USO Day on February 4 is the birthday celebration of the American nonprofit-charitable corporation, the United Service Organizations Inc. Providing live entertainment, care packages, and much more, the USO is the bridge connecting overseas soldiers to their friends, families, and homes. The USO partnered with the War Department, and later with the Department of Defense (DoD), to serve everyone in military life. The troops fighting in WW2 were the first to benefit from this organization’s efforts, and now, almost 4.9 million members are impacted by the USO.
History of USO Day
Sometime before U.S. involvement in the Second World War, social reformer Mary Ingraham received a special request from President Roosevelt. Roosevelt believed military troops needed cheering up. So Ingraham, with Roosevelt as the chairman, created a special organization — the USO, formed from six other service organizations — in 1941, to provide entertainment and a slice of home to all uniformed military personnel.At first, the organizers wanted special live shows and events to boost morale and showcase American involvement in the war. This brought out ‘Camp Shows,’ which were live shows performed by various members of the entertainment industry, including many then-superstars. Some were paid, but most top stars came on as volunteers, placing their own lives in danger to perform under hazardous conditions. By November 1941, overseas shows had begun, and the first was held in the Caribbean. Overseas shows were held in multiple places during the war, including China, Russia, Burma, Australia, and the U.K.The USO disbanded after the war, as people believed it had served its purpose, only to be revived during the Cold War. These actions would be repeated during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and would also show how important the USO was to troops’ morale. The USO got a government charter by the late 1970s and subsequently worked to raise the spirits (even more than before) of all those working in the military. Their purpose also evolved over the years, with many programs now featuring quality-of-life improvements for military personnel and their families alongside the entertainment the USO was famous for.Today’s USO helps the troops a hundred times as much as before, providing emergency contact, financial assistance, and even educational aid for American soldiers all over the globe.
USO Day timeline
President Richard Nixon proclaims this day as USO Day and urges every American to lend their support to the organization.
To enhance outreach, a group of U.S. Congress members decides to meet regularly to pursue USO-led objectives.
President Obama awards the USO the ‘National Medal of Arts’ — the highest arts-based honor the U.S. government has — for their efforts toward raising the troops' spirits unflaggingly over the years.
A special on the “History Channel” showcases almost 80 years of USO efforts, with actor and USO regular Bryan Cranston presenting.
An American musical comedy-drama about two USO performers is released, covering the birth of the USO in 1941 until 1991's ‘Operation Desert Storm.’
USO Day FAQs
What does the USO do for the military?
The USO serves active military members and their families via various programs and morale-boosting events, keeping them connected to home and hearth.
What did the USO do during the war?
The USO was formed to raise the spirits of U.S. troops during World War II, and it did exactly that, providing recreation and entertainment with the help of various professionals — singers, actors, and others.
Can family members go to the USO?
Yes, family members of active-duty service members can approach the USO for help.
How to Observe USO Day
Attend a USO event
The entire month of February is filled with special events and activities organized by the USO itself in many locations, not only in the U.S. but also across the world. Visit the ones closest to you. Take your friends and family along.
Learn more about this organization
Watch a USO-themed movie or documentary, read articles and books about this organization, and check out their website to know more about the USO and its efforts.
Show your support
The USO welcomes help in all forms. You can donate, participate, and volunteer for their programs and causes.
5 Fascinating Facts About The USO
Bob Hope and the USO
Late comedian Bob Hope entertained forces for around 50 years, becoming the first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces in 1997.
More volunteers than paid employees
The USO website states that overseas there are 20 times more volunteers than USO employees, and the number is much higher inside the country.
WWII was dangerous for USO volunteers
Flying into war zones meant injuries, or worse: 37 entertainers lost their lives while trying to boost troops' morale during the war.
The USO-Coca-Cola partnership
They've been partnering ever since the USO was formed, and Coca-Cola even pledged to serve their drinks at only 5 cents to every soldier no matter the cost to the firm.
The USO was honorably discharged
Like thousands of military people, the USO was given an honorable discharge — issued by President Truman — at the end of World War II in 1947.
Why USO Day is Important
They connect troops and their families
The USO's events bridge the long gap between the military personnel and their families. It allows both to keep the other near, effortlessly.
They have multiple programs
They are not just a one-program-wonder. The USO also provides counseling for returning troops, family programs, and even travel-based services for military people and their families.
They make a real difference
Donations and funding mean the USO has a larger resource pool, and volunteers help convert ideas into reality. What this means is that the USO can make a bigger impact on everyone in (and connected to) the U.S. armed forces.
USO Day dates