Irving Berlin (born Israel Baline) left Siberia for America when he was five years old. He received only two years of formal schooling and never learned to read or write music. Nonetheless, he composed more than 900 songs, 19 musicals, and the scores of 18 movies. His classics include “White Christmas” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” But his all-time favorite was composed and then forgotten for 20 years before becoming a national sensation.
In 1918, during World War I, Berlin wrote a song called “God Bless America,” but could not find a use for it and set it aside. In 1938, with the rise of Hitler, Berlin (who was Jewish) introduced the song on Armistice Day (today known as Veterans’ Day), as Kate Smith sang it on her radio show. In 1943, the song was included in the patriotic musical “This Is The Army” along with other Berlin songs and became a national favorite.