An abandoned bunker discloses a secret.
V-DISCS FOUND ON CHRISTMAS ISLAND
The V-Disc record, distributed 65 years ago to entertain the US troups world wide, is a remarkable relic from the Second World War. Peter Symons from England found some in his father's collection and loves to share the records and the story how they were found.
British soldiers on Christmas Island (mid 1950s) ( photo: Peter Symons collection)
His father found these two V-disc records in an abandoned bunker on Christmas Island in the late 1950s. Christmas Island, or Kinitimati, is an island in the Pacific Ocean, part of the so-called Line Islands, where the British were involved in nuclear tests. The first test on Christmas Island took place on the 15th of May, 1957. Peter's father was in the British Army, building runways and roads (Royal Engineers) from the end of 1958 thru into 1959.
He took the two records and, although he served in a dozen other places world wide, brought them safely to England. Although we don't have firm proof, of course, US soldiers must have left these, then ten years old discs, in the bunker. Both records have the letters N C or N G written on it, but it unknown up to now what it means. Can someone help us to solve this? Let us know. The photos from Christmas Island on this site are from that period.
The 30 cm ( = 12-inch) records ( LP-sized) were released during the 1940s to be distributed at the US front. It were non commercial releases, not for sale in regular record shops. In 1942 musicians, united in the A.M.F. (= American Federation of Musicians), asked the large record companies a fair price for royalties for the music that was to be heard on the air and in jukeboxes - the record companies refused and the A.F.M. proclaimed a record ban for its members - no more recording sessions as long as the record companies wouldn't pay fair royalties.
The records contained the popular vocalists and bands of the period, like Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra and a hundred others. As the records were made of a kind of vinyl, they were unbreakable, so the packages with records could reach the soldiers all over the world even under severe conditions. As the records were sized 30 cm ( or 12-inches) the average playing time was ca 5-minutes each side. Normally one side contained two regular tracks and on te reverse a more extensive ones.( like V-Disc 342).
A lot of V-Discs had an anouncement or calls from the bandleader. The untitled tune by Benny Goodman, later entitled as Slipped disc, was recorded in the For The Record show of the 25th of September, 1944 - the Charlie Barnet recording of I Like To Riff and Smiles was recorded in a For The Record show on the 11th of september, 1944. Both tunes were also released in a series of V-Discs specially made for the Navy ( V-Disc (Navy) 122)).
V-Discs were specially made recordings by the Music Section, Entertainment and Recreation Branch, a special Services Division of the US War Department and were sent to the soldiers at the front all over the world. As a lot of these 65 years old relics were destroyed after the war, these records are now collectors items. Thanks to Peter Symons' father, who served as a British engineer on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean during the 1950s two of these special records were found in an abandoned bunker. If you love to read more about this kind of stuff, ask for the Keep Swinging newsletter and we'll keep in touch.