the troops' faces and laughter into the their lives with his humor; he made life that much more bearable for the servicemen while they were at war abroad by bringing them this sense of home with his jokes, as well as with his very presence. Betty Grable sought to give soldiers this sense of home by autographing pictures of herself and sending them to the servicemen. She also replied to all the letters they sent her to try to bring the troops as much happiness and comfort while they were away from home as she could. These same sentiments were also felt & sent by the women and families of the servicemen that the servicemen loved (and surely greatly missed). Glenn Miller, too, acknowledged that the troops needed this sense of home. In 1944, Miller wrote from England to George Simon saying, "We didn't come here to set any fashions in music. We merely came to bring a much-needed touch of home to some lads who have been here a couple of years" (4). All of the entertainers gave willingly and generously of themselves to entertain the troops in patriotic spirit, even if it sometimes meant being in the line of potential danger.
Glenn Miller recognized the importance of the entertainment he supplied. The music he played not only gave the soldiers a reprieve from the terrors of war, but it also to served to boost the morale of the troops while they were fighting. With his catchy instrumental tunes and sweet slow ballads, as well as with the lyrics of songs that accompanying singers sang, Miller provided a distraction for the soldiers from the war that was being waged around them. The faster songs distracted troops with their catchy beats, and the ballads reminded the men of their loved ones at home, as the lyrics below demonstrate from the song "Moonlight Serenade" by Glenn Miller (lyrics by Mitchell Parish):
"I stand at your gate and the song that I sing is of moonlight
I stand and I wait for the touch of your hand in the June night
The roses are sighing a moonlight serenade.
The stars are a glow and tonight how their light sets me dreaming
My love, do you know that your eyes are like stars brightly beaming?
I bring you and sing you a moonlight serenade.
Just you and I, a summer sky, a heavenly breeze kissing the trees
So don't let me wait come to me tenderly in the June night
I stand at your gate and I sing you a song in the moonlight
A love song, my darling, a moonlight serenade
We can stay, till break of day" (11).