My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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WASHINGTON, Friday—Someone, who knows my great interest in the entertainment of service men and women in faraway places, which is being carried on by USO camp shows and other groups, has sent me the story of one of these shows, which he happened to see. The setting is at Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, just before Attu was attacked.

"Picture a huge ship, sides rusty and peeling, tied to a dock. The wind is blowing cold off Mt. Ballyhoo. The harbor is flecked with white capped, restless waves. It will soon be time to sail and, in the meanwhile, no one is permitted off the ship. The decks are crowded with soldiers who have made the long voyage up from the States. They have had no recreation, there has been nothing to break the monotony of the trip. Now they stand around idly, waiting for something to happen. It does!

"By happy coincidence, there are two travelling units of the USO in Dutch Harbor at that moment. One of them is an all-girl unit, the other is made up of two men and three girls. And, since the men can not come ashore to a show, then the show will come to the men. In almost less time than it takes to tell it, an improvised stage is erected on the dock immediately in front of the ship, a loudspeaker is hooked up to a microphone and the show is on!

"Suddenly an officer comes up to one of the men, there is a quick exchange of conversation, and then the USO man announces, 'I have just been told that your ship is to shove off right now. But with your permission we'll carry on the show as long as you're within sight and hearing. Okay?'

"The roar of approval that went up from the ship left him in no doubt whatsoever...They finished their number and the girl with the accordian took the microphone. Tugs were bustling around the ship and were nudging it out into the stream. Her nose was already turning. The girl at the mike sang song after song. Then she began, softly and warmly to sing 'Aloha.' The voices of the men joined with hers, drifted back across Dutch Harbor. The ship had already turned, only her stern showed to us ashore. But we could hear the men singing as they sailed to Attu.

"The wind nipped across the dock. The girls in their thin stage costumes, were red with cold. The men bundled them into coats. Another show was done. They would say, 'It's all in the day's work. We're glad to do it.'

"But I, who had stood by and seen that show, knew it was more than that. A transport of men had been made happy by the USO as they sailed away to war."

E.R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL