Student Author(s)

Colin Rensch

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Brian Coyle

Document Type


Event Date



Names like Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman are inextricably linked to the Swing Era and were at the height of their favor during the years of World War II. Songs like “In the Mood” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” can be viewed as simply the popular songs of the day, but their importance reaches far beyond the scope of popular media. There already exists an immense body of knowledge in the areas of jazz history and World War II history, but the knowledge base on the history of jazz within the scope of the second World War is limited. My research contributes to the field by showing how the performance and symbolism of jazz as well as certain key jazz musicians helped to win the war in a real sense. This paper will assert that jazz music, and swing in particular, made a significant positive contribution to the war effort, and that, besides guns and ammunition, jazz was used as a weapon in fighting the war. The GIs’ favorite jazz songs helped to keep their love for America strong, the selling of war-bonds was aided by the performance of jazz at concerts and on the radio, and jazz music was a major source of pro-American propaganda that was used to actively “fight” the enemy. The paper will also explore how World War II and the new world order worked to bring significant changes to the world of jazz. The work of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Bing Crosby in particular will be extensively analyzed to provide material support.


This project was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts & Humanities at Hope College.