Saturday, October 25, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Operation Starlift helps troops, inspires film

By
From page TRA29 | January 31, 2014 |

starlift 5

Actress Elizabeth Taylor greets a wounded soldier as part of Operation Starlift. (USAF courtesy photo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — It started as a morale program to boost the spirits of troops heading to Korea and the wounded coming back from that war. Within a year, it turned Travis Air Force Base into a movie set for the motion picture “Starlift,” with the likes of Doris Day and Gordon McCrea headlining it.

Actress Ruth Roman was the first star to arrive in September 1950 to visit the wounded at the base’s hospital and perform at the Passenger Terminal Building for departing soldiers, sailors and Marines.

The list of those who followed soon included Hollywood heavyweights of the 1950s, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Alan Ladd, Andy Williams, Donna Reed, Danny Kaye, Walter Pigeon, Jack Benny, Kennan Wynn, Vic Damone, Bob Hope and Donald O’Conner, as well a sports figures such as Joe Lewis.

Travis commander Brig. Gen. Joe Kelly named the project not long after Roman’s arrival, with an offhand comment to his Public Affairs Office asking, “Who is coming here from Hollywood this week on our Operation Starlift?” according to a May 1952 article in the Global Ranger Supplement.

The name stuck for the flights that collected actors, entertainers and sports figures from Burbank to fly them to Travis every Saturday and return them the next day.

The stars would put on two- to three-hour shows at the passenger terminal, only interrupted by loudspeakers telling the troops their aircraft were ready to load, according to the article.

Warner Bros. Studios and the Pentagon knew a good thing when they saw it and started production of the movie “Starlift,” which it plugged as “a star-spangled spectacle with 18 big-name guest stars” that overshadowed acting newcomers Janice Rule and Ron Hogarthy, who had the lead roles in the musical drama.

Hogarthy played a Travis flier who was trying to meet a movie star played by Rule, who grew up in his hometown, while her fellow stars performed for injured men on the base.

The movie opened on Dec. 14, 1951, to reviews that were much less stellar than its cameo cast.

A Time magazine review said that the film “now supplies a backdrop for a spotty variety show, loosely glued together by the romance of a Hollywood star and an Air Force corporal from her hometown,” while a New York Times reviewer was even less complimentary, writing the “acts were unspeakably slapdash and the romance is painful beyond words.”

But that did not matter to the Travis airmen or doctors.

Airman 1st Class James Hakes later recounted his memories of being at Travis during the filming to the Travis Air Museum.

“The movie was basically a movie about Hollywood stars coming to the base hospital and the terminal at Travis to entertain the troops coming from and going to Korea,” said Hakes, who later saw the finished product at Travis and again in a theater in his hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wis.

“Whenever possible, I used to watch the performances. Kennan Wynn seemed to be the group leader most of the time,” Hakes said. “I remember on Christmas Eve 1950, after the main performance, Debbie Reynolds and another pretty blonde lady stayed on and sang to the troops, anything they wanted until 2 a.m. Pretty nice, I thought, of these two young ladies.”

One David Grant doctor said in the Global Ranger article that “there is no better medicine for these men.”

“All of them have been to the movies and to them it means the United States when they see the stars that they enjoyed seeing in the motion pictures,” the doctor said in the article. “It means they are home again.”

The movie did have one unusual effect.

Not long after it hit the theaters, the recruiting station at the base got a letter from Ramsey Russell of Memphis, Tenn.

“I am interested in joining the Air Force and would like to work on the base there in California,” Russell wrote. “I like to do the kind of work they do there. I saw a picture where Doris Day and other movie stars made a picture on the base. I don’t know whether I have the right idea, but the picture stated in its own way what you all do there on that base.”

“I have tried many Air Force bases, including the one here, to find work best suited for me and when I saw the picture I knew I would like to know the requirements needed to join out there,” Russell wrote.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or ithompson@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
 
Optimist Club brings youth together for Halloween golf

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Cut-a-thon to help fight cancer, abuse

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Fall Harvest Festival brings children back to school

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

School board candidates forum set next week

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A4

 
 
Staying active may prolong your life

By Scott Anderson | From Page: B8

 
Suisun City police log: Oct. 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

.

US / World

Suspect arrested in death of 2 California deputies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
KC-10 from Travis lands in Houston, smoke in cockpit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Reagan astrologer, Joan Quigley, dies at 87

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Jury says castrated sex offender should be freed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Remains belong to missing Virginia student

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Dallas nurse receives thanks, hug from Obama

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

School gunman was Homecoming prince, students say

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Lava creeps toward road on Hawaii’s Big Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

NY, NJ order Ebola quarantine for doctors, others

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Gunman in Canada attack complained about mosque

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Egypt declares emergency in northern Sinai

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Militant group said to be using chlorine bombs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Putin accuses US of undermining global stability

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

Return Garamendi to Congress

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoons: Oct. 25, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

SEIU shouldn’t own Board of Supervisors

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
Vote, and make a difference

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Yes on Measure A

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Spering best choice for county supervisor

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 25, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 25, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Oct. 25, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
My mother-in-law wants me to convert to Catholicism, but I don’t want to

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

Hello Kitty turning 40, and the birthday bash will be ‘supercute’

By Mcclatchy-Tribune News Service | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

TLC cancels its ‘Honey Boo Boo’ series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
P.D. James’ riff on Jane Austen comes to TV

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

Vintage rolls past Armijo, 55-8

By Mike Corpos | From Page: B1

 
Mustangs fall flat in rout by Wildcats

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

Royals beat Giants 3-2 for 2-1 World Series lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Vargas to take on Vogelsong in Game 4 of Series

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Falcons hang with Wolves in 34-8 setback

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Hamilton helps Vanden sink Vallejo, 35-0

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

Unfazed, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh doing it his way

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Lloyd leads US women past Mexico 3-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders’ Woodley, Young expected to be placed on IR

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Henley’s putting gets him lead at Sea Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Judge halts New Jersey’s sports betting plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Joe Maddon exercises opt-out, won’t return to Rays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jamie McMurray bests Chase drivers to win pole

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Attorney: NFL, Ravens not helping union in Rice probe

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

SCC women’s soccer team falls to Mendocino 3-1

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

US official: Auto safety agency under review

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Ford profit falls in third quarter on truck costs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Procter & Gamble taking out its batteries

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
UPS expects double-digit surge in Dec shipments

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

US new-home sales close to flat in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Obituaries

Melvin Tate

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Mark Dean Lindsay

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Dr. Robert M. Takamoto

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 10/25/14

Real estate transactions for Oct. 25, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR2