Pictured above, Mrs. Alfred Scott serves punch to a soldier in July 1943 at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA USO.
The USO (United Service Organization) was formed 75 years ago, in February of 1941, a full ten months before the USA entered WWII. Under the shadow of Nazi aggression, the US government instated the first peacetime draft in its history. Mobilizing thousands of young men, most of whom had never left the country, proved daunting. President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted a way to keep servicemen in touch with civilian life. Six organizations–the YMCA, the YWCA, National Catholic Community Board, National Jewish Welfare Board, the Travelers’ Aid Association, and Salvation Army–pooled their resources to form the USO.
Roosevelt insisted that these organizations handle the on-leave recreation of these men. On February 4, 1941, the USO was incorporated in New York State. Under the leadership of Chairman Thomas Dewey (yes, THAT Dewey), by the end of the year, they had raised $16 million. In 1942, Dewey ran for governor of New York, and was replaced by Prescott Bush, the father of Bush 41. He contributed greatly to the organization, and soon USO centers dotted the country at bus and railroad terminals as well as training centers.
Sometimes a smile and hot meal were enough to make a soldier feel appreciated.
This image from a USO on the French Riviera lists many of the services offered to men in the armed forces.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this USO series. I can’t wait to share the images!