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WUSA originally signed on the air on January 16, 1949, as WOIC-TV, as a primary CBS affiliate on VHF channel 9, and was originally owned by the Bamberger Broadcasting Service, a subsidiary of R. H. Macy & Company.
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A similar logo was also used by fellow Post-Newsweek stations WPLG, WTIC (now WFSB), and WJXT.
On June 26, 1978, Post-Newsweek Stations exchanged WTOP-TV with the Evening News Association's WWJ-TV (now WDIV-TV) in Detroit. That same day,
WTOP-TV changed its call letters to WDVM-TV, with the new call letters representing the initials of the areas which channel 9 serves: District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland.
On July 4, 1986, WDVM-TV changed its callsign to the current WUSA in honor of the station located in the U.S. capital city, and the acquisition of USA Today from the former broadcaster, Gannett. The WUSA callsign had previously been used by in Minneapolis, which changed its callsign to KARE. The WDVM-TV callsign is now in use on an unrelated station in Hagerstown, Maryland since 2017.
The logo used by WUSA between 1996 and 2002 was initially colored yellow with a black "9"; the color was changed to a red circle with a white "9" in 1998.
WUSA introduced a new look on January 17, 2013, as they also adopted Gannett's new graphics package.