USO Fact Sheet
For over 66 years, the USO has been providing morale-boosting programs and services to enhance the quality of life for military personnel and their
families around the world.
The USO was conceived in 1941 in response to a mandate from President
Franklin D. Roosevelt. The President challenged six private organizations
the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, the National
Jewish Welfare Board, the Travelers Aid Association and the Salvation
Army to handle the on-leave morale needs for members of the armed
While the USO has diversified and changed over time, the mission remains
unchanged: to bring a touch of home to our men and women in uniform,
until every one comes home.
The USO is the link between the American people and military personnel.
Through the USO, Americans can show their appreciation and express their
The USO is not a government agency. It is a nonprofit, charitable
organization and relies on donations from private citizens and corporations.
Currently, the USO operates more than 120 centers in 10 countries, 21
states and the District of Columbia.
More than 33,000 volunteers donate their time and talents. Service
members and their families visit USO centers more than five million times
Throughout World War II, the USO was the channel for community
participation in the war effort.
The USO had all but disbanded by 1947, but regrouped when the United
States entered the Korean War. At the request of the Department of
Defense, the USO continued to expand following the end of the Korean
For the first time in its history, USO centers were located in combat zones
during the Vietnam War.
In the early 1970s, the need for the USO was questioned. The Department
of Defense and the United Way of America conducted a review of USO
programs and services, and determined that if there were no USO, another
organization would have to be created.... The USO then was launched into
a new era of peacetime service.
During the 1970s, outreach programs increased, and more centers were
established in airports to assist military travelers. In December 1979,
President Jimmy Carter signed the USO Congressional Charter into laws.
In 1983, a USO Center opened in Haifa, Israel, and centers in Europe, the
Pacific, the Caribbean and the Far East continued to provide the USO
An agreement with the Department of Defense signed in 1987 names the
USO as a principal channel representing civilian concern for U.S. military
During the first Gulf War, the USO opened a center in Saudi Arabia and
began the USOs Mobile Canteen Program. After Operation Desert Storm,
the USO opened centers in Dubai and Bahrain.
In 1993, the USO opened a center in Somalia. The USO opened centers
in Hungry in 1996 and 1997 to support troops restoring and maintaining
peace in Bosnia. A USO Mobile Canteen also began providing services for
troops in the Bosnia area.
The USO had a presence in Somalia from December 1992 until April 1993,
and served troops in Haiti and the Balkans.
Todays USO centers provide a wide range of services, such as Internet
access, pre-paid phone cards, cultural orientation, libraries, showers,
sleeping facilities, cyber cafιs and travel assistance.
To support service members participating in Operations Enduring and Iraqi
Freedom, the USO opened a center in Kuwait in 2003. The following year,
USO centers were opened at the Dallas-Fort Worth and Raleigh-Durham
Airports, and in Qatar and Vicenza, Italy.
In 2005, the USO opened its first center in Afghanistan, and the Rocky
Mountain USO opened at the Denver International Airport. A center at Fort
Bliss, Texas, and a second center in Kuwait will open in 2006.
USO World Headquarters serves as the enabling body for all programs, and
provides training and technical assistance to all USO Centers. USO World
Headquarters also produces Celebrity Entertainment tours.
USO tours have featured such entertainers as Drew Carey, David
Letterman, Robin Williams, Bruce Willis, Gary Sinise, Toby Keith, Wayne
Newton, Jessica Simpson, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and
countless others who volunteered their time to visit our troops.