Millions of Americans participated in the war effort on the Home Front in countless ways. One such American—Betty Jacobs, later Schwartzberg—was a young girl coming of age in her hometown of New Orleans.
Betty was in eighth grade at the start of the war. She, along with her fellow dance troupe members from the famed Lelia Haller School of Dance, devoted their time and talents to entertaining troops stationed in New Orleans or recuperating in the city’s numerous military hospitals.
"At least three or four times a week we would meet the big Army pickup truck and they would take us to different bases."
Betty Jacobs Schwartzberg
The troupe put on shows, often patriotic, for servicemen, dancing to numbers from the opera Carmen, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Ravel’s Bolero. On August 24, 1942, the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) wrote a letter thanking Betty for her efforts at Lagarde Hospital. It was these hospital visits that left the biggest impression on young Betty. She recalled how it traumatic it was for a 13-year-old to see such severely injured young men. Her family would also invite servicemen into their home for dinner, many of them getting ready to go to the Port of Embarkation to ship off to war. Betty’s mother served as a chaperone when the girls went out to perform and also volunteered in other ways, such as rolling bandages. Her father, originally from Romania and a 1928 Loyola Law School graduate, volunteered teaching classes and translating when needed.
Growing up during the war had a profound impact on Betty’s life. She later recalled, “I think it made me aware of what goes on in the rest of the world. That it’s not as perfect as I thought it was; that everything was wonderful. I didn’t think there was a bad person in the world . . . I realized that there are good and bad in the world. I also realized that I lived in a wonderful, wonderful country and it made me just so proud to be an American and to be in this country."
Kimberly Guise holds a BA in German and Judaic Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also studied at the Universität Freiburg in Germany and holds a masters in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from Louisiana State University. Kim is fluent in German, reads Yiddish, and specializes in the American prisoner-of-war experience in World War II.