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The dramatic art of Uncle Sam: the government, drama, and World War II.

On 14 June 1943, the reigning glitterati of the day--Eleanor Roosevelt, Mayor LaGuardia, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor--were at the 46'h Street Theatre in New York to witness the Broadway Production of five one-act plays written and enacted by enlisted men. The performance, called The Army Play by Play, was the remarkable product of the U.S. Army and the genius of famed producer John Golden. In his introduction to published version of the plays, Golden explains how, working with the Army Special Service Staff, he created the John Golden-Second Service Command One-Act Prize Play Contest, which garnered 115 original playscripts from American soldiers at Army camps around the nation (x-xii). (1) A selection committee that included Elmer Rice and Russei Crouse chose the five best scripts. Golden asserted that staging the plays "became my patriotic duty" (xii-xiii). The five scripts chosen were mounted and presented on Broadway to raise funds for the Soldiers and Sailors Club. The opening performance earned $100,000, and the plays were subsequently staged for President Roosevelt at Hyde Park. They officially opened on 2 August 1943 at the Martin Beck Theatre in New York, where they ran for 40 performances; and later were produced at theatres and army bases around the country.

One wonders what sort of instructions Crouse, Rice, and the others on the selection panel might have given about the desired criteria for choosing scripts. One also wonders about the 110 scripts not chosen. Their whereabouts are not known; and it would be illuminating to know what issues they raised. But the five surviving and published scripts that comprise The Army Play by Play were written and performed, for the most part, by first time playwrights and by inexperienced, non-professional actors all drawn from the military. The five one-acters of The Army Play by Play thus provide a unique glimpse of wartime military life and the war effort as it is seen and dramatized by servicemen. In part, Golden's enthusiastic and somewhat magniloquent praise is apt. He writes:
 The plays that you are about to read are, in a sense,
 folk-plays, for they express with disarming simplicity,
 the sentiments, the expressions spoken, listened to
 and lived through by our boys in the service--gleaned
 from their experiences as characters participating
 in the greatest drama the world has ever
 known. And so it is that these "little plays," born of
 this great Drama, tell the story, not of death, but of
 living calmly, alongside death, and laughing at it.
 (xiii).


What is interesting about the five plays are the topics they cover and those they do not. Did the selection committee favor particular issues? Is there a reason the atrocities being committed in Europe and Asia were barely mentioned or that the cultural diversity among the troops arises often? We are not likely to know the answers to these questions. It is important to recognize that what we do have in The Army Play by Play is a government initiative to use drama in shaping both civilian and troop attitudes toward World War II and American involvement in that war. It is also important as well to value The Army Play by Play as five dramatic artifacts that register in fairly undiluted ways the feelings, issues, and points of view of not untalented enlisted men who were encouraged by the military to express themselves through playwriting and whose plays were subsequently performed by ordinary soldiers rather than professional actors. Filled as they are with personal and patriotic feelings of American soldiers, the plays were highly effective vehicles for boosting the morale of both military and civilian audiences because performances would seem to present truth unvarnished by any professional training or prior agendas by either playwrights or performers.

Three of the five plays contained in The Army Play by Play center on barracks life. Where E'er We Go by Pfc. John B. O'Dea of Fort Lewis, Washington, is a light-hearted portrayal of restless soldiers waiting for furloughs and battle action while cooped up at dull, rain-soaked Fort Lewis outside Seattle. Button Your Lip, subtitled A Farce in One Act, by Cpl. Irving Gaynor Neiman stationed in Chanute Fields, Illinois, is a comedy of mishaps and misadventures stemming from misplaced military records and the appearance of 1940s film star Dorothy Lamour in a USO entertainment being performed at the army camp. The third play, Mail Call, written by Aviation Cadet Ralph Nelson stationed in Americus, Georgia, is a more serious play located abroad "somewhere in the Theatre of Operations" (101) and is centered around the decision of whether or not to open a package of food from home addressed to a deceased comrade and then whether to devour its contents. (2)

What is common to these plays and to others in the volume (as well as to the many plays and films of the period set in army barracks) is the portrayal of a military unity as an American microcosm, an American cross-cultural snapshot. Of course, it is important to interject that, during World War II, African-Americans were segregated into their own units; and thus the supposed American cross-section is not racial. It is always purely white, devoid not only of African-Americans, but also of Asian-Americans, Hispanics and other persons of color. In Mail Call, for example, Johnson is from Oklahoma, Spider from Alabama, Abe Meitelbaum is "a wiry little New York Jew" and the son of a Jewish tailor, Minnick is said to be "representing New Jersey" but with a girlfriend in Montana, and Luckadoo is from Tennessee. The deceased McKinley's family is sketched as a generic American family straight from a Norman Rockwell scene on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Here, as in so many wartime plays, is the strong message that this is a war that bonds all Americans from all walks of life to face a common enemy, one that threatens American democracy, The American Way of life, and an ineffable American spirit that is, paradoxically, comprised of a national unity that is engendered by the country's very diversity. In many ways the dramas like those in The Army Play by Play, scripted an American cross cultural comradeship and worked to dismantle the regionalism and ethnic divisions that were a legacy of the Civil War and that continued to be a force in pre-World War II America. The cultural diversity valorized in these plays, moreover, set the stage as well for the breaking of barriers that took place in the post-war period and continues to this day.

While the Army's playwriting competition was going on and drawing its material from the pens and acting of ordinary servicemen, the Army Air Forces committed themselves to a much larger, splashier project that pulled out all the stops in an attempt to employ the drama for conveying to the American public an image of life in the Air Forces and the commitment of those who serve in that branch of the military. Early in 1943, General H(enry). H(arley). "Hap" Arnold, the Chief of the Army Air Forces (1941-1946), summoned the popular playwright Moss Hart to Washington. Hart had by then made his reputation as the co-author, with George S. Kaufman, of three zany American comedies that had by then become--and are still--classics of American theatre: Once in a Lifetime (1930), You Can't Take It With You (1936), and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939). He had also written with Kaufman The American Way (1939), the serious, patriotic runway hit play dramatizing the history of a German immigrant from his arrival at Ellis Island in 1896, to his life in Mapleton, Ohio, through the loss of his son in World War I, and his own final moments protesting against Fascist elements in his community.

It seems likely that The American Way inspired General Arnold to tap Hart for the job of writing what was an enormously ambitious government-sponsored patriotic and theatrical World War II undertaking: Winged Victory: The Army Air Forces Play (1943). (3) What the Army wanted was a play, ready for production in fall of 1943, which would extol and promote the Army Air Forces, while reaping profits to support the Army Emergency Relief Fund. To this end, the manpower of the Army was put at Hart's disposal. All he had to do was come up with a winning, patriotic play about the Air Forces. Burns Mantle and Steven Bach both relate how Hart then traveled on a research trip to scores of Air Forces training camps to learn firsthand what life in the Air Corps was like. It then took Hart three weeks to write a Winged Victory and seventeen days to stage it (32-33). (4) Or, as one writer put it, "From blue print to happy landing on Broadway, Winged Victory was produced in the manner of a new superbomber." (5)

In Winged Victory, Hart returned to his fictional town of Mapleton, Ohio, where he had set The American Way and which by then was almost as well known to the theatre-going public as Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, in order to create another powerful, moving, patriotic play this time about the young men who eagerly join the Air Forces; their loyal families, spouses and girlfriends; the pleasures and pains of serving one's country in a time of need. Winged Victory calls for very few female parts, but there are scores of male parts and an oversized orchestra and chorus, which were all filled by men in uniform. Indeed, over 300 military personnel on stage and an oversized military band in the orchestra pit surely created in the audience a sense of national strength, patriotism, and the will to victory. (6) Several of the actors were already well known stars then serving under the Stars and Stripes; others were on the brink of making their mark as celebrities; and still others, who were drafted for the production but would not go on to post-war careers in the entertainment industry, would remember Winged Victory as their one glorious wartime moment in front of the footlights. When Winged Victory opened at New York's 44th Street Theatre on 20 November 1943, among the large cast could be found, such names as Cpl. Mark Daniels, Pvt. Red Buttons, Sgt. Kevin McCarthy, Pvt. Barry Nelson, Pfc. Edmond O'Brien, Sgt. George Reeves (in the 1950s to become television's first Superman), Sgt. Ray Middleton, Pvt. Karl Malden, S/Sgt. Peter Lind Hayes, Pvt. Alfred Cocozza (alias Mario Lanza), and Pvt. Lee J. Cobb. (7) Even before it arrived in New York, Winged Victory was a smashing success in Boston during its pre-Broadway run; and Burns Mantle recalls the long lines that formed for tickets at the New York box office. (8)

Writing at the heart of World War II in 1943, Moss Hart enunciated not merely America's sense of the war's meaning, but the dawning of a global mission that later dominated the American national agenda during the second half of the twentieth century. Gerald Bordman reports that, "The play ran for six months, then toured widely, earning millions of dollars for the Army Emergency Relief Fund." (9) It is easy now, decades later, to fault, as Steven Bach does, Winged Victory for its sentimentality and unabashed patriotism. (10) But the U.S. was two years into the war. Families were in mourning for sons dead or missing, men were returning from the battlefields wounded and maimed, there seemed to be no end in sight. What could be more appropriate or welcome to mount, on a large stage and with scores of actors and musicians, the undiluted, uplifting patriotism of Winged Victory, which foregrounded the physical and moral strength of American troops, suggested in its very title that victory was imminent, and encouraged a war-weary populace to rededicate itself to the struggle? Karl Malden, who was one of the actors, recalls in his memoir, "Civilians thrilled to sight of three hundred young men in uniform." (11) Winged Victory may not be the most sophisticated of dramas, but were it judged solely in terms of its national impact and popularity, it would, like Hart and Kaufman's earlier The American Way, surely be considered a strong contender for the 'the great American play.'

The Army Play by Play and Winged Victory were directed by the government toward both military and civilian audiences. They were produced in New York and traveled elsewhere with a consistent cast of professional and non-professional actors. The War Department and other government branches, however, also and importantly provided dramatic entertainment aimed exclusively at American troops and not at civilian theatre audiences. These entertainments were to be staged at army camps not by a designated, well-rehearsed cast, but by servicemen themselves for their own local diversion and amusement. The government merely provided the scripts and in some cases, instructions for production and advertisement. In 1942, for example, soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and American entry into World War II and during the course of the war, the U.S. military issued a series of Soldier Shows, which were largely scripts and ideas for troops to entertain themselves with skits, quiz shows, blackouts, reviews, and games. (12) Two of these volumes were USO-Camp Shows entitled "At Ease." The first of these was a collection of comedy sketches and blackouts "For use," as the title page reads, "exclusively in MILITARY AND NAVAL ESTABLISHMENTS By the personnel of the ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES." The open-ended exclusive copyright for these volumes was not to expire until "six months after the cessation of hostilities" whenever that might be. The USO (United Service Organization), founded in i941 by President Roosevelt, not only brought professional entertainers to American troops stationed at home and abroad, but provided material, such as that in the "At Ease" volumes, for performance by the troops themselves for the ir own entertainment. A commentator in Theatre Arts astutely wrote:
 To soldiers, a show written by their buddies takes on
 a much deeper meaning than the artistic or entertainment
 value of the show itself. It is their show,
 written for them, produced for them, and applauded
 by them. It's a wonderful feeling to sing a song that
 your pal in the next barracks has written especially
 for you and your buddies. It's a personal thing, not
 something that's come to you third hand. It's a personal
 thing because the chances are that it concerns a
 subject which only the soldiers know about. In other
 words, it 'belongs', whereas similar material from the
 'outside' is, at best, a good imitation. (13)


The government, in issuing dramatic material to the troops obviously also understood the truth of this statement.

The first USO volume is titled Comedy Sketches and is largely comprised of blackouts reprints of comedy sketches from 1930s radio shows like Baby Snooks and Morey Amsterdam. (14) What seems important is that almost no sketch bears on the war or wartime issues. Rather, they lead the soldier-actors back to a peacetime world when laughing at the follies and errors of others either provided a sense that all was well or offered healthy comic relief from the often grim realities of a country in the midst of a Depression. Most of the sketches are innocuous, though one does wonder about the inclusion of George S. Kaufman's well known one-acter, If Men Played Cards as Women Do, and five other imitations of the Kaufman model written by Morey Amsterdam, If Men Acted in Barbershops as Women Do in Beauty Parlors, If Men Attended Fashion Shows as Women Do, If Men Gave Showers for Grooms as Women Do for Brides, If Men Went Apartment Hunting as Women Do, and If Men Went Christmas Shopping as Women Do. In all these, men satirize women by taking a traditionally gender-coded masculine situation and comically italicizing gender differences using risible feminized language. This in that very male preserve, the barbershop, we have the following feminized dialogue among the men:

WILLSON: (sits up beaming) Hello, men. My, but you two look stunning!

MORGAN How can you say that? You know my hair is a sight. (Takes off his hat to prove his point) But yours! Stafford and I were just saying how--er--unusual you look in your new windblown.

WILLSON: (Flashing a big smile) It is striking, isn't it? But I'm letting it grow out. (Runs a hand through it) I'm sure I'll look better with it "page-boy."

TAYLOR: Don't you dare touch it. (Combs it again) Your hair looks just darling as it is.... Now, how about your eye-brows? Think they need a little arching? (94-95).

The opening stage directions note for If Men Attended Fashion Shows as Women Do give an indication of how these sketches were intended to be played. It reads "All characters play the sketch in a normal, manly manner. The humor results from the fact that men are speaking words and thinking along the lines of women and not from burlesquing their actions or voice inflections" (98). Still, in light of Allan Berube's research and of the anecdote Arthur Laurents relates in his autobiography concerning the all-male production of Claire Boothe's The Women at Fort Aberdeen, Maryland, one can but speculate about gay subtexts and revelations may have emerged when these USO-promulgated If Men ... sketches were produced. (15)

It is the second of the two USO volumes that is startling to the contemporary reader; titled Minstrel Shows, it contains two full scripts for minstrel entertainment. (16) The tacit assumption is that USO entertainment is meant only for white soldiers in the then segregated U.S. military. This minstrel show volume includes not only script material, but instructions on how to create blackface make-up and how to apply it (10-11). It includes the descriptions of the four comedians or "end men" who play the black roles: Ephus, Asbestos, Chinchilla, and Macbeth. The descriptions of the four men represent what one now recognizes as unsettling racist portraits. The description of Ephus, for example, reads as follows:
 End Man #1, whom we have called 'Ephus,' is the
 small, meek, nervous type. His nervousness manifests
 itself in many ways, such as: occasional stuttering and
 stammering; quivering of the lower lip; rolling of the
 eye-balls; trembling of the body; and difficulty in
 having his vocal chords function when he is especially
 frightened. (9)


Inflected with the markings of racial inferiority, these USO minstrel 'entertainments' for white troops draw upon the mannerisms and language employed by characters in the then popular Amos and Andy radio show.

A mixture of song and dance, the scripts derive their humor by enacting a comedy based on the presumed naivete and inferior intelligence of dark-skinned subalterns. In one monologue, for example, a blackfaced minstrel, telephones Heaven to speak with Uncle Tom. The conversation closes on the following note:
 Well, it must be awful nice up there, just sitting
 around all day, listening to those comics like me and
 eating fried poultry--(Listens) Huh? (Registers surprise)
 You don't eat poultry?? (He is horrified) You're
 not allowed to eat chicken up there? (Almost pleading)
 Not even one innocent little drumstick? (A look of
 bewilderment covers his face for an instant) Uncle Tom,
 are you sure you're in Heaven??? CHORD BY
 ORCHESTRA (p.50)


In another comic routine, a black soldier explains why he has just spent time in the guardhouse, "We wuz in a mock battle and the enemy was coming toward us and our captain yells at us, 'Shoot at will!' And I don't know which one was 'Will', so I shot our top sergeant!" (77). When the mirth subsides, the white soldiers who have laughed at this routine have had reinforced through comedy the reasons that the very thought of having black soldiers in their unit would be not just ludicrous, but dangerous. The texts of these army minstrel shows are not hard to deconstruct; and their implicit message is that blacks are inferior, and that it is good for the safety of all that they are remanded to segregated units.

Evidently, in 1942, the government sanctioned use of minstrel material in a way that validated and enshrined racist archetypes and implicitly endorsed a belief in both the inferiority of African Americans and the need for keeping them segregated. After the war, on 28 July 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which brought an end to racial segregation in the American armed forces.

More impressive, however, for both their length and their pointed material, than the USO volumes and the other Soldier Shows volumes are the government-issued scripts of three War Department original musicals designed for production by the troops themselves at army camps around the nation: Hi, Yank; P.F.C. Mary Brown; and About Face!. (17) The music (and possibly some of the lyrics) for all three of these now little-known musicals were written by Pvt Frank Loesser, who was to achieve renown after the war for Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, Where's Charlie?, and How to Succeed in Business. Suprisingly, Hi, Yank and EEC. Mary Brown have been lost to the annals of American musical comedy; even Susan Loesser fails to mention them in her biography of her father.

Irving Berlin's World War II revue This is the Army, a revision of the one he wrote during World War I, is well known, especially in its 1943 film version, but the three original Frank Loesser shows for the armed forces have more than mere entertainment value. The Soldier Show "Blueprint Special" of About Face! is the product of a collaboration of remarkably talented individuals. Graced by a comical cover drawing from the pen of then already well-known cartoonist Al Hirschfeld, About Face! contains music and lyrics by Frank Loesser assisted by Pvt Hy Zaret, T/Sgt Peter Lind Hayes, Pvt Jerry Livingston and Lou Singer. Many of the sketches are by the gifted comedy writer Pvt Arnold Auerbach. The talent collected for this show is truly impressive. Hayes (1915-1998), who had appeared in Winged Victory, was an actor, comedian, and singer, who became a celebrity (often appearing with his wife Mary Healy) in the 1950s and 1960s through popularity of his long running weekly television show, The Peter Lind Hayes Show. Jerry Livingston (1909-1987) is one of the great twentieth-century American popular song writers. His "Mairzy Doats" (1943), written approximately the same time as About Face!, was a runaway hit as was his "Fuzzy Wuzzy." He went on after the war to write the musical score for Walt Disney's Cinderella, the theme music for the television series 77 Sunset Strip, and the popular song "The Twelfth of Never" (1956). In the decades after the war, Hy Zaret and Lou Singer frequently teamed up as lyricist and composer respectively. Together in the late 1950s and early 1960s, they composed a series of recordings called Ballads for the Age of Science, which were sung by Tom Glazer, Dorothy Collins, and Marais and Miranda. They wrote the score, in 1947, for Patrick Henry and the Frigate's Keel: A Musical Legend by Howard Fast (Decca No.DA-522), and the popular song "Young and Warm and Wonderful" (1958). Zaret is best known as the lyricist for the often recorded song, "Unchained Melody." Arnold Auerbach (1912-1998), who wrote many of the sketches in About Face! had already written some of the script for George Gershwin film musical Lady Be Good (1941). In the course of his career, Auerbach wrote comedy sketches for Milton Berle, Fred Allen and Al Jolson; with Arnold Howitt he wrote the script for the Harold Rome musical Call Me Mister (1946) and together with Howitt and Moss Hart he produced sketches for the musical revue Inside USA (1948). He was also a writer for the Sgt. Bilko television comedy series, and in 1955 was one of a group of writers who garnered an Emmy for the comedy series You'll Never Get Rich.

Together, these talented men were largely responsible for the series of sketches that comprise About Face!. The sketches spoof army life and include very funny scenes about an army psychological examination (22-24) and a lecture for soldiers on sex (27-28). The high point of About Face! is the satiric scene in which a soldier receives his notice from the Civilian Selective Service, which threatens to draft him back into civilian life. In a comic reversal of those who challenged their draft notices for the military, the soldier here protests his civilian draft notice; and as a result is given some tests. First he is shown "a loud checked suit on a hanger" and asked to identify it. Studying the suit, he pleads, "Gee, it looks familiar, I could swear I've seen it before" (35). Shown "a tray with dishes and a large folded napkin," he again says he remembers them vaguely from his past, but cannot identify them. When "A GIRL IN A SARONG ENTERS," "JOE LOOKS AT HER. HE IS PUZZLED. HE WALKS AROUND HER, LOOKS HER UP AND DOWN, TOUCHES HER CHEEK, THEN HER SHOULDER, THEN HE LOOKS HOPELESSLY AT THE MAJOR." This scene ends with his saying to the Major, "But Major! I've been the Army for two years (POINTS AT THE GIRL) What is it?," to which, before the blackout and curtain, the Major replies, "How the beck do I know? I've been in for twenty!!" (35-36). Once more the government and the writers created a theatrical venue that allowed the enlisted men both in the cast and in the audience to release their tensions by having a laugh at the army and its bureaucracy, even as it took their minds off the bloodshed that spanned two oceans. And as part of the aim of pointing out the comical side of military life, Loesser and his associates wrote for the show "Gee But It's Great to Be in the Army," the humorous song that was to gain national hit status (14-15).

For Hi, Yank, Frank Loesser was joined by the talented Lt. Alex North, who became one of Hollywood's most distinguished and sought-after composers, creating the music for such films as Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, Spartacus, The Agony from the Ecstasy, Cleopatra, Shoes of the Fisherman, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Rose Tattoo, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolp, and Prizzi's Honor. (18) The choreography for Hi, Yank was provided by none other than Pvt. Jose Limon, whose reputation as a dancer had already been established and who was, of course, to become after the war one of the truly great choreographers in American dance history. Arnold Auerbach was the primary writer of Hi, Yank's sketches.

Although Hi, Yank has no real plot, it centers around the figure of the Sad Sack, drawn by cartoonist George Baker, who first appeared in the Army magazine Yank. Decades after the war, Baker's Sad Sack was a regularly syndicated newspaper cartoon. Baker provided the comical cover with his well-known character and Sad Sack's equally well-known abusive sergeant for the script of Hi, Yank, and his wonderful cartoons graced the pages of the published playtext. The Hi, Yank volume contains the script, Loesser and North's full musical score, Limon's precise choreography directions, set designs, instructions for set construction, costume designs, lighting designs, and an audience evaluation form.

Soon after Hi, Yank, Pvt. Frank Loesser teamed up with Capt. Ruby Jane Douglass, Pvt. Hy Zaret, and Arthur Altman to write EEC. Mary Brown: A WAC Musical Review. (19) In addition to its entertainment value, P.F.C. Mary Brown is an important work because it is one of the very few wartime stage works to focus on American women in the military. (20) Once again, the volume for the revue included not merely the playtext but a full musical score, lighting designs, set designs, a sample program, and Mary Schenk's imaginative costume design. (21) In part, P.F.C. Mary Brown seems inspired by the "First Class Private Mary Brown" song that featured in About Face! and which reappears in P.F.C. Mary Brown. Moreover, one of the comic scenes in P.F.C. Mary Brown about issuing regulation WAC uniforms was likewise lifted from Hi, Yank. Although its disparate scenes are loosely connected, P.F.C. Mary Brown is less a revue and boasts far more plot line than other musicals; it shows some of the concerns that brought women into the military even as it provides a modest window into their life in the WACs. The subject was a timely one, since the WACs was a new organization formed in 1943 to replace the WAACs (Women's Auxiliary Army Corps).

The image of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess whose statues often depict her wearing a military helmet, had been used as the image on the WAC lapel pin. In P.F.C. Mary Brown, the writers, a bit weak on their Greek mythology, begin with Pallas Athena's leaving Mr. Olympus and walking out on Jupiter (incorrectly portrayed as her philandering and preoccupied husband), to join the WACs. Since P.F.C. Mary Brown was directed by the government to servicemen and service women, it affirmed for the former the place of women in the military and valorized for the latter their commitment to their country's wartime cause.

It is not surprising that the U.S. Army should underwrite entertaining plays designed to inspire patriotism and positive images of armed forces aimed at both the general public and at the G.I.s. Nor is the endorsement and sponsorship of dramatic vehicles and musicals for the entertainment of the troops. It is striking, however, that the Army also used theatre in a more consciously focused way, sponsoring drama designed not for entertainment but for didactic purposes. The Military Training Division of the Second Service Command at Governors Island, New York, prepared dramatic training scripts that were released in mimeographed typescript form and presumably employed around the country. These were used to train military personnel and educate them about preparedness, vigilance, and proper behavior. No authors are cited for these plays, and one wonders who wrote them, for several of them show effective dramatic techniques that inform a heavily didactic tone. What these scripts reflect, moreover, is an impressive trust by the military in the power of drama as an effective way of shaping attitudes and behavior of both officers and enlisted men.

One such script that is particularly poignant is Death Without Battle, which was employed to warn of the need to use the army issued anti-malaria cream and mosquito netting. (22) In that play, soldiers have either skipped a training lecture on malaria entirely or have attended and now scoff at the mosquito cream they have been given. By acknowledging the skepticism of the audience and their resistance to the training sessions in general, the script uses its didactic techniques to convert its military audience from skeptics to believers. Under the guidance of Dave, who is distressed by the flippancy of his pals, there are flashbacks Battista Grassi, the nineteenth-century Italian physician who did the pioneering work on malaria and the anopheles mosquito. With his friends still resistant, Dave ends the play with a powerful parting shot: a letter telling him that his brother and several others became ill and died of malaria:
 WHAT DO WE HEAR BUT THAT THE REASON
 THERE WAS NO RELIEF FOR US WAS
 THAT AT LEAST HALF THE MEN THAT WERE
 TO RELIEVE US HAD COME DOWN WITH
 THE DRAMATIC ART OF UNCLE SAM
 MALARIA, TOO. AND ON THAT ACCOUNT OF
 WHAT DO YOU THINK??? ON ACCOUNT OF
 THE FACT THAT THEY WOULDN'T USE THAT
 MOSQUITO CREAM OR THOSE NETS. (11)


The drama and acting work in Death Without Battle to render the pathos of Dave's letter and the fortitude of Grassi meaningful to an initially skeptical or hostile audience. The play not only casts the heedless characters in the role of villains but, more importantly moves an audience of recruits to take their mosquito netting and anti-bacterial salve seriously. Clearly the Army recognized that the magic of theatre can be more effective than lectures in a classroom setting.

Other plays in this didactic genre include Stripes, which is directed to military officers, and meant to remind them of their responsibility as care-givers to the men who serve under them; and The Eternal Weapon, which unsubtlely drives home the point that soldiers must recognize and value the importance of training regardless of how may sometimes appear to seem like purposeless drudgery. (23) In the latter play, a soldier goes back in time and discovers the importance of preparedness and training in past wars. He is then projected into the future to discover his own death and those of seventeen others stemming from his cavalier attitude toward training and his consequent lack of preparedness in battle. A Pfc gives a didactic eulogy:
 No, these men here will not speak. How can they,
 when in the heat of battle, his chance came to do the
 things he should have learned--when upon HIS
 knowledge of the arts of war his company in that vital
 moment fully depended--and he failed and dragged
 them with him. Seventeen men--seventeen good soldiers--seventeen
 futures now lie soundless--and in
 seventeen parts of America, seventeen families hang
 the death crepe over their hearts forever.... here lies
 the untrained soldier and around him lies his murderous
 work. (IV--2)


Like many of the other training plays, The Eternal Weapon depicts soldiers questioning their chores and training and slacking off their responsibilities or cutting corners. This is followed by a projection into a future in which the dire consequences of such behavior are made manifest.

Another forceful and moving example of these training dramas is Ghost Column, set on an island in the Pacific. (24) A battle which should have been an easy American win has been lost to the Japanese at a great expense of human lives. Soldiers in the play waste resources, refuse medical treatment, and ignore nutritionally sound meals in favor of junk food, causing them to lose the battle due to unpreparedness, illness, and lack of nutrition. The theme of squandering and waste versus prudent conservation and sound health practices is the powerful lesson of Ghost Column, a theme strongly pushed by the government in plays, publications, advertising, and domestic propaganda.

One training play, This Is Your Enemy, stands out for it reveals the hand of a rather skilled anonymous propagandist playwright. (25) It opens with force and panache as the stage directions tell us, "THEATRE IS COMPLETELY BLACKED OUT. THE SOUND OF MARCHING FEET SLOWLY INCREASING IS HEARD OVER THE LOUDSPEAKER" (1). This is followed by the command "halt" in German, and then a spotlight suddenly shines upon a young Nazi boy in uniform on a pedestal marked with a swastika. In the strongest terms, he touts the strength of the Third Reich and the weakness of America and American democracy. His speech, replete with exclamation points, is clearly meant to set the audience's teeth on edge:
 The Third Reich--does that mean anything to you
 idiots?? We have conquered half the world and
 enslaved its populations! We have torn up your
 books, your religion, your culture and your ideology!
 Everything that your American democracy represents
 we are destroying, and next we will destroy YOU! ...
 You driveling fools do not know importance of perfect
 discipline in maintaining a fine machine of war.
 You call yourselves an Army! You are an Army! An
 Army of mongrels! A mixture of black, white,
 Protestant, Catholic, and Jew! An Army that has
 risen from the cesspools of the world! ... Since I was
 old enough to walk I have held a gun ready to destroy
 your putrid democracy! There are millions like me,
 and you idiotic Americans have the audacity to think
 you're a match for our superior force! (1)


This is followed by the showing of actual film footage showing Nazi soldiers on parade, close-ups of their enthralled faces as they listen to the impassioned sounds of Hitler, scenes of the destruction of homes and churches, images of women's dead bodies, corpses sprayed with gasoline and set afire, the theft of clothing from the corpses, and the capture of Allied equipment. These film clips are accompanied by continued inflammatory narration by the Nazi youth.

The playwright follows this potent preface with realistic scenes of discontented soldiers who yearn for action on the battlefront and find the seemingly unsoldierly tasks they have been assigned demeaning. They grumble and feel like mere clerks in uniform because they are stationed stateside, are far from the glories of combat, and carry out such mindless tasks as shipping paper dolls and pinwheels to the troops. The playwright renders the American soldiers with a remarkable feel for the language, language, and speech rhythms as the dispirited men shirk their responsibilities, goldbrick, and malinger. The scenes of G.I. discontent are sneeringly punctuated by the Nazi boy's cynical, scornful, and triumphant remarks:
 Yah! You will never see combat! You are stationed in
 America doing work no different from civilians! You
 are not in the Army! You are underpaid civilians
 doing the work of a civilian without the freedom of a
 civilian! Isn't that the way you see it? Good! That is
 the Fuehrer wants you to see it, too! ... Do you not
 watch the clock to be ready to leave your work exactly
 at quitting time? ... Why should you drill? Why
 should you go on long marches-? Why should you
 take refresher courses in marksmanship and gas drill? ... What
 can you lose if the requisition is late? ...
 No one but the Fuehrer! Delay! He pleads with you!
 He knows what you are too stupid to see. He knows
 the combat forces completely depend on you Service
 Force soldiers to supply them with trained men and
 the necessary material. (13)


In the course of the play, this is countered by patriotic and didactic speeches in which the goldbricking soldiers are reviled, the importance of the service division extolled, and the fact that this is the war to preserve American democracy remembered (21-22, 28-29). The play ends, however, with a return to its frame and the Nazi boy telling the audience, "What you have just seen is, of course, your own propaganda," reminds them America is a country of loafers and that "your lazy spirit is part of your American tradition ... [and that] your nature is to delay!--to complain about everything that will speed up your victory!" (30). This Is Your Enemy is indeed unabashed propaganda leveled at servicemen to instill pride in working for the military at domestic supply posts instead of on the battlefield, as well as a sense of responsibility, urgency, and pride in one's work. The inflammatory figure of the Nazi youth and the anonymous playwright's firm grip on the dramatic medium ensure a powerful awareness among this training play's military audience that the war against the Third Reich is being fought at home as well as in Europe.

The U.S. Army was by no means the only branch of the government that recognized drama as a powerful weapon for shaping the attitudes of Americans about the war and wartime issues. The staff of the Treasury Department during the war years commissioned and created dozens of plays for elementary school children, junior high school and high school students, and adults. The ultimate aim of all of the Treasury Department plays was the promotion of War Stamps and War Bond sales and the curtailment of American monetary squandering.

One must remember that during the Depression of the 1930s many had lost their savings and financial instruments had gone bust. With this still very fresh in the minds of Americans in the 1940s, asking citizens to invest in War Bonds was often a hard sell. The war also brought with it jobs and new prosperity; and after a decade of Depression austerity and a time when savings had been lost, some were in search of immediate consumer gratification and loathe to defer that gratification by allocating part of their earnings for the purchase of War Bonds. The war years also brought the rationing of staple foods and the scarcity of material goods. Consequently, there were those ready to dedicate their discretionary money not to War Bonds but to hoarding clothes, meats, soap, razor blades, and other consumer goods or to obtaining scarce goods on the black market. Others felt that, with the entrance of the U.S. into the fray, the Allies would prevail and conquer quickly and handily, and the war would soon be over. Why, then, should they stint on luxury items, save scrap metal, or buy War Bonds? The Treasury Department was worried that such attitudes posed a serious threat of inflation if Americans were willing to pay higher and higher prices for foods and other material goods that they suspected might be rationed or become unavailable altogether. The great fear was that at a time when the U.S. was vulnerable as it fought a bloody war across two oceans, it would be further endangered if it also had to fight runaway inflation on the domestic front. Thus, in response to the monetary needs of a nation at war and to the fear of a new inflationary post-Depression economic instability, the Treasury Department propagandized the responsibility of every American to save money, curb inflation, and help the war effort by investing in U.S. War Bonds and War Stamps. Drama was one of the principal instruments of that propaganda effort.

Looking at these Department of Treasury plays, it is revealing to see how particular groups are targeted, and in each case what propaganda strategies are employed, and which issues are stressed. Cleverly, the Treasury Department targets American schools by creating a "Schools-At-War" program, complete with pamphlets, classroom activities, and drama programs for American youngsters from kindergarten through high school. The authors of the plays surely knew that the messages of wartime thrift and bond purchase would become daily issues for the students as they read the play, rehearsed their parts over the course of some weeks, and then performed the play. They knew, too, that the audience for the plays would be not only the other students and teachers in the school but also the parents who heard their children rehearsing each day; after all, it was those parents who formed the adult and money-possessing mainstay audience for the children's plays.

The Treasury Department playwrights began at the ground level, with the primary school grades. Indicative of the War Stamps and War Bond drama authored for these pupils in Squanderbug's Mother Goose, which features Everyboy and Everygirl figures, Phil and Lis , who are led by a kindly neighbor, Miss Moppity, through the world of a modernized, wartime Mother Goose where they meet nursery rhyme characters and the villain of the piece, Squanderbug, who is the allegorical image of spendthrift, inflation prone America. (26) In Squanderbug's Mother Goose, Lis and Phil first encounter Old Mother Hubbard, and one quickly sees where the play is headed:

Miss M: Old Mother Hubbard Went to the cupboard For an Album of which she was fond. And when she got there She said,

OLD M.H.: I declare! I've got enough Stamps for a Bond! (5)

Along the way in Mother Goose Land, Lis and Phil encounter the Squanderbug, who grows fat on the money when people squander when they could be investing it in War Bonds and War Stamps. Squanderbug is not merely the villain of this playlet but a figure who reappears in several other Treasury Department dramas.

The propaganda of a play like Squanderbug's Mother Goose continues to be transparent when the Squanderbug is rejected, and when as Lis and Phil take their leave of Jack and Jill, those nursery rhyme characters bid them farewell with, "See you at the victory parade. Cheerio!" (12). At the conclusion of the play, Lis and Phil recapitulate the lessons of the didactic play for their audience of schoolchildren and parents:

LIS: You know, Phil, I feel all different about everything now.

PHIL: Me, too. As long as the war lasts I won't care a peanut about driving out to the lake for a picnic.

LIS: Let's start planning a Victory Garden, Phil ... right away. ... I haven't felt so good in a long while or had so much fun .... Why, I bet I could even write an up-to-date nursery rhyme .... Sing a song of sixpence... A pocket full of rhymes... We used to waste our money,

PHIL: Our quarters and our dimes.

LIS: But now ...

BOTH: We'll both buy War Stamps, AND KEEP UP WITH THE TIMES (THE CURTAIN FALLS) (13)

Victory, savings and the purchase of financial instrument, War Stamps, unite in an amalgam of patriotism and economic good sense.

In a slightly different key, Sally Miller Brash's The Magic Bond creates a children's allegory in which a sad and troubled princess is saved by and then betrothed to a palace page who lifts her spirits and makes her smile by fetching her a War Bond from across the sea in America. In the concluding words of the play, the lucky young page exults:
 My princess has her Bond safe in her hand,
 And I've had a chance to visit a glorious land
 A land with people determined to fight
 To keep love and liberty and all that is right,
 Let us all honor these Americans so true,
 Love wave their Flag...the Red, White and Blue!
 (7) (27)


The rescued princess is obviously a grim Europe rescued by an America devoted to liberty and freedom, and willing to place its economic power in War Bonds which will at once ensure the rescue of Europeans and applaud American patriotism.

In one elementary-school-level play by Mildred Hank and Noel McQueen, We Will Do Our Share, coins and Bank-Roll lying around the house combine to help children buy War Stamps. (28) In their far more sophisticated Citizens of Tomorrow, likely aimed at the higher elementary-school grades, Hank and McQueen begin to spell out not merely the propaganda for buying War Bonds but appropriate wartime gender roles. (29) Citizens of Tomorrow is about 5 boys who, realizing that V is the Roman numeral for 5, for a V for a Victory club in the empty garage of a father who has sold the family automobile in order to buy War Bonds. With the help of older brother, Bill, home on furlough, the boys organize to engage in their own form of wartime combat as brother Bill tells them, "collecting junk and paper and stuff to make guns and supplies is fighting, too" (74). The boys reluctantly allow girls to join their club, after the girls complain of their exclusion and then offer to fulfill their gender roles, "We want to join the Victory Club ... and [you] won't let us. Why, girls can do a lot--sew and knit and work for the Red Cross--and we can buy as many War Stamps as they can?" (75).

Elementary school children were only one target of the Treasury Department's propaganda plays. The tone of these government-sponsored plays becomes more imperative and the messages more direct when the works are directed toward high school students, who will soon be eligible for enlistment and the draft, and who will enter their adult lives upon high school graduation. One can quickly see the change of tone by realizing how Sally Miller Brash moves from the fairy tale mode of her elementary school play The Magic Bond to her high school musical, Star for a Day. (30) In this play, high school students await a movie star who is to make her appearance in order to help sell War Bonds and War Stamps. A show about the war effort on the home front is created in honor of the star's arrival. The high school girls prepare to sing a number to the tune of "Sleepy Time Gal":
 We're wide awake gals,
 And when this World War is thru'
 We stay-awake gals will all be singing to you.
 We hope Hitler will hang
 And all the rest of his gang,
 That's why we're stay-at-home, work-at-home, knit-at-home,
 Wide-awake gills!


To the sentiments embodied in the song, the girls' teacher, Miss Bennett, exclaims, "That's an excellent spirit ... You are truly ALL-AMERICAN girls!" (7). Clearly, even during the war a woman's place was in the home.

Far more serious in tone are two other rather moving Treasury Department plays for high school students, Walter Hackett's For The Duration and Howard Tooley and Carolyn Wood's A Letter From Bob. (31) Both plays raise the conflict between materialism and economic self-indulgence and abjuring personal desires and gain in order to support the war effort. For The Duration is specifically focused on high school students. It uses as its main character, sixteen year old Tom Hill, who is eager to spend his savings on skis and skiing lessons when his family takes their planned vacation in the mountains. By contrast, Tom's friends are investing their savings in War Bonds, and Ronald Batty, an English boy dating Tom's sister, is putting aside $18.75 of his weekly $20 allowance in order to buy War Bonds and thereby gives his thanks and support to the country offering him sanctuary while his father serves in the RAF. Likewise, Curt Hansen, the Norwegian newspaper boy sells War Savings Stamps to the customers on his route, and Mother buys some. Father, who works in the shipyard, returns home and announces the vacation is off because his working on Sundays from now on to build Liberty ships. The family takes its vacation money, and Tom takes his earnings, and they apply the money to War Bonds.

Perhaps the most dramatically effective and hard-hitting of all the plays produced by the Department of Treasury is Tooley and Woods' A Letter From Bob. In this play Mother is the only sensible one in the family; she writes regularly to her son Bob stationed in the Pacific, where he flies a B-24. Bob's younger brother, Dan, the narrator of the play, looks back into his recent past, and recognizes that he has been a feckless high school student bent on spending money foolishly. His sister Jean is angry with her boyfriend who purchases War Stamps instead of spending his money to take her to the school dance. Dad is annoyed because he has been repeatedly asked--or, as he sees it, badgered--to enroll his employees in the Payroll War Bond Plan.

Everything within the selfish, solipsistic family changes when a letter from their son Bob arrives, which spells out pellucidly the agenda of the play and of the Treasury Department:
 Seems like the whole family, except maybe mother
 isn't even trying to do what they can to help me and
 my buddies out. I wonder if it's worth it all.... Ask
 a man who's been adrift on a little rubber raft, bow
 the lives of all his shipmates could have been saved.
 He'll tell you ... by having enough protection to
 make it safe for them to man that ship!! ... I don't
 know what you're doing over there. You think must
 think this war is the latest in outdoor sports. But let
 me tell you ... this is no game! When the fellow you
 ate dinner with last night doesn't show up for breakfast
 after a raid ... you don't have much patience with
 someone at home who couldn't give up a movie, or a
 new coat, or part of their salary.... I don't say this
 because we aren't willing to do our job ... I'm telling
 you this because you aren't willing to do yours. (9-10).


The image of young soldiers and sailors dying valiantly for their country when they might have been spared had only the folks at home sacrificed some of their vanities is powerful and effective.

A Letter From Bob is clearly directed to both a teenage and an adult wage earning population. It is unabashedly didactic from beginning to end, but the sentimentality of Bob's letter, the reasoned replies to Dad's skepticism, and the familiarity of each family member's selfish desires combine to make A Letter From Bob rather effective propagandistic drama. It is hardly surprising that it was reprinted in one of the Treasury Department's anthologies of plays specifically directed to an adult audience and meant for production at community centers and churches. (32)

Perhaps A Letter From Bob suggested to playwright Bernard J. Reins an effective dramatic technique, for the anthology contains two powerful, moving, and better than mere government-issue plays by him--Message From Bataan and Letter to Private Smith--that both employ the message home as their central dramatic device. (33) Message From Bataan shows the hand of a skilled dramatist rather than a government playmaker. Almost every government-sponsored play has an aura of a triumph, celebrating what it sees as American values, American heroism, American moral right, and imminent American military victory. These plays usually have a domestic setting, often somewhere in mid-America. Message From Bataan approaches matters from a very different standpoint using as its setting Bataan, one of the war's most significant and bloody defeats for this country. Bernard Reins focuses his drama in the heroism of Bill, his military Everyman character, whose bravery among the starving, dying men on Bataan is poignantly conveyed. During his final day on Bataan, Bill writes a last letter to his younger brother Johnny back home and entrusts it to a friend who is leaving the area. The letter reads:
 All I want to say to you is, we're doing our best, here
 on Bataan. But the odds are terrific ... and we can't
 expect help from the States in time to save our position.
 We can't expect help because our country was
 not well enough prepared, and has to fight across the
 Atlantic as well as the Pacific, and hasn't yet turned
 out enough weapons and trained men to break
 through the Japanese forces. (Pause) Which means
 there's a big job for you back home to do ... a job for
 every one of you, man and woman, boy and girl. For
 our workers there's the job of turning out the finest
 planes, tanks, guns ... turning out more of them,
 turning them our faster, better. For our farmers
 there's the job of raising more food. For everybody,
 and especially for fellows and girls too young to fight
 or do heavy work, there's the job of collecting all the
 scrap metal that's lying around, all the old rubber,
 and the rags, and tin, and turning it in to be made
 into weapons.... but whatever else you do, you can
 buy War Savings Stamps and Bonds, and keep on
 buying, and buying, and buying ... and so lend your
 country the money it needs to pay for so many planes
 and ships and tanks and guns that we soldiers and
 sailors and flyers will never again be caught short by
 our enemies. (51-52)


The didacticism is obvious, but the Bataan setting and the feelings that the recent defeat on Bataan roused in the American public give Message From Bataan just the fillip it needs to render dramatic what might otherwise be doggedly didactic.

The keynote piece in the collection is a hard-hitting short play by the already well-known Broadway playwright Bella Spewack, who, together with her husband Sam, had written The Solitaire Man (1926); The War Song (1928); The Ambulance Chaser (1931); Boy Meets Girl (1935), and Clear All Wires (1932) which was based on her experiences in Russia. (34) They were later to achieve celebrity by writing the book for Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate (1948). (35) In the 1950s, they worked with Cole Porter on Boy Meets Girl, a show meant to feature Ray Bolger but that was aborted and never completed. (36) In 1953, they also wrote the very successful My Three Angels (1953).

Bella Spewack's script for the Treasury Department volume is Invitation to Inflation, which presents the chastising and education of Carol Larrabee, a frivolous, capricious married woman who, when she keeps an appointment to meet a friend, totes a load of parcels containing patently non-essential luxury items and black market purchases. When she is told by her friend Bess that her husband is angry with her extravagances, that her marriage is in jeopardy, and that he would like her to spend her money on bonds, she exclaims:
 You mean War Bonds? I bought a War Bond. I can't
 buy one a month, the way Jim wants me to--and run
 a house too! Do you know what beef costs? I paid a
 dollar a pound at--well, Jim doesn't know I spent
 that much--I had to tell him it was ceiling price and
 show him the the [sic] receipt and my stamp book--before
 he'd even eat it! But he certainly enjoyed every
 mouthful! Buying War Bonds is all right--but how
 are you going to buy them with things so high--not
 just beef you know! (6)


Spewack, like other Treasury playwrights, has seemingly learned her technique from the agitprop plays of the 1930s. Indeed, Spewack Invitation to Inflation has something of Clifford Odet's tone in Waiting for Lefly's "Young Actor" episode. The entire collection of scripts reflects the ways in which the often politically critical and leftist agitprop playwrights of the 1930s provided the models for successful, politically conservative, pro patria warprop in the 1940s.

The plays that follow Spewack's are all (with one exception) by women writers either presumably in the employ of the Treasury Department or the winners of a college playwriting contest sponsored by the War Bond wing of the Department. In the first of June Bingham's two contributions to the volume, Trial By Fury (15-19), the allegorical Squanderbug, reappears in this adult play. Squanderbugs's mission is to convince women to be vain and spend their salaries on foolish trifles instead of buying War Bonds. In the Prologue, we learn that Squanderbug is in direct contact with Hitler and is one of his operatives in the U.S. In Bingham's other play, Cry Uncle (20-24), a "15-minute play was written expressly for women's colleges" (20), the economic didaction of Spewack's Invitation to Inflation is reiterated when college co-ed Mary explains to a frivolous classmate the realities of wartime economics and that War Bonds are needed "to foot the bill for all the Flying Fortresses and little things like that" (21) and to curb inflation. Furthermore, she adds, "the Government wants you to invest in bonds, so you'll have money to spend after the war.

That's when there'll be beautiful new cars and heavenly clothes--and then you'll be doing the patriotic thing by spending. Because the money you spend will help get our businesses back on a peacetime basis and reemploy soldiers" (22). Like many other Treasury plays, the argument to a populace emerging from the deprivations of the 1930s is to delay gratification just a little longer, until the war is won. Then spending and vanity will not merely be allowed but will boost the post-war economy, provide jobs for ex-G.I.s, and be part of a patriotic gesture to put peacetime America back on track.

The only piece in the collection written by a man is Phillips Brooks Keller's Now Is the Time (30-32). As the preface to the play tells us, "This 10-minute play was one of the five winners in a college play-writing contest sponsored by the National War Savings Staffin the Spring of 1943" (30). In it, two reporters interview John Polifka, an immigrant from Poland who has become a millionaire and who is investing money in War Bonds. His reasons are both economic and patriotic. First, he argues, "Speaking cold-bloodedly, I can't afford not to buy War Bonds. At present, interest rates they're just about the best and safest investment that I could make in times like these" (31). He sees as well that War Bonds will help the U.S. and the Allies invade Europe and restore his native Poland, "The quicker this country and her fighting allies are able to invade continental Europe, the sooner will my kinsmen and my countrymen be free to recover the heritage of living without fear and, as Mr. Roosevelt has said, living without want" (32). Looking at Invitation to Inflation and Now Is the Time side by side, one can see the disparate and gendered ways in which the Treasury Department sought to pitch similar material to female and male audiences.

A Letter From Bob and Message From Bataan paradigm is used once more and flavored with a soupcon of the supernatural in Ensign Elsie Mary White, U.S.N.R.'s One Bullet (56-60). The stage directions instruct prospective producers, "The plot is concerned with a farmer-father who feels that he is doing his share by raising food for the war, and sees no reason to buy War Bonds. Meanwhile his soldier-son dies for want of ammunition in the Southwest Pacific. The play can be made more timely by changing the war area mentioned to coincide with war action going on when the play is given, Southwest Pacific can become Europe, Japs-Nazis" (56). The ghost of the dead soldier-son appears and in a poignant, melodramatic moment, haunts the niggardly father with a reenactment of the son's dying moments:

JIM: (As is giving up the struggle), I-I've no bullets left--(turning to his father) Dad-Dad-why won't you help me? I can't--(sound of a loud gun report. Then Jim sinks to the floor holding his middle. He is in great pain and can hardly talk but he manages to gasp out) Dad--I needed you and you didn't help--One bullet would have sa--(His father kneels down beside him. His words die away and as he makes a last effort to rise, he pulls a chair over At this moment the fire goes out leaving the entire stage in darkness.) (58)

With a shrewdly passive-aggressive tactic, the play directs guilt feelings squarely toward those in the audiences who have not invested generously in War Bonds.

Certainly the most unusual and imaginative of all the Treasury Department plays is another of the 5 winners of the college playwriting contest sponsored by the National War Savings Staff in the Spring of 1943: Mary Moore's brief American Curiosities (49-51). This rather strange piece set in a dystopian future seeks to fan the flames of America's worst wartime paranoid fantasies of a post-war period in which the U.S. is ruled by the conquering Germans and Japanese. The principal characters, an archaeology professor and his wife, did not heed the call to buy War Bonds. Now they are fugitives on the run from the Germans, dressed in animal skins and hiding out for the past ten years in a cave somewhere in deepest Michigan. They are chided by their loyal American sister-in-law, Hattie, now also a fugitive and dressed like a huntress. Hattie scolds the professor and his wife because they refused to buy War Bonds, support their country or believe "that the Japanese and the Germans could make a battlefield of this country for 10 years so that the only Americans left would be living in hills like savages. You never believe that anything can happen to upset your own peace and comfort" (50). The fantasy of American Curiosities, which looks back to Huxley's Brave New World and ahead to Orwell's 1984, expressed the deep-seated fears of Americans, encouraging or bullying them into War Bond purchases to avert the future outlined in the play.

The Treasury Department plays are far from being either masterpieces of the drama or of subtlety, but do represent significant artifacts of American wartime culture, revealing as they do the ways in which a non-military wing of the government sought to employ drama as a means of persuasion and propaganda.

Looking back at the wide array of government-issued and government-sponsored theatrical material, it becomes remarkably clear how great was the confidence of the U.S. officials that theatre and performance could help Americans win the war. In addition to the government stage material discussed here, there was also government drama conveyed through radio. Americans across the country listened to the scripts presented on radio series such as The Treasury Star Parade, The Freedom Company Presents, and This Is War. (37) Clearly the dramatic techniques employed by the pro patria government-sponsored dramatists of the 1940s were learned from the largely agitprop, anti-establishment playwrights of the decade. Writing of American theatre during the Depression era, Morgan Y. Himelstein titles his study Drama Was a Weapon. In the hands of the U.S. government, drama was also a weapon during the wartime years of the 1940s.

NOTES

(1) Numbers in parentheses following quotations refer to Golden's edition.

(2) Ralph Nelson had done some acting in Los Angeles and had been married briefly to actress Celeste Holm before the war. Mail Call is his first play, but in June 1945, his play The Wind Is Ninety was produced at the Booth theatre in New York. The cast included Wendell Corey and Kirk Douglas. Nelson went on to become a distinguished television director (including the I Remember Mama series and Requiem for a Heavyweight).

(3.) Steven Bach, however, claims that "Arnold later admitted he had never heard of Moss Hart."

(4.) Burns Mantle 32-33. Bach 239-240. Rosamund Gilder 98.

(5.) "Winged Victory in Production." This 4-page inset on how Winged Victory came to be is graced with comic drawings by Sgt. Harry Horner, who had recently been the scene designer for Hart's Lady in the Dark.

(6.) See 226-227. Bach records a cast of 210, and orchestra of 45, and a choral group of 50 as well as a stage crew of 70.

(7.) See Bach 243-244

(8.) Burns Mantle 32-33.

(9.) Bordman 227.

(10.) Bach 243.

(11.) Karl Malden 137.

(12.) See for example, Soldier Shows (Washington: Special Services Division, Army Service Forces, USGPO, 1944) W109.102: So4; Soldier Shows (Washington: War Department, USGPO, 1945) W1.43:28-15c; and Soldier Shows (Washington: Special Services Division, Army Service Forces [Entertainment Section], USGPO, 1945) W109.116:28. The last contains, among other materials, copies of John Patrick's The Hasty Heart and George S. Kaufman's Freedom of the Air.

(13.) Bob Stuart McKnight 427.

(14.) The Writers and Material Committee of Camp Shows, Inc., eds., "At Ease," Volume I: Comedy Sketches (New York: USO-Camp Shows, 1942).

(15.) An incisive account of gay men and government-sponsored theatre in the armed forces is given in Allan Berube, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two (New York: Penguin Books, 1990), pp.67-97. See also Arthur Laurents, Original Story By (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000), pp.25-26 and Charles Kaiser, The Gay Metropolis 1940-1996 (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997), pp.37-38.

(16.) The Writers and Material Committee of Camp Shows, Inc., eds., "At Ease," Volume II: Minstrel Shows (New York: USO-Camp Shows, 1942). Page references given in parentheses refer to this edition.

(17.) About Face! (Washington: Army Service Forces, Special Services Division, n.d. {c.1943-1944}); Hi, Yank (Washington Army Service Forces, Special Services Division, n.d.{c.1943-1944}); P.F.C. Mary Brown: A WAC Musical Revue (Washington: Army Service Forces, Special Services Division, n.d. {c. 1944}).

(18.) The scripts have no dates, but About Face! presumably pre-dates Hi, Yank, since it is advertised on the inside front cover of the latter.

(19.) P.F.C. Mary Brown follows About Face! and Hi, Yank, since these shows are advertised on the back page of the REC. Mary Brown volume. There seems to be no records revealing the identity of Capt. Ruby Jane Douglass, but Arthur Airman had already written the music for a pop tune "All or Nothing At All" (1940) recorded by Billie Holiday and in later years (1956?) by Frank Sinatra. After the war, he also wrote the music for "American Beauty Rose" recorded by Sinatra (1950) and "I Wish I Had a Record (Of the Promises Yon Made)" recorded by Perry Como (1949).

(20.) An exception here is Allan R. Kenward's Cry Havoc, sometimes staged as Proof Through the Night (1943).

(21.) Mary Percy Schenk was later recognized with a 1948 Tony Award for her costume designs for The Heiress.

(22.) Death Without Battle (Governor's Island, NY: Military Training Division Headquarters, Second Service Command, 1944).

(23.) Stripes (Governor's Island, NY: Military Training Division Headquarters, Second Service Command, 9 May 1944); The Eternal Weapon (Governor's Island, NY: Military Training Division Headquarters, Second Service Command, 13 September 1944).

(24.) Ghost Column (Governor's Island, NY: Military Training Division Headquarters, Second Service Command, 1944).

(25.) This Is Your Enemy (Governor's Island, NY: Military Training Division Headquarters, Second Service Command, 1944).

(26.) Aileen L. Fisher, The Squanderbug's Mother Goose, Education Section, War Finance Division, U.S. Treasury. U.S. GPO, 1944. (T66.2: Sq 20).

(27.) Sally Miller Brash, The Magic Bond, A Short Timely Play for Children of Nine to Twelve Years of Age, "Plays for Schools-At-War" U.S. Treasury Department, USGPO, 1944 (T66.2: P69/4).

(28.) War Savings Programs: A Handbook of Dramatic Material, Treasury Department, Education Division (Washington: USGPO, 1943) (T66.6: P94), pp.61-69.

(29.) Ibid., pp.70-76.

(30.) Sally Miller Brash, Star for a Day: A Musical Play for High School Students, "Plays for Schools-At-War." Education Section, War Finance Division, U.S. Treasury Department. USGPO, 1944. (T66.2: P69/5).

(31.) Walter Hackett, For The Duration: A Play for Junior and Senior High Schools, "Plays for Schools-At-War", U.S. Department of Treasury, USGPO, 1944. (T66.2: P69/2); and Howard Tooley and Carolyn Wood, A Letter From Bob: A War Savings Play for Junior and Senior High Schools, "Plays for Schools-At-War," U.S. Treasury Department, USGPO, 1945. (T66.2:P69/3 1945).

(32.) War Savings Programs: A Handbook of Dramatic Material, Treasury Department, Education Division (Washington: USGPO, 1943) (T66.6: P94).

(33.) Ibid., Bernard J. Reins, Message From Bataan, pp.38-52 and Letter to Private Smith, pp.77-85.

(34.) A useful sketch of Bella and Sam Spewack's careers is given in Jean Gould 135-140.

(35.) William McBrien, Cole Porter: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p.303-309.

(36.) McBrien, p.333.

(37.) Representative scripts appear in a William A. Bacher, James Boyd, and Norman Corwin.

WORKS CITED

Bach, Steven. Dazzler: The Lift and Times of Moss Hart. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

Bacher, William A., ed. The Treasury Star Parade. New York and Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942.

Berube. Allan. Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two. New York: Penguin, 1990.

Bordman, Gerald. American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 19301969. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

Boyd, James, ed. The Freedom Company Presents. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1941.

Corwin, Norman, et al, eds. This is War! A Collection of Plays about America on the March. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1942.

Gilder, Rosamund. "The Fabulous Hart." Theatre Arts Monthly 28 (February 1944): 98.

Golden, John. The Army Play by Play: Five One-Act Plays. New York: Random House, 1943.

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Himelstein, Morgan Y. Drama Was a Weapon: The Left-Wing Theatre in New York, 1929-1941. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1976.

Kaiser, Charles. The Gay Metropolis 1940-1996. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

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Loesser, Susan. A Most Remarkable Fella: Frank Loesser and the Guys and Dolls in His Life. New York: D.I. Fine, 1993.

Mantle, Burns, ed. The Best Plays of 1943-44. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1944.

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McKnight, Bob Stuart, "Original Army Shows." Theatre Arts Monthly 27 (July 1943): 427.

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ALBERT WERTHEIM was an award-winning Professor at Indiana University. He published widely on American, British and Postcolonial drama and on the plays of Athol Fugard.
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Title Annotation:playwriting competition for enlisted men from 1943, John Golden's 'The Army Play by Play'
Author:Wertheim, Albert
Publication:American Drama
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:12002
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