The German-born Dietrich is surrounded by two sailors, a soldier, and a Marine at a 1942 USO event at New York City’s Astor Hotel. A staunch anti-Nazi, she became a U.S. citizen in 1939 and was one of the first major celebrities to actively support the Allied war effort.
“Marlene Dietrich Plans the Next Leg of Her War Tour”
Dietrich peruses paperwork related to her wartime efforts in 1943. For the duration of World War II, she would tour relentlessly across the U.S., North Africa, and Europe in support of the troops. It was also during the war that Dietrich, raised in a Protestant household, lost her faith after hearing the “devout” on both sides of the conflict invoking God to aid their cause and destroy their enemies. “If God exists,” she later said, “he needs to review his plan.”
Servicemen, like these G.I.s in Germany in early 1945, adored Dietrich — and openly admired her fearlessness when visiting troops far from the safety of Hollywood. A native of Germany, she became an American citizen in 1939. When asked why she had traveled to war zones to entertain and comfort Allied troops, she famously and simply replied, “aus Anstand.” “It was the decent thing to do.”
At an evacuation hospital near the Italian front lines, Marlene Dietrich sits on a piano while wounded troops gather around to listen to her sing, May 1944.
Dressed in a U.S. Army Air Force uniform, Dietrich waits to entertain American troops in France on June 10, 1944, four days after the Normandy invasion.
During her tour of the European front, Dietrich eats, sleeps, and dresses like the G.I.s, but at showtime, as in this February 1945 photo, she changes into a sequined gown and gold pumps.
Dietrich pulls an awed serviceman on stage during a performance near the European front in February 1945, one of 500 USO appearances she’ll make during the war.
Sailors help Dietrich disembark the Queen Elizabeth liner upon her return from her USO tour in August 1945. For her war efforts, she would receive the Presidential Medal of Honor.