In our monthly newsletter the St. Mihiel Trip-Wire, we have been running a monthly contest asking readers to identify a World War I veteran. This month's entry was Broadway performer Elsie Janis. She spent six months touring the Western Front after America entered the war entertaining the troops.
In a typical show Elsie would perform her standards and then invite some of the Doughboys on stage with her for a duet. The shows concluded with a group sing-along. The boys loved it all. She became known as the "Sweetheart of the AEF." Her shows became the model for the USO shows of the Second World War.
Less known about Elsie is that after the war she maintained her commitment to the fighting men. Charles Dillingham agreed to produce "Elsie Janis and Her Gang", a revue she created for out-of-work veterans, some of whom she had entertained during the war. Even though most of America didn't want to hear about the war anymore, "Her Gang" was a big success. She wrote about her wartime experiences in The Big Show: My Six Months with the American Expeditionary Forces and recreated them in a 1926 Vitaphone musical short, "Behind the Lines". She recorded the song “It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary,” making it her signature piece and helping popularize the tune in America.