Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




Public History

First Advisor

Marjorie J Spruill


As the United States mobilized for war in 1941, cities and towns across America, especially those closest to military bases, were faced with an unprecedented influx of soldiers, airmen, and sailors. To cope with these waves of servicemen in their off-duty hours, particularly to provide for wholesome entertainment and lessen the emotional weight of wartime, Columbia, South Carolina solicited participation in morale-building programs from its residents. Community leaders recognized their responsibility for funding programs and providing buildings to meet the soldiers' recreational needs, but they relied on women's organizations and female students to build morale through meaningful social interactions with GIs. They were guided by government literature and worked closely with the nationwide United Services Organization (USO), but women actively shaped morale-building programs to reflect what they believed soldiers should experience in this southern city. For the duration, they established a temporary community focused on the needs of their visitors: a soldier town. This transformation had a great impact on the city. Columbia's response to the war was representative of many other cities near military bases across the nation. Columbia's story illustrates the crucial role of women and the USO club as bridges between the military and a civilian host community as the "Greatest Generation" of Columbia's women stepped up to fulfill their patriotic duty.

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