War of Nerves

LEROY OSTRANSKY is a native New Yorker who is now composer-in-residence at the College of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.

While the struggle for control of missile agencies and military bases may be the first order of Air force business, the U.S.A.F. is not neglecting the opportunity to excel in other important undertakings — like allgirl bands, for instance. Unbeknownst to most U.S.A.F. critics, or even to its friends, there is a U.S.A.F. program, international in scope, going forward perhaps at this very moment.

I am indebted to enthusiast Paul P. Weekesser, Lt. Col., U.S.A.I ., Deputy Chief, Bands and Music, for a brief describing the band program — with particular reference to the United States W.A.F. (Women in the Air Force) Band. The brief says:

“This superb fifty-piece organization is stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. The Air Force considers it a ‘special’ band — the women’s counter-part of the internationally famous United States Air Force Band at Washington, D.C. The U.S.W.A.F. band’s performance mission is international as well as national in scope. Captain Marybelle J. Nissly is its CommanderConductor, and Lieutenant Audrey E. Thomas is Assistant Conductor.”

Now, fifty pieces sound about like the size of Phil Spitalny’s All-Girl Orchestra, as I remember it. The U.S.W.A.F. may not boast an Evelyn and her Magic Violin, but I am sure that Captain-Commander-Conductor Marybelle J. Nissly has a magic of her own. (I think poor Audrey E. Thomas is being put upon; she is entitled to be called Assistant Commander-Conductor.)

Although the Air Force’s new band program authorizes forty-eight bands, and at least a dozen of these will be fifty-piece outfits, the U.S. W.A.F. band must be something special. Without it, the Air Force would be down to forty-seven bands, which is, patriotically speaking, a meaningless number. More significant, perhaps, is the question of the “international scope” of the mission. I have mulled this over quite a lot lately, and while my study is by no means finalized, I can give you a three-point progress report:

1.The U.S. Air Force wants to take fifty beautiful and talented females and show them off to other, doubting-Thomas nations as typical examples of American Womanhood.

2. The U.S. Air Force wants to impress upon certain cultural-minded nations that our beautiful, talented American females are engaged in a business other than show business.

3. The U.S. Air Force wants to satisfy everybody that our military manpower is mobilized to the point where not a man jack of them can be spared for making music.

It is not necessary for this threepoint report to follow a logical order, or even to make sense. To confuse the enemy is a perfectly legitimate military tactic. However, if I were to be pressed into military service again, I think I’d choose the Army. The Air Force’s idea of psychological warfare makes me nervous.