Commercial Radio Plug Featured Even On Armed Forces Stations
By SGT. ART HEENAN Roundup Staff Writer
Radio executive and advertising agencies need have few worries that when the millions of overseas servicemen return home they will disgustedly turn off commercial plugs, with the comment that they have grown used to hearing the best of programs without having to listen to an announcer tell of the benefits of Nine Star Headache tablets.
At least that is the opinion of Theater Radio Officer Lt. Robert F. Black, who heads the India-Burma network of the U.S. Armed Forces Radio stations.
Black explains it very logically. “Actually on our programs we devote almost as much time to commercial plugs as is inserted back in the States. But instead of telling the virtues of a cough medicine or some other product, we advertise Army objectives, like conservation, savings, preventive medicine, CIC and USAFI. So you see, although the soldier may not know it or be conscious of it, he’s still getting his advertisements along with his entertainment.”
The India-Burma network has expanded to 16 stations. From Karachi, the chain includes Delhi, Agra, Calcutta, Lamanirhat. Bangalore, Gaya, Tezgaon, Jorhat, Misamari, Kandy, Ledo, Chabua, Shingbwiyang, Myitkyina and Bhamo. This network has grown from the original station, started at Delhi, Mar. 21, 1944.
Although it is called a network, actually it is one by courtesy only, since a network implies connected units, all capable of carrying the same program at the same time over leased wires. The India-Burma network gets around this angle by recording programs in advance; for example, a speech by the Theater Commander, and having all the stations broadcast it at the same time.
There has been at least one time when some of the stations did function as a network. As explained by S/Sgt. Mike Meshekow, who is program and distribution supervisor for the Theater, a line was hooked up to include all stations between Calcutta and Bhamo, and a report of the recent Calcutta fights card broadcast to the advanced areas.
Men well known in radio civilian life are now over here, giving their all to the G.I.’s through the courtesy of Selective Service. Among them are Pvts. Bob Greene, well known with CBS before the war as a newscaster on the West Coast, James W. Woodruff. and Les Damon.
Greene is probably the outstanding announcer over here. He is kept in Delhi as a show piece for the Allied brass hats, who are constantly complimenting the Army Radio station on his ability. Sometimes Greene wistfully sighs he would like to have a chance at doing some broadcasting in other spots, but he’s such a good museum curio he has as much chance of getting out of Delhi as I have of getting out of the Army.
Woodruff owns a supervising interest in three radio stations in Georgia, located respectively at Columbia, Atlanta, and Albany. He is Facetiously known among the radio boys as “Chief Wallah of the Georgia Chain Gang.” Woodruff is stationed as program director at Karachi.
The third T/O victim is Damon, who was best known for his characterization of “The Thin Man” over networks in the states. He is now sweating it out in Burma.
We don’t want to miss mentioning one of the radio pioneers over here, S/Sgt. Chuck Whittier. “Ole Chuck” as he is known to the boys in the back room, had just returned to Delhi after setting up the Myitkyina station at a time when the boys were still ducking into foxholes from Jap nuisance raids.
“Ole Chuck” immediately had to put his frazzled nerves on the air to re-broadcast a baseball game. He was cracking his ruler imitating batting practice and going to town in good style on preliminary announcements when he went into a dramatic version of how the mayor had thrown out the first ball.
OH, THAT WHITTIER
Not knowing the name of the mayor, he had looked it up in the World Almanac, which was not a recent edition. So he told with many a verbal flourish, how His Honor had astonished the masses for the ninth time, by whipping over a ball that had fairly burned the ozone. Whittier didn’t know it, but that particular mayor had been dead for a year, victim of a glider crash. But he heard about it later from indignant natives of that particular city.
There are many others, enlisted men and officers alike, who are keeping the airwaves loaded with music, news and drama from home. The programs are the cream of the radio talent back in the States and are shipped over here in record form for distribution throughout the Theater.
Being curious about just what programs are best-liked, we queried Maj. P. D. Guernsey, head of the Theater Research Unit. This unit recently conducted a Theater-wide poll of a representative cross-section to find just what the I-B soldier liked best on the radio and what he regarded as stinkers.
News broadcasts rated first. Then came in respective order sweet, popular dance music; hot jive and swing music; sports broadcasts; drama and radio plays; religious music; concert and classical music; and last, western or hillbilly music.
Breaking the figures down, we find that 78% of the men polled stated news broadcasts “should get a lot of time.” Only two percent said news should get no tune at all.
To eliminate a lot of verbiage, we will show you how one phase of the poll was conducted. Then you can see how the majority of your neighbors think about radio programs in general. First column shows type of program, second column shows percentage saying each type of program should get a lot of time, and third column shows percentage saying each type of program should get no time at all.
AFRS stations in India and Burma reached 16 stations in total, starting with VU2ZY Delhi. Our introductory feature on AFRS Radio in China-Burma-India is here .
This original article appeared in ‘India-Burma Theater Roundup’ on July 12 1945, a newspaper published in India by and for US Forces.
© These newspapers have been recreated and digitized as part of a large on-line project about the CBI theater of WWII operations by Carl W Weidenburner which can be found at www.cbi-theater.com. We recommend this resource and encourage your support for the project.