Judy Garland performed in Carlisle in July 1943
By JOE CRESS | The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa. | Published: July 21, 2018
CARLISLE, Pa (Tribune News Service) — Judy Garland was joking with the audience when she said her voice sounded like Rochester.
The star of The Wizard of Oz was battling a chest cold during a performance in front of 3,500 soldiers and civilians at Carlisle Barracks.
During one bout with nasty symptoms, she compared her tonal quality to the cracked and raspy voice of Eddie Anderson, the black valet of Jack Benny.
It was Monday night, July 19, 1943, and Garland, like most every American, was doing her part to rally the home front against Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy.
"I didn't come here to tell you how to win the war," the Hollywood actress said. "I know you'll win. I'm here to pay an installment on the debt I owe to the men in uniform."
Garland wowed the crowd with a combination of charm and wit as she told stories and sang eight classic tunes including "As Time Goes By" and "You Made Me Love You."
Her humor shined through when she replied "Oh, I don't know that one" in response to fans who kept shouting "Over the Rainbow."
Garland eventually sang the crowd favorite she made famous in her role as Dorothy. There were other zany moments on the specially built stage set up on what is today Indian Field.
"When a baby left out a shout suddenly in the midst of a number, Miss Judy said 'I don't blame you,'" The Sentinel reported the next day. "When a photographer's flash bulb went off she pretended to be startled and put her thumbs at her ears and wiggled her fingers making horns at them."
The newspaper was vivid in its description of Garland:
"Standing there in the glow of the subdued spotlight, the crowd thought the diminutive Hollywood favorite of millions very pretty indeed. She wore a silk print dress of blue and maroon figures caught in front in drape fashion. Held in her strawberry blonde locks over one ear was an ornamental feathered flower of light yellow and over the other a similar posy of pale lavender."
Almost three weeks prior, on July 1, Garland performed before a record crowd of 15,000 people at the Robin Hood Dell outdoor music venue in Philadelphia. The United Press wire service said an equal number of people had gathered outside the fence and on nearby hillsides to see Judy.
The Sentinel played up her July 19 visit to Carlisle with stories published on July 13 and July 17. Both mentioned that Garland was being sponsored to appear locally by USO Camp Shows and the special service office of Carlisle Barracks.
During World War II, the post was home to the Medical Field Service School. In 1939, Lt. Col. Thomas G. Tousey published his book "Military History of Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks."
Tousey wrote how the school was an outgrowth of lessons learned in battle during World War I on the recovery and transportation of wounded soldiers from the frontline to field hospitals. The school focused on training medical officers and enlisted men while providing researchers with laboratory space to develop better equipment and techniques.
The original schedule, as reported by The Sentinel, called for Garland to arrive in Harrisburg around 2 p.m. July 19. She was to head directly for Carlisle Barracks to sing to bedridden solders at the post hospital before having supper with other soldiers in the enlisted men's mess.
That ended up not happening.
Instead Garland stayed over in Harrisburg to rest before leaving for Carlisle. She arrived in town around 6:30 p.m. almost 90 minutes late for a brief appearance before 600 Army Air Corps men who were being trained in Carlisle. Civilians, mostly women and girls, were also waiting since 5 p.m. for Garland to show up.
The Sentinel story mentioned the word "campus"--a probable reference to the Air Cadet Program in operation at Dickinson College during the war. As Garland approached the microphone, she slipped into her shy act and said, "I'm terribly sorry I can't sing for you. But I want to say hello and I hope that soon you will be wearing wings and flying high and handsome. Goodbye and God bless you."
"The disappointed Air Corps boys had seen her less than a minute, but it was a refreshing minute," the newspaper reported. "Judy looked like a co-ed, except for her vivid hair. She was hatless and wore a plain print dress of blue and white." From there, she was escorted to Carlisle Barracks where she had just enough time to eat supper at the officers' club as a guest of honor of Brig. Gen. Addison D. Davis, the post commandant.
Garland's performance at Indian Field had an opening act – the Medical Field Service School Concert Band. The ensemble played a half-hour program that included the marimba duet "Mac and Mac," which "caught the crowd's fancy," The Sentinel reported. The newspaper believed the "crack concert band" earned as much applause as Judy Garland during her time on the stage.
Salute to a soldier
Before leaving the platform, the actress was stopped by Capt. K. R. Schneck, the special service officer. He told Garland "Carlisle's No. 1 soldier had a gift for the No. 1 movie star." On that cue, a nervous Sgt. John Blazetic walked across the stage and handed Garland an armful of red rose buds.
The flowers were a gift from the officers and enlisted men of the garrison. As for Blazetic, he was honored on July 13 with a Medal for Valor for the part he played in the unsuccessful effort to rescue a companion, Cpl. Henry Sima, from drowning during a stream-crossing exercise on the Conodoguinet Creek about a quarter mile from the Cave Hill dam.
The citation for the medal stated that Blazetic "with utter disregard for his own safety and although himself exhausted from a previous crossing, went to the assistance of the drowning man. With great difficulty and exceptional bravery First Sergeant Blazetic persisted in his attempts to save the drowning man until he himself developed difficulties and was ordered to return to shore." Aside from Sima, Pvt. James Bergin drowned in deep water after their craft turned over.
A native of North Braddock, Allegheny County, Blazetic enlisted in the Army in 1933 and was stationed at Carlisle Barracks with Company D of the 32nd Medical Battalion. He rose up the ranks with the same unit becoming a first sergeant in June 1941 – six months before Pearl Harbor.
Blazetic was promoted to second lieutenant in September 1943 and reassigned to Camp Pickett, Virginia.
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