Baltimore's USO Clubs

Baltimore's USO Clubs - Baltimores USO Clubs By Ryan Lee...

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Baltimore’s USO Clubs By: Ryan Lee Many people may know that war is brutal, gloomy and depressing. War stresses the whole country, especially soldiers. Thus, the United Service Organization (USO) was created during World War II. The USO was a private non-profit organization whose main mission was to support the troops by providing moral welfare and recreation services to men and women in the military. 1 The USO was formed in response to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who felt it was best if private organizations handed the “on-leave” recreation needs of the of U.S. military. 2 Roosevelt led six agencies to coordinate their civilian war efforts, the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association, and the National Jewish Welfare Board. 3 These organizations hoped to create a “home away from home” for GI’s in over 3,000 communities during World War II. 4 While the USO sought to lift morale of all soldiers, it followed the segregationist policies of the military. To accommodate all soldiers, the USO had white service clubs and African American service clubs. It is interesting to note that when the Baltimore Sun advertised USO shows in the newspaper, it listed shows for both races in the same article. A Sun advertisement for Christmas shows in 1942 read, “…clubs planning special Christmas Eve celebrations are Club Number Four, 128 West Franklin Street, where an open house program starting at 7:30 P.M. will be highlighted by carols, games and other entertainments, and Club Number Five (Negro), 529 Gold street, which will stage ‘Night at the County Fair.’” 5 The USO offered the military men and women activities like dancing, ping-pong, singing, motion pictures, in local clubs in the United States and celebrities all over the world came to entertain or perform for the men and women fighting the war. Comedians, singers, athletes, actors, musicians, and magicians 1 USO, “History of the USO,” n.d. <>. 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid. 5 “ USO Pageant Christmas Eve,” Sun, 21 December 1942, Maryland World War II Records, 1945-1965, MS 2010, Box 162, Maryland Historical Society Library, Baltimore.
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were essential to fulfilling the USO’s mission of boosting troop morale. 6 Once USO shows were established, they started to increase in number; towards the end of the war, the shows reached a peak. In fact, “USO Camp Shows were presenting 700 shows a day, with more than 300,000 performances overseas and in the United States, to an audience totaling more than 173 million. From 1941 to 1947, more than 7,000 performers put on 428,521 shows of all kinds.” 7 The entertainers included stars in all fields of entertainment including sports. The USO sent white and African American shows to the respective units where they performed comedy, dance and music. The USO recruited big name talent such as June Allyson, Milton Berle, Guy Lombardo and his Royal
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Baltimore's USO Clubs - Baltimores USO Clubs By Ryan Lee...

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