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Several months before the world’s madness finally arrived on America’s doorstep on December 7th 1941, then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt – seeing and acknowledging the nation’s inevitable involvement in the global conflict – made a request. President Roosevelt wanted to see the formation of an organization with the mission of maintaining the morale of men and women in uniform.
The result was the United Services Organization, founded in New York City in February of that year. Ultimately, the USO became one of the icons of World War II. There were very few cabaret and nightclub performers, both famous and obscure, military and civilian, who did not participate in some way. The list of celebrities who presented shows to soldiers and sailors here and abroad between 1941 and 1947 reads like a “Who’s Who” of show biz of the time, and included Bing Crosby, Jane Froman, Judy Garland, Eubie Blake, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, and dozens of others.
Being a World War II history buff myself, I was pleased to discover WW2USO.org, a group of historical re-enactors who present these shows as living history at various events throughout the year. What impresses me the most is that there is no attempt to resurrect long-gone celebrities. According to the website, they:
“are mainly concerned with the portrayal of the average Jane and average Joe; those unsung volunteer heroes of the USO, whose combined efforts were nothing short of herculean and their impact monumentally importantto the nation’s war effort…we neither portray pin-up girls nor Hollywood stars.”
The group is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Their website contains an excellent detailed history of the USO during the Second World War as well as a calendar of events. I was, however, disappointed to find that there was nothing in the way of a blog, though a blog link appears on the front page. You can visit the group at Facebook, however.
I recommend this website for anyone who is interested in this often overlooked period in cabaret history.
Here is an interesting video I discovered of some young people who did an excellent job of recreating the appearance of a USO show circa 1944.
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Till next time,
ps–The Cabaret Soiree Link Party will begin anew on Monday–you can visit anytime to click on the links and see what others have posted, or you can share your own recent cabaret blog or website link every Monday through Thursday. Link is below.
Weekly Post Lineup At McElrath Cabaret:
Tuesdays: Cabaret Tip Tuesday
Wednesdays: Ask A Cabaret Question
Thursdays: Featured Cabaret Blog, Website, Performer
Fridays: Cabaret Through Time