How the USO Came To Be

On February 4, 1941, World War II raged on around the globe. U.S. involvement was on the distant horizon, but it was still 10 months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor which solidified U.S. intervention in the conflict. President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted a military draft triggering feelings that the U.S. would soon find itself wrapped up in this global conflict. Suddenly, the largest iteration of the U.S. military found itself lying in wait at military bases around the country. How could the overflow be handled?

A group of organizations which includes the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board all came together to form what we now know as the United Service Organizations or the USO. The purpose of this unification? Supporting the men and women in the armed services, as well as their families, with social, welfare and spiritual facilities. The USO leapt into action, establishing centers across the country and overseas. Their centers were housed everywhere from churches and storefronts to museums and barns, all the way to railroad cars, and beyond. The USO centers also ensured that the activities of military personnel were safe and healthy. Alcohol was not allowed, and the centers were often operated by married women who would provide both food and advice to the military men.

While their mission began at home, as deployment began, the USO went along with the service members. The USO soon created what became known as “camp shows” for service members stationed overseas. They’d bring entertainers from various realms of show-business (who would waive their normal appearance/performance fees), to help entertain and boost the morale of troops around the world. Bob Hope became one of the most closely affiliated with the USO camp shows, hosting an annual Christmas show for the troops at locations all around the world. Over the years, numerous entertainers including Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, John Wayne, and Roy Rogers, all the way to contemporary names such as Stephen Colbert, Carrie Underwood, and Drew Brees have all volunteered to visit the troops and show some appreciation for their selfless contributions and putting country before self.

With more than 75 years of work behind them, the United Service Organization shows no signs of slowing down. There are over 160 centers around the world, all volunteer-staffed, and the camp shows continue on to provide a morale boost to the brave men and women serving the United States military.


Posted on February 4 2019 in Blog

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