Esther Williams, like many stars of her time, traveled for bond rallies, USO shows and hospital visits to troops, but despite her appearances, her likeness may have logged more miles than she ever could in person.
Esther (due in part to the abundance of photos of here in swimwear) was a popular pin-up already when two buddies in the Royal Australian Navy exchanged a forged, signed photo of the “bathing beauty.” The photo eventually became a prize that was distributed from one ship to another in a new naval tradition and was the source of great esteem to the ship who possessed it. The original photo was retired after traveling an estimated 4,000 nautical miles (copies are still in circulation and Ms. Williams herself was known to send authentic signed copies to ships that had garnered the “Esther Williams Trophy”).
Williams continued her “military service” after the war when, allegedly, she was inspired when she heard that the WAVES were issued a less-than-supportive swimsuit as part of their uniform. She personally modeled a version that was a significant improvement for the Secretary of the Navy, who immediately placed an order for 50,000 suits.