The History of the ‘Command Performance’ Live Christmas Eve Radio Shows for World War II Troops

Lance Geiger of The History Guy took a look back at the history of Command Performance the Christmas Eve radio shows that were performed live in order to entertain troops at home and abroad during World War II.

During the Second World War two extraordinary radio broadcasts served to bridge that gap between soldiers overseas and their families in ways not previously possible. They would serve as a precursor to a beloved tradition.

Louis G. Cowan, the producer of these shows, pioneered the format as he switched from civilian to military programming. He enlisted celebrities such as Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Judy Garland to perform for the troops. These shows, which allowed soldiers to call in and make requests, began shortly after the events of Pearl Harbor and continued through 1949.

In this star powerered variety show servicemen could request what and who they’d want to hear requests that became a command for the entertainers. The first episode of Command Performance was broadcast on March 1st 1942 just sort of 3 months after Pearl Harbor. MC’d by comedian Eddie Canter. The program promised to be produced this week and every week until it is over over there

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.