As tens of thousands of servicemen filled Oregon military bases during World War II, prostitution boomed in nearby towns. Officials warned of the dangers of venereal disease, which they said could be spread to the general population by “khaki-wackey girls” who were intimate with infected soldiers.
A 1942 report identified more than a dozen Oregon towns with brothels, including more than two dozen in Portland and a dozen in Pendleton. In Southern Oregon, Klamath Falls had seven known brothels, among them the Iron Door, Irene’s and the Blond Marie. There were at least four brothels in Medford, three in Coos Bay and Lakeview, two in Coquille and one in Grants Pass. These conservative estimates undoubtedly grew as soldiers filled the training camps and bases.
Offering alternative entertainment, the USO encouraged Medford families in 1942 to “adopt” and treat 500 Camp White servicemen to “a real honest-to-goodness home cooked (Thanksgiving) meal.”
USO dances and socials drew female dance partners from as far away as Yreka, Calif. Celebrities entertained soldiers at the Medford USO, among them boxing champions Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson and actors Ann Sothern and Ginger Rogers.
"Oregon Vice: Prostitution and Venereal Disease Vex Officials." Life on the Home Front. Oregon Responds to World War II . An Oregon State Archives Exhibit, 2008. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.