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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

Low Troop Morale Can Literally Destroy a Nation. That’s Why the USO Was Formed in 1941.

00:00 48:15
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A standing army is the most powerful force in a nation, but it can also threaten its very survival. That’s because you're taking a group of young men – those who are typically the core of your workforce and paying them to spend a majority of their time on bases doing nothing all day. Not only that, but you also pay them for the privilege. And if they get disgruntled or bored, riots, coups, or even revolutions can break out.

The U.S. military has always understood the importance of troop morale, and a massive organization was formed to handle it in early 1941. On the eve of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to unite several service associations into one organization to lift morale of our military and nourish support on the home front. Those entities – the Salvation Army, the YMCA, YWCA, and others, became the United Service Organizations or, the USO. It was created to offer hospitality for traveling service members and their families. The trademark USO tours bring America and its celebrities to service members, most famously comedian Bob Hope.

Today’s guest is JD Crouch, the CEO of USO. We discuss a brief history of the USO, how the organization was formed, why it was formed, and some interesting historical nuggets from WWII.

We also get into the role of the USO supporting a racially segregated military and role of women in the military and the USO, and how the USO’s programming, services and entertainment have evolved – From serving coffee on the frontlines during WWII to providing WiFi today. Other stories that come up include Robin Williams being caught off guard by troops during revelry or an anecdote about USO staff being made honorary members of the Green Berets in Vietnam.
April 06, 2021
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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