Blog Archive

08 June 2018

Words Were Weapons, Too: Edward G. Robinson in World War 2

Many Hollywood stars served in the armed forces during World War 2, and many of them returned as decorated combat veterans, like Robert Montgomery, James Stewart, and Tyrone Power, But performers engaged in other types of service that also put them in danger.

Edward G. Robinson was a dedicated anti-Nazi. He contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to anti-Fascist causes, was tireless in his efforts for the USO, and donated his own Hollywood home for the use of traveling members of the armed services. He was well over the age of enlistment, but he volunteered for any kind of service the War Department could offer him, and was able to put his unique skills to work for the Allied Forces. He was sent to London, where he spent the later years of the war.

From London Robinson took part in the radio broadcasts going out from the British capitol to captive populations in occupied countries. Since he spoke seven languages, had a familiar voice, and was a highly skilled speaker, his contribution was very valuable. For many years after the war ended, he heard from people around the world that his radio programs had inspired hope.

They also put him in London during Hitler's second attempt to destroy his enemies, the vengeful 1944 terror bombing, which was even more destructive  than the initial blitz of 1940. This campaign was aimed at central London, and the Houses of Parliament, Scotland Yard, the Treasury, the Admiralty, and Number 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister's residence) were badly damaged. More than 1500 people were killed and thousands more wounded.

When D-Day finally came, Edward G. Robinson was among the first entertainers to enter liberated France, and two weeks later he was already acting as MC for shows put on for the troops in any available barn or hall.

When you see these entertainers dressed in fatigues and wearing helmets, it is not just for show -- the Army did not hand out those helmets unless they thought you might need them.

Here's a link to a brief newsreel clip: Robinson in Southampton, England, 1944

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