United Service Organizations



As if putting their lives on the line weren’t a great enough sacrifice, service men and women also frequently have to forgo spending holidays with their families. But the USO (United Service Organizations) does plenty to make the armed forces as comfortable as possible — particularly around the holidays — providing entertainment and recreation, as well as helping them maintain contact with their families.

In this scene, taken at a Christmas party on Dec. 23, 1944, smiling service people take their minds off World War II momentarily as they pose with presents at the Detroit USO club at Cass and Lafayette, in downtown Detroit. Clubs served as a home away from home for GIs, providing dances, movies, libraries, food and refreshment, and sometimes lodging.

During World War II, entertainers came out in full force at USO camp shows near bases, with Betty Grable, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Humphrey Bogart among the notables. But there was no bigger booster than comedian Bob Hope, who continued to entertain troops for decades.

The USO was formed in 1941 by the cooperation of six nonprofit groups: the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Salvation Army, the National Catholic Community Service, the Traveler’s Aid Association, as well as the YMCA and YWCA.

Although the sitting U.S. president serves as its honorary chairman, the USO isn’t federally funded; private and corporate donations keep the organization afloat.

The USO continues its good work today, operating more than 130 centers around the globe. A popular service is Operation Phone Home, which provides prepaid phone cards to the armed forces, as well as “cyber canteens,” which offer Internet access.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Web Exclusive: Meeting the Beatles

Fifty years ago, a Detroit-area teenager won a contest to meet The Beatles.

Rocking in Style

John Varvatos and Alice Cooper talk about their musical and fashion influences — and Detroit’s comeback

Well-Versed in Classics

DSO oboe player tools around town in a rare pair of turquoise 1962 Lincoln Continentals

All Dressed Up & Ready ...

Cobo Center is still a work in progress, but Auto Show visitors will notice a host of improvements

One Night Only: Steven Spielberg and John Williams at the DSO

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. The Makings of the Shinola Hotel
    When the Detroit brand’s first foray into hospitality opens its doors, it’ll offer customers...
  2. My Two Christmases
    An Armenian-Iranian, Detroit-based writer reflects on transposing the holiday across continents
  3. New Year’s Eve, Brooklyn Style
    Tips for celebrating 2019 from the pros at Brooklyn Outdoor
  4. Main Review: SheWolf
    Born in Detroit but inspired by Rome, SheWolf takes diners on a culinary journey
  5. The Art of Gifting
    Metro Detroit tastemakers from all walks of life offer a glimpse of what’s on their holiday...
  6. Comeback Catering
    Dish, in Detroit, pushes through hard times with consistently delicious food
  7. Meet the Makers: Tait Design Co.
    How an after-work hobby ascended to a booming business
  8. Precious Metals
    Layering necklaces, stacking rings, and placing bangle upon glitzy bangle: a definitive guide to...
  9. Food Recipe: Braised Beef Brisket
    Chef Aaron Lowen, of Empire Kitchen & Cocktails, shares one of his favorite holiday recipes
  10. An Hour with ... Ricki Friedman
    Founder, Break the Weight