In 1941 six civilian organizations, including the YMCA and the Salvation Army, answered President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s call for private organizations to tend to the recreational needs of off-duty armed forces personnel. The groups jointly founded the USO (United Service Organization). At the height of the USO’s World War II operations, it ran more than 3,000 clubs with more than 700 performances a day. Mary E. “Sherry” Shadburne was a USO performer from New York who posed for this photograph at Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia before being shipped overseas in 1944. The USO continues to aid and entertain United States Armed Forces today.
Shadburne went on to do Broadway shows and, in 1952, married Bob Levitt, the ex-husband of Ethel Merman. According to this Merman biography, however, “their life together was a rocky one.”
To some of Ethel’s friends and colleagues, Sherry seemed rather flashy and cheap. She had a habit of dolling up Little Ethel [Ethel Merman Jr.] in gaudy clothes, including rhinestone shoes, that her mother deemed inappropriate. In 1956, Levitt divorced Sherry …
IMAGE: USO performer Mary E. “Sherry” Shadburne at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, on August 23, 1944 (Library of Virginia)