Olivia de Havilland enjoys teensy cups of beverages with different branches of WWII servicemen as part of her service in the USO.
A GI accepts a lift from celeb Fess Parker to hang an ornament on one of the 300 trees provided to Vietnam troops during Christmas of 1971.
Today we look at the face of the USO, Bob Hope. Back in 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the USO, he penned this letter.
Well, American soldiers are still in the Middle East, but Bob Hope is no longer with us. However, we shall never forget the years of dedication and contribution that he gave to our men and women of the armed services.
Though his first USO trip was in 1942, his first combat-zone tour was the following year when he visited troops in North Africa. From there, he toured Italy. While in Palermo, the Germans staged an air raid on a target next to his hotel. He realized it was better to bomb on stage than to be bombed from above. General Patton suggested Hope and his group, including Frances Langford and Jerry Colonna, go to Algiers for their own safety.
One of his signature jokes ran, “You remember World War II–it was in all the papers.”
But Hope didn’t quit when WWII was won. In the following decade, he entertained troops in the Korean War.
Just check out this soldier’s response to Hope’s performance in Seoul, Korea in October 1950.
But it wasn’t only able-bodied troops he entertained; Hope and his celebrity pals toured hospitals to encourage those who had been injured. He and Marilyn Maxwell spent time with Marine PFC Howard Wells in the Tokyo General Hospital.
As decades passed, Bob Hope specials were a veritable who’s who of stars. But no matter the rise and fall of his cohorts, Hope was the one constant.
With Jerry Colonna as Santa, Hope made fun of his “road to” movies in Vietnam. By then, Hope was such a well-known actor that his familiar presence was a comfort to those who’d grown up watching him.
I recall watching Bob Hope specials as a child, much like the one below from 1983.
Aging didn’t slow Hope down. During the Christmas of 1990, Hope toured the Persian Gulf with his signature stamina. If you recall, this is a man who lived to see his 100th birthday.
Throughout his 50 years of service, Hope lived up to his name, giving hope to those brave soldiers who fought to keep us free. God bless you, Bob Hope.
Soldiers on leave could check their children with this woman (at a somewhat precarious-looking early day care) to enjoy a night out with the wife.
Below is the YWCA Honolulu building Service Women’s Lounge for women serving in the war.
Among these nattily-dressed women is Mary McLeod Bethune, president of the National Council of Negro Women. She is supervising a USO game of Chinese checkers.
Soon, celebrities would begin to entertain the troops. The first was Joe E. Brown, whom you may recall from last month’s post, Ripped At Sixty. He was the first Hollywood star to tour front-line bases, including Alaska and the Aleutians in 1942. Sadly, that same year, his own son was lost when his A-20 Havoc crashed during pilot training.
Here Joe signs a bomb.
Brown was one of only two civilians to be awarded the Bronze Star in WWII. But by far, the name most connected with the USO was Bob Hope, whom we’ll spotlight tomorrow.
With its clubs and other activities, the USO not only served the needs of America’s men and women in uniform, bu also provided an effective means of channeling civilian volunteer efforts. By the war’s end in 1945, over 1.5 million Americans had contributed their time to the USO. — Always Home:50 Years of the USO
It felt good to provide a service to those who served in the war. These Navymen are enjoying coffee and doughnuts at the San Francisco USO.
Never underestimate generosity and gratitude.
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!
Sharp-suited Sgt Franklin Williams enjoyed being on leave (and sharing a treat) with his best girl, Ellen Hardin, in Baltimore, 1942.