Until Everyone Comes Home
Happy 74th Anniversary To The USO
February 4, 2015 by Mark Dye
Bob Hope entertains troops during one of his 57 USO tour shows spanning five decades.
It was late 1940, and the United States was still trying to recover from the Great Depression while Europe was engulfed in war. Despite the isolationist stance of the U.S., many Americans thought it would just be a matter of time before the nation got dragged into yet another conflict.
With World War I still fresh in the nation’s consciousness, several groups knew that there would need to be emotional support waiting and ready for our nation’s troops and their families. President Franklin Roosevelt also saw this need, so he brought together a collection of organizations so that they could join forces and provide that much needed support system. Those groups—the Salvation Army; Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA); Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA); National Catholic Community Services; National Travelers Aid Association; and the National Jewish Welfare Board—would form the United Service Organizations and change the way troops are supported and entertained.
As the group celebrates 74 years of being there “until everyone comes home,” we take a look at some notable moments in its history.
The USO is officially created by President Roosevelt, comprised of a collection of organizations united to help support military members.
Bob Hope makes his very first appearance before American troops at March Field in California.
With World War II now at an end, all USO facilities are closed. The organization is given an “honorable discharge” by President Harry S. Truman.
With the U.S. back at war—this time in Korea—the USO is brought back to help entertain the troops. It is formed with a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the Department of Defense and the president.
As American troops withdraw, all USO clubs in Vietnam are closed.
After operating on a Memorandum of Understanding for two decades, President Carter signs the USO’s Congressional charter. It paves the way for a permanent USO presence around the globe.
To help meet the needs of a growing female military population, the USO opens the first Women’s Resource Center in Baumholder, Germany. It will serve as a prototype for other USOs.
An act of Congress makes Bob Hope an honorary veteran of the military thanks to his work entertaining the troops. He made 57 tours (headlining 47 of them) during four wars between 1941 and 1991.
The USO of Metropolitan Washington starts “Operation USO Care Package” to support troops deploying to support Operation Enduring Freedom. It will assemble and ship one million care packages by 2006.
Wounded warriors get a special USO center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. It is described as “a comfortable shoulder to lean on in the difficult weeks after a wounded warrior sustains his or her injuries.”
In total, 160 USO clubs receive more than 8 million visitors for the year, showing that the USO is still a vital part of supporting those who serve.