OTTUMWA --- The Ottumwa Symphony Orchestra wanted to do more than play old music; they wanted to tell a story about World War II.
Therefore, in addition to music popular in the 1940s, their master of ceremonies, Jim Clingman, shared stories that overlapped war history with song history.
A large audience turned out with lawn chairs and picnic coolers to observe the Concert on the Green on a grassy hill Sunday evening at Indian Hills Community College. Dave Sharp, OSO associate conductor, had arranged most of the songs specifically for the event.
D-Day, Clingman said, was the pivotal battle in which an American-led armada landed a large fighting force on the well-protected, German-held beaches of Normandy, France.
That began the battle to free France from Nazi occupation, and hastened the Allied victory over Germany.
Though the landing on the beach is often remembered for the fearful loss of life, the OSO shared the happier memories of WW II as embodied by the United Service Organization.
The USO was founded in 1941, Clingman said, to enhance troop morale.
"During World War II, the USO ...became the G.I.'s home away from home," he said, adding that the tradition of entertaining the troops continues today.
But it was the 40s that were on display Sunday: Songs included Moonglow, in which conductor Sharp laid aside his baton and picked up his clarinet, the St. Louis Blues, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, a medley of big band theme songs, Besame Mucho and Sentimental Journey.
Involvement in the USO was one of the many ways in which Americans supported the WW II effort.
The organization became especially famous, Clingman told the audience, for its live performances (called Camp Shows), through which entertainers like Bob Hope helped boost the troop morale.