In the “what’s next on MASTERS OF THE AIR,” we got a brief glimpse of a crew of Red Cross Girls serving from a Clubmobile.
The Clubmobiles provided entertainment, cheer, and treats to men in the field (and later at the front lines). They were frat house, Elk’s Lodge, corner drugstore soda counter, and Mom’s living room all rolled into one. And the servicemen loved them – they loved the Red Cross Girls, even when the women abandoned the snappy, feminine, formal uniforms with skirts and blazers in favor of the ARC’s official battledress uniform -- more practical woolen trousers with matching jackets and topped with Army field jackets and GI boots. Each week, the soldiers looked forward to the day when the ARC Clubmobile service would roll around to their unit in the field.
In addition to the 1,800 ARC clubs operating all over the world, the Red Cross staffed hundreds of Clubmobiles in every theater of the war, modified slightly to best suit the terrain and environment. Clubmobile crews in the Pacific islands used Jeeps, while trainmobiles operated in Iran and Burma. The Clubmobiles we’ll see in next week’s episode were used in Europe after the D-Day landings and were also utilized in North Africa and India.
It appears to me from the brief glimpse of the Clubmobile that they’ve used the retrofitted “Deuce and a Half” truck model that was in service beginning in June 1944 (the "Magnolia" model pictured in the first photo in this blog). Before that, the Red Cross Girls serving in the UK would have provided Clubmobile service from the converted English single-deck Green Liner buses (such as the one pictured above) that were first introduced in late 1942. These early Clubmobiles were driven by an English driver, often a man who’d seen service earlier in the war and been wounded or was otherwise not physically able to serve. In addition to serving coffee and doughnuts, the Clubmobile crews quickly saw a need to distribute cigarettes, gum, candy, and magazines. From the beginning, the Clubmobiles included a phonograph and speaker and a selection of records, as well as a lounge area where the men could relax and chat.
General Eisenhower was an early fan of the morale boost the Clubmobile service (and the Red Cross Girls themselves) provided to the men, and he directed military planners to coordinate with the American Red Cross to plan for Clubmobile service to follow the soldiers to the continent as quickly as possible after D-Day. I’ll share more details about this service in future blogs, but just know that the Clubmobile model it seems we’ll see in next week’s episode is the GMC truck model rather than the Green Liner bus version that would have been typical at the East Anglia bomber bases in fall 1943.
I’m anxious to see the full depiction of the Red Cross Girls next week and will look forward to sharing more details of their service with you as the remaining episodes of MASTERS OF THE AIR stream over the coming weeks.