Bing Crosby might be known as the voice of Christmas, but he was also a patriotic American. When he was unable to serve his country overseas during World War II, he dedicated his time to doing all he could in support of the war effort.
The United States enters the war
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the government made it so all men aged 20 to 44 had to register for the draft. Bing Crosby added his name, and while expecting to be called up, knew he was likely at the bottom of the list, due to his age (he was 38 at the time) and the fact that he was married.
This assumption proved true on December 5, 1942, when the War Department suspended the induction of men over the age of 38. Crosby was embarrassed over his inability to serve his country and thus decided he would support the at-home war effort.
Bing Crosby’s contributions to the war effort
Crosby’s involvement began on January 29, 1942. After receiving a message from General Douglas MacArthur, he broadcast his Kraft Music Hall show by shortwave to US forces fighting at Corregidor in the Philippines. To show his appreciation, he began the set by performing “The Caissons Go Rolling Along.”
A rather unexpected win for GI morale came with the release of Irving Berlin’s song, “White Christmas.” Crosby performed the track live 17 days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and it resonated with troops and their families. While touring with the USO, he sang the song for thousands of soldiers who ended up losing their lives during the Battle of the Bulge.
When President Franklin Roosevelt called on Hollywood to do its part for the war effort, Crosby teamed up with some of its finest – Carey Grant, Desi Arnaz, Olivia de Havilland, etc. – for the Hollywood Victory Caravan. The variety-type show traveled across the country in support of the Army and Navy Relief Society and raised over $700,000.
In recent years, letters Crosby wrote to and received from American soldiers during the war were discovered. Along with showing his support, the letters sent to him expressed thanks for bringing hope to everyone during such a trying time.
In total, Crosby spent 25 weeks touring with the USO, entertaining servicemen in Britain, Belgium, and France. His efforts overall resulted in the sale of millions of dollars worth of war bonds, as well as substantial donations to the Red Cross, the USO, and other war-based charities.
Creation of the Armed Forces Radio Service
On May 26, 1942, the War Department created the Armed Forces Radio Service to entertain American forces overseas. Crosby volunteered to get involved, and within days recorded a guest spot on the Command Performance show – the first of many.
In total, he appeared in over 70 radio shows for the service, including 30 Command Performance spots; 13 on Mail Call; at least five on Song Sheet; 19 on GI Journal; and at least two performances on Jubilee. He also had his regular Kraft Music Hall show transcribed on discs and made appearances on the Personal Album show and Front Line Theatre.
A poll taken at the end of the war found US troops believed Crosby had done the most to increase GI morale, surpassing the likes of comedian and actor Bob Hope, Franklin Roosevelt and Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.