April 4, 1943

Sunday – Hollywood Bowl

RED PANELS AT LEFT AND RIGHT OF BLUE BAND SHELL ARE DECORATED WITH U.S. AND CHINA OFFICIAL SEALS. THIS IS FIRST TIME BOWL HAS BEEN FILLED SINCE PEARL HARBOR. Copyright Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s appearance at the Hollywood Bowl was the climax of her trip to Los Angeles and to the United States, the culmination of several weeks of touring nationwide. The event itself was a record-breaking affair, with more musicians than had ever been performing for the over 30,000 in attendance at the Bowl, a number not even approached since the disastrous and world-changing events at Pearl Harbor. In all, over $31,000 in ticket sales were made, with profits going to the United China Relief fund.[1]

United China Relief billboard. Copyright UC Regents – Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. All Rights Reserved.

The United China Relief organization raised tens of millions of dollars towards humanitarian efforts in China by the war’s end.

The program officially began at 3 PM with a flyover by military aircraft. Introductory remarks were made by the likes of silver screen legends Spencer Tracy and Henry Fonda. A color guard from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps then entered the arena, followed notably by eight Chinese airmen being trained in the United States. Airmen from the nearby Santa Ana Army Air base escorted them.[2] Finally, an inter-service military band played martial airs as the guest of honor, her entourage, and various government officials, including Mayor Fletcher Bowron and Governor (later Chief Justice) Earl Warren, entered. The procession was received by a bevy of Hollywood’s brightest young starlets, from Judy Garland and Rita Hayworth to Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple. All then stood for the performance of the American and Chinese national anthems.[3]

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek with dignitaries at the Hollywood Bowl. Copyright UC Regents – Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. All Rights Reserved.

The first half of the program itself was the world premiere of a symphonic narrative called “China,” composed and conducted by Herbert Stothart, who led the Los Angeles Philharmonic on this night. Accompanying them was a Chinese American children’s chorus from the local Chinese Presbyterian Church. Hollywood producer Harry Kronman wrote the libretto, which was read by actors Edward Robinson and Walter Huston.[4]

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek in audience. Copyright Los Angeles Public Library - Harry Quillen Collection. All Rights Reserved.

The following is an excerpt from the performance:These hands – a woman’s hands – have helped to shape a nation’s destiny. This heart – a woman’s heart – whispers a simple woman’s hope, and all the world must pause and heed.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek then ascended to the stage to give her highly anticipated speech. The 45-minute address was broadcasted to radios nationwide, and chronicled her experiences in the then six years of  war. She recalled the bravery of her undermanned air cadets, the “fury of the inspired” infantry that held the Japanese advance at bay for months, and the sorrow she felt at the ravaging of China’s beautiful capital of Nanking. Her stories were vividly and gruesomely descriptive, first-hand accounts that always placed the Madame at the shifting front of the battle against Japan. She concluded on an uplifting note, praising the President and the country she now visited for its convictions and dedication to “man’s greatest heritage: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all peoples.”[5]

Madame Chiang Kai-shek gives a speech at the Hollywood Bowl. Copyright UC Regents – Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive. All Rights Reserved.

One of the speech’s most memorable lines was this: “What other peoples in the modern world have endured the agonies of war for so long and so bravely, held so tenaciously and so staunchly to the defense of principles as the Chinese people?”[6]

The night ended with a performance of conductor Stothart’s “Madame Chiang Kai-Shek March.”

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek honored. Copyright Los Angeles Public Library - Harry Quillen Collection. All Rights Reserved.

A shot of the performance.


[1] Laura Li, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek: China’s Eternal First Lady (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 2006).

[2] “Mme. Chiang Bowl Fete Set,” Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1943.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s trip through the United States and Canada, San Francisco: Chinese Nationalist Daily, 1943.

[6] Ibid.