Photos Through the Decades: Celebrating the USO’s 74th Birthday

In honor of the USO’s 74th birthday, we’re taking a trip through time to revisit some of the iconic images we’ve captured. Here are a few snapshots that show how the USO has supported troops and their families over the decades.

1940s

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Leaders from the six founding organizations of the USO shake hands in 1941. USO photo

The USO, which stands for United Service Organizations (don’t forget the “s” in “Organizations”) traces its roots back to six other organizations. 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 pooled resources to start the USO on Feb. 4, 1941, at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1950s

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Marylin Monroe at a USO show in Korea in 1954. USO photo

This snapshot shows Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe entertaining troops in Korea in 1954. Monroe entertained more than 100,000 troops while on tour for the USO. The USO still produces and hosts dozens of international celebrity tours each year.

1960s

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Troops hold up a “Hi Bob” banner during one of Bob Hope’s USO shows. USO photo

Bob Hope was a USO tour staple for 50 years, making his last overseas trip to entertain troops during the Gulf War. In honor of his service and commitment to the military community, the USO center at Los Angeles International Airport bears his name today. In fact, the USO worked with Congress to designate Hope as first honorary veteran of the United States military.

1970s

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Sammy Davis Jr. performs in Long Binh, Vietnam, in 1972. USO photo

Sammy Davis Jr., a veteran himself, entertained 15,000 troops in his first USO performance alone. According to the USO’s On Patrol Magazine, Davis relished his tour and encouraged fellow entertainers to continue the tradition. “My recent tour in Vietnam was one of the most exciting and satisfying experiences of my career,” Davis said after the 1972 circuit. “I can only urge all entertainers to support this much needed USO program.”

1980s

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The USO Naples fleet center after it was bombed in 1988. USO photo

It was a somber scene outside the USO Naples fleet center on April 14, 1988, after a deadly car bomb exploded just outside the entrance, killing five people – including Navy RM2 Angela Santos – and injuring 15. In 2013, USO Naples hosted Santos’ sister, Jennifer Cruz, and held a special service in Santos’ memory.

1990s

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Jay Leno entertains troops during the Gulf War. USO photo

Jay Leno has been making troops laugh for decades. He recently returned from a USO tour with Al Roker. Leno auctioned off a pair of cars in the last few years to raise nearly $1 million for military nonprofits. He also helped raise thousands for the USO serving as the grand marshal of 2012’s Love Ride through Southern California. “I have a couple of West Pointers in my family,” Leno recently told the USO. “And there’s a little sense [that] you’ve got to give something back. I didn’t get shot in the ass, I should do something else [for the troops].”

2000s

Comedian Robin Williams greets troops during a 2007 USO Chairman's Holiday Tour stop at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 17, 2007. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/Courtesy of the Department of Defense

Comedian Robin Williams greets troops during a USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour stop at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 17, 2007. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley/Courtesy of the Department of Defense

Robin Williams was committed to making service members smile. The comic legend, who passed away in 2014, went on six USO tours from 2002 to 2013, including five overseas. Through his work with the USO, Williams visited troops in 12 countries, making three stops to both Iraq and Afghanistan. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” Williams said during a 2007 USO tour led by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”

2010s

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Kids watch the 2012 Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. USO photo by Fred Greaves

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families tour entertained its 500,000th audience member in 2014. It’s the USO’s longest-running tour and is specially designed to help military children tackle the unique issues they face growing up with parents who serve.

Want to learn even more fun facts about the USO’s history? Check out our 73 facts for 73 years story from last year

The DCC to Cheer on Troops and Their Families in Korea on USO Holiday Tour

WHAT: USO tour featuring Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders (DCC)

WHEN: Dec. 21 -30, 2010

WHERE: Korea

WHY: Busy bringing cheer and joy to troops and their families are America’s sweethearts The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, who will soon depart on their 73 USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour. As part of the week-long visit, the group will put on 6 performances, host cheerleading clinics, sign autographs and participate in meet and greets with troops and their families serving overseas in Korea.

The most traveled of USO tour veterans, the DCC has a more than 30-year history of supporting service men and women and their families. Earlier this month members from the DCC participated in the annual Sergeant Major of the Army USO Holiday tour, and extended America’s heartfelt gratitude to troops serving in the Middle East.

Toby Keith Delivers Boot-Stomping Rhythms to Troops

Megastar Toby Keith passes out guitar picks to service members and their families during an exclusive USO concert in Korea, April 29, 2010. (USO Photo by Dave Gatley)

“I’ve been traveling with the USO since 2002, and every year I look forward to spending time with the men and women who serve this great country.  When I get on stage and look out into a crowd of uniforms, it gives me a great sense of pride to know that I am giving back to them.”

That’s what award-winning singer, songwriter and entertainer Toby Keith had to say about his current four-country USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.  He’s traveling to Korea, Germany and the Persian Gulf on his eighth USO tour. Since his first USO tour in 2002, Keith has traveled to more than 10 countries and entertained over 140,000 service men and women, many at small remote outposts.

Check out the latest pics from this tour and keep it tuned here for more Toby Keith news!

Megastar Toby Keith performs for military families in Korea as part of his eighth USO tour, April 29, 2010. (USO Photo by Dave Gatley)

Joined by singer/songwriter Scotty Emerick, Toby Keith delivers an intimate acoustic performance for troops in Korea, April 29, 2010. (USO Photo by Dave Gatley)

Military families line-up for an opportunity to meet award-winning singer/songwriter Toby Keith at the Camp Walker Kelly Gym in Korea, April 28, 2010. (USO Photo by Dave Gatley)

Singer/songwriter Toby Keith, with Scotty Emerick, put on an acoustic show at Camp Walker Kelly Gym in Korea, April 28, 2010. The duo entertained 600 military families. (USO Photo by Dave Gatley)

The Sesame Street/USO Experience Travels to Korea

(l-r) Grover, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Zoe, and Rosita dance hand-in-hand during a performance of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at Osan Air Base in South Korea, February 12, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

(l-r) Cookie Monster, Rosita, Elmo, Zoe and Grover greet fans of all ages during a performance of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at Osan Air Base in South Korea, February 12, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

Maj Matthew McAlister reads a Sesame Street book with his daugher Chloe, 5, before the start of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Yongsan in South Korea, February 10, 2010. McAlister is originally from Sough Paris, Maine. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

The children of service members scream and wave as the muppets came onstage during a performance of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Yongsan in South Korea, February 10, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

Elmo look-alike Jackson Pack, 22 mos, eagerly awaits the start of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Yongsan in South Korea, February 10, 2010. Jackson attended the show with his father Sgt Jaon Pack from Rock Hill, South Carolina. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

(l-r) Cookie Monster, Zoe, Rosita, Elmo and Grover pose for a photo with audience members in the background following a performance of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Yongsan in South Korea, February 10, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

Zoe greets a young fan in the audience during a performance of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Yongsan in South Korea, February 10, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

Service members and their families fill the gym in anticipation of the start of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Yongsan in South Korea, February 10, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

The children of US service members scream and wave as Elmo took to the stage at the start of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Humphreys in South Korea February 9, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)

(l-r muppets) Grover, Cookie Monster, Rosita, Elmo and Zoe pose for a photo with service members and their children following a performance of the USO/Sesame Street Experience for Military Families at USAG Humphreys in South Korea February 9, 2010. (USO PHOTO BY FRED GREAVES)