Category Archives: World War 2

1942 “Command Performance, USA”

1942May24ChiTribSeventy-five years ago today, the May 24, 1942, issue of the Chicago Tribune carried this feature about the shortwave program Command Performance, U.S.A., which began each week with the words, “Command Performance, U.S.A. The greatest entertainment in America as requested by you the fighting forces of America throughout the world, this week and every week until it’s over, over there.”

The article noted that even though the program was intended for servicemen overseas, many Americans with shortwave receivers on the homefront had discovered it and were regularly tuning in.

The programs were transcribed in New York and Hollywood, and featured the biggest stars of the entertainment world offering their talents without charge. The article noted that “sometimes the language on these shows is just a little more robust than is passed by standard broadcasting stations. Jack Benny, as we recall, last Sunday night encouraged our fighting men to ‘give ’em hell.'”

The newspaper carried the schedule shown below of the stations covering the show, along with times and frequencies. It noted that some of the beams were not heard well in the Midwest, but pointed out that many were. For example, it noted that the 10:30 PM broadcast to Central and South America was being heard well in Chicago.


In addition to Command Performance, special news and sports programs were broadcast for the military, and some domestic programs were rebroadcast.

1942 Handheld Radiotelephone


1942MayRadioCraft2Seventy-five years ago this month, the May 1942 issue of Radio Craft featured on its cover this handheld radio telephone weighing only four pounds, which the magazine noted was not much larger than the handset of a “French” telephone. The set was the product of the Weltronic Corporation, which was the assignee of the patent, U.S. Patent 2276933, with a pre-Pearl Harbor application date of October 1, 1941, and an issue date of March 17, 1942.

1942MayRadioCraftDiagramThe magazine noted that the set had a range of about a mile, and could operate on any frequency between 112-300 MHz. The diagram below reveals that the set appears to be one tube functioning as an oscillator and superregenerative detector, with the other tube serving as AF amplifier to drive the headphone on receiver, and as modulator on transmit.

Commercially available batteries were said to allow continuous operation for eight hours, or about a week to a month in normal service. The article noted that the set was being made available to governmental agencies.

The cover photo shows the unit in use by a guard around a defense plant.

The article puts quotation marks around the word “transceiver,” since such a combined unit would have been unfamiliar to many readers.



Battle of the St. Lawrence, 1942

This day 75 years ago marks the beginning of a little remembered part of the Second World War, the Battle of the St. Lawrence, which brought fighting to North America. In the early morning hours of May 12, 1942, a German U-boat sunk the freighter Nicoya.

While the Kriegsmarine had no formal plans to attack shipping in the St. Lawrence River and Gulf of St. Lawrence, the German submarine U-553 had been operating off the Canadian coast and made its way into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  On May 12, it torpedoed and sank the Nicoya at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.  Between 1942 and 1944, a total of 23 ships, including four Canadian warships, all well within the territorial limits of Canada.


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Fall of Corregidor, 1942

Japanese landing on Corregidor. Wikipedia image.

On this day 75 years ago, May 6, 1942, the island of Corregidor fell to the Japanese, not to be recaptured until 1945.

After the fall of Bataan on April 9, only the heavily defended island of Corregidor stood between the Japanese and control of Manila harbor.  In the first months of the war, the island was under aerial attack, and on May 5, Japanese landing craft began their assault. On May 6, General Johnathan M Wainwright sent a message to President Roosevelt, “There is a limit of human endurance, and that point has long been passed.”

WW2 Japanese-American Internment

Manzanar Internment Camp. WPA/NPS image.

Manzanar Internment Camp. NPS image.

The following order was issued 75 years ago today.

Western Defense Command and Fourth Army Wartime Civil Control Administration, Presidio of San Francisco, California

May 3, 1942

Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry Living in the Following Area:

All of that portion of the County of Alameda, State of California, within the boundary beginning at the point where the southerly limits of the City of Oakland meet San Francisco Bay; thence easterly and following the southerly limits of said city to U.S. Highway No. 50; thence southerly and easterly on said Highway No. 50 to its intersection with California State Highway No. 21; thence southerly on said Highway No. 21 to its intersection, at or near Warm Springs, with California State Highway No. 17; thence southerly on said Highway No. 17 to the Alameda-Santa Clara County line; thence westerly and following said county line to San Francisco Bay; thence northerly, and following the shoreline of San Francisco Bay to the point of Beginning.

Pursuant to the provisions of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34, this Headquarters, dated May 3, 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien, will be evacuated from the above area by 12 o’clock noon, P. W. T., Sunday, May 9, 1942.

No Japanese person living in the above area will be permitted to change residence after 12 o’clock noon, P. W. T., Sunday, May 3, 1942, without obtaining special permission from the representative of the Commanding General, Northern California Sector, at the Civil Control Station located at:
920 “C” Street,
Hayward, California.

Such permits will only be granted for the purpose of uniting members of a family, or in cases of grave emergency.

The Civil Control Station is equipped to assist the Japanese population affected by this evacuation in the following ways:

  1.  Give advice and instructions on the evacuation.
  2.  Provide services with respect to the management, leasing, sale, storage or other disposition of most kinds of property, such as real estate, business and professional equipment, household goods, boats, automobiles and livestock.
  3.  Provide temporary residence elsewhere for all Japanese in family groups.
  4.  Transport persons and a limited amount of clothing and equipment to their new residence.

The Following Instructions Must Be Observed:

  1. A responsible member of each family, preferably the head of the family, or the person in whose name most of the property is held, and each individual living alone, will report to the Civil Control Station to receive further instructions. This must be done between 8:00 A. M. and 5:00 P. M. on Monday, May 4, 1942, or between 9:00 A. M. and 5:00 P. M. on Tuesday, May 5, 1942.
  2. Evacuees must carry with them on departure for the Assembly Center, the following property:
    (a) Bedding and linens (no mattress) for each member of the family;
    (b) Toilet articles for each member of the family;
    (c) Extra clothing for each member of the family;
    (d) Sufficient knives, forks, spoons, plates, bowls and cups for each member of the family;
    (e) Essential personal effects for each member of the family.
    All items carried will be securely packaged, tied and plainly marked with the name of the owner and numbered in accordance with instructions obtained at the Civil Control Station. The size and number of packages is limited to that which can be carried by the individual or family group.
  3. No pets of any kind will be permitted.
  4. No personal items and no household goods will be shipped to the Assembly Center.
  5. The United States Government through its agencies will provide for the storage, at the sole risk of the owner, of the more substantial household items, such as iceboxes, washing machines, pianos and other heavy furniture. Cooking utensils and other small items will be accepted for storage if crated, packed and plainly marked with the name and address of the owner. Only one name and address will be used by a given family.
  6. Each family, and individual living alone, will be furnished transportation to the Assembly Center or will be authorized to travel by private automobile in a supervised group. All instructions pertaining to the movement will be obtained at the Civil Control Station.

Go to the Civil Control Station between the hours of 8:00 A. M. and 5:00 P. M., Monday, May 4, 1942, or between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 5:00 P. M., Tuesday, May 5, 1942, to receive further instructions.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army

Ice Cream Goes to War: 20 Flavors


During World War II, the War Production Board (WPB) had sweeping powers to control the U.S. economy. The idea was to make sure that U.S. industry was geared up as completely as possible for war production, and no industry was exempt.

In many cases, such as in the radio industry, the restrictions, while draconian, at least made a certain amount of sense. For example, the production of civilian radio receivers was banned during the war, so that the entire output of U.S. electronics factories could be devoted to the war effort.

But it also appears clear that there was a desire to regulate simply for the sake of regulating. As we previously reported, the sale of sliced bread was banned for a time, until consumer objections caused the WPB to relent.

And just like bread, ice cream went to war.  75 years ago today, the May 2, 1942, issue of the Chicago Tribune shown here shows how the dairy industry was affected. Cardboard packaging was not allowed for butter packages of less than a pound. But as the headline notes, the most noticeable regulation related to ice cream.

For the duration of the war, ice cream manufacturers were limited to twenty (20) flavors. Similar restrictions were imposed on ice cream novelty items.

Probably more significant for the manufacturers was the requirement that distribution could be made only by common carriers. In other words, the manufacturer was prohibited from running its own fleet of trucks.

1942 One Tube Emergency Broadcast Receiver

1942MayPMSeventy-five years ago this month, the May 1942 issue of Popular Mechanics carried the plans for the “Veep” one-tube AC-DC broadcast receiver. The set was built on a simple galvanized chassis, and mounted in a cigar box, the “Veep” name coming from the brand of cigars.

The sew was designed to be rugged and compact, and the part count was kept to an absolute minimum to keep costs down. The set ran off standard household current, eliminating the worry of batteries running down. It was designed for instant emergency use. The set could be kept in a pocket, and in case of need for the latest news, air-raid warnings, or other programs, it ccould be put into action at the plant, office, or home at odd times.

The set used a single 117L7-GT serving as rectifier and detector. Since the set ran right off the line cord, the article warned not to use an external ground connection.

1942MayPM2The set would pull in local stations with a 3-4 foot antenna. For greater range, the antenna could be connected to an ungrounded metal object such as a hand rail or bed springs. While the set was designed for headphone operation, it could drive a speaker for strong local stations.1942MayPMSchematic


American Radio 1942: WGAC, Augusta, GA


Seventy-five years ago, this day’s issue of Life Magazine, April 27, 1942, carried a photo essay about American radio as it went to war.  The article claimed that war marked the end of a “rich era” which brought fresh problems to the medium. It predicted, with little supporting evidence, that declining advertising revenues were on the way. It asserted that “war has thrown new problems at radio–of presenting fact and propaganda, of keeping commercialism and patriotism decently separated, of informing and stimulating the public.” It acknowledged a few bright points, such as the program “This Is War,” whose production is shown above.

It carried summaries of the current offerings, such as comedy, soap operas, and music, and asserted that programming often catered to the lowest common denominator.

WGAC studio and transmitter.

WGAC studio and transmitter.

The most enlightening part of the feature was the magazine’s look at what it viewed as a typical small station, WGAC, Augusta, Georgia, which then ran 250 watts from 6:30 AM to Midnight.  It carried the NBC Blue network, and had a range of about 60 miles day, 15 miles night.

The station is currently licensed to  Beasley Broadcast Group, Inc. and broadcasts on 580 kHz, 5000 watts daytime, 840 watts nighttime.


WGAC broadcast of service of St. Paul’s Church.

WGAC commentator and Augusta Herald editor Sam Moss.

WGAC commentator and Augusta Herald editor Sam Moss.

Thomson, GA, high school girls Barbara Burch, Lucy Lockett, and Winona Colton, WGAC's star trio.  "They sing in close harmony just like the big-time girl trios."

Thomson, GA, high school girls Barbara Burch, Lucy Lockett, and Winona Colton, WGAC’s star trio. “They sing in close harmony just like the big-time girl trios.”

KSTP Morse Code Lessons, 1942

1942April27BCOn this day 75 years ago, April 26, 1942, KSTP radio in St. Paul, MN, began an innovative program, as described in the article shown here from the April 27, 1942, issue of Broadcasting.

According to the report, the station was doing its part to help satisfy the great demand by the armed forces for radio operators, by conducting weekly programs designed to teach young men and women the international Morse code.

The weekly program aired Sundays at 9:30 AM, and “used drama, as sugar-coating for the lessons.” It was built around a small family, one of whom was an amateur operator. Script writing was done by Jack Hill of the St. Paul Radio Club, using lessons from the American Radio Relay League.

After the third week’s episode, the station planned to incorporate “teaser announcements” into the program in an effort to determine how many would be interested in lessons one night a week in classrooms in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The St. Paul Radio Club would furnish instructors for those courses.

The program seems to have been a great success, as reported in the September 1942 issue of QST (pp. 80-81). The fifteen minute weekly programs resulted in a total of 325 Twin City residents signing up for the classes, initially held at KSTP’s Minneapolis and St. Paul studios, with advanced students moving on to classes at the YMCA.

According to QST, transcripts of the radio broadcasts, featuring the “Strong” family, were available by mail by writing to Hill at 1138 Fauquier Avenue (now known as Bush Avenue) in St. Paul.

75th Anniversary of End of Civilian Radio Production


As we previously reported, on this date 75 years ago, April 22, 1942, the last civilian radio receivers rolled off the assembly lines.  For the duration of the war, no more radios or phonographs would be produced, the nation’s industrial output instead being devoted to the war effort.

The photo here shows one of the last RCA radios to be produced before the deadline.  This ad, which appeared in the May 1942 issue of Radio Retailing, shows RCA Victrola No. 17,199,547, which was the last set to be produced at RCA’s Camden plant, on April 7, 1942.

With no more new sets available, the nation’s radio servicemen were acutely aware that they would bear the full responsibility of keeping the nation informed and entertained by keeping existing sets running.