Friday, May 22, 2009


As a prelude to Memorial Day, here is an organization that has provided services to millions of American servicemen and women (including myself) throughout the years and continues to do so today. The USO.

  • The United Service Organizations Inc. is a private, nonprofit organization that provides morale and recreational services to members of the U.S. military, with programs in over 135 centers worldwide. Since 1941, it has worked in partnership with the Department of Defense and has provided support and entertainment to U.S. armed forces.

    Men and women dancing a double conga line, winding its way through the vast hall of the City Auditorium at the USO in Virginia Beach, Virginia - 1942 (Photo: William C. Shrout - LIFE Magazine Archives)

  • During World War II, the USO became the G.I.'s "home away from home," and began a tradition of entertaining the troops that continues today. Involvement in the USO was one of the many ways in which the nation had come together to support the war effort, with nearly 1.5 million Americans having volunteered their services in some way.

    Movie star Carole Landis singing at the mike on stage for American soldiers during USO Camp Shows tour of U.S. Army camps in North Africa with Martha Raye, Kay Francis & Mitzi Mayfair - 1943 (Photo: Margaret Burke-White - LIFE Magazine Archives)

  • After it was disbanded in 1947, it was revived in 1950 for the Korean War, after which it also provided peacetime services. During the Vietnam War, USOs were sometimes located in combat zones. The organization became particularly famous for its live performances called Camp Shows, through which the entertainment industry helped boost the morale of its servicemen and women.

    Mural of LA-Hollywood area done by screen cartoonists, presented to Hollywood USO as gift to servicemen - 1945 (Photo: Walter Sanders - LIFE Magazine Archives)

  • Hollywood was eager to show its patriotism, and lots of big names joined the ranks of USO entertainers. They entertained in military bases both at home and overseas, often placing their own lives in danger by traveling or performing under hazardous conditions - some losing their lives.

  • During the 1990s it delivered services to 5 million active duty service members and their families and today "continues to be a touch of home to America's troops."

    Opening of the first USO facility in Iraq, 2008.

    Keith said...

    Great photos. I really liked them all. I've always admired the wonderful work that the USO does. It's definitely an organization that I believe strongly in. Have a Happy Memorial Day weekend.

    Major Pepperidge said...

    I can't help thinking about Bob Hope! "I gotta tell ya....". Where's Ann Margaret? ;-)

    Kevin Kidney said...

    This is outstanding! The USO has such a wonderful history....and that mural is incredible.

    Richard, I have something I've been wanting to send you. Please shoot me an email when you can...