Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bob Hope, Christmas and the Troops

For over 60 years Bob Hope would spend most of his Christmas with American soldiers sailors Marines and airmen guarding the frontiers of freedom. Out of patriotism and wanderlust for the days of vaudeville he would lead USO tours that took him away from his home for the Holidays. From Wikipedia:

Hope performed his first United Service Organizations (USO) show on May 6, 1941, at March Field, California. He continued to travel and entertain troops for the rest of World War II and later during the Korean War,the Cold War the Vietnam War and the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War. When overseas he almost always performed in Army fatigues as a show of support for his audience. Hope's USO career lasted half a century, during which he headlined approximately 60 tours. For his service to his country through the USO, he was awarded the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1968.

Of Hope's USO shows in World War II, writer John Steinbeck, who was then working as a war correspondent, wrote in 1943:

"When the time for recognition of service to the nation in wartime comes to be considered, Bob Hope should be high on the list. This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people."[6]
A 1997 act of Congress signed by President Clinton named Hope an "Honorary Veteran." He remarked, "I've been given many awards in my lifetime — but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most — is the greatest honor I have ever received."[cite this quote]

Hope appeared in so many theaters of war over the decades that it was often cracked (in Bob Hope style) that "Where there's death, there's Hope".

Bob Hope would take with him on these Christmas Shows a bevy of beautiful women, sports stars and celebrities to entertain the troops. He would close each show with the the troops and the the USO cast singing "Silent Night."

I didn't see Bob Hope when I was in the Army but while a student at the University of Oregon in the late 1960's he came to campus for a show at Mac Court to raise funds for the Air force ROTC on campus. I still remember one of his jokes. A good looking woman comes up to him on stage and he says: "I like that perfume what is it" She Said: "Midnight in Paris" He then holds out his lapel for her to smell and she says: "What is that" He says: "Noon in Albany" ( For non Oregonians Albany is a town on the main freeway that runs through the Willamette Valley and it has a pulp mill the smells very bad)

Bob Hope died in 2003.

Thanks for the Memories!