During World War II, everyone felt a strain. Young and old across the nation were affected by the war. Many men were sent to Europe to fight for their country. North Dakota papers chronicled their absences. Letters, notices, movements, and news of any kind were reported on. Some soldiers died while in battle; some soldiers survived, and were honored.
For some North Dakotans, on this day in 1945, part of the nightmare was over. It was reported that fifty soldiers from North Dakota were to return to the United States in the upcoming week. Already, seventeen had been due to return.
However, not everyone across the sea was a young man. Not all of those who sacrificed were soldiers. There were many ways of helping.
The USO was one group that played a very special role in the war. They did not fight, but they travelled around, trying to boost the morale of the soldiers. Bob Hope was famous for this; other actors, actresses and comedians also helped. Groups and tours were funded through the National War Fund, through contributions to community war funds.
One girl, Darlene Walders, a native of Forbes, was very familiar with the role of the USO—after all, it was one in which she took part. She was "contributing to both the personnel of the armed forces and to their entertainment," papers said. Darlene was an acro-tap dancer, a skill we don't hear too much of, today, and was part of a USO unit tour in the South Pacific, "taking a 'Made-in-America' brand of happiness to battle-weary GI's."
Her group was called the "Comedy Caravan," a name very suited to their purpose.
Darlene had been featured "as premier danseuse" with the Folies Bergere on tours to the larger cities of the country and European capitals. She was also in productions of the silver screen in the U.S. and abroad. And, the papers reported, she had "the distinction of being the first white girl GI's on Attu had seen in 30 months" while on a tour around the Alaskan area the year before.
It was, perhaps, the biggest role of North Dakota-born Darlene Walders' life. And, very likely, one of roles of which she was most proud.
Surely, she knew how to make 'em laugh.
By Sarah Walker
The Ashley Tribune and the Wishek News, Thursday, July 15, 1945
The Bismarck Tribune, Thursday, July 26, 1945
The Bismarck Tribune, July 30, 1945