Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The United Service Organization.

Michele Morris here, and one of my favorite ways to spend a rainy afternoon is to brew a cup of hot peppermint tea, then curl up with an afghan in my favorite chair, and binge-watch old movies. Not the Technicolor or colorized kind, but good old fashioned grainy, sepia colored films, and the more singing and dancing—the better!

Some of my favorites are WW2 era USO stories. The iconic actors and actresses always prove entertaining. While over the years the real-life USO has enlisted a host of volunteer Hollywood favorites, there is so much more history to the organization than the live shows.

Before the United Sates’ involvement in World War Two, President Franklin D. Roosevelt saw a need for boosting the morale of U.S. servicemen. To accomplish this, he and Mary Ingraham work to combined several service organizations—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—into the United Service Organization or better known as the USO. 

The USO is not part of the federal government but is a Congressional chartered,

private organization that relies on the contributions of organizations, corporations, and individuals for support and it is powered a “family” of volunteers and paid staff.

During World War II, G.I.s called the USO their "home away from home." A place they could go for a friendly smile. The USO was one of the many ways in which our nation came together to support the war effort and US soldiers.

Started a tradition of entertaining US troops that still continues, the USO
became predominantly famous for its live performances called Camp Shows. Through which, the entertainment industry helped boost the morale of its servicemen and women. Hollywood, in general, was eager to show its patriotism, and many well-known stars joined the lines of USO performers. They entertained at military bases, at home, and overseas, sometimes placing their lives in danger, by traveling or performing under hazardous conditions.

In 1947, the USO was disbanded. Then in 1950, it was revived for the Korean War, after which it also provided peacetime services. During the Vietnam War, USOs were sometimes located in combat zones and volunteers even visited troops on the front lines.

In 1944, at the USO’s high point, there were more than 3,000 G.I. clubs, and 700 camp shows entertaining the troops each day. During the WWII era, the USO presented more than 400,000 performances.

I came across a list of USO entertainers who performed for the USO from 1941 to 1947 at wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Service_Organizations.com that I thought was interesting. It’s just a snapshot of the great men and women who have supported our troops.

Abbott and Costello, Larry Adler, Brian Aherne, Louise Allbritton, Morey Amsterdam, Marian Anderson, The Andrews Sisters, Armida, Jean Arthur, Fred Astaire, Gene Autry, Lauren Bacall, Fay Bainter, Lucille Ball, Tallulah Bankhead, Lynn Bari, Count Basie, Peg Leg Bates, Constance Bennett, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, Ingrid Bergman, Milton Berle, Eubie Blake, Ben Blue, Ray Bolger,
Humphrey Bogart, Mary Brian, Phyllis Brooks, Joe E. Brown, Willie Bryant, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Charles Butterworth, James Cagney, Cab Calloway ,Judy Canova, Eddie Cantor, June Clyde, Jerry Colonna, Gary Cooper, Katharine Cornell, Bing Crosby, Bebe Daniels, Linda Darnell, Bette Davis, Joan Davis, Dennis Day, Olivia De Havilland, Joe DeRita, Marlene Dietrich, Doraine and Ellis, Morton Downey, Ellen Drew, Irene Dunne, Deanna Durbin, Jimmy Durante, Ann Dvorak, Nelson Eddy, Duke Ellington, Skinnay Ennis, Maurice Evans, Jinx Falkenburg, Glenda Farrell, Joey Faye, Leslie Fenton, Gracie Fields, Shep Fields, W.C. Fields, Kay Francis, Jane Froman, Reginald Gardiner, Ed Gardner, Judy Garland, Billy Gilbert, Betty Grable, Cary Grant, John Garfield, William Gargan, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Benny Goodman, Jack Haley, Moss Hart, Susan Hayward, Rita Hayworth, Jascha Heifetz, Hildegarde, Celeste Holm, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Marsha Hunt, Alberta Hunter, Betty Hutton, Allen Jenkins, George Jessel, Al Jolson, Boris Karloff, Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly, Guy Kibbee, Andre Kostelanetz, Gene Krupa, Kay Kyser, Veronica Lake, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Landis, Frances Langford, Laurel and Hardy, Gertrude Lawrence, Anna Lee, Gypsy Rose Lee, Vivien Leigh, Joan Leslie, Joe E. Lewis, Beatrice Lillie, Carole Lombard, Edmund Lowe, Paul Lukas, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, Ida Lupino, Jeanette MacDonald, Tex McCrary, Joel McCrea, Hattie McDaniel, Dorothy McGuire, Frank McHugh, Frederic March, Mitzi Mayfair, Mike Mazurki, The Marx Brothers, Adolphe Menjou, Una Merkel, Ray Milland, Glenn Miller, Garry Moore, Tim Moore, Chester Morris, Zero Mostel, George Murphy, Mildred Natwick, Adelaide Hall,[11] The Four Evans,[12] Merle Oberon, Pat O'Brien, Minerva Pious, Lily Pons, George Raft, Luise Rainer, Martha Raye, Ossy Renardy, Paul Robeson, Edward G. Robinson, The Rockettes, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Rosalind Russell, Ann Rutherford, Ann Savage, Randolph Scott, Artie Shaw, Ann Sheridan, Dinah Shore, Phil Silvers, Frank Sinatra, Noble Sissle, Ann Sothern, Jo Stafford, Barbara Stanwyck, Bill Stern, James Stewart, Ed Sullivan, Danny Thomas, Three Bon Bunnies, Gene Tierney, Martha Tilton, Arthur Tracy, Spencer Tracy, Arthur Treacher, Sophie Tucker, Lana Turner, Vera Vague, John Wayne,[13] Mae West, Chill Wills, Anna May Wong and Keenan Wynn.

Wow! This list is inspiring! And think how many more people have been involved since 1947. As a matter of fact, there have been approximately 1.5 million volunteers, and it is estimated that 35 million soldiers have been entertained or served in some other capacity.

The next time you watch an old USO movie on classic TV, remember the volunteers who provide the US troops with a “home away from home.”

Thank you for stopping by Heroes, Heroines, and History today!


Award winning author, Michele Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan dreaming of days-gone-by and knights-in-shining-armor. Therefore, it only makes sense that she now writes historical romance with a touch of suspense. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and six grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. When not spending time with her large brood or writing, Michele enjoys photography, genealogy, and cooking.


  1. Wow, what an awesome list of people! I always admired those celebrities who performed for our soldiers, especially the ones who knew the dangers. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for the comment! And I agree, the celebrities were very brave and played such an important role in keeping our troops entertained. Thanks again for stopping in HHH today.

  2. Wow, that is an impressive list of supporters of the USO. I love old movies, too.

    1. Hi Melissa! Here's a geeky "old movie" confession of mine . . . After I wrote this blog post, I had to watch White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Such a classic! Thank you for stopping by HHH today and for commenting. Michele

  3. My dad was a navy photographer, and we have a few pictures he took of USO events. I'm pretty sure one is of Bob Hope. He had hundreds of pictures, but he gave most of them away. I wish we had them now. It's amazing how stars of such caliber supported the USO>

    1. Vickie, wow, your dad must have some witnessed some amazing sights! And what a treasure trove of history he's recorded. I'm impressed and grateful for his service. Thank you for the comment!

  4. Michele, somehow I missed this on Tuesday. As a young girl during WWII, I remember the USO and heard my uncles, and mother and dad's cousins talk about the shows in England and somewhere in the Pacific on a ship. (Letters never told where they were exactly) News reels would have segments of shows to show how USO lifted the morale of our men and women. The Andrews Sisters were my favorites.

    Wish I had some of the pictures Vickie's dad took. What memories!

    I like the old movie Holiday Inn, the original Bing Crosby White Christmas movie. I have White Christmas on our DVR and watch it every year.