His shows for the troops — with an entourage of other comics, singers, dancers and pretty girls — lasted for half a century, often not far from the fighting, earning Hope praise for his patriotic efforts and criticism for his hawkish stance during the Vietnam War.
The hiatus lasted 11 years. In 1983, at 80, Hope once more hit the road, this time traveling to Lebanon, where a peacekeeping force of U.S. Marines and ships of the 6th Fleet had gathered to attempt, without success, to stem the internal bloodshed in Beirut.
The comedian entertained first aboard the naval ships off the coast and then, to everyone's surprise, went ashore to give the Marines his special brand of humor. He got out a scant 30 minutes before the compound at which he appeared came under shell fire.
"If this is peace," Hope asked the cheering troops, "aren't you glad you're not in a war? I was told not to fraternize with the enemy, and I won't ... as soon as I figure out who it is."
In 1990, the octogenarian Hope was in the Middle East cheering troops in Operation Desert Shield and then Operation Desert Storm, the first U.S.-led campaigns against Saddam Hussein.
Queen Elizabeth II recognized the native Briton's entertainment of British troops during World War II by granting him a knighthood. His official title was Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
"Seventy years of ad lib material and I am speechless," Hope said from his Palm Springs home when the knighthood was announced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair during an official visit to Washington in February 1998. The knighthood was officially presented at the British Embassy in Washington on May 17, 1998, shortly before Hope's 95th birthday.
Periodic charges, especially during the turbulent 1960s, that he was a "war lover" stung Hope, and he once fired back in uncharacteristic public anger: "How can anyone who has seen war, who has seen our young men die, who has seen them in hospitals, possibly love war? War stinks!"
Even after the wars ended, Hope continued visiting veterans hospitals, as if to underscore his concern for those who served in the American military.
He also continued a hectic pace of personal appearances across the United States, often booked a year in advance at colleges, universities, conventions and charity shows.
Donated and Raised Millions of Dollars
His own contributions to charities, either donated through the Dolores and Bob Hope Foundation or raised through free performances, amounted to millions of dollars. He donated 80 acres for the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, and raised money over the years for its expansion and operation.
Dolores Hope, whom he married in 1934, managed their donations, and even she declined to estimate how many millions her husband had given or raised for charity. But she did say most of it involved young people—in hospitals or colleges and universities.
The multimillionaire (Hope's fortune has been estimated at as much as $500 million) had oil wells in Texas, was once part-owner of the Cleveland Indians baseball team and had a variety of other business ventures under Bob Hope Enterprises. But most of his money was in property.
He was thought to have owned about 8,500 acres in California, most of it in the San Fernando Valley, bought when it was fruit orchards and vacant lots.
By his own estimate, he was one of the largest individual property owners, if not the largest, in the Golden State.
He was able to reach that status, he said, when he and crony Bing Crosby — neither of whom knew anything about oil wells — invested in one in 1949 that produced oil.
"It was a fluke," he said once, "but a good one. I took the money and bought land."