WJZ, New York became the early Blue Network's Key Station
Wings to Victory 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
Early USAAF recruiting poster
Original U.S. Army Air Forces' 'Hap Arnold' shield
1944 U.S. Army Air Forces shield
Santa Ana Air Base matchbook (cover)
Santa Ana Air Base matchbook (reverse)
Eddie Dunstedter, at the keyboard in 1941, directed the Army Air Forces Orchestra as Major Ed Dunstedter for Wings to Victory
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's KECA launches Wings to Victory
Wings to Victory first aired as a special presentation over the Blue Network entitled "White Stars to Victory," and broadcast on November 5th 1942 over the entire network. A patriotic send-up to the Army's newly formed U.S. Army Air Forces, the special touted the heritage of the Armys Air component while providing equally patriotic instrumentals led by newly commissioned Major Eddie Dunstedter and the Santa Ana Air Base Training Command's Army Air Force Orchestra with as many as 75 pieces. An all-military production, the special was written by Captain Frederic Hazlett, narrated by Captain Mel Ruick and announced by Sgt Hal Gibney, all active duty members of the Army Air Forces.
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 Wings Over The West Coast
1945 The Fighting AAF [ABC]
1945 Wings For Tomorrow [Mutual]
From the November 19th 1943 edition of the Edwardsville Intelligencer:
By ERSKINE JOHNSON
They tell a story at the Santa Ana, Calif., air base that Private Frank Loesser once wrote a song for three flyers because they had the cleanest hut on a remote South Pacific Island. Probably true, too. Hollywood's favorite lyric writer is now writing up the war. He's the Tin Pan Private of World War II, with such hits as "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," "What Do You Do in the Infantry," "The Road to Victory," and "The Sad Bombardier." Not to mention an entire musical show, "On the Beam," which he wrote with Peter Lind Hayes for the Air Corps, an official marching song he just completed for the Canadian armed corps, the official song of the Hollywood Canteen, a group of numbers he's writing for "Skirts," a musical show the Eighth Air Force is producing in London, and the musical underscoring of several training films.
The Tin Pan Private is in the special service division of headquarters staff at Santa Ana under Major Eddie Dunstedter. He's been in the army 13 months. Joined about the time he had three hits on the Hit Parade, "Jingle Jangle," "I Don't Want to Walk Without You, Baby," and "Let's Get Lost." He likes writing songs for Uncle Sam. Even if it's only for the third platoon to the left. He says: "They want the boys to sing," And he's keeping 'em singing.
From the December 28th 1943 edition of the Kingsport News:
They have put away the varied gear of sports. They have vanished form the gridiron, the diamond, the sandlot and the polo field; the ski-course and the boxing ring. It is not a game any more. It is a hard, merciless fight for their lives--and for the life of humanity.
Every man who wears the white star of the Army Air Forces is well aware of that. But who among them does not give thanks for the lessons learned on those happy fields of peace time sport? The turf of a thousand football goal-lines was scarred by their stubborn cleats. And they remembered those schoolboy rallies upon a strip of chalk . . . at Hickam Field, Clark Field, Surabaya and Port Moresby. Coaches were wont to yell at them: 'Get up and fight. This game isn't lost until the last second of the final quarter.'
They got up and fought--at Midway, above Guadalcanal, across miles of Jap-bloodied water in the Bismarck Sea. 'The team,' they said, 'The team first . . . always the team.' Perhaps Colin Kelly heard an echo of that cry as he ordered his crew to jump. Fortress and Liberator crews hear it as a steady whisper . . . when they turn aside to help a damaged comrade home . . . or fight their ships to the last man rather than bail out and leave those who were wounded.
Oh, America, in the gray and sullen years of your false peace, you were building better than you knew. Rise up and cheer this team, for out of that fearful contest where the immortal garlands are to be won, they shall march in victory . . . the first true champions of the world.
--From AAF Blue Network
Broadcast 'Wings to Victory'
From the January 22nd 1944 edition of the Carbondale Free Press:
Army Is Good For
SANTA ANA, CALIF., Jan. 22 (AP)The Army, says Composer-conductor Dimitri Tiomkin, is good for musicians.
The Russian-born Tiomkin, who has produced the scores for a number of motion pictures, now holds the civilian post of musical director for the Army Special Services Command. After proclaiming the Santa Ana Air Base Symphony Orchestra one of the best army musical aggregations in the country, Tiomkin said yesterday
"I attribute the brilliance of this orchestra largely to the physical training and regular hours of army life."
Many of its members, he said, played in orchestras he had directed and have shown marked improvement
since entering the service.
Maj. Eddie Dunstedter is conductor of the 75-piece orchestra.