The USO Celebrates 75 Years

Author National Philanthropic Trust

February 4, 2016

In 1941, the United Service Organizations (USO) was created to provide recreation, services and morale to U.S. troops and their families. Six charities (the Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board) banded together at the request of the U.S. government to charter the USO.

The USO is most famously known for its overseas shows, providing entertainment to armed service members deployed around the world. In its earliest years during World War II, the USO presented more than 400,000 performers included major stars like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. Today, there are more than 160 USO centers in 14 countries. Celebrities like Robin Williams, Carrie Underwood and Stephen Colbert have traveled to war theaters to perform.  

The USO represents an interesting intersection of public and private charitable activity. It is Congressionally chartered, but not a government agency. It works in partnership with the Department of Defense, but relies almost entirely on private contributions and volunteers. The USO estimates it has served more than 35 million Americans in its history; much of this work is supported by the 44,000 people who volunteer with USO annually.

For 75 years, the USO has been a household name and representation of the support American people provide for its military servicemembers. Its mission has been unchanged and is still as relevant as it was in 1941.