The Music Division and the Joint Army and Navy Committee

Cover page featuring eagle seal and treble clef.

“Material for Developing Army Music Curriculum,” undated. Box-folder 26/10, Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation, Sub-Committee on Music papers, Music Division.

The following is a guest post from Music Division Archivist Anita M. Weber.

When the United States entered World War II, so did the Library’s Music Division. The Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation, tasked with ensuring morale across the services, created a Sub-Committee on Music and named musicologist and Music Division Chief Harold Spivacke as its chair.

Operating out of his office in the Jefferson Building, Spivacke and his far-flung sub-committee sought to enliven the days of the fighting troops and those stationed in the States by supplying music, instruments, and recording and playback equipment to military personnel; obtaining rights and permissions for use of music by bands and social service organizations to entertain the troops; facilitating soldier entertainment programming; and providing training to band and song leaders.

These activities are documented in part in the papers of the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation, Sub-Committee on Music. The collection, originally processed in 1993, has recently received an update that incorporated additional material and enhanced the finding aid with notes at the folder level to facilitate access to the many interesting items that await discovery.

Eight line printed announcement from Mr. and Mrs. Takashi Ohta.

Marriage announcement of Peter Seeger and Toshi Aline Ohta, July 20, 1943. Box-folder 15/4, Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation, Sub-Committee on Music papers, Music Division.

The papers reflect both Spivacke’s personal and professional relationships with his correspondents. He knew many composers, conductors, and music educators, some of whom wrote to him looking for jobs or telling of their military service. Others shared personal news such as Pete Seeger and Toshi Ohta’s marriage or the birth of Erich Leinsdorf’s son, Gregor. Among the many correspondents are Milton Babbitt, Samuel Barber, Arthur Fiedler, Nathan Gottschalk, Roy Harris, Joseph Jordan, Miklós Rózsa, Beryl Rubinstein, and Noble Sissle.

Scattered throughout the extensive correspondence and subject files are newsletters and concert programs from forts and camps, publications promoting the role of glee clubs during the war and the role of music in the rehabilitation of wounded veterans, and music manuscripts and printed piano-vocal scores.

There are also photographs of marching bands and military and Red Cross personnel singing and playing instruments that were sent to the sub-committee as evidence of their work in action.

Black and white image of military band with harmonicas, horns, and a guitar performing for military audience.

Signal Corps photograph. 29th Special Service Group playing harmonica as means of entertainment for soldiers on bivouac at Fort Huachuca, June 1943. Box-folder 13/21. Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation, Sub-Committee on Music papers, Music Division.

The sub-committee collected examples of songbooks, received unsolicited songs from composers, and disseminated lists of music resources available to troops. Thus the collection also includes publications related to troop entertainment, including issues of Army Hit Kits, Camp Shows Inc. programming books, and numerous songbooks containing both sacred and secular music.

Cover of songbook featuring drawing of people in miliary uniform singing in profile.

“G-I- like to sing! Songs of the AAFTTC,” undated. Box-folder 26/15. Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation, Sub-Committee on Music papers, Music Division.

This small but fascinating collection should prove to be of interest to a wide-range of users including scholars of World War II morale, popular music of the era, community singing, and the post-war rehabilitation and re-integration of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines into civilian life. It also provides a glimpse into the mind of the young Milton Babbitt or Samuel Barber or Pete Seeger among others as they sought to serve their country.

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