A researcher inquiry recently led me to review the John C. Becher Soldier Show Collection and get a few laughs in the process.  The collection illustrates the various ways the U.S. military used comedy to maintain high morale during World War II.  Spanning the years 1940-1953, the collection includes poems, quizzes, crafts manuals, original songs, song parodies, sheet music, pamphlets, theatrical manuals and guides, and comedy routines.  A significant portion of the material was created by military personnel attending the Special Services School in Lexington, Virginia. Unlike entertainment produced by the USO-camp shows, the Becher Collection highlights material produced by soldiers for soldiers.  Intended to engage soldiers through participation, the collection reveals insight into the mentality of World War II soldiers and the era in general.

Soldier Shows
Cover of a Soldier Show script.
Soldier Show
Cover of a Soldier Show script.

Those participating in soldier shows sang parodies, read poetry, and performed comedy routines.  Below are a few of my favorite pieces from the collection.

What To Do In Case Of An Air Raid
What To Do In Case Of An Air Raid
How To Be A Sucess In The Army
How To Be A Success In The Army
Chow Hounds General Orders
Chow Hounds General Orders

For more information about the John C. Becher Soldier Show Collection, please see http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/becher.html

3 thoughts on “Comic Relief”

  1. Hello,
    While the National Capital Region is still digging out from under “Snow-maggedon” I just got off the telephone with my Uncle Joe Siedlecki, up in Quincy, Massachusetts. He asked me to check out the GMU Blog for Special Collections & Archives: “Fall Out For Fun” Soldier Shows. What a great way to connect to Joe’s experiences in Germany after WWII! Curious coincidence that I’ll be visiting Heidelberg Germany this weekend–for the first time–if Dulles is open, and the planes are moving.

    Ralph Palasek,
    Arlington, Virginia

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