14. USO entertainers suffered casualties during their efforts to support the troops
During the war in Europe, USO entertainers stayed as close to the front as military authorities dared allow. In return, they often lived in the same conditions as their audience. When not actually performing they wore uniforms. They often ate the same food, and slept in the same conditions, as the troops they had come to entertain. In 1944 a husband and wife comedy team, Jane and Joe McKenna, fell prisoner to the German Army. They were held for over a week before American troops liberated them, with the Germans threatening to execute them as spies. Had the Germans captured Marlene Dietrich she likely would have been executed. Dietrich had been born in Germany and during the war she did serve as a spy for the America Office of Strategic Services. At least 37 USO entertainers died during the war, from accidents, enemy action, or causes yet unknown. Perhaps the most famous was bandleader Glenn Miller.
For four consecutive years (1939-42), Miller sold more records than any other recording artist. During those four years he had more top ten records, and more number one hits than either of the artists who came later, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. In 1942 Miller set his career aside to join the US Army, hoping to entertain the troops. He did so across Great Britain and in the training camps in the United States. In December, 1944, as he prepared to entertain troops in France over the Christmas holidays, the airplane in which he traveled vanished without a trace. The Army announced his disappearance on Christmas Eve, 1944. Despite scores of theories, including the inevitable conspiracy and cover-up stories, his disappearance has never been explained, and no trace of him or his aircraft was ever found.