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United Service Organizations-related records

Identifier: Y.USA.4-2


Materials in this collection include club histories and photographs of both Army/Navy and industrial USOs, administrative files, information on associated organizations, miscellaneous records of individual USO clubs, and print materials. Records of Army/Navy and industrial clubs for African Americans, which were run as separate facilities, are also included. At the time, these USOs were known as "negro" clubs.

The club histories comprise the bulk of collection; an official history was created for each USO club at its closing, which includes board minutes, newspaper clippings and other information about the organization. This material is organized alphabetically by location of the club. Additional records of individual clubs can be found in the local club files within the general files series. Since many of these USOs were operated in Army/Navy YMCA facilities, overlap exists with material in the separately cataloged Armed Services Department records (see the "city files" series). Newsletters and other publications of individual USO clubs can be found in the print materials series.

Administrative records in the collection include reports, memoranda, correspondence, and topical files, as well as publications and other material from the five other organizations that comprised the USO, particularly the National Jewish Welfare Board, the National Catholic Community Service and the Salvation Army.


  • 1932-1980
  • Majority of material found within ( 1941-1950).


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The United Service Organizations (USO) was formed in the months before the United States entered World War II by a coalition of six civilian agencies to coordinate their civilian war efforts: the Salvation Army, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the Knights of Columbus, National Travelers Aid Association, National Jewish Welfare Board, and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The YMCA and other welfare agencies had already been seeking ways to serve the morale needs of the increasing number of young men entering military training. With the September 1940 enactment of the Selective Service and Training Act, the military buildup accelerated, but the federal government had no plan for the provision of recreation facilities and activities in training camp communities. After a series of conference between representatives of the six welfare organization and several government agencies, a plan of cooperation was worked out with the endorsement of the President, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Federal Security Administrator. In January, 1941, the USO was incorporated to provide religious, recreational, welfare, and educational activities for men and women in the armed forces and in the defense industries. By the time of the United States' entry into the war in December, the USO had opened 139 clubs and 35 other units located in 98 towns and cities throughout the country.

The YMCA's contributions to the establishment of the USO and to its performance as a war-service organization were of major importance. With its experience in previous wars, the YMCA brought crucial resources to the new organization's start-up efforts, including a history of good relations with the officers and enlisted men of the Army and Navy, long experience mobilizing volunteers, buildings, and endowment funding. At the time the USO was incorporated, the YMCA already had 69 Army and Navy branches and other operations in place, staffed by 135 professional workers. Many of these operations could be immediately turned over to the joint enterprise as "ready-made" USO clubs. At the peak period in 1944, the YMCA Army and Navy Department had under its administration 464 USO operations (not including the sixty USO industrial units which were under the direction of the YMCA's Industrial Department). During the period from 1942 to 1947, nearly 460,000,000 visits were made to the YMCA-operated USO clubs and Army and Navy branches.

Offerings were varied and included religious programs, forums, lectures, athletics, parties, dances, dramatics, movies, sightseeing, and special events. Also available were personal services such as counseling, and help with matters such as housing, travel, community resources, locating persons, etc. Facilities and equipment provided included showers, swimming, shaving, sports, art, handicraft, photography, games, music, records, dormitories, gymnasiums, and more. In keeping with its historic concern for the religious needs of individuals, the YMCA offered chapel services, fostered relations with local churches and clergy, and developed a program to distribute religious, patriotic, and educational literature prepared especially for the men in the armed forces. The organization also designed a program of counseling seminars to assist ministers, chaplains and USO staff in dealing helpfully with the needs of servicemen.

In recognition of the significant work of the YMCA during the war years, the War and Navy Departments presented it in 1946 with a citation praising its patriotic service and calling its contribution "of substantial aid in the successful prosecution of the war and in preserving the basic values of American democracy."

Historical information was primarily excerpted from Serving the U.S. Armed Forces, 1861-1986: The Story of the YMCA's Ministry to Military Personnel for 125 Years,by Richard C. Lancaster.


75.4 Cubic Feet (130 boxes)


Administrative files, club histories, and other records documenting the YMCA's involvement with the USO during and after World War II.


These documents are organized into the following sections:

  1. Club Histories.
  2. Administrative Files.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


See the summary inventory for the YMCA Armed Services Records for information on other Armed Services records in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives. >> Go to the summary inventory


An extensive series of World War II-era photographs can be found in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives photo collection.

Additional World War II-era photographs as well as scrapbooks can be found in the separately cataloged in the Armed Services Scrapbooks and Photo Albums.

Additional copies of some newspapers and periodicals, as well as additional, related titles are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives serials collection.

United Service Organizations records of the YWCA National Board are available in the Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Note on Language in the Collection and this Guide

Please note that some of the descriptive language found in this collection guide reflects and re-uses the words and ideas of the people and organizations that created the material. Historical records represent the opinions and actions of their creators and the society in which they were produced. This historical language was retained in cases where we believe it provides important context about the materials, is a Library of Congress Subject Heading, or is the official title of an item, organization, or event. As such, please be aware that this material and the guide describing it contains racial and other language and/or imagery that is outdated, offensive and/or harmful.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Chan Harries, December 2003.

Catalog Record ID number: 4342362

An Inventory of Its USO-related Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman~Shedlov and Chan Harries.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area