The 10 Greatest USO Performers
For more than 75 years, the United Service Organizations Inc. (USO) has supported U.S. military members by providing them programs and entertainment during their service. Whether it’s in USO centers around the country or on military bases around the world, the USO works hard to bring a slice of home to those serving abroad and in distant lands.
Over the last seven decades, some of the country’s best performers have taken the USO stage to entertain troops with music, dancing, and comedy routines. Here’s a look at 10 of the greatest performers to grace the USO stage.
10. The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters were a popular singing group of the swing and boogie-woogie music eras. Consisting of sisters LaVerne, Maxene, and Patty, the group was quite active from the late 1930s into the early ’50s, and boasted sales of more than 75 million records over the group’s career. The sisters performed extensively for troops of the Allied forces during World War II, frequently singing their hit song, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” as part of their USO performances. The Andrews Sisters were instrumental in boosting morale toward the war effort, encouraging the sale of war bonds through their music, and often wearing military uniforms as they performed. The group took a break from their act in the mid-1950s, but later continued to perform. Despite the death of LaVerne in 1967, the Andrews Sisters remained active until disbanding in 1975.
9. Danny Kaye
Danny Kaye was a notable actor whose talents included singing, dancing, and comedy routines. Kaye participated in USO shows and events during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He dedicated his time performing and filming shorts for U.S. troops. Over his career, which spanned from the early 1930s into the late ’80s, Kaye starred in 17 movies, including the 1954 film classic, “White Christmas.”
8. John Wayne
John Wayne was the iconic symbol of a frontiersman in American cinema. The actor and filmmaker starred in over 140 movies over the course of his 50-year career, which began in the late 1920s and went into the late ’70s. Wayne did a USO tour in the Pacific theater during World War II and also visited troops during the Vietnam War.
7. Bob Hope
The name “Bob Hope” just seems to be synonymous with the USO, as Hope devoted so much time to the organization and the troops. The comedian and actor participated in 57 USO tours, visiting military members during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the first Gulf War. President Bill Clinton named Hope an “Honorary Veteran” in 1997, to which Hope said, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime — but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most — is the greatest honor I have ever received.”
6. Mickey Rooney
Like fellow USO performer Bob Hope, actor and comedian Mickey Rooney began entertaining troops during World War II and continued to do so throughout his lifetime. In the Second World War, Rooney served with special services in the U.S. Army for nearly two years, earning a Bronze Star Medal. Rooney also participated in USO tours during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. As an actor, Rooney appeared in over 300 films, his career spanning from the late 1930s until he passed away in 2014.
5. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was one of America’s favorite leading ladies in the 1950’s and early ’60s, and she became a timeless American icon. The blonde bombshell stole the hearts of many men — and was the envy of many women — as an actress, pinup model, and singer. Monroe delighted troops with USO performances during the Korean War.
4. Nancy Sinatra
The eldest daughter of legendary crooner Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra went on to have a successful singing career of her own in the 1960s and early ’70s. She scored a hit with the 1966 song, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin.'” During the Vietnam War, Sinatra visited and sang for troops at the U.S. military bases near Saigon.
3. Steve Martin
Steve Martin is a “wild and crazy guy” who has brought his unique comedic style to television and the silver screen since the late 1960s. In 1990, Martin and his wife visited troops in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the Gulf War. Although, the actor and comedian didn’t put on a show, which was at the request of military officials, as public entertainment was not locally permitted. Instead, Martin and his wife met with service members and signed autographs.