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80 Years of Broadcasting Excellence! > U.S.

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The Defense Media Activity (DMA) and the American Forces Network (AFN) invite audiences this July 4th to celebrate AFN’s 80 years of broadcasting to U.S. forces around the world.

Established in 1942, the network’s predecessor, the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS), made its first radio broadcast on July 4, 1943, from London, England, to U.S. and Allied forces in World War II. The broadcasts were an immediate hit and proved popular with troops and civilians throughout the war.

Colonel Tom Lewis, the visionary founder of AFRS, approached the new network with a simple, grand goal, “We want every G.I. in the world to be able to receive radio from home.”

That vision came into reality when Corporal Syl Binkin opened the first radio show and became America’s first military broadcaster.  Binkin was one of 12 original broadcasters in the new network. Their voices were soon recognized on airwaves across Europe. As battle lines advanced, new stations and transmitters were established, at times among the rubble of newly liberated towns. Those radio signals were transmitted across Europe, providing hope and “the voice of freedom” to civilian populations deep inside occupied lands. During the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948, AFN’s radio transmitter there went to 24-hour operations so Allied pilots could use their signal as a homing beacon for food and supplies. The station’s music and D.J.s are remembered to this day for maintaining morale in the beleaguered city.

“Whether overseas or in the combat zone, AFN has been there.” Said Chief Master Sergeant Jason David, a career radio and television broadcaster with the network. “Our teams are motivated by the ability to bring our servicemembers and their families a touch of home,” David said.

AFN continues to serve military communities worldwide. Currently the network operates 24 radio stations in communities from Kunsan, Korea, to Rota, Spain, with additional transmitters in remote locations from the Indian Ocean to Antarctica. AFN also transmits 24/7 to U.S. Navy ships and their crews at sea. It’s news, entertainment, and command information is now also available in eastern Europe.

At 80 years of age, the legendary network continues to transform. The network has moved from radio, to satellite, to AFN’s newest internet radio and streaming television services, AFN Go and AFN Now. Both streaming services continue to grow in popularity; in May alone, over 17-thousand hours of television programming were live streamed on AFN Now, along with another 47-thousand hours of playback views. From April to May, AFN Go grew by 10-percent, to more than 231-thousand listens. What hasn’t changed is the importance of the worldclass services it provides. 

Regardless of its continuing transformation, AFN’s proud legacy remains – From WWII, to Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East, AFN has been with U.S. troops in every theater and conflict – bringing servicemembers and their families overseas the latest news and local information, and the best in Stateside entertainment and sports.

While AFN’s motto, “We bring you home”, had not yet been articulated in 1943, it is clear AFN’s mission has remained strong from its very first broadcast. This July 4th, the AFN team worldwide takes great pride in its 80-year legacy of service and broadcasting excellence.

For more information on AFN services, please contact John Clearwater, Public Affairs, American Forces Network, john.m.clearwater.civ@mail.mil.

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