This is the Army August 14 2012, 0 Comments

This is the Army

Contributed by: Jack Kopstein

During World War I, Irving Berlin successfully wrote a stage musical called Yip Yip Yaphank, which raised over $100,000 for the Army Relief Fund.  Following the attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Berlin immediately began to compose patriotic songs.  He visited Camp Upton Army Base in Yaphank, New York during WWI, and got permission from the commanding officers to restage the 1917 play Yip Yip Yaphank.  General George Marshall approved the Broadway wartime musical. The four words – “This is the Army” – was the inspiration for the American composer.  Like the original, This is the Army called for regular Army soldiers and showmen.  Well-known director and radio actor Ezra Stone was selected to both direct and recruit singers from Army camps around the nation.  Eventually, 300 singers were selected from the thousands that auditioned. Berlin wrote a whole host of songs celebrating the Army, including a few that are still heard such as “I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen” and “With My Head in the Clouds.”  The status of This is the Army was quite imposing.  The Army had started out with the idea that the show was going to be a fundraiser, but were literally stampeded by the ticket demands. The show started rehearsals in May 1942, with a show opening date of July 4, 1942 at the Broadway Theater.  The engagement was supposed to last only a few weeks, but was extended and then extended again.  The company gave a performance every night and two matinees each week.  Thanks to the letter of commendation for the entire company from General George C. Marshall, the show went on the road.  The show received enormous audience acceptance and the press gave very glowing rave notices.  By 1943, the show had earned $2 million for the Emergency Army Relief Fund. Berlin planned to rejoin the company for the closing days of the tour. During the final performance on October 22, 1944 on the island of Maui, he sang “Oh! I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” one last time.  He concluded his appearance with a speech in which he said he hoped he would never again have to write another war song … and he never did. This is the Army became an American wartime motion picture by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner, directed by Michael Curtiz.  Casey Robinson, Claude Binyon, and Irving Berlin wrote the screenplay based on the wartime musical.  Berlin also composed all 19 songs, and even broke screen protocol by singing one of them.  The movie features a large ensemble cast, including George Murphy, Joan Leslie, Alan Hale Sr., Rosemary DeCamp, and Lt. Ronald Reagan.  Both the stage play and film included soldiers of the U.S. Army that were actors and performers in civilian life. Sources: Recordings: This is the Army, Mr. Jones on 60 Years of Airborne - view in iTunes