V-Discs

V-Disc

V-Disc was a record label that was formed in 1943 to provide records for U.S. military personnel. Captain Robert Vincent supervised the label from the Special Services division. The "V" stood for Victory.

The label was a morale-boosting initiative involving the production of recordings during World War II by arrangement between the U.S. government and record companies. Many popular big bands and singers recorded V-discs for the troops. The name referred to both the label and the discs themselves, which were produced from October 1943 to May 1949.

The V-Disc project began in June 1941, six months before the United States' entered World War II. It was suggested the troops might appreciate a series of records that could motivate soldiers and improve morale. By 1942, the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) was sending discs to U.S. troops around the world from concerts, recitals, radio broadcasts, film soundtracks, special recording sessions, and previously issued commercial records.

At this time in history the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) were involved in the 1942–44 musicians' strike in which there was a recording ban on four companies. In 1943 the men behind V-Disc convinced the striking AFM to allow the union's musicians to make records for the military as long as the discs were not sold and the masters were disposed of. Musicians who had contracts with different record labels were now able to record together for this project. The result of this was a collection of fantastic music. The program started for the Army, but soon music was provided for the Navy and Marines.

The V-Discs were a hit. Soldiers who were tired of hearing the same old records were treated to new and special releases from the top musical performers of the day. The selection included big band hits, swing music, and other entertainment. Radio networks sent air checks and live feeds to V-Disc headquarters in New York. Movie studios sent rehearsal feeds from the latest Hollywood motion pictures to V-Disc. Musicians gathered at V-Disc recording sessions in New York City and Los Angeles. V-Discs were pressed by labels such as RCA Victor and Columbia.  It was a great example of teamwork to provide a "piece of home" for the brave soldiers fighting around the world.

Audio from V-Disc No. 451 featuring the reuniting of the Dorsey Brothers in 1945

Many V-Discs contained spoken-word introductions by bandleaders and musicians wishing good luck and prayers for the soldiers. Glenn Miller in December 1943, introduced a record by saying, "This is Captain Glenn Miller speaking for the Army Air Force's Training Command Orchestra and we hope that you soldiers of the Allied forces enjoy these V-Discs that we're making just for you."

The V-Disc program ended in 1949. Audio masters and stampers were destroyed. Leftover V-Discs at bases and on ships were discarded. On some occasions, the FBI and the Provost Marshal's Office confiscated and destroyed V-Discs that servicemen had smuggled home. An employee at a Los Angeles record company served a prison sentence for the illegal possession of over 2500 V-Discs.  The Library of Congress has a complete set of V-Discs.

The V-Disc Project will always be remembered for providing some of the most unique and entertaining musical performances from the Big Band Era.

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