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U.S.O Camp Shows
Overview




In 1941, as it became clear America was heading into World War II, several organizations mobilized to support the growing U.S. military: the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt conceived an organization—the United Service Organizations (USO)—for the singular, but enduring purpose of reaching out directly from the American people to those in military uniforms who serve them, with the objective of offering the emotional support the troops needed. Throughout the war (as well as during Korea, Vietnam, and since) USO was the channel for community participation in the war effort.

Non-governmental, civilian and voluntary in make-up, the organization serves as a link of compassion and reassurance from the ordinary citizen, that America cares, remembers, and supports the service and sacrifice of those who defend her. In over 3,000 communities, USO centers were established to become the G.I.'s "Home Away From Home" ("Home Away from Home: The Story of the USO", Julia Carson). USO facilities were quickly opened in such unlikely places as churches, log cabins, museums, castles, barns, beach and yacht clubs, railroad sleeping cars, old mansions and storefronts. USO's could be many things to many people: a lively place to dance and meet people; a place to see movies or find religious counsel; a quiet place to talk or write letters; or, of course, the place to go for free coffee and doughnuts.

The idea of taking the show on the road to the Army camps originated may have originated with Broadway producer Ed Sullivan who, in late1939, gathered groups of performers and transported them up and down the East Coast on weekends to entertain the troops in Selective Service camps. In November of 1941, six months after the founding of the USO, Camp Shows, Inc. was founded as a way to standardize and match entertainment needs with the needs of Army Camp Commanders.

The Camp Shows were organized into four types of "tours". The Victory Tour was the big show: famous celebrities or complete Broadway musicals with as many as 50 performers each on stateside tours to the largest bases. The Blue Tour was a Vaudeville circuit. A headline comedian would bring three or four other acts with him on a stateside tour of smaller venues. Later, in 1944, Camp Shows inaugurated the Hospital Tour. This brought celebrities, singers, and dancers right into the hospital wards both stateside and overseas.

The first overseas celebrity tour, beginning in May 1942, was not a Camp Shows production, but four Hollywood women, Kay Francis, Martha Raye, Mitzi Mayfair and Carole Landis toured England on behalf of the American Theatre Wing, a charity run by stage women. Their experiences were chronicled, in typical Hollywood style, in the movie ”Four Jills in A Jeep.” Just weeks later, CSI established its Foxhole Tour, the tour most known to the majority of Americans, then or now. This is partly due above named movie but more probably due to the many radio and later television specials presenting the live performances, most especially the Bob Hope shows from WWII through 1989. The Fox Hole tours not only brought a little bit of home to the servicemen, they often placed the entertainers in similar danger, from tropical diseases, to the occasional bombing or shelling of the performance, to the hazards of airplane travel in the early 1940s. Twenty-eight players lost their lives while on USO Camp Show tour, primarily in transport plane crashes.

We know of at least eighteen Camp Shows Inc. troupes that traveled to the CBI theater, from November 1943 through May 1945. However, not all of these performed for men in all three areas; India, China and Burma, once it was re-occupied by Allied forces.

Mouse over CSI # and click for more information, many with pictures.

CSI #99
Jack Cavanaugh
Gene Emerald
Basil Fomeen
Joe Tershay
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CSI #132
Joe. Brown
Harry Barris
Don Barclay
Mike Frankovich
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CSI #210
Paulette Goddard
William Gargan
Keenan Wynn
Andy Arcari
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CSI #269
Penny Bancroft
Rose Marie Volin
Georgia Lloyd
Ann MacQuarrie
Patricia Flynn
Gigi Gilpin
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CSI #279
Ann Sheridan
Ben Blue
Mary Landa
Ruth Denas
Jackie Miles
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CSI #289
Benny Meroff
Kathleen McLaughlin
Jack Gwynne
Ann Gwynne
Charles Mariano
Joe Jackson, Jr.
Jerry Brandow
Jane Brandow
Edna Kenyon
Betty Huntington
Lee Silvern
CSI #302
Don Barclay
Joel McCrea
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CSI #322
Arabella
King Colin
Melba Vick
Marie McMahon
Malcolm Magnante
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CSI #342
Alberta Hunter
Mae Gaddy
Taps Miller
Ollie Crawford
Leonard Caston
Alfred Elkins
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CSI #374
Pat O'brien
Jinx Falkenberg
Betty Yeaton
Ruth Carrell
Jimmy Dodd
Harry Brown
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CSI #386
Sammy Cohen
Phyllis Cohen
John Kemmy
Eva Kemmy
Eileen Ritter
Oliver Scott
Madeline Jynx
Marilynne Jynx
CSI #unknown
Lily Pons
Andre Kostelanetz
Frank Versacci
Theodore Paztion
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CSI #412
Arnold Furst
Buz Casanova
Lou Lawrence
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CSI #418
Dixie Walker
Luke Sewell
Paul Waner
Arthur Patterson
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CSI #420
Rudolph Gruen
Frank Murray
Emma Ricci
Rachel Van Cleve
Isabella Wilson
CSI #422
Albert Lake .
sketch artist
no further information
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CSI #423
Tommy Decker
Betty Lynn
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CSI #497
Stan Kavanaugh
Eddie Mills
Don Palmer
John Fogarty
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Thanks to several people we can share some images of what our veterans occasionally enjoyed, when Foxhole Tour Camp Shows made it to The Last Resort.&



USO Camp Show 132 -- Joe E. Brown, world famous cave-mouthed comedian. Harry Barris, jazz pianist-singer, and one time member of the Whiteman "Rhythm Boys" along with Bing Crosby, performed several acts. Air Transport Command pilot Captain Mitchell J. "Mike" Frankovich, adopted son of Joe E. Brown, had been a UCLA quarterback who set record for 100+ yard pass and run, then a minor league catcher for the San Francisco Missions before making his living cooing sports chatter into a microphone, then as a movie actor and producer.

Prior to his show at Yangkai, China, Joe E. Brown poses with A.R.C. workers Phyliss Dolloff and Eileen Denny.


Harry Barris playing piano during show at Dinjan, India.

We don't have photo of Harry Barris at Yangkai, but here he plays piano during a show at Dinjan, India.



Likewise, no photo of Mike Frankovitch.  However, this one from stateside shows him with his lovely bride, actress Binnie Barnes


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USO Camp Show 302 -- When he first arrived at CBI Theater Headquarters in Delhi, India, Barclay wanted to meet the Theater Commander, Lieutenant General Joseph Stillwell.  However, the general was in China, so Don used an available photograph to sketch a caricature of the man the troops called, "Uncle Joe."
          Performing a rugged solo as only person USO Camp Shows #?? & #302, 52-year old Don Barclay, actor, painter and outstanding caricature artist, first toured CBI in Oct-Nov 43 following a tour of bases in North Africa.  Originally, Joel McCrea was to be his team mate, but the Hollywood glamour guy only got as far as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in North Africa and turned back, explaining, "I'm sure they wouldn't enjoy my act."  So, Don Barclay continued his tour of bases in Arabia, then, for more than sixty days Don traveled from base to base across India.  Then he was flown over the Hump and visited every location in China where American military members were stationed.


Before leaving the CBI, Don Barclay vowed he would return and did so in March 1945.  At that time he believed he had drawn, and presented to them, the caricatures of more than 10,000 Amercian servicemen, some in every major combat theater.  Here he caricaturizes patients at the Army Hospital at Kungming, on 7 Apr 45.

Leaving CBI for the second time, Barclay went to the newly established bases in the Philippines, then to the Marshall Islands and Okinawa.  Post-war, in addtion to continuing his art, Don Barclay five more movie roles to the three pre-war films.  His last role was as Mr. Binnacle in Mary Poppins (1964).


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USO Camp Show 322 -- Arabella, King Colin, Melba Vick singer and pianist, Marie McMahon and Malcolm Magnante.  We know they toured India bases but have not encountered anecdotes, newsclips nor photos indicating this group toured American bases in China.  If you have such information, please contact us!

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USO Camp Show 342 -- "Rythmn & Blues"  This all-Black group played ten days of shows for troops at Karachi before traveling eastward and touring bases in Calcutta area for about ten days.  They then began a 22-day tour of the Assam-Burma area along the Ledo Road on 16 Nov 44.  The revue featured the dancing of famous Taps Miller and his hot display on the trumpet, the torrid manner and liquid singing of Mae Gaddy, from New York, and the husky, forceful songs of the troupe's manager, Alberta Hunter; one of the great jazz and blues singers.  The Three Rythmn Rascals specialized in boogie-woogie; Allie Cranford, guitarist, Leonard Caster, pianist, and Alfred Elkins, hot bass player, gave out with the type of jive which the hep-hounds in the audience ate up joyfully.  The audience also hummed along to popular songs like--Straighten Up and Fly Right, G.I. Jive and Deep in the Heart of Texas.  We have not encountered anecdotes, newsclips nor photos indicating this group toured American bases in China. If you have such information, please contact us!

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USO Camp Show 386, led by actor-comediene Sammy Cohen, known for movie Fighting 42nd.  We have not encountered anecdotes, newsclips nor photos indicating this group toured American bases in China. If you have such information, please contact us!

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USO Camp Show 412 --  Arnold Furst, Buz Casanova and Lou Lawrence


Arnold Furst began his professional magic act in 1939.  As a magician he toured during WWII with the USO presenting his routine with Oscar the white rabbit.  After the war he worked in vaudeville and had a nightclub act combining magic and hypnotism.  For decades he performed shows especially for children.  Post-war, Furst was best known to magicians as the inventor of the classic Fresh Fish paper tear where a strip of paper with the words "Fresh Fish Sold Here Today" is torn into pieces using a comical presentation and then restored.


Unfortunately, we have been unable to find photos of the troupe performing nor any information about Buz Casanova or Lou Lawrence.

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USO Camp Show 418 --   Three major league baseball players, Dixie Walker, Paul Waner, Luke Sewell, and writer Arthur Patterson. CBI Roundup, 14 Dec 44; appreciated by sports buffs and non-buffs alike.  We have no photos of this group.

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USO Camp Show 420 --   Isle of Song Company;

Extracted from IBT Roundup 2 Feb 45: "The show opens with piano selections by Rudolph Gruen, distinguished American concert pianist and composer.  Rachel Van Cleve looks like Hollywood's conception of a leading soprano and sings like the Met's ideal diva.  Frank Murray, tenor, who shepherds USO Camp Show 420 and emcees, has a voice which rang over the hills like a great bugle.  Isabella Wilson, a Canadian who has scored her biggest successes in the States, is a striking contralto whose version of Begin the Beguine was wonderful to see and hear.  Emma Ricci, 'Emmy' to the G.I.'s and the baby of the show at 20, the sister of prodigy Ruggierio Ricci performed musical magic with her violin."  We have no photos of this group.

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USO Camp Show 423 -- Smoke Rings

Two young kids; Guitarist-vocalist Tommy Decker and singer Betty Lynn, aged 20 and 18, respectively.
From CBI Roundup, 18 Jan 45; "Kansas City is famous for steaks - and also, in our opinion, Betty Lynn, attractive read-headed songstress, who specializes in popular ballads and the 'blues.'  Betty is one-half the USO Camp Show 423 (Smoke Rings) now touring our neck of the war.'  The other half is Tommy Decker, guitarist-vocalist.'  The duo also has a collection of ancient pipes."  We have no good photos of this duo, however, Betty Lynn was interviewed about her career and being Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show. (USO portion begins at 1:32)

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USO Camp Show 497 -- "Fun Time"

Headed by Stan Kavanaugh, emcee and former Ziegfield comedy juggler, this group included Eddie Mills, comedian, Don Palmer, accordionist and John Fogarty, former NBC singer.  USO Troop 497 was the only one which toured the entire length of the Burma Road. They then toured forward the forward area bases.  We have no photos of this group.

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Many of these photos were not annotated, so we did the best we could.
If you can provide more accurate information PLEASE email us!
Click on any image to view a larger version!



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