Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Mail Call was an American radio program that entertained American soldiers from 1942 until 1945, during World War II. Lt. Col. Thomas A.H. Lewis (commander of the Armed Forces Radio Service) wrote in 1944, "The initial production of the Armed Forces Radio Service was 'Mail Call,' a morale-building half hour which brought famed performers to the microphone to sing and gag in the best American manner." The program featured popular entertainers of that day, such as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and Dinah Shore, performing musical numbers and comedy skits to boost the morale of soldiers stationed far from their homes. Lewis added, "To a fellow who has spent months guarding an outpost in the South Seas, Iceland or Africa a cheery greeting from a favorite comedian, a song hit direct from Broadway, or the beating rhythm of a hot band, mean a tie with the home to which he hopes soon to return.
Mail Call and other AFRS programs were produced in Los Angeles, Calif., with the organization's headquarters at 6011 Santa Monica Boulevard, The location provided access to top-flight entertainers, staff and facilities. The Encyclopedia of Radio noted: "Los Angeles was selected as the headquarters because of its proximity to the entertainment industry, which quickly gave its overwhelming support. The mission of the new AFRS was to provide American servicemen 'a touch of home' through the broadcast of American news and entertainment." Among the behind-the-scenes people was Meredith Willson (perhaps best known for writing "The Music Man"), who was the first musical director for AFRS.
After World War II ended, the need for shows like Mail Call diminished, resulting in changes in AFRS programming. Broadcasting magazine reported that the end for Mail Call and eight "other service radio shows requiring outside talent" came in 1950 when the "AFRS budget was ... cut by $153,000 by the Secretary of Defense." Other shows discontinued in the move were as follows Command Performance, Redd Harper Hollywood Roundup, GI Jive, Jill's Juke Box, Chiquita, Personal Album, Lucky Grab Bag and Bob Carleton Show.