From Broadway to Boot Camp: 79 Years of Soldiers helping Soldiers

79 years ago, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall made plans for what would become Army Emergency Relief (AER), the U.S. Army’s own nonprofit emergency relief organization dedicated to helping the Army take care of its own. In 1942, less than one year into America’s involvement in World War II, Secretary Stimson and General Marshall understood that the best way of assuring a Soldier could focus on their mission abroad was to ensure their personal lives back home were taken care of.

To solicit donations from the American public and empower Soldiers to host fundraising campaigns within the military, Army Emergency Relief was established as a private, nonprofit organization. Governance and oversight of AER was the responsibility of a collective group of military service members and civilians.

In the summer of 1942, Irving Berlin’s This Is The Army premiered on Broadway. The show was produced by the U.S. Army and directed, choreographed, and cast with Soldiers. This Is The Army ran more than 100 times on Broadway before turning into a national tour that raised over $2 million for AER from 1942 to 1943. In addition to the proceeds from the musical, the show was adapted into a movie featuring a young Ronald Reagan and raised another $10 million for AER.

The early financial support provided by This Is The Army continues to support Soldiers to this day. For 79 years, AER has provided zero-interest loans and grants to Soldiers and their Families. Zero-interest loans, made possible by generations of donations going all the way back to Irving Berlin’s morale-boosting Broadway musical, are a never-ending cycle of Soldier support – a Legacy of Soldiers helping Soldiers.

The Army’s 79th Annual AER Campaign begins on March 1. To learn how you can support your local campaign, contact your nearest AER office or email