Many in the Jewish community have served in our nation’s armed forces. If you have served, you have likely encountered the United Service Organizations Inc. (USO) or have seen a USO show.
Mary Ingraham founded the USO in 1941 after an appeal from President Franklin Roosevelt for a nonprofit organization to provide services and entertainment to American troops and raise their morale. For her outstanding work, Ingraham became the first woman to receive the U.S. Medal for Merit in 1946, the highest presidential award given to civilians for service related to the military.
The USO is still in operation today, with the same mission it had when it was first established — programs and services for American servicemen and women.
During its early years in Detroit, in the midst of WWII, a prominent member of the city’s Jewish community, Henry Meyers, led the fledgling USO. There is an editorial from Meyers in the Oct. 27, 1944, issue of the JN that summarizes the important work of the USO and the need to continue its mission. Seventy-six years later, his words still ring true.
Along with the efforts of our men and women in the armed forces, the work of Henry Meyers and many other volunteers like him should also be remembered.
By Mike Smith, DJN Archivist
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.