Hope Springs Eternal: Legendary Entertainer Continues His Patriotic Support of U.S. Service Members
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2002 American entertainment icon Bob Hope may be getting along in years - he's 99 now - but he continues his patriotic support of U.S. troops assigned stateside and deployed around the world.
Hope, born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, England, on May 29, 1903 (his family emigrated to America in 1907), became a star on vaudeville, Broadway, radio, movies and television - and a hero to U.S. servicemen and women.
He became famous for flourishing a golf club during his comedy act. But Hope also became well-known as a patriot who'd over the last six decades risked his life to visit with and entertain more than 12 million U.S. service men and women during 700 trips stateside and overseas in peace and war.
This year, "Give Thanks America," a national initiative co-sponsored by DoD, Hewlett-Packard, and Sorenson Media, salutes Hope, showing historical video clips from his trips on its website at http://givethnksusa-ecdc-250-239.digisle.net/hope/ [link no longer available].
Hope's trips to see troops began in May 1941, when the comedian and movie star - soon to be known as "America's No. 1 Soldier in Greasepaint" - traveled with other entertainers to March Field in California and performed a morale boosting radio show for airmen.
After America entered World War II on Dec. 7, 1941, following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hope began visiting service members at military posts across the nation, and in theaters of war in Europe and the Pacific.
He made his first trip to entertain troops in a combat area in 1943, visiting troops stationed in England, Africa, Sicily and Ireland.
After the Allies' victory over the Axis powers in 1945, Hope continued entertaining service members throughout the Cold War. He made numerous visits to overseas U.S. troops during the Vietnam War.
In 1983, Hope visited Marines stationed in Beirut, Lebanon. He also went overseas to see service members in 1987 and 1990.
At Christmas in 1990, the comedian and his wife, Delores, cheered U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield, right before the launch of Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi military occupation.
In the mid-1990s, Hope returned to England to participate in commemoration ceremonies marking the end of World War II.
Hope, honored five times by the U.S. Congress, has been recognized for his patriotic efforts, too. The USNS Bob Hope, a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship, was christened in May 1997. The comedian also had an Air Force C-17 transport plane named after him.
In October 1997, Bob Hope was made an Honorary Veteran by both houses of Congress - the first time an individual has been so honored in U.S. history.