American Forces Network in the European Theatre of Operation
|This article now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from May 1st 2003. Author: Harry Lemmon|
I was twelve years old when AFN signed on the air in July 1943. For me the sound of American radio was not foreign because some years earlier my father had invested in a Cossor set that received short wave bands and whenever I could Iwould search for American short wave stations. They were all privately owned and featured commerical programming very different from that heard on the BBC during wartime years. To this day I can remember the call signs and frequencies and programming prior to America’s entrance to World War II.
The Americans had no international government controlled radio voice and once involved in the war they had to scramble to arrange with the private broadcasters to air programming for the OWI (later the Voice of America) and the special services division of the War Department (later the Armed Forces Radio).
It was duringJjuly 1943 that AFN in the ETO signed on medium wave (now known as AM), after overcoming mammoth obstacles initiated by the BBC and the British government. An in depth exposure of this is available at www.findarticles.com in an article entitled “Allies on the Airwaves – history of the American Forces Network” by Patrick Morley.
In the early months AFN/ETO relied heavily on army personnel as DJ’s for shows like “Duffle Bag” introduced by Harry James “One O’clock Jump” (10am – noon) and “Off the Record” introduced by Tommy Dorseys “Sunny Side of Street” (2pm – 4pm). In fact even before these DJ shows they took the BBC’s “Music While You Work” Retitled it “Strike Up The Band” and aired it 10:30am-11am & 3:30pm-4pm. But Victor Sylvester and Troise and his Mandoliers were too tame for the Us servicemens’ ear and this arrangement was soon abandoned. Newscasts were soon added to the schedule as well as reports from the front, like “Battle Report”. And so a fully fledged radio service began to take shape, much to the chagrin of the BBC and the British government!
Once Armed Forces radio in Los Angeles got into gear many specially produced programs were transcribed for overseas Armed Forces stations. Some of the fifteen minute shows frequently heard on AFN/ETO were: – “G.I. Jive with Jill”; “Music Shop” with SGT Johnny Mercer; Fred Macmurray’s “Remember”; “Melody Roundup” featuring country western and “At Ease” with the AFRS orchestra. Many other transcribed fifteen minute shows were taken from the networks, NBC, CBS, ABC and Mutual and had the commercials edited out. Examples being, “Chesterfield Supper Club” (Perry Como & Jo Stafford); “Alka-seltzer Show” (Martha Tilton) and “The Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands” sponsored by US War Bonds.
The evening hours were taken up with mainly edited US domestic shows like, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Jack Carson, “Fibber McGee”, “Duffy’s Tavern”, “Your Hit Parade”, “Charlie McCarthy”, “Album of Familiar Music”, “All Girl Orchestra”, “Eddie Bracken”, “Donald Vorhees Orch.”, “Andre Kostelanetz”, “Ozzie & Harriet”, Fred Allen and Henry Morgan.
During the ensuing two years the programs of AFN/ETO became very polished and professional and their listener base in England was quite substantial. But, with the war moving eastward it was decided to close the majority of AM broadcasts in the UK and on August 5th 1945 AFN/ETO london/Paris signed on short wave 6.08 MHz (04-0745 GMT & 1630-0015 GMT) & 8.565 MHz (08-1615 GMT). This was proved to be short lived as by February 1946 AFN on 6.08 MHz was turned over to AFN Munich, relaying their AM 1249 KHz program.
Officially, on December 31st 1945 AFN London signed off.