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
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.
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.
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.
These organizations hoped to create a “home
away from home” for GI’s in over 3,000 communities during World War II.
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
advertised USO shows in the newspaper, it
listed shows for both races in the same article. A
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
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
USO, “History of the USO,” n.d. <www.uso.org>.
“ USO Pageant Christmas Eve,”
21 December 1942, Maryland World War II Records, 1945-1965, MS 2010,
Box 162, Maryland Historical Society Library, Baltimore.