76 years ago today, the USO was formed to entertain the American troops. Thousands of celebrities have since performed for, and visited with, soldiers worldwide. For 50 of those years, Bob Hope reigned supreme, bringing his comic one-liners to bases overseas during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. Headline acts included athletes, rock stars, actors and comedians like John Wayne and Robin Williams, and “pin-up girls” like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. WATCH… (1941)
At the dawn of America’s entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt challenged six private organizations, including the YMCA, YWCA, and the Salvation Army—to devise recreational activities for the armed forces. The six pooled their resources and started a non-profit corporation called United Service Organizations—the USO. By the end of WWII, the USO had presented more than a quarter million performances in 208,178 separate visits worldwide, and had 1.5 million volunteers helping to boost morale.
USO halls were set up at military bases around the US, holding dances almost every night, providing a place for military members to simply relax and unwind.
Robin Williams, who went on six USO tours to a dozen countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, said in 2007. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can.” (Watch an amazing example below)
For the first time, in 1964, the USO brought a full-scale performance into a combat zone. Bob Hope took his Christmas show to Vietnam and started a tradition that endured into the next decade, leading to the establishment of 17 USO centers in Saigon and six in Thailand serving as many as a million service members a month and hosting 5559 USO performances.
More recently, The Colbert Report taped a week’s worth of shows In Iraq, during which Stephen Colbert let a general shave his head. (Click to enlarge images)
Please say ‘Happy 76th Birthday’ to the USO… Share this. (Learn more at Wikipedia)
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Roman Emperor Julian declared equal rights for all religions in the empire (362)
- Britain formally ceased hostilities with its former colonies, the United States of America (1783)
- The French legislature abolished slavery throughout French territories (1794)
- Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released (1938)
- Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) became independent within British Commonwealth (1948)
- Wilt Chamberlain accomplished the only double-triple-double to date in pro basketball, totaling 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists in single game (1968)
- Facebook was founded (2004)
- The London Low Emission Zone was launched, which charges entrance fees for diesel vehicles that do not meet emission standards (2008)
And, on this date in 2012, American skier Lindsey Vonn clinched her fifth consecutive World Cup downhill title and her third straight super-combined trophy by winning her 50th World Cup race, the third most victories for a woman in cup history.