• Description

In every twentieth century war the U.S. military relied on organizations such as the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and United Service Organizations (USO) to send women entertainers and recreation workers to warzones. As the centerpiece of organized recreation programs for soldiers, the women opened canteens where soldiers could find a friendly face, coffee, and donuts, they performed on stage, they played games and engaged in conversation, and when possible they brought a momentary reprieve from the war to the battlefield. Designed to impart a sense of domesticity to the military environment, recreation programs variously sought to combat prostitution, remind soldiers of their mothers or sweethearts, and symbolize a supportive American home-front to which the soldiers would return. This project examines the history of these programs, beginning with their advent in World War I, continuing through World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and ending with an examination of recreation in today's wars in the Middle East.