WJZ, New York became the early Blue Network's Key Station
The Fighting AAF was recorded at KECA's original studios on North Highland Avenue in Hollywood.
U.S. Army Signal Corps Coat of Arms
Early U.S. Army Signal Corps Aeronautical Division device
Military Aviator device of the U.S. Signal Corps
Early Army Air Service recruitment poster
1918 Army Air Service recruitment poster
World War I Army Air Service and AEF Air Service roundel placed on the sides and wings of aircraft, employing more than a subtle nod to the colors and order of the flag of France.
U.S. Army Air Corps roundel from 1919 to 1941
1930s Army Air Corps recruitment poster
General Henry Harley 'Hap' Arnold, here pictured as General of the Air Force, personally oversaw most of the US Army Air Corps and US Army Air Forces radio programming during World War II.
Early USAAF recruiting poster
Original U.S. Army Air Forces' 'Hap Arnold' shield
1944 U.S. Army Air Forces shield
The Blue Network emerges as a WWII-era powerhouse
Prior to 1941, American radio was dominated by three major networks: The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS). While there were several smaller regional networks that emerged and disappeared throughout the Golden Age Radio era, it was 'the big three' that engaged in the greatest competition for listener share throughout the period.
During the early 1920s, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) built a growing network of radio stations transmitting over AT&T's phone lines. AT&T had systematically acquired a natural--and then legal--monopoly of these phone lines throughout the Northeast--eventually reaching to the West Coast. AT&T's 'key station' of that network was New York City's WEAF.
Throughout that same period, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) began building a similar network throughout the Northeast over Western Union's telegraph lines--mostly in response to AT&T's monopoly of phone lines. RCA's 'key station' was New York City's WJZ [originally based in Newark, NJ]. AT&T began signaling its desire to exit the radio broadcasting business in 1925 by restructuring and consolidating its radio broadcasting assets into what became the Broadcasting Company of America (BCA) in May of 1926. A consortium of RCA, General Electric, and Westinghouse offered to buy the short-lived BCA system lock, stock and barrel. The consortium's resulting National Broadcasting Company included the assets of RCA's original telegraph line-based network anchored with WJZ.
From the November 15th 1926 edition of the Indiana Evening Gazette:
Operatic stars, world-famous singers and musicians, internationally known humorists, leaders among the nation's symphony orchestras--these and many other outstanding personalities will feature tonight a four-hour opening program of the National Broadcasting Company.
This company was recently organized to administer the affairs of the WEAF and the WJZ broadcasting stations and their station chains, both now subsidiaries of the Radio Corporation of America, which recently purchased WEAF from the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. Tonight's program marks the beginning of the active direction by the National Broadcasting Company of the two station chains named and also marks the retirement of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company from the broadcasting field.
Merlin Hall Aylesworth, former managing director of the National Electric Light Association, who resigned that position November 1 to become president of the National Broadcasting Company, will open the program.
More than twoscore broadcasting stations throughout the East and Middle West, including WEAF and WJZ in New York, will be linked together for the simultaneous broadcasting of this event, which promises to be the most pretentious radio program ever presented.
Following brief remarks by Mr. Aylesworth, the entertainment program will be launched bringing the following stars of the opera, stage and concert field before the microphone: Mary Garden, Will Rogers, Titto Ruffe, Weber and Fields, The New York Symphony Orchestra with Walter Damrosch, Harold Bauer, the New York Oratorio Society with Albert Stoessel, the Edwin Franko Goldman Band, a grand and light opera company, both under the direction of Cessare Sodero; Vincent Lopez, George Olsen and Ben Bernie and B.A. Rolfe with their respective orchestras.
New Management Begins
As was recently announced, the National Broadcasting Company, which succeeded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, in the ownership of Station WEAF, assumed control of the WEAF organization and apparatus on November 1. Before the American Telephone and Telegraph Company transferred the ownership of WEAF to the National Broadcasting Company on this date the general programs had been arranged for the first two weeks of November.
The inaugural program for Monday, however, has been arranged entirely by the new company and marks the beginning of the new management as a program maker.
Broadcasting by these stations will begin at 8 o'clock, with the exception of WDAF, Kansas City, Mo., which will join the chain an hour later, and WSAI, Cincinnati, which joins at 10 o'clock.
High Spots on Program
While the majority of the artists and musical units will appear before a microphone installed in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, Mary Garden and Will Robars will perform before separate microphones in the Middle West.
Mary Garden will sing from Chicago, in all probability from her hotel apartment studio, and Will Rogers will speak from his dressing room in the theater in which he is appearing in Independence, Kan., and prior to his personal appearance in that city.
Leslie Joy, one of WEAF'S announcers, will go to Independence, Kas., where he will give Will Rogers the cue to "go on the air." Because of Joy having to make a personal appearance the following evening in Providence, R.I., it will be necessary that he make the "hop" in an airplane. Arrangements are now in progress to engage a high-speed plane for this purpose.
Milton Cross, WJZ announcer, will attend to the duties of presenting Mary Garden before the microphone in Chicago.
All of the WEAF and WJZ announcers will participate in this evening's program, each taking turn in announcing the various features.
Following is the detailed program which will begin precisely at 8 o'clock from the grand ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria, New York City;
1. Prelude from "Lohengrin"..........Wagner
2. "Hail, Bright Abode" (from Tannhauser")..........Wagner New York Ontario Society
3. Operatic aria, baritone solo, Tita Ruffo
4. "Rhapsodie No. 1"..........Liszt New York Symphony Orchestra
5. First Movement of Concerto..........Schurmann Harold Bauer
6. Group of Songs, Mary Garden
7. "Valse Lent" and "Pizzicatti" (from "Sylvia")..........Delibou New York Symphony Orchestra
8. (a) "Mannin Veen" Manx Folk Song,
(b) "Under the Silver Stars," Cuban Folk Song
(c) "The Lost Chord..........Sullivan New York Operatic Society
9. Piano solos, Harold Bauer
10. Two baritone voice, Tita Ruffo
11. ..........New York Symphony Orchestra
12. Fiften Minutes With a Diplomat, Will Rogers
13. (a) Sextet ((from "Lucia"..........Verdi Operatic Sextet
(b) Bits from "Mikado," Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera Company, directed by Cesare Sodero
14. (a) "Stars and Stripes..........Sousa
(b) "Pan Americana"..........Herbert
(c) ""On the Mall"..........Goldman The Goldman Band, Edwin Franko Goldman conducting
15. Ten Minutes of Humor, Weber and Fields
16. Orchestra Dance Selections, George Olsen and orchestra
17. Orchestral Dance Selections, Ben Bernie and his orchestra
18. Orchestral Dance Selections, B.A. Rolfe and his orchestra
19. Orchestral Dance Selections, Vincent Lopez and his orchestra
And from the December 13th 1926 edition of the Lowell Sun:
NEW YORK, Dec. 11.The third series of concerts to be put on the air by the Victor Talking Machine company will be inaugurated on the evening of New Year's Day, with a program featuring a group of distinguished operatic and concert stars. A network of more than twenty stations will he used for the opening concert of the series, and while the names of the artists have not been announced, it is stated by officials of the Victor Company that some of them have never been heard over the air before.
The network to be used for this first concert will consist of a combination of chains of stations affiliated with WEAF and WJZ, New York. It is also announced that this opening Victor program inaugurates a new chain system 'to be operated by the National Broadcasting Company, with WJZ as the "key" station. This new chain, which will be known as the "blue" network, will allow simultaneous broadcasting from WJZ, through WBZ/Springfield and Boston; KDKA, Pittsburgh, and KYW, Chicago.
For the broadcasting of the first Victor program, therefore, the "blue" network will be joined with the "red" network, including WEEI, Boston, as the WEAF chain is designated, as well as other stations in various cites.
Following the New Year's night program, the Victor concerts will be given bi-monthly, through the "blue" network, according to the announcement of the Victor Company.
On January 1 program will be two hours long, beginning at 9 p. m. Eastern Standard Time, and will be presented by four outstanding operatic and concert artists, with an orchestra.
The two preceding series of Victor radio concerts were inaugurated on the evening of January 1, as is the case with the 1927 series. Among he noted singers heard last season were Maria Jeritza, Lncrezia Borl, Frances Alda, Marion Talley, Marguerite d'Alvarez, Dusolina Ginnial, John McCormack, Giovanni Martinoll, Giuseppe Do Luca, Titta Ruffo, Errilllo de Gogorza and others.
Given the previously established respective infrastructures of WEAF and WJZ, the new National Broadcasting Company retained both systems and expanded both of them throughout the following 10 years. WEAF's growing network was dubbed NBC-Red and the WJZ-anchored network was dubbed NBC-Blue. The 'color theme' of both networks--as well as four others that appeared over the following 10 years--reportedly owed itself to a combination of colored push-pins, yarn and color-coded grease-pencils that traced NBC's expanding network connections across huge Continental U.S. maps in NBC's headquarters.
NBC-Red, ostenibly NBC's predominately 'commercial' network tended to air most of NBC's most nationally popular, commercially sponsored programming. NBC-Blue, by contrast, though occasionally carrying commercially sponsored popular programming was more widely characterized as NBC's Public Affairs, News and sustained programming network of the two. NBC-Orange, NBC's expanding West Coast network, was viewed more as an extension of NBC-Red rather than NBC-Blue.
As NBC approached the 1940s the distinctions between NBC-Red and NBC-Blue began to blur--both commercially and by virtue of their increasingly anticompetitive programming practices. CBS was also coming under scrutiny for its own anticompetitive practices. That environment didn't go unnoticed by MBS and many of the larger regional independent networks of the 1930s. Nor did those practices escape the scrutiny of the recently reorganized (1934) Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC issued a report denouncing the affiliate acquisition abuses by NBC and CBS and sought to establish a 'one affiliate per city' rule for each of the major networks in an attempt to level the playing field.
MBS eventually brought an antitrust suit against NBC and CBS in the Fall of 1941 and the United States Justice Department also initiated an antitrust suit against both CBS and NBC in December of 1941. While contesting these various suits, NBC prudently consolidated and reincorporated it's NBC-Blue network into Blue Network Company, Inc. in January of 1942--or simply, The Blue Network. The various litigants--the FCC, NBC, CBS, MBS and the Justice Department--eventually took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court in 'NBC vs. The United States.' In May of 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the FCC did in fact have the jurisdiction to regulate contractual obligations between networks and their affiliates.
Having seen the writing on the wall, NBC began taking offers for The Blue Network in January of 1943. Following the 1943 the Supreme Court ruling, RCA accepted an offer from Edward J. Noble to purchase The Blue Network as The American Broadcasting System, Inc. for a reported $8 Million. The FCC ultimately approved the sale of The Blue Network in October of 1943 based primarily on Edward J. Noble's written representations to "keep an open mind" regarding all requests for broadcast programming as well as affiliate relations.
Seeking to ultimately shed any references to NBC-Blue and The Blue Network, by December of 1945 the FCC approved Noble's request to transfer all of The Blue Network and The American Broadcasting System licences to The American Broadcasting Company. During a period of approximately two years following that rebranding, most of the network's high profile programs were announced as broadcast by "The Blue Network of the American Broadcasting Company."
The Blue Network undertook several patriotic programming efforts from the Fall of 1941 forward in an effort to kick-start the new network, while supporting the War Effort.
The evolution of the U. S. Army Air Forces (USAAF)
Since the birth of Aviation, America had enjoyed a romantic fascination with flying machines and the men--and women--that flew them. And though still disputed by historians, it remains widely accepted that practical aviation was born in the U.S. with the successful December 17th 1903 flight by the Wright Brothers at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. The exploding legend of Aviation was futher fueled by the use of early fighter, surveillance and bomber planes during World War I.
The Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps first invited bids for construction of an airplane under military contract in 1907. By 1914 the U.S. Army Signal Corps' Aeronautical Division became the the Corps' Aviation Division. And in 1918 , with America's protracted involvement in World War I, President Wilson directed the establishment of The Air Service, United States Army, as a temporary replacement of the Signal Corps' Aviation Division. The Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force had begun operations by the 1st Aero Squadron in France during the Spring of 1918.
Between the Armistice of World War I and its official end with The Treaty of Versailles, July 1919, President Wilson had directed the formation of the Third Army and its Air Service, headed by legendary Air Force General [then Lt. Col] Billy Mitchell. After the Treaty of Versailles, the Army demobilized the Third Army's Air Servce. But with the passage of the National Defense Act on June 4th 1920, the Army's Air Service became an official combatant arm of the Army. The Post World War I Air Service lasted until 1926, when it became the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC).
With the expansion of the Allied Powers involvement in World War II, the U.S. Army Air Corps was redisignated and restructured as the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) in June 1941.
The Blue Network mounts The Fighting AAF
There was a proliferation of patriotic send ups to the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Army Air Forces preceding and throughout World War II:
1938 Men With Wings [Mutual]
1940 Soldiers with Wings [CBS]
1940 Wings for America [Mutual]
1940 Wings of Destiny [NBC]
1940 Wings Over America [NBC]
1941 Wings on Watch Blue]
1942 Flying for Freedom [NBC]
1942 Soldiers With Wings [AFRS]
1942 Wings to Victory [Blue]
1943 America in the Air [CBS]
1943 I Sustain the Wings [CBS]
1944 Roosty of the AAF [Mutual]
1944 Voice of the Army
1944 Your Army Service Forces [Mutual]
1944 Wings Over The West Coast
1945 The Fighting AAF [ABC] (later changed to Your AAF)
1945 Return to Duty [Mutual]
1945 Wings For Tomorrow [Mutual]
From the April 20th 1945 edition of the Abilene Reporter-News:
Award to AAF
The Distinguished Service Safety award, won by the U.S. Army Air Forces, from the National Safety Council will be presented officially to the AAF in a ceremony on "Fighting AAF" program over the Blue Network of NBC, 12:30 CWT, April 21.
Made in recognition of AAF contribution of ground safety programs for the 1944 year, the award will be accepted for the AAF by Maj. Gen. H. R. Harmon.
At Abilene Army Air Field, officers and enlisted personnel will have more than just a listening pleasure in the broadcast. For, Abilene under command of Col. Harry Weddington was the leading 2AF installation in ground safety during 1944.
Civilian Safety Engineer Mrs. Mabel D. Lilius, of Abilene, and Lt. Frank. K. Cerra, officer designated by Colonel Weddington to guide the ground safety program for 1944, developed the most outstanding ground safety record of any installation in the largest continental air force.
Based on civilian frequency, civilian severity and military frequency rates, Abilene's cumulative rates were far lower than any of the other 41 bases within the command for 1944.
From the July 9th 1945 edition of the Galveston News:
To Be Heard
"The Fighting AAF," official weekly broadcast of the army air-forces, will be heard Sundays from 7:30 to 8 p.m., Galveston time, over the American Broadcasting Co. The program started yesterday. For the past three months the program has occupied the Saturday afternoon 1 to 1:30 p.m. spot.
The program will consist of factual broadcasts of planes actually in combat and feature programs from air forces installations all over the globe. A recently developed wire recorder, small enough to be strapped in the cockpit of even a fighter plane, makes action reports possible. Recordings are shortwaved to New York or San Francisco for editing and broadcast, or in some cases are flown direct by air transport command planes. Specially trained radio reporters and engineers are stationed with the AAF in every theater of war to secure the on-the-spot pick-ups.
Many of the programs broadcast in recent weeks have been of such historic importance that recordings of them are being deposited in the National Archives. These include Gen. Eisenhower's interviews with enlisted men of his command, just as they took off from Paris for the United States; the first broadcast from a B-29 in action over Tokyo; the voice of rescuer and rescued during an actual air-sea rescue of a ditched 8th Airforce plane in the North Sea; the first broadcast from a jet-propelled plane in flight; description from a B-29 in the air of the first fighter planes flown from the Marianas to their new base on Okinawa; interviews with wounded infantrymen aboard ATC air evacuation planes; and intercom talk among three P-51 pilots on a mission over Germany.
Research surveys indicate that by moving in the Sunday night time, "The Fighting AAF" will be available to over twice as many American listeners as its previous Saturday hour, it was declared. The program is also being shortwaved overseas by the armed forces radio service.
From the August 1st 1945 edition of the Abilene Reporter-News:
AAF Celebration On Radio Tonight
Broadcast plans are for two major networks, the American Broadcasting company and the Mutual Broadcasting system, to carry coast-to-coast, the Air Force day banquet celebration at the Waldorf-Astoria tonight, sponsored by the Air Power league and the Wings club, at 9:30-10 p. m. CWT, the War department announced today.
The event is in accord with President Truman's proclamation of Air force day to be observed throughout the United States and also overseas whenever possible "in order that we may do honor to the men and women of the Army air forces and pay tribute to those who have supported the development of our country's air power."
Toastmaster of the Waldorf-Astoria banquet will be Charles E. Wilson, president of both the Air Power league and General Electric company. At the same time as the New York event takes place, 850 other banquets from const to coast, under the auspices of the Air Power league and the Civil Air Patrol in cooperation with local civic organizations, will be held in key cities.
An address by General of the Army H. H. Arnold, who will be present at the New York celebration, will be heard at the 550 other banquets. "The celebration commemorates the 38th anniversary of the Signal corps order Aug. 1, 1907, establishing the division of aeronautics "to study the flying machine and the possibility of adopting it to military purposes."
In addition to General Arnold on the broadcast, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, former deputy commander of the SHEAF, will be heard speaking from Frankfurt, Germany. Messages from Generals of the Army Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower also will be included in the anniversary program.
Two combat spots in action, one from a B-29 flying over Japan, the other from a jet plane in flight, both reported by combat reporter teams of the Army Air Forces' official weekly coast-to-coast radio program, "The Fighting AAF" will be featured. The AAF radio orchestra and chorus will be heard featuring musical salutes to the celebration.
From the August 13th 1945 edition of the Racine Journal-Times:
As Sky Pioneer
NEW YORK--(AP)--Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I air ace, said last night the death of Maj. Richard Bong, Poplar, Wis., air hero of World War II, was "an example of the tragic and terrible price we must pay to maintain principles of human rights of greater value than life itself."
Bong was killed last week while testing a new type fighter plane.
Paid with Life.
Speaking on the "Fighting AAF" radio program (ABC), Rickenbacker said:
"This gallant air force hero will be remembered because he made his final contribution to aviation in the dangerous role of test pilot of an untried experimental plane, a deed that places him among the stout-hearted pioneers who gave their lives in man's conquest of sky and space."
On Saturday night, Gen. H.H. Arnold, in a tribute to Major Bong from Washington, said that what the men in the air force have done means more to mankind than any scientific development such as the atomic bomb.
"This, I firmly believe, will be the verdict of history," the air forces chief said in a broadcast over the ABC network.
Typified U.S. Fliers.
General Arnold observed the front pages, however, were filled with other "immense and overwhelming event"--the use of the first atomic bomb. People read about Bong's death, Arnold said, and simply commented, "Too bad--it happens to the best of them."
" Outstanding though he was," Arnold said, "Dick Bong typified the many thousands of air force men who have died for their country. Giving without stint or reservation was indeed their way of life and death. What those men and boys have done means more to mankind than any scientific development, however profoundly significant."
The Fighting AAF becomes Your AAF over ABC Radio
Beginning with the broadcast of September 6th 1945, The Fighting AAF was renamed Your AAF, in response to both the official end of World War II and to highlight both the post-War demobilization and ongoing technological developments being undertaken by the post-War Army Air Forces.
From the September 16th 1945 edition of the Nevada State Journal:
HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 15. (U.P.) Actor Reginald Denny, a British royal air force machinegunner and observer in World War I, tonight revealed his invention of the pilotless, radio-controlled airplane the army used to train its aerial and anti-aircraft gunners.
Denny, speaking over the American Broadcasting Co. on the "Your AAF" broadcast, said that he first began experimenting with radio-controlled flight in 1930 and, with his "associates" made the first test for army observers in 1935.
"The test was not exactly a success," he said, "because the plane model was completely out of control."
But the army urged him to continue work and in 1939 ordered its first three radio-controlled craft. These first planes, he said, flew at 70 miles per hour and had a ceiling of 5,000 feet.
By the end of the war, he said, his Reginald Denny Industries plant at Van Nuys, Calif., was turning out 40 full-sized planes per day, with a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour.
"The planes," he said, "deserve much of the credit for repelling Japanese suicide attacks," because they were able to simulate real flight and train anti-aircraft and aerial gunners.
He forecast wide range of use for the planes in peacetime, in such tasks as crop dusting, weather observation,
forest fire fighting, mail delivery "and hundreds of other peacetime flying jobs."
Denny began model airplane experiments as a hobby, got into" the manufacturing end because so many of his film colony friends wanted him to make models for them. That led him into experiments with radio control.
He once held the world's record for model-plane flight, with a model that stayed aloft one hour, 47 minutes and six-tenths of a second..
From the September 30th 1945 edition of the Port Arthur News:
Army Air Forces official network radio personnel has been cut in half, it was learned form Gen. H.H. Arnold, commanding general of the AAF. At the same time a peace-time schedule of six national broadcasts weekly will be maintained to keep the public fully informed of developments in the postwar Air force, AAF re-deployment and the mobilization, manpower needs and opportunities, achievements in aeronautical research, activities of the occupational air forces in Europe and Japan, surplus property disposal, and objectives of national security. "Your AAF" remains as the official documentary program of the Air forces, with "I Sustain the Wings" discussing personnel news and opportunities; "Return to Duty" over MBS dramatizing the rehabilitation and separation system; "Roosty of the AAF," dramatizing the life and adventures of a typical GI; and the Army Air forces' band.
General Henry Harley 'Hap' Arnold, personally oversaw most of the US Army Air Corps and US Army Air Forces radio programming during World War II. Widely considered the 'father' of The United States Air Force (USAF), General Arnold ushered in the birth of the USAF on September 18th 1947. General Arnold had suffered four heart attacks between 1943 and 1945, offering him a greater opportunity for involvement in World War II and post-War radio programming efforts.