Entertaining Military Troops

Just about all of us have a family member who served in some form during World War 2 (1941-1945). One item many of our ancestors remember was when entertainment came to where they were stationed to help brighten their day. It did help bolster their morale while so far from home.

It was during World War 2 that the Federal government and other organizations saw it was really necessary to provide rest, recreation and entertainment to those in uniform. A new organization was the United Services Organization (USO) in February 1941, which helped coordinate efforts also with the Red Cross, Salvation Army, churches, YMCA and Hollywood stars. The new USO worked hand-in-hand with the War and Navy Departments to coordinate the establishment of USO camps and shows at military facilities and transportation depots. 

With many soldiers training in the states before being sent overseas, there were established USO camps and the famed Stage Door Canteens to provide entertainment, dances and food for the soldiers.

Some of America’s famous movie and radio stars gave their time to entertain the troops. There was Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Frances Langford, Ginger Rogers, Dinah Shore, Judy Garland, the Andrew Sisters, and Ann Miller to name a few. Popular big bands such as Glenn Miller were also seen and heard by the soldiers. Even sports heroes came out to do demonstrations of their skills.

Yet over the course of the war, at least 37 USO entertainers died during the war, from accidents, enemy action, or causes yet unknown. Perhaps the most famous was bandleader Glenn Miller. He was flying from Great Britain to France to entertain troops in late December 1944 when his plane vanished without a trace and the aircraft has never been found.

Hollywood movies and various films were also sent to where the troops were stationed, even those ships at sea.

Even after the war ended in 1945, the USO and other organizations have continued to keep American troops entertained and informed.

This would make an exciting time to add to your family history. One example, USO tour in Pomigliano, Italy on July 1, 1945 performing for the 515 Air S.V.G.P. (Air Service Group) was Frank Sinatra to the far right and in center Phil Silvers along with other entertainers. This USO show was arranged by my father, US Army Captain at the base in Italy.

Photo: USO show in Pomigliano, Italy in July 1945.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Ancestor in Military Service

Stories of Our Veterans

Copies of Military Records

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