The United Service Organizations Was Chartered
February 4, 1941
When a World War II soldier received a needed break from fighting, where
could he go and what could he do? A solution to this problem came with
the formation of the United Service Organizations, popularly known as
the USO, on February 4, 1941. Its mission was to provide recreation for
on-leave members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. USO
recreational clubs supplied a place for everything from dancing, movies,
and live entertainment to a quiet place to talk, write letters, or find
At the suggestion of General George C.
Marshall in 1940, and with the approval of President Franklin Roosevelt,
representatives from existing public service organizations came together
to form the USO Inc. Creating the USO were the Salvation Army, the YMCA,
the YWCA, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Travelers Aid
Association of America, and the National Catholic Community Service.
During World War II, more than 1 million volunteers operated more than
3,000 recreational clubs, which were established wherever they could
find room. Clubs were housed in churches, museums, barns, railroad cars,
storefronts, and other unlikely locales.
During World War II,
the best-known USO center in the U.S. was New York's Stage Door Canteen,
celebrated in song and in the film "Stage Door Canteen" starring
Katharine Hepburn and Groucho Marx. A message on the door read, "All
American place for the all American boy." The Hollywood Canteen was one
of the largest USOs, with capacity for 10,000 and featuring
entertainment by famous movie stars like Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich,
and the USO champion, Bob Hope.
Comedian Bob Hope is famous for
taking his USO shows on the road and performing at bases and hospitals,
wherever U.S. servicemen were stationed in World War II and beyond. Disbanded in 1947, the USO reorganized during the Korean War, expanded
considerably during the Vietnam War, and is still in existence today.
Bob Hope traveled to the troops in the Korean War, the Vietnam War,
and the Persian Gulf War. His "cowardly wise-guy humor" has brought
laughter to millions of GIs. If you know anyone in the armed forces, ask
if they have ever experienced a USO-sponsored club or event. Maybe they
even saw Bob Hope live.