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Original Eyes Aloft header art

The Eyes Aloft! Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Eyes Aloft!

Typical Aircraft Warning Service spotter's shack of the era circa 1941
Typical Aircraft Warning Service spotter's shack of the era circa 1941

AWS Observer's Cap
AWS Observer's Cap
Eyes Aloft Article from August 15 1942
Eyes Aloft Article from August 15 1942

Typical Aircraft Spotter Silhouette employed by the AWS
Typical Aircraft Spotter Silhouette employed by the AWS

The official Fourth Air Force emblem
The official Fourth Air Force emblem

IV Fighter Command Service Pin circa 1942
IV Fighter Command Service Pin circa 1942


Spot ad promoting the AWS and the Eyes Aloft program from Aug 5 1943

Walt Disney AWS Poster No. 1

Walt Disney AWS Poster No. 2

Walt Disney AWS Poster No. 3

Civil Defense 'Sniff Kit'
Civil Defense 'Sniff Kit'

AWS Volunteer Observer badge

Air Raid Radio
Blackout Lights
Beware Open Spaces
Air Raid Panic
Civil Defense and Air Raid reminders of the era

Hints for Air Spotters Book

Hints for Air Spotters back cover

Introduction

Eyes, Aloft! remains a fascinating time capsule reflecting the national hysteria following the infamous Pearl Harbor Attacks of December 7, 1941. The hysteria was most attenuated throughout the West Coast of The United States, where the IV Fighter Command was based and was tasked to defend.

A brief explanation of the IV Fighter Command is probably in order at this point. It should be noted that all references to the 4th Fighter Command throughout Eyes, Aloft! refers to the unit designated IV Fighter Command. It's an important distinction, since the designation of this relatively short-lived command was significantly 'civilianized' for both the Eyes, Aloft! programs and the volunteer force that comprised the Ground Observation Corps and the Aircraft Warning Service units.

IV Fighter Command History:

  • Constituted as IV Interceptor Command on 26 May 1941
  • Activated on 8 Jul 1941
  • Redesignated as IV Fighter Command in May 1942
  • Disbanded on 31 Mar 1944.

For anyone with either a USAAF or USAF background, the unit designations may not seem intuitive. The IV Fighter Command's parent command was actually The 4th Air Force. The 4th Air Force's World War II history was as follows:

  • Established as Southwest Air District on October 19, 1940
  • Activated on December 18, 1940
  • Redesignated: 4 Air Force on March 26, 1941
  • Redesignated; Fourth Air Force on September 18, 1942

The 4th Air Force's region of responsibility was as shown below:


The 4th Air Force Region encompassed California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma during most of World War II

During most of World War II, the 4th Air Force was the primary Air Defense Command for the West Coast. The command was also tasked with antisubmarine patrols along coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico from the period immediately following the attacks on Pearl Harbor until approximately October 1942.

After October 1942, the antisubmarine patrols were released to the Coast Guard and other agencies. The command was thereafter engaged in training replacements for combat units. It supported Army Air Forces Training Command's mission--headquartered at March Field near San Bernardino, Calfornia--of training units, crews, and individuals for bombardment, fighter, and reconnaissance operations.

By 1944, most of the Numbered Air Forces of the USAAF were actively engaged as operational fighting units in various parts of the world. The two primary examples were the Eighth Air Force in Europe and the Twentieth Air Force in the Pacific. The Eighth Air Force and the Twentieth Air Force were supported by four numbered air forces located within the continental United States (known as the Zone of the Interior, or "ZI".)

On December 13, 1944, the First, Second, Third and Fourth Air Forces were ultimately placed under the Unified Command of the Continental Air Forces, the progenitor of the later established Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command, and Air Defense Command, which were all established as a consequence of the National Security Act of 26 July 1947, which officially authorized the United States Air Force as well as The Central Intelligence Agency
.

The Ground Observation Corps and Aircraft Warning Service

There were understandably important distinctions in the desiginations employed by both the Eyes, Aloft! programs and the all-volunteer Ground Observation Corps that evolved into the volunteer force which was ultimately designated the Aircraft Warning Service of The United States Army Air Forces (or Army Air Corps). Ostensibly sponsored by 'the 4th Fighter Command', there was indeed no such official designation. As indicated above, the official designation for this unit was IV Fighter Command, the unit based--and headquartered--at Oakland Airport, California.

But at the same time, it should be noted that the actual force structure and unit designations of the Army Air Forces components--and their missions--were very much matters of the highest security, as well as information that our enemies were quite willing to kill to obtain. As such, it's entirely understandable that the actual missions and component details of the War Department's force structure should be withheld from America's civilians--whether they were directly involved in volunteer Civil Defense units or not.

IV Fighter Command's subordinate units were based as follows:

  • March Field, California, 8 Jul 1941
  • Riverside Municipal Airport, California, c. Jul 1941
  • Oakland Airport, California, Jun 1942-31 Mar 1944.

The references to Hammer Field in some of the Eyes, Aloft! episodes refer to Fresno Air Terminal, now known as Fresno Yosemite International Airport. During the early years of World War II, Hammer Field was employed as a training base in support of The 4th Air Force described above.

The IV Fighter Command's components were as follows:

  • Los Angeles Fighter Wing: 1942-1944
  • Seattle Fighter Wing: 1942-1944
  • San Diego Fighter Wing: 1942-1944
  • San Francisco Fighter Wing: 1942-1944.

As indicated above, in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the responsibility for West Coast civilian air defense fell initially to IV Interceptor Command, then to the redesignated IV Fighter Command. It was during the IV Fighter Command's constitution that Eyes, Aloft! was produced and broadcast.

Eyes, Aloft! was conceived to address three major initiatives:

  1. to further alert the West Coast civilian population--and later the national population--to the immediate need for volunteers for the Aircraft Warning Service
  2. to alert the population at large to the need to comply with both local Civil Defense and Air Warning Service regulations
  3. as a means of recognizing the existing and newly formed Air Warning Service component units that were actively engaged in ground observer activities throughout the U.S..

Recognition of these units was a major element of each Eyes, Aloft! program. The IV Fighter Command and the National Broadcasting Company jointly inaugurated the weekly National Broadcasting Company Eyes Aloft Gold Trophy Award. At the close of each broadcast, an individual volunteer or AWS regional unit would be formally recognized for their efforts with NBC's Eyes Aloft Gold Trophy Award for that week.


From the May 14, 1943 editioin of the Bakersfield Californian:

Sam Hayes to Appear Here Next Monday

PROMINENT NEWSCASTER HELPS RECRUIT FILTER CENTER VOLUNTEERS


     A modern minute man who flies through the air with the greatest of speed Is Sam Hayes, well-known radio commentator who will speak before several local groups on Monday afternoon, fly to Los Angeles to keep a radio broadcast engagement and return here the same evening by air to appear on the stage of the local theaters.
His modern Paul Revere message is the danger of the air enemy and the emergency value of the aircraft warning service that needs both men and women to staff the filter centers and the observation posts.
     Captain D. R. Buford, in charge of the local air filter station, has made arrangements for the local series of talks on Monday with the Bakersfield and Kern county chambers of commerce assisting him.
               Radio Broadcast
     Mr. Hayes will arrive in Bakersfield at 11:30 o'clock Monday morning and will immediately begin his whirlwind round of appearances.  He will talk over KERN at 12:25; he will be guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club at 12:45 and before the Bakersfield Woman's Club Bible section at 2 p. m.
     A big meeting of Bakersfield women will be held at 2:30 p. m. at the Washington School auditorium.  Present filter station and observation post workers will attend and each worker is asked to bring two friends with an idea of possible
enlistment in the service.  Mr. Hayes will then fly back to Los Angeles for his weekly "Eyes Aloft" network radio program under the auspices of the Fourth Fighter Command, and then he will fly back to Bakersfield and appear on the stage at the Fox theater between 8:30 and 9:15 p. m. and later at the Nile theater at 9:30 o'clock.
     Mr. Hayes has told local workers that the fourth fighter command is particularly interested in Bakersfield and the San Joaquin valley area because of the large number of daily airplane flights.
               Filter Workers Needed
     "We hope to recruit more men and women for the vital positions of filter center workers and ground observers in Bakersfield," Mr. Hayes said, "and at the same time we intend to pay tribute to those volunteers who are now serving in this essential activity."
     After each of Mr. Hayes' appearances, men and women who wish to volunteer for filter center work may make their application immediately.
     Emphasizing the importance of the aircraft warning service, Mr. Hayes pointed out that because of this organization, the army air forces are constantly posted on the whereabouts of all planes in the air, and likewise can be warned immediately on the presence of enemy planes.
     This is made possible when ground observer crews, constantly scanning the skies, telephone all reports into local filter centers where the movement of every plane is minutely plotted.  Plots of every flight are made, and if the flights are not identified, the plane is called an unidentified target and is treated as such until it is recognized.
     "This system," Mr. Hayes reports, "has saved the lives of many fliers who have met with a sudden accident in the air, or were lost because of poor flying conditions or a mechanical defect."


The message component of each broadcast was usually a cautionary tale of either examples of ground observer success stories, or a dramatic illustration of the continuing need for the Aircraft Warning Service itself. A key element of the prologue to each episode was the announcement that its script had been cleared by G-2, or the Intelligence component of the Army Air Forces. This further underscored both the gravity of the subject matter, as well as further impressing upon the civilian audience that these were serious intelligence issues of the highest order.

If this seems overkill in retrospect of the prism of history, one can be forgiven the cynicism. This was a period of great civil unrest on both coasts, along the entire Gulf of Mexico, and along the mainland borders--north and south--of the continental United States. But in point of fact, history would later demonstrate the virtual impossibilty of long-range bombers from any of the Axis Powers reaching the continental United States, let alone enemy fighter attacks.

Indeed, this period was at once one of America's shining moments and most shameful moments in the history of World War II--or any conflict before or since for that matter. On the commendable side was the immediate surge in volunteerism and cooperation between all levels of township, city, and state Civil Defense agencies, units of the Red Cross, and the above referenced Air Warning Service. These volunteers were almost universally acting in selfless, patriotic support of their Nation in any way in which they might help protect it.

On the flip side of the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the more fascist Conservative elements of American society found no problem with rounding up hundreds of thousands of unquestionably loyal American citizens of foreign birth and confining them in Concentration Camps throughout both the continental United States and its territories for the duration of World War II. This was, by any moral society's measure, a national disgrace of the highest order.

All of the above being said, there's no question that this fascinating, 61-episode series met its stated goals. The programs both encouraged the existing base of AWS Observers and Filter Center volunteers and informed the public at large regarding the activities of the Air Warning Service and the perceived dangers of the era. That none of those 'dangers' ever truly presented themselves is moot. Irrespective of the effectiveness--or underlying need--of the Air Warning Service, the continuing and very real 'fifth column' element throughout the continental U.S. during World War II demanded dramatically increased security from both civilians and Civil Defense officials alike. This program and others similar to it met that need.

In the process, a troubled, anxious society found a measure of reassurance in the wake of the December 7th period, while at the same time stiffening their resolve that the U.S. would ultimately prevail against its enemies. If the AWS accomplished nothing other than serving to reassure American Society, it more than met its stated goals. But indeed, in the process, the AWS empowered an even greater sense of volunteerism throughout America, while creating a heightened awareness of the need for both increased security and compliance with prudent Civil Defense precautions.

In the course of our research for this article, we discovered the following fascinating websites for further exploration and study:

The State of Oregon's Life on the Home Front Exhibit
Women's Army Corps: A Commeroration Of World War II Service
Air Fronts Document Repository
The Toons At War blogspot
The Women's Army Corps
WWII Recognition Models

Series Derivatives:

None
Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Propaganda Dramas
Network(s): NBC Red Network
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): None
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 42-08-17 01 Introduction to The Aircraft Warning Service and Ground Observer Corps [Premiere]
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 42-08-17 to 43-10-11; NBC Red; Sixty-one, 30-minute programs; Mondays, 6:00 p.m.
Syndication: IV Fighter Command of the United States Army Air Forces
Sponsors: The IV Fighter Command of the United States Army Air Forces
Director(s): Robert L. Redd [Producer]
Principal Actors: Henry Fonda, Helen Andrews
Recurring Character(s): Varied for each program.
Protagonist(s): Varied for each program.
Author(s): None
Writer(s) Robert L. Redd
Music Direction: Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra; The Sportsmen Quartet
Musical Theme(s): "Eyes Aloft", by Johnny Mercer and Gordon Jenkins;
Announcer(s): Ken Carpenter, Ben Alexander; Gayne Whitman [Host]
Estimated Scripts or
Broadcasts:
61
Episodes in Circulation: 38
Total Episodes in Collection: 22
Provenances:
RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.

Notes on Provenances:

The most helpful provenances were the log of the RadioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.


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The Eyes Aloft! Radio Program Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
42-08-17
1
Introduction to The Aircraft Warning Service and Ground Observer Corps
Y
Premiere Episode

42-08-16 Long Beach Independent

'Eyes Aloft' Program Honors Volunteer Air Raid Observers

Volunteer observers and filter center workers from 3000 posts scattered throughout the Pacific Coast States from Puget Sound to the Mexican border will join in a pledge of allegiance led by General W. B. Kepner, commanding officer of the Fourth Fighter Command during the premier broadcast of "Eyes Aloft" over the Pacific Coast NBC Network tomorrow at 6 p.m..
     As 10 of their fellow fighters in the civilian army are decorated for conscientious and valuable service, groups of the army of 130,000 volunteers will gather at radios in their posts to hear the pledge of allegiance read from an unknown address in San Francisco.
     "Eyes Aloft," presented by the National Broadcasting Comopany and the Fourth Fighter Command, will dramatise the work of aircraft spotters and filter center volunteers, and each week 10 volunteers will be awarded a 500-hour citation medal by U.S. army officials.
     Following dramatizations of outstanding achievements by observers and filter center groups, the National Broadcasting Company will award each week an impressive gold trophy to the ground observation unit selected for the most outstanding contribution.  The first NBC trophy will be presented Monday by Capt. Russell Z. Smith, ground observation officer of the Southern California Section.
     Theme song for the new program is "Eyes Aloft," written by Johnny Mercer and orchestra leader Gordon Jenkins.  The new song will be introduced by the Sportsmen, male quartet, with Jenkins' orchestra.

42-08-24
2
The Strange Case of The Capitol Dome
Y
42-08-22 Reno Evening Gazette

Farmer's Wife Can't Appear
At Glamorous Hollywood Show

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 22. UP)— The farmer's wife, Mrs. George Zarzana of rural Roosevelt, won't be able to appear with Movie Actor Henry Fonda in that radio show after all. Both are airplane spotters, and were assigned roles in a script called "Eyes Aloft.' Farmer Zarzana telephoned NBC and said that was fine but his wife
had to help with the hay crop.

Guest:
Henry Fonda

42-08-31
3
Guest -- Major Henry Thorne
N
Guest: Major Henry Thorne
42-09-07
4
Gayne Whitman
Y
42-09-14
5
Title Unknown
N
42-09-21
6
Title Unknown
N
42-09-28
7
Royal Air Force Tribute
Y
42-09-28 Yuma Daily Sun
Of interest to all observers, Director Bristow sin ted. is the "Eyes Aloft" radio program, which will be re-broadcast each Monday night from 9:00 to 9:30 over KYUM
starting tonight
42-10-05
8
Ken Carpenter
Y
42-10-12
9
Son Takes Over for Dad
Y
42-10-19
10
Give a Man a Bicycle
Y
42-10-26
11
Tribute to Navy Day
Y
42-11-02
12
Tribute to the United States Transportation Corps
Y
42-11-09
13
How a Filter Center Works
Y
42-11-16
14
Gas Rationing News
Y
42-11-23
15
The Santa Maria Idea
Y

42-11-30
16
The Dog Who Barks at Planes

Y
42-12-02 Bakersfield Californian

Kern Air Spotter
Wins Army Award

A 54 YEAR OLD Kern county man today held "Eyes Aloft" Gold Trophy in honor of his loyalty and valor as a member of Aircraft Warning Service of the United States Army's Fourth Fighter Command.
The man Is Charles Holmes, caretaker at the Kern county district No. 1 prison camp, who has been a volunteer observer since the United States entered the war a year ago.
Colonel Ernest Moon presented the trophy as a part of the "Eyes Aloft" radio program, sponsored by the Fourth Fighter Command and the National Broadcasting
Company.
Holmes and his dog, Trlxie, have been on duty more than 4000
hours, listening for planes and reporting to army headquarters from a lonely post in the High Sierras.

42-12-07
17
Special Pearl Harbor Memorial
Y

Helen Andrews, known on the air as Helen Musselman when she played dramatic roles on One Man's Family, I Love A Mystery, Death Valley Days and other dramatic shows originating in San Francisco, has returned to the air after an absence of three and a half years. She had a part in a recent Eyes Aloft drama.

42-12-07 The Fresno Bee
A special Eyes Aloft program has been arranged for 6 P. M. as
an observance, of the anniversary of the nation's entry into the war. Portions of the broadcast will come from various Pacific Coast units of the Aircraft Warning Service, and military officials will speak briefly.
42-12-14
18
Maisie and the Observer's Shack

Y
42-12-14 Bakersfield Californian

East City Group Honored
for Observation Record

TWO hundred and fifty Bakersfield citizens gathered in Washington auditorium Sunday afternoon when the National Broadcasting Company presented Bakersfleld observation post with a gold cup on behalf of the "Eyes Aloft" program from the Fourth Fighter Command, United States Army air forces. Ed Benedict, chief observer at the station, received the cup for the post from Captain Paul V. Barnes, ground observer for the area. Representatives of the armed forces who spoke on the program honoring one of the outstanding observation posts in the state, lauded local men and women who have co-operated In manning the post which has one of the finest records in the state.

42-12-21
19
Those Who Watch
Y
Christmas Week Special
42-12-28
20
The Scourge Of The Pacific
Y
43-01-04
21
Title Unknown
Y
43-01-11
22
Why Do I Come Here
Y
43-01-18
23
Contest Winner
Y
43-01-25
24
Great American Story
Y
43-02-01
25
Kingsmen
Y
43-02-08
26
The Hollywood Men
Y
43-02-15
27
Will WAC s Take Over Ground Observer Corps
Y
43-02-22
28
Title Unknown
N
43-03-01
29
Title Unknown
N
43-03-08
30
The Gold Hill Plane Crash
N
43-03-11 Mountain Democrat

Gold Hill Plane
Crash Portrayed

"Eyes Aloft" Radio Program Mentions Citation For AWS Observation Post The recent crash of an Army airplane
in the Gold Hill district was the subject for a dramatiraiion on the radio program "Eyes Aloft," heard over Pacific Coast stations on Monday evening of last week.
Although, at this writing, official word of the citation has not been rereived by the local Council of Defense, it is reported by several who heard the program that mention
was made of awarding a gold medal to the Gold Hill Observation Post of the Aircraft Warning Service for their efficient work in connection with the crash.
The Gold Hill post functions under the direction of Mrs. Cora Miller, chief observer, and it is understood that the radio presentation undertook to portray in some detail the routine of the observers on duty in connection with making a proper report of the incident.

43-03-15
31
Title Unknown
N
43-03-22
32
Title Unknown
N
43-03-29
33
Title Unknown
N
43-04-05
34
Title Unknown
N
43-04-12
35
Title Unknown
N
43-04-19
36
Title Unknown
N
43-04-26
37
Title Unknown
N
43-05-03
38
Title Unknown
N
43-05-10
39
Title Unknown
N
43-05-17
40
Title Unknown
N
43-05-24
41
Title Unknown
N
43-05-31
42
Title Unknown
N
43-06-07
43
Title Unknown
N
43-06-14
44
Title Unknown
N
43-06-21
45
Title Unknown
N
43-06-28
46
Title Unknown
N
43-07-05
47
Title Unknown
N
43-07-12
48
Title Unknown
N
43-07-19
49
Title Unknown
N
43-07-26
50
Title Unknown
N
43-08-02
51
Title Unknown
N
43-08-02 San Mateo Times
6:00 KPO—Three coast governors to be heard on "Eyes Aloft"
43-08-09
52
Title Unknown
N
43-08-16
53
Title Unknown
N
43-08-23
54
Title Unknown
N
43-08-30
55
Title Unknown
N
43-09-06
56
Title Unknown
N
43-09-13
57
Title Unknown
N
43-09-20
58
Title Unknown
N
43-09-27
59
Title Unknown
N
43-10-04
60
Title Unknown
N
43-10-11
61
Title Unknown
N
[ Last Episode ]






The Eyes Aloft! Radio Program Biographies




Gayne Whitman
[ a.k.a. Alfred Vosburg, Albert Vosburgh, Alfred D. Vosburgh, Alfred Vosburgh, Al Vosburgh, Fred Vosburgh, Harold Vosburgh, Alfred Whitman, Al Whitman, Fred Whitman] (Host)
Stage, Screen, Radio and Television Actor, Writer, and Director; Announcer, Narrator
(1890-1958)

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Radiography:
1932 Chandu the Magician
1934 The Royal Hawaiian Hotel Show
1937 John Barrymore Theatre
1940 Community Mobilization For Human Needs
1941 Cavalcade Of America
1942 Eyes Aloft
1943 This Is My Story
1943 The Westinghouse Program
1943 The Pacific Story
1946 Theatre Guild On the Air
1949 NBC University Theatre
1950 Lassie
1950 Screen Director's Playhouse
1951 Stars Over Hollywood
1951 Short Story
1951 Bell Telephone Hour
1952 Let George Do It
1954 Lux Radio Theatre
Trobriand the Adventurer (Audition)
Thrills
The Greatest Of These


Gayne Whitman circa 1937

Gayne Whitman (as Alfred Vosburgh) in Jealousy's First Wife (1916)
Gayne Whitman (as Alfred Vosburgh) in Jealousy's First Wife (1916)

Gayne Whitman's Telephone Hour broadcast featured in Pacific Telephone announcement of new microwave service
Gayne Whitman's Telephone Hour broadcast featured in Pacific Telephone announcement of new microwave service
Alfred D. Vosburgh was born in Chicago, Illinois. Moving to Hollywood in the early 1910s, Vosburgh soon found himself appearing in character roles in some of the earliest silent films of the 20th century.

From the April 19, 1925 Davenport Democrat and Leader:

Gayne Whitman
to Do Pictures

From the stage to pictures, then, to the stage and again back to pictures is the somewhat colored experience of Gayne Whitman, handsome young leading man, who has recently been signed by Warner Bros, to be featured in several of their forthcoming pictures.
For the last four years. Mr. Whitman has been leading man of the famous Morosco Theatre in Los Angeles and the Warners have had their eye on him. As soon as his contract was finished at the Morosco this season, the motion picture producers signed him for a term of years. Whitman is only following the footsteps of Douglas McLean, David Butler, Richard Dix, Warner Baxter and a score of others who have graduated from the Los Angeles playhouse to the screen.
Several years ago Whitman left the stage to become a member of the old Thomas Ince stock company at the time they were making one, two, and three reel features. He was later with Vitagraph supporting Corinne Griffith and other stars so that picture work is no novelty to him.
Warner Bros. intend to put him out in productions made from the best selling novels and plays.

In 1913 the Los Angeles Morosco Theatre (later the Globe) opened with weekly changes of plays, a new format for Broadway. By the late 20s Oliver Morosco lost control of the theatre to the Henry Duffy Players group. This is not to be confused with the Morsoco Theatre in New York. New York's Morosco Theatre opened February 5, 1917. It was owned by Lee and J.J. Shubert and given over to Oliver Morosco to manage as a reward for helping the Shuberts break the Charles Frohman-led Theatrical Trust. Morosco managed the house until 1924.

Alfred Vosburgh legally changed his name to Gayne Whitman during World War I, in response to the prejudice associated with German sounding surnames during the era.

On radio, Gayne Whitman played the title role in Chandu the Magician (1932), acting, directing and writing much of the series. He also wrote the screenplays for many of the Chandu The Magician films starring Edmund Lowe and Bela Lugosi.

During a Radio career spanning some 28 years, Gayne Whitman lent his voice and acting talent to virtually every genre of Radio drama imaginable. As he grew older, he began to appear more often as an announcer or narrator in Radio.

But Whitman's Film career was truly his most staggering accomplishment. Appearing in some 300 feature films and shorts, from the Silent era, to the 1960s, Gayne Whitman demonstrated a durability and versatility rarely matched in Film. Not only an actor, Whitman was also a prolific screenwriter and Radio writer. Whitman also directed several Stage plays and community theatre productions.

When Television beckoned, Gayne Whitman embarked on a third career as both dramatic actor and host/announcer/narrator for another ten successful years.

As remarkable a career as Gayne Whitman enjoyed, there remains all too little in the way of a worthy biography of this multi-faceted, multi-talented actor and his amazing career. We hope this article will spark further interest in this great actor's amazing contribution to the Performing Arts.




Kennneth L. 'Ken' Carpenter
(Announcer)

Radio, Television and Film Announcer, Narrator and Personality
(1900-1984)

Birthplace: Avon, Illinois, U.S.A.

Education: B.A., Lombard College

Radiography:
1935 Rose Bowl Game
1935 Henry Busse and His Montmartre Orchestra
1936 The Magic Key
1936 The Packard Hour
1937 Paramount's Silver Jubilee
1937 Streamlined Shakespeare
1937 The Packard Summer Program
1938 The Ray Noble Show
1938 Kraft Music Hall
1939 Amos 'n' Andy
1940 The Rudy Vallee Sealtest Show
1940 Little Old Hollywood
1940 Bing Crosby Presents
1941 Quiz Kids
1941 The Jello Program
1941 Sweet and Rhythmic
1941 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1941 Songs By Bob Carroll
1941 The Great Gildersleeve
1941 One Man's Famiy
1942 Freedom's People
1942 Command Performance
1942 Eyes Aloft
1943 The Pepsodent Show
1943 Jubilee
1943 Treasury Star Parade
1943 Mail Call
1944 Mystery House
1944 World News Parade
1944 Academy Awards
1944 The Charlie McCarthy Show
1944 The Shaeffer World Parade
1944 The Elgin CHristmas Day Greeting To America
1945 The March Of Time
1945 The Chase and Sanborn Program
1945 The Life Of Riley
1945 Music For Millions
1946 Truth Or Consequences
1946 Philco Radio Time
1947 Criminal At Large (Auditon)
1947 Elgin Thanksgiving Day Greeting To America
1948 Here's To Veterans
1948 Red Cross Fund Campaign
1948 The Bing Crosby Show
1948 Guest Star
1948 This Is Bing Crosby
1949 Opportunity U.S.A.
1949 A Tribute To...
1950 The Halls Of Ivy
1950 Welcome Back Baseball
1950 Screen Director's Playhouse
1950 The Man Called X
1951 Mr Keen, Tracer Of Lost Persons
1952 The Nelson Eddy Show (Audition)
1952 Truth Or Consequences
1952 Lux Radio Theatre
1952 The Judy Garland Show
1953 Christmas Seale Sale
1953 General Electric Theatre
1953 Easter Seal Parade For Crippled Children
1953 All-Star Revue
1956 Biography In Sound
1959 Stars For Defense
1959 Have Gun, Will Travel
1960 The Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney Show
1961 Christmas Sing With Bing
1964 It's That Tie Again
1974 The Tomorrow Show
1976 The Good Old Days Of Radio
Yank Swing Session
Stand By For Music
Treasury Star Parade
Ken Carpenter circa 1938
Ken Carpenter circa 1938


Ken Carpenter circa 1943
Ken Carpenter circa 1943

Carpenter was a member of Phi Delta Theta while attending Lombard College
Carpenter was a member of Phi Delta Theta while attending Lombard College

Ken Carpenter (far right) emcees the Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby, Marilyn Maxwell and John Scott Trotter
Ken Carpenter (far right) emcees the Kraft Music Hall with Bing Crosby, Marilyn Maxwell and John Scott Trotter


Born in Avon, Illinois, Kenneth Carpenter was the son of Barlow Carpenter, a Universalist minister, and Clara Carpenter. Ken Carpenter graduated from Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois in 1921, where he was a member of the national Phi Delta Theta chapter, a fraternity of college students espousing "the cultivation of friendship among its members, the acquirement individually of a high degree of mental culture, and the attainment personally of a high standard of morality". Lombard College also is where Carpenter met his future lifelong wife, Betty.

Ken and Betty Carpenter moved to Hollywood in 1929 and soon after, Ken became a staff announcer at Hollywood's KFI radio. After announcing the 1935 Rose Bowl game on NBC, he found himself in demand for national programs. He became Bing Crosby's announcer in 1936 shortly after Bing took over the hosting duties on the Kraft Music Hall. Carpenter remained with Bing Crosby through the next 27 years. He also announced for Al Jolson and Edgar Bergen's long-running show. He performed in the same capacity on the Radio and Television versions of Lux Radio Theatre and One Man's Family.

Throughout the Golden Age of Radio Broadcasting--and beyond--Ken Carpenter remained one of Radio's busiest announcers, appearing in over 6,000 broadcasts during a forty-two year career in Radio. The staggering array of Radio programs Ken appeared in forever set him apart in the annals of Radio Broadcasting History.

Ken Carpenter also enjoyed careers in both Film and Television. He was the announcer/narrator for a fascinating series of forty-one Paramount-produced, Jerry Fairbanks-directed shorts entitled Unusual Occupations (1939-1949), which won several Academy Awards in the Short Subject category. He was also the uncredited announcer in Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and the announcer, emcee, commentator, or narrator in:
  • Rhythm on the River (1940)
  • Road to Zanzibar (1941)
  • New York Town (1941)
  • The Secret Code (1942)
  • The Spirit of Stanford (1942)
  • Strictly G.I. (1943)
  • Mystery Broadcast (1943)
  • True to Life (1943)
  • What a Woman! (1943)
  • Who's Who in Animal Land (1944)
  • The Crime Doctor's Courage (1945)
  • The Lonesome Stranger (1946)
  • Cross My Heart (1946)
  • Ladies' Man (1947)
  • Grounds for Marriage (1951)
  • Susan Slept Here (1954)

All told, Ken Carpenter enjoyed a Film career spanning twenty years. Ken Carpenter was also in demand on Television, enjoying yet another ten year career as the announcer for Lux Video Theatre (1950-1955) and The Bing Crosby Show (1954) among others.

Over a forty-seven year career in the Performing Arts, Ken Carpenter stands as a legend in Radio and a true American Treasure of 20th Century Broadcasting. Ranked among the top five most important announcers in his craft, Ken Carpenter's career in Radio will probably never again be equalled.

But equally important, as a beloved gentleman and icon to all of the Broadcast announcers that followed him, he remains one of the most influential proponents of his craft to this day.




Nicholas Benton Alexander
[ a.k.a. Ben Alexander]
(Announcer)
(Stage, Screen, Radio and Television Actor and Announcer)
(1911-1969)

Birthplace: Goldfield, Nevada, U.S.A.

Radiography:
1939 Little Old Hollywood
1940 The Chase and Sanborn Program
1941 Point Sublime
1941 Lux Radio Theatre
1941 The Old Gold Program
1942 The Great Gildersleeve
1946 Mail Call
1946 Hollywood Star Time
1946 Favorite Story
1946 NBC Radio Institute
1946 The Baby Snooks Show
1946 Dark Venture
1946 Through the Iron Curtain
1947 Heart's Desire
1948 It's A Living
1949 Straight Arrow Pow-Wow
1949 The Martin and Lewis Show
1952 Dragnet
Yarns For Yanks
I Have No Prayer


Ben Alexander circa 1922


Ben Alexander circa 1962
Born Nicholas Benton Alexander IV in Goldfield, Nevada, young Ben Alexander was raised in California. He made his screen debut at age of five in Every Pearl A Tear (1916). He then went on to portray Lillian Gish's young brother in Hearts of the World (1918) for the legendary D.W. Griffith. He worked for Cecil B. DeMille in The Little American (1917). He subsequently graduated to juvenile leads and supporting parts in many of the earliest sound films. Alexander remained a very busy juvenile actor until 1930's World War I classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, in which Alexander performed in his first breakout role as an adult actor as Kemmerick, the tragic amputation victim.

Although Alexander's acting career slowed down in the mid 1930s, he reinvented himself as a successful radio announcer, working steadily in Radio through the late 1930s and 1940s. By the late 1940s, Alexander had all but retired from acting and announcing. He'd already diversified his business interests by opening a very successful automobile dealership in downtown Los Angeles.

It took Jack Webb to coax Alexander out of retirement in 1952. Alexander's straightforward delivery and amiable personality caught Jack Webb's attention and he chose Alexander to replace Herb Ellis in Webb's Dragnet Television series. Alexander remained as Officer Frank Smith in the TV's Dragnet for the duration of the 1950s run. Alexander's very human characterization of Detective Frank Smith provided the perfect counterpoint to Jack Webb's calculatedly dry, non-nonsense characterization of Detective Sergeant Joe Friday.

When Webb revived Dragnet as Dragnet 1967, he tapped Harry Morgan as his new sidekick. Alexander had already returned to Television police work as Desk Sergeant Dan Briggs in ABC's Felony Squad (1966-1969), with Howard Duff.

Despite Alexander's extraordinary Film career it was as a Television actor that Ben Alexander was recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ben Alexander brought his refreshing, plain-talking, amiable personality to all of his Television roles, and he was highly sought after as both an inspirational speaker and Public Relations advocate for the Los Angeles Police Department. His successful Ford dealership remained in the family after his death in 1969.

His light-hearted delivery and inherent likeability continue to keep him in the hearts and minds of his millions of fans worldwide now forty years after his passing. An appropriate tribute to a Radio and Television professional who recognized the value of an honest, human characterization in all the roles he performed.



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