About the 5th Army Mobile Radio Station

The 5th Army Mobile Radio Station was created during World War II to boost morale amongst the troops.  Music, news from home, live concerts and variety shows were produced and broadcast from a mobile platform.  Below is a photo of the studio.

The station consisted of two trailers; one housed the studio and the other contained the transmitter.  The station was mobile so that it could pick up, move, and be reassembled in as little as two hours  as the fighting advanced.

My father was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army during World War II, and he was assigned to head up the Fifth Army Mobile Radio Station.  Here's a good article about him and the station reprinted from my his hometown newspaper when the station was first created:

Clinton Man Helps Build 5th Army Radio  

 

How They Built the Station

The idea of a rolling radio station was first thought of by Maj. Francis McAloon in North Africa sometime early in 1943.  Soon after Allied troops invaded Italy below Salerno the radio station went on the air.

The station was fabricated mostly from captured German and Italian equipment.  Being the army many things were improvised, such as the powered-egg and ration cans being used for fixtures and "On-The-Air" indicators.  

The transmitter was designed to have a broadcast radius of about 50 miles, and they always tried to perch on the highest point possible.  Unfortunately, this made them more vulnerable to enemy fire and sometimes the German bombers would "follow their signal in" and attempt to knock them off the air.  Fortunately, nothing ever tragic happened (otherwise I would likely not be here nor would this website). 

The station traveled mostly around Italy (see Movement Log)  for almost two years.  During that time my father received the Bronze Star and got commissioned in 1945 to the rank of Captain.   

Guide to Operations Practices Policies

Here is the official guide to the Fifth Army Radio Station.  My father wrote the  Guide to Operation Practices Policies  "To assist in the achievement of one common goal: the winning of the war -- through informing, educating, orienting and entertaining the American fighting forces and their allies in the tradition of American radio." 

The "Old Oaken Bucket" Club

As you'll see in this website scrapbook many famous stars of the time participated in the entertainment.  In fact, a  club of sorts was formed  called "Old Oaken Bucket" Club.  Members were inducted into the club whenever they performed or their song was requested to play on the program. The scrapbook contains many letters from members of the club, including Jimmy
Durante, Bill Crosby, and W.C. Fields.

One of the hundreds of songs that Irving Berlin wrote during this time was "The Fifth Army's Where My Heart Is".  Needless to say, the song was played regularly on the 5th Army Radio Program.  The scrapbook contains an copy of the sheet music autographed by Irving Berlin.

Today's Armed Forces Radio Network

Today, the Armed Forces Radio Network provides command information, news, and entertainment to U.S. troops and their families throughout the United States European Command (USEUCOM).  Here's a link to the Armed Forces Radio Network in Europe.

And here's another website that has some cool stuff about the AFRS: www.northernstar.no/afrs.htm

Dedication

This website is dedicated to my dad, Vern Carstensen, and to all the brave men and women who are now or have ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

 

About the Scrapbook

This website contains a scrapbook put together by my father many years ago.  He was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army during World War II, and was assigned to head up the 5th Army Mobile Radio Station in Italy.  During that time he saved newspaper clippings, photographs, autographs, and other memorabilia from the radio station and his adventures during the war.  He put everything into this book. In 1992 my father recorded an interview for the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters group.  In the interview he talks in great detail about the 5th Army Mobile Radio Station and what he did during the war.  You can listen to it here:

 

How to View This Book

This website contains high-resolution images of the original scrapbook contents. Each image is a large thumbnail that you can click on to reveal the full-resolution image.  The original book contains about 625 images, all of which are included in these pages.  

The order of the topics and images have not been changed, and the chapters that appear in the navigation bar at the top of
the page represent the original chapters of the book.  Descriptive subtitles that accompany the images are mostly as they
appeared in the book as well.

I have purposefully avoided adding any of my own comments or descriptions, preferring instead to leave everything as original as possible.  The fact is that the photos and articles, etc. tell a very interesting story just by themselves.

What's In Each Chapter and Things to Look For...

The navigation bar at the top of this page is essentially a list of the chapters.  Here's what you'll see...

Movement Log

This is a one-page chapter containing a log of where the 5th Army Mobile Radio Station traveled to and when.

Commendations

These pages contain many letters, commendations and various certificates from the upper brass.  Check out some of the names in the "Company B" letter.

Notices

All of the newspaper clippings are in this chapter.  There some great articles from the Stars and Stripes talking about the station along with some news photos of some outdoor concerts.  My favorite is an article showing a photo of the station on the move rolling through a bombed-out town in Italy.  It reminds me of a scene out of Saving Private Ryan.

Photos

This is the biggest chapter.  There's not only photos of the station (being built and operated) but photos of the celebrities and musicians that entertained, and photos of the army personnel listening to the broadcasts on their "mess kit" radios.

The Old Oaken Bucket Club

This chapter contains everything related to the "Old Oaken Bucket Club" fan club. A list of honorary members,  letters and postcards from listeners requesting songs, (some of which are very artistic) are all included in this chapter.

Fan Mail

Maybe this chapter is my favorite.  Original, signed letters from Bing Crosby, W.C.Fields, Jimmy Durante, Hedda Hopper, Ginny Simms, Dorothy Lamour and several other celebrities of the time are here.  I especially like the Jimmy Durante letter.

Miscellaneous

Whenever the program put on a special live concert they issued program tickets.  These are in this chapter, along with a signed copy of Irving Berlin's "The Fifth Army's Where My Heart Is".   There's also some neat examples of program posters.

Autographs

Lots of scribbles, some of which you can actually  make out.  This one contains a nice note to the station.

Newsreel Film

In 1944 some newsreel footage was taken of the station.  This page contains some video transfers of my dad is shown announcing "This is your American Expeditionary Station, in the field, with the Fifth Army..."He is also shown introducing Marlene Dietrich, who delivers a nice message to the troops, and Irving Berlin, who performs live "The Fifth Army's Where My Heart Is".

Other Stuff

This page contains links to other memorabilia items that my dad collected.  (I know that I said that he put "everything" into this book, but I guess some things just wouldn't fit.)

Acknowledgements

I have a few people to express my appreciation to.

Comments

If you have any comments or questions about this website or scrapbook feel free to contact me a jim@jvcarstensen.com.