Thanks to the coordinated efforts of Capt. George S. Howard, Lt. Col. Alf Heiberg and Gen. Carl Spaatz, the new Chief of Staff for the U.S. Air Force, The United States Air Force Band was officially established under the command of Capt. Howard and would continue to earn widespread acclaim.
The previous radio broadcasts of The AAF Band had a profound impact on lifting the morale of U.S. servicemen during the war. Additionally, the broadcasts endeared our former enemies to the American way of life through the universal language of music. While Capt. Howard was Chief of Music and Radio Production Branch at AAF Headquarters in the Pentagon, credit is due to three outstanding officers, producer-director Capt. Robert Keim, script writer Capt. Mark Miranda and the exceptionally talented announcer Lt. Cass Bielski.
- A new name in keeping with the establishment of a separate Air Force, as “The United States Air Force Band”
- A new concert uniform compliments of Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Whitney Vanderbilt
- The establishment of the Band’s first 90-member Symphony Orchestra
- The Band’s Glee Club was renamed The Singing Sergeants - A command performance at the White House featuring Kate Smith
- The Band’s first fully staged production of The Mikado (Gilbert & Sullivan) at the Watergate Barge, Washington, DC
- Major Howard was assigned additional duty as Chief of the Music and Radio Production Branch at AAF Headquarters in the Pentagon
- The AAF Band, at least for a short time, was officially titled, "The AAF Band & Radio Production Unit"
- Major Howard was instrumental in securing commissioned officer ranks for all commanders and conductors of Air Force Bands
General Carl A. Spaatz (soon to be the first chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force), takes time to visit the USAF Band’s broadcast studio in March 1946.
Capt. Robert Keim was The Band’s radio producer -director from 1945-1946. He was instrumental in convincing Capt. Howard to create an Air Force Orchestra and to include the chorus in The Band’s radio broadcast shows. Capt. Keim felt that adding a chorus and orchestra would greatly increase the musical scope and flexibility of radio broadcasts, while boosting their popularity. Capt. Keim is also credited with designating the official chorus of The Band as the “Singing Sergeants.”
From left is Lt. Cass Bielski, American Cartoonist Milton Caniff, Capt. Mark Miranda, Lt. Col. George Howard, and Capt. Robert Keim
The USAF Band Orderly Room. From left are USAF Band Adjutant Lt. Helen Barnes, Lt. Cass Bielski and Master Sgt. Mike McGivern. Bollling Field, D.C., 1946
Capt. Mark Miranda served as the script writer for The Band’s radio broadcasts from Jul. 1946-Apr. 1952. He wrote an estimated 400 scripts for The Band’s radio broadcasts that aired on the Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS). The radio productions featured The Band and Singing Sergeants, including highly acclaimed guest artists. During his tenure, Capt. Miranda interacted with some of the most well known artists of the time including Puerto Rican actor, theatre and film director Jose Ferrer, American actor, producer, and a decorated naval officer of World War II Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and American composer Skitch Henderson.
Lt. Cass Bielski, AAF Band Announcer, Bolling Field, D.C., Oct. 28, 1946
A native of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, Lt. Cass Bielski was assigned to The Band at Bolling Field from 1946-1949. He was the primary announcer and narrator for The Band’s numerous live concerts and national, radio programs. Prior to joining The Band, Lt. Bielski was a navigator during WWII where he flew thirty-three B-17 missions across Europe.
Capt. Howard and Chief Arranger Fred Kepner composed and arranged “My Missouri” as part of “This is Your Country” broadcast specifically for President Harry S. Truman. The State of Missouri broadcast record was presented to President Truman at the White House.
The shows were produced, directed, written and engineered by Bolling military members and were broadcasted across the United States and to various parts of the world, including frontline foxholes in Korea.
“The Air Force Hour” alone had a “Hooper” rating of 5.9, which meant it had approximately six million listeners.
When the band recorded, the sound was captured on large recording lathes and a master vinyl disc was cut directly from the transmission.
The Singing Sergeants, under the direction of Capt. Bob Landers, were a favorite of radio listeners around the world.
The Band’s production team discusses the The Air Force Hour radio broadcast scheduled to make its debut over the MBS. Pictured from left to right are Capt. Robert Keim, producer-director, Capt. Don Meranda, script writer, Mr. Hollis Seavey of WOL, Maj. George S. Howard and Lt. Cass Bielski, narrator.
The War Department Certificate of Appreciation was awarded to Edgar Kobak, president of the MBS, by General Carl A. Spaatz, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, “for cooperation in presenting the AAF’s sustaining network program, Flight Into the Past over the mutual Network since Jan. 4, 1947.” From left is Capt. Bob Keim, General Carl Spaatz, Capt. Mark D. Meranda, Mr. Robert Swezey, Lt. Cass Bielski and Maj. Howard.
Lt. Cass Bielski is shown before the microphone as the AAF program This is Your Country goes on the air in the MBS studios. Pictured with him are Master Sgt. Glen Darwin, MBS announcer Edward Studney, and Corporal Karol.
Bolling Field, D.C., 1946
From Left Samuel Kurtz, Lt. Mark Meranda, Lt. Robert Keim, Skitch Henderson and Lt. Cass Bielski collaborate prior to a radio broadcast
Bolling Field, D.C., 1947
Band Studio During a Live Radio Broadcast. Pictured from left is AF Band Actor Roger Boxhill, Lt. Cass Bielski, General Jimmy Doolittle and (in civilian attire) Lt. Arlene Walker
The AAF Orchestra and Chorus Radio Broadcast
New York, New York, Aug. 1947
Capt. George S. Howard conducts a rehearsal for the AAF Symphony Orchestra, the largest ensemble of its kind in any military organization at the time.
Bolling Field, Washington D.C., 1946
The first broadcast of “Time for Defense” aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network under the direction of CWO Robert L. Landers. This was the first joint radio production featuring members from the Singing Sergeants along with representatives of all four branches of the armed services.
George Washington University, Lisner Auditorium
Washington D.C., Oct. 25, 1949
The U.S. Air Force Orchestra and Singing Sergeants perform The Messiah by George Frederick Handel over the ABC Radio Network.
George Washington University, Lisner Auditorium, Washington DC, Dec. 19, 1949
In addition to weekly broadcasts, the Air Force Orchestra and Singing Sergeants presented its first fully staged production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado” at the Watergate Barge in Washington DC, Jun. 10, 1949.
Two legendary icons regularly featured during The Band’s radio broadcasts included baritone vocalist and announcer William “Bill” Jones and William “Bill” Dupree. MSgt DuPree was the first black male vocalist to be featured on a regular basis.
Among the many great composers and arrangers of the “Serenade in Blue” staff was Sammy Nestico, pictured here conducting the Airmen of Note.
As the Howard Era came to a close, The USAF Band exceeded all expectations under the leadership of its next commander and conductor, Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel. During the Gabriel Era, “Serenade in Blue” evolved into “Serenade in Stereo” and featured the Airmen of Note, the Singing Sergeants and the AF Strings on most of the broadcasts. The radio broadcasts were overseen by Major Al Bader and CMSgt, USAF, ret. John Schuman.