February 4 - USO Day

Posted on February 4, 2019

I've never, ever, heard of the United Services Organizations, which we are celebrating today.... 

But - wait! - I actually have heard of it (or them?), but only with the acronym "USO."

The USO is an organization that supports members of the various branches of the military, plus veterans, plus families of military folk and veterans. 

Thousands of entertainers have
worked with the USO, but the one
most associated with USO shows
is comedian Bob Hope.
This non-profit charity is famous for putting on live performances with comedians, musicians, and actors in military bases and camps in the U.S. and overseas - especially important during wartime. 

USO shows help keep troop morale high. They help bring a taste of "back home" to those serving far away.

Of course, USO shows also allow entertainers to "give back," to show their love of country and their gratitude to soldiers and sailors and pilots (and their families) who sacrifice for all of us.

Actually, even though USO shows are what everybody knows, the USO is more than that: there are USO centers around the world, including in many major airports, which provide a "home away from home," provide social and recreational opportunities, help troops with travel problems, and give troops and their families information. Care packages and international phone cards and other ways of staying in touch with loved ones are often coordinated through these USO centers. 

This is not a planned "USO show," but
is instead an impromptu performance
by a member of one USO troupe before
(or after?) a planned show.
The USO was formed on this date in 1941, in the midst of World War II. Social reformer Mary Ingraham founded the USO when President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested help providing recreation for and boosting the morale of the troops. Ingraham brought together six different already-existing organizations (the Salvation Army, the YMCA, the YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, National Travelers Aid Association, and the National Jewish Welfare Board) under one umbrella to provide this support. 

The USO is not part of the U.S. government, although it does work with (not for!) the Department of Defense. The motto is "Until Everyone Comes Home."

The USO was disbanded after WWII - like, I think people thought, "Okay, great job! Not needed anymore!" But when the Korean War broke out, it was reactivated and has been a thing ever since.

Above, Marilyn Monroe in Korea.
Below, an all-female rock band in Vietnam.

Here are some stats and pics to help you celebrate the USO:

The USO has provided services to an estimated 35 million Americans over its history.

During WWII, the USO did close to 300,000 performances! When the USO was first disbanded, in 1947, it had already done over 125,000 more shows for military still deployed overseas, for a total of 425,000 shows!

More than 161 million troops were entertained, during WWII, including wounded soldiers and sailors who watched shows put on in 192 different military hospitals. 

During WWII, there were 702 different USO troupes that toured the world, entertaining troops. (Troupes for the troops!) More than 7,000 entertainers (many of them famous, most of them not) participated in these shows. Many entertainers spent six months at a time on tour.

Above, Robin Williams signing autographs and interacting with the
troops after performing.
Below, the Rockettes.

Every year, more than 44,000 volunteers provide around 379,000 hours of service through the USO. (There is also a relatively small paid staff of 300 spread among the 200+ locations around the world.)

Above, Disturbed. Below, Avenged Sevenfold.
I included these two bands to show that not
just pop music is featured at USO shows,
but also hard rock, alternative rock, and heavy metal.

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