Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Belated Veteran's Day post

During the first year the United States was in World War II, in addition to his normal radio and recital schedule, my father did 50 concerts for servicemen or war-wounded in the U.S. and Canada. Often he would arrange to sing at a hospital or military camp in the afternoon in whatever city he was concertizing, rest for a few hours, and then do his regular performance at night. He also participated in War Bond rallies in both countries. The border was no impediment to his loyalty, “It all goes into the same pot,” he said.

Clearly, the Meltons’ greatest contribution to the war effort was in terms of fund raising, whether it was my mother serving on volunteer relief committees, or my father lending his talents to raise money for War Bonds.

Although all of his efforts to entertain the troops were in North America, my father's radio broadcasts were heard overseas through Armed Forces Radio. Fifty years later, one soldier, Colin Dyer, wrote me:

“In April 1945 I was in the 15th General Hospital in Liege, Belgium, recuperating from a wound. Often the Armed Forces Radio would broadcast a half hour of James Melton recordings. All of the orderlies, janitors, and others comprising the staff of menial workers were German POWs. We noticed that one of them found it appropriate to mop the floor at the door to our ward during these half-hour James Melton programs. In due course, we learned through his halting English that he had been a music student at the University of Leipzig before the war, and that he was much taken by Melton’s voice. At least for the 30 days I spent in that hospital, the doorway to our ward was the cleanest spot in Belgium.”

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