Monday, August 27, 2012

History of the USO

" According to historian Emily Yellin, "The government was to build the buildings and the USO was to raise private funds to carry out its main mission: boosting the morale of the military."
Taken From The internet- some photos are mine

Supporting America’s troops was the first mission of the USO. In 1941, as it became clear that the nation was heading into World War II, several organizations mobilized to support the growing U.S. military: 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.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created synergy among these agencies by forming the United Service Organizations, with the objective of providing the emotional support the troops needed.
Over time, the USO has evolved, developing new programs and services to meet the ever-changing needs of the troops and their families, while holding fast to the original mission.
Today, the USO continues to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families, and will continue to be there for them until every one comes home.

The USO was founded in 1941 in response to a request from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide morale and recreation services to U.S. uniformed military personnel. Roosevelt was elected as its honorary chairman. This request brought together six civilian organizations: the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), National Catholic Community Service, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board. They were brought together under one umbrella to support U.S. troops. Roosevelt said he wanted "these private organizations to handle the on-leave recreation of the men in the armed forces

But the organization became mostly known for its live performances called Camp Shows, through which the entertainment industry helped boost the morale of its servicemen and women. At its high point in 1944, the USO had more than 3,000 clubs, and curtains were rising on USO shows 700 times a day. From 1941 to 1947, the USO presented more than 400,000 performances, featuring entertainers such asBing Crosby, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Hattie McDaniel, Eubie Blake,Ann Sheridan, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Larry Adler, Ossy Renardy, Zero Mostel, James Cagney, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Doraine and Ellis, Lena Horne, Danny Kaye, The Rockettes, Al Jolson, Fred Astaire, Curly Joe DeRita, The Andrews Sisters, Joe E. Brown, Joe E. Lewis, Ray Bolger, Lucille Ball, Glenn Miller, Martha Raye, Mickey Rooney, Betty Hutton, Dinah Shore, and most famously, Bob Hope.

"The story of USO camp shows belongs to the American people, for it was their contribution that made it possible. It is an important part in the life of your sons, your brothers, your husbands, and your sweethearts."

In 1942, about seven months after the war began; CBS went on the air with a weekly radio variety show called Stagedoor Canteen. The show remained on the air for the duration of the war and became one of the nation's most popular. In 1943, United Artists released a reality-style movie about the USO called Stage Door Canteen, and the following year Warner Brothers produced a similar movie, called Hollywood Canteen. In 1991, 20th Century Fox produced the film, For the Boys, which told the story of two USO performers, and starred Bette Midler and James Caan. It covered a 50-year timespan, from the USO's inception in 1941 through Operation Desert Storm, in 1991. Another movie was planned in 1950 but never made. Just 10 days after Al Jolson returned from entertaining troops in Korea, he agreed with RKO producers to star in a new movie, Stars and Stripes for Ever, about a U.S.O. troupe in the South Pacific during World War II. Unfortunately, he died a week later as a result of physical exhaustion from his tour.

According to historian Paul Holsinger, between 1941 and 1945, the USO did 293,738 performances in 208,178 separate visits. Estimates were that more than 161 million servicemen and women, in the U.S. and abroad, were entertained. The USO also did shows in military hospitals, eventually entertaining more than 3 million wounded soldiers and sailors in 192 different hospitals. There were 702 different USO troupes that toured the world, some spending up to six months per tour. In 1943, a United States Liberty ship named the SS U.S.O.was launched. She was scrapped in 1967. 

Many stars, both well-known and new, came to perform, including Bob HopeErrol FlynnDebbie ReynoldsDonald O'ConnorPiper LaurieJane RussellPaul DouglasTerry MooreMarilyn MonroeDanny KayeRory CalhounMickey RooneyJayne MansfieldAl Jolson and many others. Jolson notably was the first to volunteer and traveled to Korea at his own expense (he was also the first to entertain troops during World War II.)Hispanic-American soldiers were entertained by artists such as Pérez Prado's Show featuring Evita Muñoz as his invited mambo dancer.

The USO was in Vietnam before the first combat troops arrived, with the first USO club opened in Saigon in April 1963. The 23 centers in Vietnam and Thailand served as many as a million service members a month, and the USO presented more than 5,000 performances during the Vietnam War featuring stars such as John Wayne, Ann-Margret, Sammy Davis Jr., Phyllis Diller, Martha Raye, Joey Heatherton, Wayne Newton, Jayne Mansfield, Redd Foxx, Rosey Grier, Anita Bryant, Nancy Sinatra, Jimmy Boyd, Lola Falana, and Bob Hope. Philip Ahn, the first actor of Korean descent to become a Hollywood star, became the first Asian American USO performer to entertain troops in Vietnam.
In addition, the USO operated centers at major U.S. airports to provide a lounge and place to sleep for American servicemen between their flights. Vietnam historian James Westheider noted that the USO "tried to bring a little America to Vietnam." Volunteer American civilians, who did 18-month tours, staffed the clubs. According to Westheider, "The young women wore miniskirts - no slacks were allowed." Each club had a snack bar, gift shops, a barbershop, photo developing, overseas phone lines, and hot showers

Gulf War

Bob Hope and Ann Jillian perform at the USO Christmas Tour during Operation Desert Shield
To support troops participating in Operation Desert Shield, USO centers opened in Saudi Arabia. Entertainers performing for the troops included Jay Leno, Steve Martin, Delta Burke, Ann Jillian, Gerald McRaney, Marie Osmond, the Pointer Sisters, and Bob Hope on his final USO tour.

Afghanistan and Iraq
To support troops participating in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, USO centers opened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait andQatar. USO centers number more than 160 around the world. Recently, the USO opened centers at Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Riley, Kan., Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Carson, Colo.; and centers in Afghanistan. The USO provides a variety of programs and services, including orientation programs, family events, free Internet and e-mail access, free drinks and snacks, free phone calls home and recreation services. One of the newer programs, called "USO in a Box," delivers program materials ranging from DVD players and videos to musical instruments to remote forward operating bases in Afghanistan.
U.S. military personnel and their families visit USO centers more than eight million times each year.
Other entertainers who have traveled to the Middle East to perform include Al Franken (who made six USO tours in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan before being elected a United States Senator from Minnesota), Craig Ferguson, Gary Sinise, Zac Brown, Carrie Underwood, Drowning Pool, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, Kellie Pickler, Mayra Veronica, Carlos Mencia, O.A.R., Dave Attell,Trace Adkins, Kathleen Madigan, Louis C.K., Dane Cook, Lewis Black, Third Day, Colin Quinn, Kathy Griffin and Neil McCoy.
On July 16, 2012 Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen announced that he will donate at least $1 million dollars to the USO. This will be among the largest single donations ever given to the troop morale-boosting organization.

Bob Hope USO show, 1944