Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Traveling Tuesday: Following the USO

Traveling Tuesday: Following the USO

Founded in 1941 and although congressionally chartered, the USO is not a government organization. Dependent on private funding, approximately thirty-three million dollars was raised by Thomas Dewey and Prescott Bush (today's equivalent=$433 million) between its founding and 1945. The organization's motto is "Until everyone comes home."

Known for its traveling camp shows and clubmobiles, the USO operated over 3,000 centers worldwide. Staffed by volunteer Senior and Junior hostesses, the centers provided recreational opportunities and dancing, a quiet place to write letters home, snacks and cigarettes (but no liquor), and even boxing rings. Not only did celebrities entertain the troops, but many volunteered as waitstaff or kitchen help.

Beginning in 1942, the mobile units toured every one of the forty-eight states during the war. The trucks carried generators, screens, and film projectors and many of the vehicles featured a public address system, turntable and records, sports gear, board games, and snacks. Most importantly the local USO would provide hostesses to dance with the young men.

Despite the danger, camp shows also operated in combat zones, and as a result thirty-seven performers lost their lives, including singer Tamara Drasin. According to historian Paul Holsinger the 702 traveling troupes conducted 293,738 performances during 208,178 separate visits entertaining more than 161 million service men and women. Mind-boggling numbers!

Today, the USO operates 160 centers worldwide and still depends on the generosity of others to provide funding.

The character in my current work-in-progress, Geneva Alexander, leaves home to join the Baltimore, MD USO. Where would you have been willing to serve?

Perhaps at one of these centers operating during WWII:

French Riviera USO

El Paso, Texas

USO in Elbow Beach, Bermuda

Temperature taking booth in Spain

USO in Hawaii


  1. I did six years in the AF and served in Georgia and England.

  2. Thanks for your service. Did you ever go to a USO facility?

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