Today we look at the face of the USO, Bob Hope. Back in 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the USO, he penned this letter.
Well, American soldiers are still in the Middle East, but Bob Hope is no longer with us. However, we shall never forget the years of dedication and contribution that he gave to our men and women of the armed services.
Though his first USO trip was in 1942, his first combat-zone tour was the following year when he visited troops in North Africa. From there, he toured Italy. While in Palermo, the Germans staged an air raid on a target next to his hotel. He realized it was better to bomb on stage than to be bombed from above. General Patton suggested Hope and his group, including Frances Langford and Jerry Colonna, go to Algiers for their own safety.
One of his signature jokes ran, “You remember World War II–it was in all the papers.”
But Hope didn’t quit when WWII was won. In the following decade, he entertained troops in the Korean War.
Just check out this soldier’s response to Hope’s performance in Seoul, Korea in October 1950.
But it wasn’t only able-bodied troops he entertained; Hope and his celebrity pals toured hospitals to encourage those who had been injured. He and Marilyn Maxwell spent time with Marine PFC Howard Wells in the Tokyo General Hospital.
As decades passed, Bob Hope specials were a veritable who’s who of stars. But no matter the rise and fall of his cohorts, Hope was the one constant.
With Jerry Colonna as Santa, Hope made fun of his “road to” movies in Vietnam. By then, Hope was such a well-known actor that his familiar presence was a comfort to those who’d grown up watching him.
I recall watching Bob Hope specials as a child, much like the one below from 1983.
Aging didn’t slow Hope down. During the Christmas of 1990, Hope toured the Persian Gulf with his signature stamina. If you recall, this is a man who lived to see his 100th birthday.
Throughout his 50 years of service, Hope lived up to his name, giving hope to those brave soldiers who fought to keep us free. God bless you, Bob Hope.