I’m from a military family: my grandfather fought in WW1 as an infantry man, one uncle was a naval officer in WW2, another was in Korea in the air force, and my father, who also served in the Air Force, made a career as a professor of military history.
One of the first songs I ever learned was “(Off We Go Into) The Wild Blue Yonder,” — come on, Air Force fans, let me hear a cheer!— followed closely by “Your A Grand Old Flag” and “Over There.” I’ve never not teared up when listening to a Sousa March and I’ve been to a military parade of the Marine Corps where they literally did a 21 gun salute!
Because of the stories told around the dinner table, the grueling daily life of a soldier during combat was close to home for me, as were the efforts the US government made to provide our soldiers with emotional support during those stressful times.
Hence the creation of the USO, which stands for United Services Organization, created In 1941 by Franklin D. Roosevelt for just that purpose: to create solace for our troops by giving them something else to think about. And what soldier wouldn’t want to think about Marilyn Monroe? Or Ann-Margret? Or laugh with Bob Hope? Or swing with Sammy Davis Jr.?
With a total of 57 tours and more than 700 shows under his belt, the tireless Bob Hope is the entertainer most closely associated with the USO. His first show for the troops was on May 6, 1941, three months after the USO was founded.
His last show was in 1991 in the Persian Gulf.
On being awarded a medal by Congress for his service to his country , he remarked, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime — but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most — is the greatest honor I have ever received.”
Today the USO has over 160 locations around the world in 14 countries and continues to bring joy to the men and women who serve our country so selflessly. These are a few of my favorite photos from the USO shows over the years. If you have some photos of your own, or stories from your own experiences in the service at USO shows, please share them!
In 1954, Marilyn Monroe visited the troops in Korea shortly after her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. She reportedly said that their reaction made her realize she had really made it as a star.
Three cheers for the red, white and blue!!!!!
Now, carry on.