Over the course of more than half a century, Bob Hope risked life and limb to conduct USO shows for American troops in combat from WWII to Desert Storm. Hope’s century-long life was so long that his death received surprisingly little notice in 2003. It must be remembered that for nearly 50 years he was one of the most consistently popular and famous entertainers in America. GIs went to incredible lengths during 4 wars to get to his shows, and Hope went to incredible lengths to get his shows to the GIs. Occasionally under fire, Hope and different groups of celebrities would tour US bases and Army camps from the South pacific to Iceland. During the Vietnam war, the Chrysler Corporation would collect and air these shows as Christmas specials with no commercial interruption. These Vietnam Specials were recently released on DVD.
Since Bob is no longer around to do it, certain other stars have carried on the tradition, notably Jeffery Ross and Drew Carrey as shown in the film Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie (2005) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475359/ and Christopher Titus, referenced in his comedy special Christopher Titus: The 5th Annual End of the World Tour (2007) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1237372/ and Kathy Griffin: Everybody Can Suck It (2007) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1047827/
It’s worth noting for the record that one entertainer was on par with Hope – Martha Raye. While Hope put on large shows in somewhat dangerous areas, Raye became famous for putting on shows for front line troops in the thick of firefights. Named an honorary Green Beret, Raye is buried in a place of special honor at Ft. Bragg with the special forces she loved so much.
**NOTES** - These DVDs had no extras or subtitles. Only one of them is listed at IMDB, so I am giving that reference number for torrent recognition. And while we’re at it, the next time you meet a veteran, keep your political opinions to yourself and just say thank you. Whether they’ve seen combat or not, they have worn uncomfortable clothes, shaved their heads, and lived in lousy conditions so that your country had the ability to respond to problems at a moment’s notice. They don’t want your yellow ribbons or stupid parades. They certainly don’t want to hear your opinions. They’ve heard it before. Just give them a little quiet respect and gratitude.
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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 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."
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."
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".
Hope’s unique service to his country on behalf of the troops over fifty years was such that a Navy vessel was named in his honor, the details of which are listed here:
USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR-300), the lead ship of her class of vehicle cargo ships for Army vehicle prepositioning, was the only naval ship of the United States to be named for the entertainer. Very few ships of the United States Navy have been named for a person who was alive at the time of the christening.
The contract to build her was awarded to Avondale Industries on 2 September 1993 and her keel was laid down on 29 May 1995. She was launched on 27 March 1997, and delivered on 18 November 1998.
A non-combatant roll-on/roll-off (RORO) vessel crewed by civilian mariners under the Navy's Military Sealift Command, Bob Hope and other ships of the class are used to preposition tanks, trucks and other wheeled vehicles and supplies needed to support an Army heavy brigade.
Bob Hope has already seen service delivering supplies and equipment to the Balkans and Iraq.
She is mentioned in the Tom Clancy novel Executive Orders, as one of the RO/RO ships dispatched to the Persian Gulf as part of 'Task Force Comedy'.