From World War II onward, these star-studded shows lifted a nation's morale.
The actress was entertaining the 25th Division during a tour of bases in Korea on Feb. 22, 1954.Bettmann/Getty Images
The G.I.s were rescuers of the 141st "Lost" Batallion of the 36th Division, and were awaiting shipment to Hawaii to be honorarily discharged. Jan. 6, 1946.Bettmann/Getty Images
Monroe visited the first Marine Division area where 13,000 Leathernecks yelled, cheered and whistled as Monroe, supported by a U.S.O. troupe, entertained the crowd. Feb. 21, 1954. Bettmann/Getty Images
Hope and other entertainers were on a Christmas tour of U.S. military installations throughout Vietnam that year. U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
"Until everyone comes home" is the motto of United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) and since 1941, the nonprofit organization has stuck to that motto, doing its best to bring support and entertainment to American military personnel around the world.
Founded at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a means of providing a morale boost to U.S. troops during World War II, the outfit became the soldiers' "home away from home." Nearly 1.5 million people pitched in to make the program a success during the war — before it was disbanded in 1947.
However, the program was then revived in 1950 for the Korean War and has remained in place over the decades since, both in times of peace and war.
Throughout that time, the U.S.O. has become most famous for its entertainment as it has linked celebrity entertainers eager to show their patriotism with troops looking for a break from day-to-day military life. Both past and present, the list of stars who have gone on U.S.O. tours to entertain the troops reads like a who's who of celebrities: John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and George Burns, were just a few of the people who performed and visited with the troops in the early days of the U.S.O.
Out of the hundreds of performers who have entertained the troops, none has shown their support more than the late comedian Bob Hope. Known for taking his golf club with him at nearly every base and ship he visited, Hope spent 48 Christmases overseas with American service personnel, performing and visiting with the soliders and sailors.
As Hope once said of performing with the U.S.O. in 1944:
"Believe me when I say that laughter up at the front lines is a very precious thing—precious to those grand guys who are giving and taking the awful business that goes on there. There’s a lump the size of Grant’s Tomb in your throat when they come up to you and shake your hand and mumble 'Thanks'."
As you'll see in the vintage photos of U.S.O. shows above, these performances have long been incredibly rewarding for both the performers and the military personnel they're serving.
Next, check out this photo history of military animals Then, see Norma Jeane Mortenson before she became Marilyn Monroe.