80 years ago today, the USO was formed to entertain American military troops—and thousands of celebrities have since performed for, and visited with, soldiers worldwide.
For 50 of those years, Bob Hope reigned supreme, bringing his comic one-liners to bases overseas during World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. Headline acts included athletes, rock stars, actors, and comedians—from John Wayne to Jon Stewart—and “pin-up girls” like Marilyn Monroe (below) and Judy Garland.
In 1964, for the first time, the USO brought a full-scale performance into a combat zone. Bob Hope took his Christmas show to Vietnam and started a tradition that endured into the next decade, leading to the establishment of 17 USO centers in Saigon and six in Thailand serving as many as a million service members a month and hosting 5,559 USO shows.
Robin Williams, who went on six USO tours to a dozen countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, said in 2007, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can.” WATCH a new ad celebrating the 80th anniversary… (1941)
– Photo: Bob Hope and Ann Jillian in Desert Storm by Lietmotiv, CC license
How the United Service Organizations (USO) was formed: At the dawn of America’s entry into World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt challenged six private organizations, including the YMCA, YWCA, and the Salvation Army to devise recreational activities for the armed forces. By the end of WWII, the new USO group had presented more than a quarter million performances in 208,178 separate visits worldwide, and had 1.5 million volunteers helping to boost morale. USO halls were set up at military bases around the US, holding dances almost every night, providing a place for military members to simply relax and unwind.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Roman Emperor Julian declared equal rights for all religions in the empire (362)
- Britain formally ceased hostilities with its former colonies, the United States of America (1783)
- The first elected Assembly abolished slavery in France and throughout French territory in all the colonies with a law that came forth during the First Republic under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre (1794)
- Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released (1938)
- Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) became independent within British Commonwealth (1948)
- The social media network Facebook was founded (2004)
- The London Low Emission Zone was launched, which charges entrance fees for diesel vehicles that do not meet emission standards (2008)
And, on this date in 2012, American skier Lindsey Vonn clinched her fifth consecutive World Cup downhill title and her third straight super-combined trophy by winning her 50th World Cup race, the third most victories for a woman in cup history.
And on this day in 1968, Wilt Chamberlain accomplished the only double-triple-double to date in pro basketball, totaling 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists in single game. Chamberlain is also the only player in NBA history to record a quadruple double double (40-40) game—and he achieved the feat eight times in his career.
The MVP from Philadelphia is most remembered for his 100-point game in 1962, one of basketball’s greatest records. Decades later, the closest any player had come was the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, who scored 81 points in 2006. Afterward he said that breaking the record was “unthinkable.”
The massive 7-foot-1-inch player was also a nice, gentle guy who “never got mad.” In fact, he never fouled out of a game. He died at age 63 of heart problems, and the bulk of his fortune was given to charity. WATCH a video…
And, 51 years ago today, the Oscar-winning film Patton premiered in New York City. The epic war drama starred George C. Scott as the World War II military general George S. Patton. Patton won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Franklin Schaffner), Best Original Screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola), and Best Actor for Mr. Scott. The opening monologue portrays General Patton with an enormous American flag behind him.
Gen. Patton is addressing an audience of American troops overseas to raise their morale, telling them how winning is everything in America. They had just suffered a humiliating defeat in 1943, and Patton is placed in charge of the American II Corps in North Africa. WATCH the iconic opening scene… (1970)
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