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Hattie McDaniel with committee
*The Hollywood Victory Committee Negro Division was created on this date in 1941. Chaired by Hattie McDaniel, this was a Black subcommittee of the white Hollywood Victory Committee.
Both committees were associated with the Screen Actors Guild to support American troops during World War II. It provided a means for stage, screen, television, and radio performers not in military service to contribute to the war effort through bond drives and improving morale for troops. McDaniel, a 1939 Oscar winner for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind, was the first black to win an Academy Award. Though she generally avoided politics, she became Chairwoman of the Hollywood Victory Committee's Negro Division.
The committee organized events between January 1942 and August 1945. The committee chairs included Clark Gable, James Cagney, Sam Levene, and George Murphy. Clarence Muse was also an active member of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee, providing entertainment for soldiers in hospitals and those stationed at military bases. One of the committee's most notable successes was the Hollywood Victory Caravan which crossed the country in April / May 1942. The committee arranged for stars to travel five million miles to entertain soldiers within four years. The committee's final report took credit for providing 56,037 free appearances by 4,147 persons in 7,700 events, including 13,555 playing days by 176 persons on 122 overseas tours.
The committee organized Hollywood stars to headline many of the variety, dramatic or musical shows provided by the USO Camp Tours. The shows were originally organized initially to the British Isles. Entertainers would eventually travel to most battlefields to provide entertainment to active-duty soldiers. Radio broadcasts were a vital part of this entertainment since radio could reach millions of people. Many stars were recruited to help get out important messages on buying bonds, saving salvage scrap, or raising funds for charity.
One top-rated program organized by the Hollywood Victory Committee was the broadcast of Command Performance. This program was not heard by American civilians but broadcast by short-wave radio to America's fighting forces on all battle fronts. Major General A.D. Surles, Director of the War Department Bureau of Public Relations, said that the troops "sit with ears glued to the radio every Sunday." The American soldiers sent in requests for what they wanted on these broadcasts, and the Hollywood Victory Committee worked to furnish the Hollywood stars.