Comedian Joe E. Brown visits Kauai during World War II

During World War II, from Jan. 17 through 19, 1943, American comedian and actor Joe E. Brown (1892-1973) toured Kauai at his own expense to entertain military personnel with several performances at troop camps throughout the island.

Brown, who’d made his big mouth and his enormous smile his trademark in motion pictures, was then in the midst of a grand tour to entertain soldiers, sailors and marines throughout the entire Pacific area — a tour that was a memorial to his son, Capt. Don E. Brown, who was killed when his military plane crashed in 1942.

One of the highlights of Brown’s Kauai tour was being interviewed on KTOH radio on Jan. 18, beginning at 9 p.m., by Army Sergeant “Scotty” Campbell, the editor of Kauai’s soldier newspaper during World War II, the Cow-Eye Sentinel.

Campbell took a lot of good-natured kidding from Brown during the interview, while Brown revealed that he’d been making motion pictures since the silent film era and had managed minor league baseball games.

During the war, Brown traveled many thousands of miles to entertain American military personnel across the globe.

Overseas, he took the trouble to carry sacks of soldiers’ mail with him back to the United States, where he could ensure letters would be delivered by the Post Office more quickly to parents and loved ones.

Bad weather never prevented Brown from performing for the troops, some of whom were convalescing in hospitals, and many times he gave an entire performance for a dying soldier.

Autograph seekers always found him ready and willing to sign his “John Henry” on their keepsakes.

In the U. S., he entertained and met with servicemen at the Hollywood Canteen.

Brown was one of only two civilians to be awarded the Bronze Star Medal in World War II.


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