World War I
Victor Talking Machine Company was one of the first manufacturers to switch over to wartime production at the outbreak of World War 1. Victor was also one of the first companies to establish a blood donation center for the Red Cross, and established several Red Cross stations within their facilities, with employees being able to continuously donate blood as well as other citizens.
In terms of service at the onset of American involvement of the war, so many employees from Victor Talking Machine Company volunteered at the start of the war, that they took up the entirety of the Third Regiment of the New Jersey National Guard. Before the war, over 10,000 employees worked for Victor Talking Machine Company. Over 1,200 left the company to enlist during the war. An official notice was released in Victor’s trade catalog, The Voice of the Victor in the June 1918 edition: "The moment the United States declared war, this Company placed itself at the service of the government. Hundreds of our young men have left the factory and executive offices to take part in war activities. These things have not deterred us from keeping things as normal as possible in abnormal times in the conduct of our business; and will not do so. We were compelled to reduce the issue of new records in an effort to overcome the shortage caused by a huge increase in our orders, and subsequently we were compelled to raise prices. But always in these varying conditions, we have kept before us the desire to further the interests of the trade to the utmost. " Victor Talking Machine Company’s production converted to rifle components and biplane wings in the beginning months of America's involvement in World War I. The modified Lee-Enfield Victor produced consisted of adapted stock and metal fittings. Both the rifle and biplane wings were manufactured in Building 17 of the Camden plant. Although resources were limited, Victor continued to provide records and players to its audiences on the home front and overseas. Records ranged from music to "French First Aid" tutorials. Victor sound engineers also recorded the first sounds of war, but never released the master to the public due to the horific sounds heard from the battle.
Although Victor's Victrola production decreased, many Victrolas were manufactured specifically for the war effort. Thousands of Victrola turntables were sent overseas for the purpose of training soldiers as well as entertaining them. In a letter to Victor sales dealers, Victor Talking Machine Company explains why manufacturing has shifted over to other forms of manufacturing. The company also explains to its sellers the great importance of what the company is doing: "We believe-we know-that the Victrola and Victor records have brought and are bringing the consolation of music to shattered bodies and souls, but we know, too, that if this war is to be won-and it must be won if our homes are to be kept undefiled-that the gallant lads who have gone "over there" to fight our battles must have weapons in their hands. That -was the conviction which prompted us to roll up our sleeves and enlist for victory, and in having done so we believe that we shall have earned the approval, the support, the co-operation of every right-thinking man. We are glad to know that the giant plant built up in serving you has grown great enough to be of service to the nation in its most critical hour of need and we believe that you, Mr. Victor Dealer, will share with us that exaltation of spirit which comes from the knowledge that whatever anyone else may do, you, at least, having heard the call of duty, have answered it. " Many servicemen later stated that Victor Talking Machine Company gave one of the largest contributions to the war effort.
At the 6th floor of Building 17, these pictures “represent the web structure of wings of panels placed on a jig to test landing and flying wires and also test degree of wing positions, fittings and general assembly. After an O.K. by Government Inspection the so-called assembled parts would become a ship number. The wires and metal fittings were numbered and tagged and the ship was then stripped. The wing parts would then be placed into the Fabric Covering Department as per #2 picture.
The wing parts were covered with linen fabric A #1 grade of material, made like a pillow case. This casing would fit tight over wing. The center web would be tacked across wing, then pulled at each end and tacked. Female help would then stitch ends and seal same. Wing panel would then be placed on a stand upright and the webs would be stitched from both sides with sail needles and heavy preserved cord. After this operation, the wing panel would then be completed for the so-called “Dope” Room.
The rear of building enclosed was the so-called “Dope” Room for the wing panels to be treated with “dope” formula to preserve the fabrics. A crew of 24 men, 3-8 men crew shift who would alternate every 20 minutes. The outside of enclosure was the final assembly to complete the wings or panels. I was selected to supervise the three groups.” - Harry W. Pomeroy (5/12/1912-1942)
World War II
Similar to World War I, Victor was one the of the first companies to respond to the call of arms at the outbreak of World War II. At one point, the entire Victor Division (including the Victor Electro-Acoustic Laboratory) were at one point under government contract during World War II. Victor's V-Disc contract started in June 1941, six months before the United States' involvement with World War II. The head of the Army's Recreation and Welfare Section suggested that troops might appreciate a series of records featuring military band music as well as other recordings that could improve soldier morale. By 1942, the Armed Forces Radio Service sent transcription discs tothe troops from concerts, recitals, radio broadcasts, film soundtracks, special recording sessions, and previously issued commercial records.Although the 1942-1944 Recording ban was in effect, union musicians were convinced to make records for the military, under the contract that as long as the discs were not sold to the public and the masters were disposed of. The program started for the Army, but soon music was provided for the Navy and Marines. Artists were handled by Stephen Sholes and Walt Heebner, both Victor employees. All pressings of the 'V-discs' were completed at the Victor Camden plant. However, almost all V-Discs were destroyed due to their initial contracting as most artists only agreed to complete the nonprofit work if the masters were destroyed after being pressed.
The V-Discs were a hit for soldiers. The selection included big band hits, swing music, classical performances from symphony orchestras, jazz, and military marches. Radio networks sent airchecks and live feeds to V-Disc headquarters in New York. Movie studios sent rehearsal feeds from the latest Hollywood motion pictures to V-Disc. Musicians gathered at V-Disc recording sessions in New York City and Los Angeles.Many V-Discs contained spoken-word introductions by bandleaders and musicians wishing good luck and prayers for the soldiers. Glenn Miller in December 1943, introduced a record by saying, "This is Captain Glenn Miller speaking for the Army Air Force's Training Command Orchestra and we hope that you soldiers of the Allied forces enjoy these V-Discs that we're making just for you." The V-Disc program ended in 1949. Leftover V-Discs at bases and on ships were discarded. On some occasions, the FBI confiscated and destroyed V-Discs that servicemen had smuggled home.
The Victor Electro-Acoustic Laboratory specifically assisted in the development of the guided sound microphone system for the Manhattan Project.
Victor was also a significant factor in Operation Bodyguard, a deception plan employed by allied forces in the 1944 north-west invasion of Europe. The plan itself was intended to mislead the German high command as to the time and place of the invasion. The plan contained several operations, which culminated in the tactical surprise over the Germans during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. During the formative years of this operation, Victor recorded sounds of tanks, troops, planes, and other sound in Camden during 1943 and 1944. These realistic soundscapes would then be broadcast during the deception campaigns where the Allies would invade with fake tanks and artillery. These "attacks" happened over twenty times throughout 1944 and 1945 and was instrumental in leading the bulk of the German army to attack the wrong area in France, saving the lives of countless troops and citizens.
During the 1940’s, the Victor Company urged workers to complete production quotas, under the slogan “Beat The Promise”. Signs with “Beat The Promise” were emblazoned across Building 2 and in Johnson Park.