August 20, 2012
Comedian Phyllis Diller died today, at age 95. In the 1960s, she was one of the entertainers who joined Bob Hope on his USO tours, complex operations that required a significant amount of support from various parts of the U.S. military flying services. In a feature we published about that support a few years ago, we included a story about Diller’s 1966 visit to the USS Bennington, and we’d like to share the story about that occasion, as told by the carrier’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Graffy:
[After the show,] Phyllis Diller was invited to the bridge of the ship to view nighttime aircraft catapult and recovery operations. She asked about the array of telephone handsets surrounding the captain’s chair on the bridge that connected directly to some of the more important stations on the ship. She singled out the one that connected to the captain’s plot where the surface navigation was maintained, and was manned 24/7. It was suggested that she call and ask for the correct time, which she did. She was told it was 22:45:52, to which she replied, “Dammit son, I asked for the time, not my physical measurements!,” followed by her signature cackling laugh.
In our 1992 story about B-24s manufactured at Henry Ford’s Willow Run plant, Diller cleared up some confusion about her work during World War II. An excerpt from that feature:
It has long been rumored that a young Phyllis Diller was a riveter at Willow Run. When queried about her involvement, she wrote to correct the record: “I never worked at the Willow Run Bomber plant. It was my husband Sherwood Diller who worked as an inspector of all systems, electrical, hydraulic, etc. He started out there working on the cowling. We lived in Yipsilanti from 1940-42 and then transferred to the Alameda Naval Air Station in California.”