Legendary entertainer Bob Hope dedicated much of his 80-year career to entertaining the American troops both at home and abroad on USO tours. Hope was even willing to make dangerous journeys to the frontlines just to make our troops happy, and he ended up creating friendships with them that lasted a lifetime.
The USO and the countless troops entertained by Bob Hope have not forgotten all these years later:
Happy 118th birthday to @BobHope, the legendary comedian who traveled around the globe on USO to make sure our troops never felt forgotten. Hope's legacy lives on at the USO, and we honor his memory every day. ?: @DeptofDefense/ Cpl. Alex Klein | Wonsan, Korea, October 26, 1950 pic.twitter.com/8IcGebFChi
— USO (@the_USO) May 29, 2021
Bob Hope Was Devoted To U.S. Troops
“At the height of [WWII] Bob Hope was receiving 38,000 letters a week,” Martha Bolton, who once wrote jokes for Hope, told Fox News. “And these weren’t ordinary fan letters. These were letters written to their buddy, their pal, their dad, meaning Bob Hope. And it was just this connection that he had with the guys that went far beyond any kind of a celebrity fan connection. It was like family. They were his family… They were his closest family.”
Bolton teamed up with Hope’s daughter Linda to write the book “Dear Bob: Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondence with the G.I.s of World War II,” which was released earlier this year. This book features personal letters, postcards, packages and more that were sent back and forth between Hope and the troops over the course of his lifetime.
“I think he identified as a young man, which he was during those days, with the people [who] committed themselves to serve during World War II,” Linda explained. “And that was a massive, massive effort. I don’t think we’ve seen anything of that sort since then. But everybody wanted to do his or her part… [But] this was a different kind of a relationship… The letters themselves speak to the feelings that he elicits from these soldiers, sailors and marines.”
Bob Hope Toured With USO, Performed For Troops Into Old Age
Hope never stopped performing for the troops, with Bolton saying that his last military show came when he was 87 years-old.
“He could have retired,” said Bolton. “He could have had a very nice retirement cruising down to Rio and enjoying himself. But his joy came from being with the troops and being there for them not only in war but in peacetime. He was their champion when there wasn’t a war and there wasn’t much attention given to the guys. He was still going to champion their causes in any way he could.”
Linda said that her father was incredibly touched in 1997 when Congress passed a measure to make him an honorary veteran of the U.S. military in recognition of his ongoing support.
“That was probably one of the most touching moments of his life and one of the most meaningful to be honored the same way and thought of as a G.I. because he loved those guys,” she said.
‘Mutual Respect’ Between Bob Hope And Troops
Bolton has never forgotten the “mutual respect” that she witnessed between Hope and the troops.
“It was beyond being a supporter of the troops,” she said. “It went beyond an entertainer writing to fans back. [These letters] went to the depths of his soul. There was a connection there from the wounded that he saw at hospitals when he would walk through and visit with each of them and their letters where they would describe what they had seen [to him]… His commitment to them for 50 years, I think that’s where it came from. All those scenes that he saw stayed with him…. That’s what drove him. He had a passion for being there.”
At a time when we as a nation are more divided than ever, Bolton is hoping that Hope’s story can help bring people together.
‘We’re In A Strange Place In Our Country’
“We’re in a strange place in our country and we should be pulling together because we’re all Americans,” she reflected. “We should be pulling together. That’s what you saw in World War II. And that is so much of what he represented. He talked to Republicans and Democrats alike and joked about it and was there for them. He didn’t keep to his side.”
“We were [just] together,” she added. “We’ve got to pull together and we can’t ignore the sacrifices that were paid back then. We’re enjoying the freedoms today because of those sacrifices. We not only need to honor the veterans on Veteran’s Day but this Thanksgiving, as we we’re thankful for everything that we have around us in our lives. Take the time to thank a veteran.”
These days, so many Hollywood entertainers seem more focused on being “woke” than on honoring and respecting the U.S. military.
But few can deliver a zinger quite like Bob Hope (especially a zinger aimed at Democrats and get away with it!)
No doubt, modern day Hollywood could certainly use more celebrities like Bob Hope right now.
Here’s the Bob Hope Christmas Special from his USO Tour of Southeast Asia in 1967 to help get you in the holiday spirit!