Daddy's Gone to War: The Second World War in the Lives of America's Children

By William M. Tuttle Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9 Children's Entertainment: Radio, Movies, Comics

"MOM, WHAT WAS on the radio before the war started?" one of the homefront girls asked--and hers was not an isolated question. Children's wartime radio adventure programs were integral to their homefront experiences. So too were their comic books and music, as well as movies, cartoons, and serials, all of which had a memorable impact on these boys and girls. Radio was an important source of their war news, and they came face-to-face with war's horrors in the newsreels and on the pages of Life magazine. The homefront children have reported that popular culture amplified the impact of the war, causing them to be both thrilled and terrified during the years from 1941 to 1945. 1

"I tried to never miss 'Captain Midnight,'" wrote a homefront boy. "He was constantly chasing down Nazi spies." In reciting the Captain Midnight oath, the children pledged "to save my country from the dire peril it faces or perish in the attempt." Other radio adventure shows were The Shadow, The Green Hornet, Gangbusters, Jack Armstrong--The All American Boy, Hop Harrigan, Dick Tracy, Don Winslow of the Navy, The Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, Sky King, Terry and the Pirates, and Superman. Many radio heroes were not much older than their audience--heroes such as Jack Armstrong, a high school student, and Hop Harrigan, "America's ace of the airways," an eighteen-year-old aviator who fought the enemy and constantly escaped capture while dodging bullets. For their part, the radio villains were truly despicable. Jack Armstrong battled the Vulture and the Silencer, while Captain Midnight's arch rival was Ivan Shark, who was first "a Russian mastermind" in 1940, but during the war became part of "the oriental peril." While some heroes operated abroad, others such as Superman and the Green Hornet tracked down spies and saboteurs at home. 2

America's radio adventure shows had a moral tone that was similar in its righteousness to the homefront children's war games. Good confronted evil and justice prevailed. Focusing on the need to defeat the heinous Germans and Japanese, the radio shows exhorted children to collect scrap materials, buy War Bonds, and

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