In February 1941, at the urging of President Franklin Roosevelt, the Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community service, the National Travelers Aid Association and National Jewish Welfare Board joined forces to form the non-profit United Service Organization (USO) with the mission of providing morale support for U.S. military personnel and their families by establishing places for soldiers to go for rest and relaxation and organizing entertainment. The USO accomplished the first of these goals by creating relaxation centers close to military bases throughout the United States—over 2,000 in all by the end of WWII, the most famous of which were New York’s Stage Door Canteen and Los Angeles’ Hollywood Canteen, which were made famous by the films made about them.
The USO tackled its second goal by creating the USO Camp Shows, a separate organization founded under its auspices in October 1941. USO Camp Shows organized its service into 4 show circuits: the State-side Victory and Blue circuits presented full-sized shows to large bases and smaller shows to smaller bases; the Hospital circuit sent entertainers and artists (who sketched portraits of patients) to US military hospitals; and the Foxhole circuit sent entertainers, most often in small units of 4 to 6, overseas to entertain the troops on the front lines. The most famous of these, of course, was Bob Hope and his troop, which included Frances Langford, Patty Thomas, Jerry Colonna and Tony Romano. But there were many more—by 1945 over 700 USO camp shows were being performed each day before audiences ranging from 25 to 15,000. In all, through the duration of WWII USO Camp Shows presented 208,178 performances to an estimated 161 million American service men and women.
Jesse Cloninger and the Festival big band and vocalists pay tribute to the USO and its extraordinary WWII work with an evening of choice moments from performances by Bob Hope’s Foxhole unit in the Pacific theatre along with a smattering from other USO Camp Shows and the Stage Door and Hollywood Canteens. Look for great songs like “Thanks For The Memory”, “I’m In The Mood For Love”, “It’s Been A Long, Long Time”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Mairzy Doats” and more.
|SET I. IN THE FIELD, OVERSEAS|
| ||Mairzy Doats|
Words & music by Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston, Milton Drake
| ||Got A Date With An Angel|
(1931) For The Love Of Mike
Words by Clifford Grey, Sonny Miller - Music by Joseph Tunbridge, Jack Waller
|SET II. AT AN AFB OUTSIDE THE U.S.|
|SET III. STATE-SIDE ON AN AFB|
| ||You Made Me Love You|
(1913) The Honeymoon Express
Words by Joseph McCarthy - Music by James V. Monaco