GI Jill and GI Jive

Gi Jill

GI Jill was the DJ host of a music program on the Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II named "GI Jive".  Her personality and the Big Band music she played provided American troops with a link to home and was a huge morale boost.  GI Jive was the No. 1 overseas attraction on the AFRS and by the end of January 1945 she had made 870 shows and GI Jive was broadcasting daily over 400 Army radio stations.

GI Jill was born Martha Wilkerson, but she never gave her real name over the air.  Her listeners had no idea that she was married and had a young family.  Like an actress playing a role, Wilkerson considered Jill a whole separate person. She later told a reporter: "The men overseas created Jill. They made her what they wanted her to be — the girl back home."

One Navy Veteran later reflected, "GI Jill did so much to bolster our morale. She came across like a wholesome girl-next-door who began each radio show with 'Hi-ya, fellas! This is GI Jill with the GI Jive.' ... We all loved her."

Watch a short film reel of GI Jill on the air.

Jill's relationship with the troops went well beyond the 15 minutes of each broadcast. As servicemen wrote letters asking her to play certain records, she tried to reply to each letter she received, answering as many as 500 letters per week and including a photograph of herself with her letter. The interaction went both ways as some listeners sent Jill pictures of themselves, leading her to comment, "I think I was the only person in the world who had pinup boys." Some troops even sent her hand-made trinkets like a bracelet fashioned from a crashed airplane's broken window and a crudely inscribed heart-shaped pendant saying, "To Jill from Lou, 1944".

Reflecting on her experiences in broadcasting, Wilkerson called her work as GI Jill, "the most important thing I've ever done in my life."  Martha Wilkerson sadly passed away in 1999 at the age of 80.  GI Jill will always be remembered as a radio hero for the Allies.

You can learn more about GI Jill on The Big Band and Swing Podcast.

Swing City Radio: Playing Your Big Band and Swing Music Favorites from the 1930's, 40's and Today! - Big Band Radio Station Broadcasting Online from King of Prussia, PA.

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