Bryan Cranston to Meghan Markle - how USO show brings stars to our region

Bryan Cranston visits American service men at RAF Lakenheath

Bryan Cranston during a visit to RAF Lakenheath as part of a United Services Organisation tour - Credit: RAF Lakenheath/US Air Force

For 80 years, the United Service Organisation (USO) has been lifting the spirits of American troops stationed around the world.

Tours featuring popular musicians, sports stars, actors and comedians of the day have helped to bring a taste of home to the US armed forces.

As of November 4, RAF Lakenheath, near Thetford, is to become the home of the first USO centre in the UK.

An F-15 takes off at RAF Lakenheath. Picture: Ian Burt

An F-15 takes off at RAF Lakenheath. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

RAF Lakenheath and nearby RAF Mildenhall is already like a mini-America on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. 

The American community established after World War Two at RAF Lakenheath and nearby at RAF Mildenhall has seen tens of thousands of Americans set up home over the years, during posts that last between two to four years.

Big American cars such as Chevrolets and Chryslers are a common sight and a number of local businesses rely on the American dollar for their income. 

The opening of the USO centre will only strengthen these connections, and the centre will become an important focal point for American servicemen in the UK.

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But which stars have already made the trip across the pond?

RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall have already seen its fair share of celebrity visitors over the years.

In 2010, the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong visited RAF Mildenhall, as part of the Legends of Aerospace tour. 

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, visited RAF Mildenhall in 2014

The Duchess of Sussex visited RAF Mildenhall in December 2014 - Credit: RAF Lakenheath/US Air force

In 2014, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex visited RAF Mildenhall for the USO holiday tour, which also visited Spain, Italy, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Bryan Cranston meeting service personnel at RAF Lakenheath in 2017

Hollywood actor Bryan Cranston poses for a photo with Airmen assigned to the 48th Security Forces Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in 2017 - Credit: RAF Lakenheath/US Air Force

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston visited RAF Lakenheath in July 2017, during which he met the 48th Security Services Squadron and military working dogs.

Kellie Pickler and Kid Rock performed at RAF Lakenheath in 2009

Country artists Kellie Pickler and Kid Rock performed to troops stationed at RAF Lakenheath in 2009 - Credit: RAF Lakenheath/US Air Force

A number of country music stars have also visited RAF Lakenheath, including Kid Rock, Neal McCoy and Kellie Pickler, with the latter two being regular features on USO tours. 

In 1970, Bob Hope stopped at RAF Lakenheath, joined on stage by then-Miss World, Jennifer Hosten.

Other celebrities who have been on USO tours previously include Hollywood A-listers Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper, comedian Adam Devine and TV host Jon Stewart.

They did not stop off at RAF Lakenheath or Mildenhall, but with the new USO centre established, it may only be a matter of time before more high-profile celebrities such as these arrive in the region.  

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