The 1941 shows were billed as a program designed "to strengthen the mainstream of the defense machine – the workers in the arsenal of democracy – during a time of unlimited national emergency". This was the time of the buildup of tensions in the Far East and just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Major Bowes and Jane Froman kicked off the first 30 minute show on the CBS network on June 8, 1941 and the show ran during the summer until September 21, mostly on Friday nights, with different hosts and participants. Unfortunately, none these original shows are in circulation or known to exist.
In 1946, Hollywood producer C. P. MacGregor put together a series that was to be used as a public service in support of the Army and Air Corps recruitment departments. He had lots of contacts in the radio industry but did not have direct access to the networks. As a result he targeted independent stations and, by the week of July 10, 1946, had assembled over 350 stations into his independent network for the first broadcast of the syndicated show.
There were 136 shows in this first series. The shows were initially 15 minutes long and included recruitment ads along with a short play featuring a big name Hollywood star. Later shows in the series finished with a short interview with the star. MacGregor pulled off a major coup when he recruited Clark Gable for the first show. Other major actors agreeing to participate were Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford, Alan Ladd, Preston Foster, Vincent Price, Barry Sullivan, Harold Peary, William Holden, Edward G. Robinson, and many others.
MacGregor was born in 1897 and would pass away in 1968. While active he was known as the "DeMille of the discs". He produced and distributed many syndicated shows such as Cecil and Sally, The Shadow, The La Rosa Hollywood Theatre of Stars, Salute to Reservists, Obsession, Heartbeat Theatre, Skippy Hollywood Theatre, Lux Radio Theatre, Eb and Zeb ... and many more. He also produced hundreds of recording sessions with artists such as Charlie Parker, Stan Kenton, Peggy Lee, Leadbelly and many more Jazz and contemporary artists. The Library of Congress has possession of the MacGregor Collection masters and recording ledgers from 1931-1970. A Google search of C. P. Macgregor will give additional details about his remarkable involvement in radio transcriptions.
Back to the show. Not all stations in the 'network' would broadcast the show on the same date. Newspaper references indicate that a particular program would be broadcast at different locations on dates that were months apart. For ease of reference however, we have used the date of release week as part of the file name.
The first 78 shows were of the 15 minute variety but starting with show 79 the programs would be 30 minutes long, still following the same format of a recruiting announcement, the first half of a play featuring a big name actor, a longer recruiting announcement, the second half of the play, another brief recruiting announcement, and finally by an interview. The first of the 30-minute shows featured Esther Williams and was released the week of Jan 11, 1948.
The program must have enjoyed quite a wide audience. Newspaper clippings as well as announcements during the program indicated that by early 1948 the independent network had grown to over 1000 stations. By mid 1948 the program was heard on over 1300 stations.