Army War Show 1942

Click to enlarge image

I  first became aware of the Army War Show in 1991 when my father’s youngest brother Richard F. Gretsch lent me this book. The book was published by Albert Love Enterprises, Bona Allen Building , Atlanta, Georgia in 1943.
As of 2012, several copies of this book remain in the family. Richard F.  Gretsch’s oldest son, Fred Bruch Gretsch has two copies in AZ.  One of his copies is the one referred to below which I borrowed in 1991.  Frederick William Gretsch, nephew of Richard F. Gretsch, has one copy in Savannah, GA.

On the first page is an unattributed quote “….that our people may see our Army and be inspired to greater effort in supporting it, with full confidence in its leadership and purposes…”

Click on the images below to read pages 8 and 9 from the book which provides a history of the Army War Show.

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

On the inside covers of the book, all the cities which the War Show traveled to between June 12 and December 20, 1942 are listed. They are Baltimore, Philadelphia, Akron, Detroit, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Birmingham, and Atlanta.

My uncle Richard F. Gretsch was an electrical engineer and a Lieutenant in the Army at the time. He was also an advance agent for the show. The following undated article from an unnamed Chicago newspaper is glued to the inside back cover of this book. Click on the article below to get a very good idea of just what my father’s younger brother’s role was in the show. You will get a good idea of how much he enjoyed his work.

Click to enlarge image

The copy of the article reads:

“Although the opening of the Army War show in the Stadium is nearly two weeks away, work on its lighting system started today with the arrival from Washington of Lieutenant Richard F. Gretsch of the Army Corps of Engineers, a former Hollywood lighting director.
While the Stadium’s lighting for night events is supposed to be pretty super-super, Lieutenant Gretsch doesn’t think it’s such a much, and he is going to install his own system, utilizing, however, the old “house” lights system of Commissioner Herbert Buckman’s yawning bowl.
“Our show loses some of its effectiveness under lighting that is too brilliant.” Lieutenant Gretsch said.  “Our own effect lighting doesn’t penetrate it. We use white, blue, red and amber lights, using an illuminating system that is as big and complex as that at Radio City in New York.”
The officer grinned when asked how much equipment he supervises.
“I’ve probably got more copper that anyone in Cleveland. We use between 11 and 12 miles of wire, carry 225 lighting fixtures, spots and floods and a complete switch system for the remote control of all Stadium lighting.”
The show’s own lighting system is a 540-kilowatt set-up to which 500 kilowatts will be added by use of the Stadium’s old system-enough juice the army engineer explained to light 20,000 lamps of 50-watt capacity.”

There are several autographs in the book written specifically to Dick Gretsch. These autographs appear next to the picture of the signer, much the same as one might find in a high school year book.  All of the inscriptions are full of praise, for example they refer to Dick  as ” a great guy” and “A great man with the kleigs and an earnest friend.”  I wonder if the writer knew that Dick had an Aunt, Frances Kliegl Sommer, was who the daughter of one of the men who invented Klieg lights. Click on the page below to see a photo of Dick Gretsch and his fellow officers.

Click to enlarge image

Two letters of commendation for Dick Gretsch are pasted onto the end pages of the book. Click on the images below to read them

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

There was a radio contingent to the show. This was something which would have interested my mother very much. Since she was ten years old, she always imagined herself working in radio. She studied Radio at Northwestern University and worked at a radio station in Wichita Fall, Texas.  Stg. Bert Parks and Stg. Bob Waldrop used the radio as a promotional devise to get the message of the Army War Show out to as many people as possible. According to the Army War Show book, “more than 60 radio stations cooperated with the War Department by broadcasting War Show programs.”

In fall of 2007, Professor Alf Luedtke from Erfurt, Germany used this book for a class he taught at the University of Michigan on war and everyday life.

Most importantly for me, reading about the Army War Show and my uncle’s part in it, gave me a pretty good idea of what my elusive father was thinking about at this time. My parents were not yet married. My mother was working in California. Just before her birthday on September 14, she sent a telegram to my father asking him to come to California for her birthday.

My father didn’t make the trip out west to see my mother. Rather, he sent a telegram from New York to his brother in Cleveland on the 18th of September, exactly the day when the Army War Show was playing there.

“Leaving for Chicago next Thursday looking forward to spending the week-end with you in Louisville.”  Louisville is precisely where the show was headed after their Cleveland engagement. My father was keeping close track of his little brother. Which probably didn’t sit too well with his lonely girl friend in California. Perhaps, the Army War Show added fuel to the fire of their relationship. A fire which culminated in their marriage on December 15, in Missouri just days before the Army War Show had its last performance in Atlanta. For more information on my parent’s courtship see the “Maxine Sylvia Elsner Gretsch” Timeline on this website.

The quote below is from the American Society of Military Insignia Collectors website:

“The show was a huge success with sold out and held over performances in every city that it visited. Unfortunately, the show came to an end without much fanfare during a rainy December weekend in Atlanta. There was no special ceremony dissolving the unit nor were there any special certificates or documents given out to any member who had participated in the show. Basically, the unit just faded away with troops returning to their original duty stations. By the time the show had come to an end approximately 2,300 officers and men had served with the unit. Later, because of the show’s huge success and the clamor for more, local Army Commands would continue the tradition and provide the public with further war shows. But, the days of a central War Show that would travel throughout the country was over, War demands made the logistics of continuing such a venture impossible.”

For more information about the Army War Show please go to:

One thought on “Army War Show 1942

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s