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Arts & Culture

USO - For The Troops

The stars and crew of the Spring 2016 USO tour pose upon returning to the USA after their 8-day, 7-country tour.
Courtesy of Partisan Pictures
The stars and crew of the Spring 2016 USO tour pose upon returning to the USA after their 8-day, 7-country tour.

Airs Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

The film features interviews with celebrity USO participants from Ann-Margret to Jon Stewart, veterans, historians and American leaders including Colin Powell and George W. Bush

“USO - For The Troops,” an independent documentary film that chronicles the iconic American institution created 75 years ago to bring pieces of home to active duty troops around the world, will air Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 on PBS. The film is narrated by Oscar nominee David Strathairn.

The film examines the history of the USO, which was formed in 1941 by President Roosevelt, who consolidated the functions of six separate groups into the United Service Organizations (USO). The story of the USO and how it has kept military service personnel connected to family, home and country for more than seven decades is told against the backdrop of a recent USO tour that spanned seven countries in eight days.

Soldiers hover outside the Camp Arifjan, Kuwait USO prior to showtime.
Courtesy of Partisan Pictures
Soldiers hover outside the Camp Arifjan, Kuwait USO prior to showtime.

“USO - For The Troops” offers unprecedented access to the background operations that make it possible for celebrities to travel across the world to meet and perform for active duty troops. Interviews with celebrities who have been on USO tours, including Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, Connie Stevens, country singer Craig Morgan, NFL player Charles Tillman, Miss America Betty Cantrell and others, are interspersed with moving first-person accounts.

Miss America takes a selfie with a soldier in Kuwait.
Courtesy of Partisan Pictures
Miss America takes a selfie with a soldier in Kuwait.

The film also includes interviews from current and former veterans, historians who discuss the USO’s mission and the often-complicated cultural context within which they work, and comments from USO leaders as well as American leaders like former President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

President Obama and Vice President Biden address the crowd at an event celebrating 75 years of the USO.
Courtesy of Partisan Pictures
President Obama and Vice President Biden address the crowd at an event celebrating 75 years of the USO.

From Joint Base Elmendorf in Alaska to the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center in Iraq, from performances on stage to overnight flights in the belly of a C-130 transport plane, the film showcases the fast pace, excitement, and complex logistics of a modern USO tour. Archival footage of classic celebrity performances from WWII to the current day is interspersed throughout the documentary, providing viewers with new insights into intersections among American culture, warfare and the USO.

Anthony Pettis and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone address the crowd at Joint Base Elmendorf, Alaska.
Courtesy of Partisan Pictures
Anthony Pettis and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone address the crowd at Joint Base Elmendorf, Alaska.

“We’re proud to present ‘USO - For The Troops’ to provide viewers with a closer look at the organization credited with entertaining our brave servicemen and women for 75 years,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President of Programming and Development at PBS. “From World War II and the golden age of entertainers like Bob Hope and Marilyn Monroe, to today’s performers continuing to honor its mission, viewers will explore USO’s long history of providing a respite to those serving their country far from home.”

“In an age in which most Americans have little idea what it actually means to serve in the armed forces, our country is at risk of losing its understanding of the intensity and horrors of being at war,” says Director Peter Schnall. “By showcasing the realities of war side by side with the morale-building activities of the USO and its volunteers, we aim to bring a comprehensive view of the enduring impact of the past 75 years of the USO.”

Soldiers stand at attention at a welcome-home ceremony for the Delaware National Guard.
Courtesy of Partisan Pictures
Soldiers stand at attention at a welcome-home ceremony for the Delaware National Guard.

CONNECT:

The USO is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @the_USO on Twitter.

CREDITS:

Produced by Partisan Pictures. Director: Peter Schnall. Producers: Margaret McEvoy, Teresa Giordano and Peter Schnall. Editor: Lucas Groth. Writer: Teresa Giordano. Associate Producer: Brian Becker. Coordinating Producer: Siri Helleloid.