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From the Archives: Bob Hope entertains the troops

From the Archives: Bob Hope entertains the troops
Dec. 15, 1964: Bob Hope and actress Jill St. John perch on a jet engine before flying from Los Angeles International Airport to Southeast Asia. (Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

Over a 50-year span, Bob Hope entertained American troops overseas. Many of his USO tours occurred over Christmas. Los Angeles Times photographers often covered his departures and arrivals.

In the above image, Hope was embarking on his 13th annual two-week Christmas tour of U.S. military bases.

In 2003, Times staff writer Al Martinez reported in Bob Hope's obituary:

...His face was known to millions of Americans spanning three generations, perhaps especially those who served in the military during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The comedian began entertaining servicemen and women at U.S. bases in 1941—starting at California's March Field near Riverside — and in 1948 began annual Christmas shows at American bases overseas.

Hope was never a member of the military. But on Oct. 29, 1997, when he was 94, he became the first American designated by Congress as an "honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces." .…

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.

He once said — either exaggerating for effect or on the level — that he had traveled almost 10 million air miles entertaining American service personnel around the world. He ended his regular Christmas shows in 1972 during the difficult days of 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 was shelled.

"If this is peace," Hope told 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. ...

Martinez’s full article Bob Hope, the master of the one-liner, dies at 100 is online.

This photo gallery includes a couple of Associated Press photos of Bob Hope performances overseas.

This post was originally published on Dec. 23, 2011.

1945: Bob Hope performing for servicemen at the Hollywood Guild and Canteen. This photo is from the
1945: Bob Hope performing for servicemen at the Hollywood Guild and Canteen. Los Angeles Daily News Archive / UCLA
Dec. 31, 1954: Los Angeles Times columnists Hedda Hopper and comedian Bob Hope entertain troops at T
Dec. 31, 1954: Los Angeles Times columnist Hedda Hopper and comedian Bob Hope entertain troops at Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, only 800 miles from the North Pole. U.S. Air Force / Los Angeles Times
Dec. 16, 1957: Bob Hope gives actress Jayne Mansfield a lift as a USO troupe prepares to leave for
Dec. 16, 1957: Bob Hope gives actress Jayne Mansfield a lift as a USO troupe prepares to leave for overseas performances for the military. Johnny Grant, left, Hedda Hopper and Roscoe Ates look on. Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times
Dec. 29, 1959. WELCOME HOME-First to greet comedian Bob Hope on his return from eight-day Christmas
Dec. 29, 1959. First to greet comedian Bob Hope on his return from an eight-day Christmas tour of military bases in Alaska is his dog Recession. Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA
Dec. 14, 1968: Bob Hope and members of his troupe prepare to leave for Vietnam on a flight from LAX.
Dec. 14, 1968: Bob Hope and members of his troupe prepare to leave for Vietnam on a flight from LAX. Frank Q. Brown / Los Angeles Times
Dec. 14, 1968: Bob Hope, right, is joined by members of his troupe for his 18th Christmas trip to en
Dec. 14, 1968: Bob Hope is joined by members of his troupe for his 18th Christmas trip to entertain servicemen overseas. From top to bottom: Santa, retired Air Force Gen. Emmett O'Donnell, singer Linda Bennett, actress Ann-Margret and Miss World Penelope Plummer. Frank Q. Brown / Los Angeles Times
BOB HOPE
December 1969: Bob Hope cracks jokes in front of an audience of thousands of GIs massed in an open-air theater in Cu Chi, 20 miles northeast of Saigon, during a Christmas tour of Vietnam. Associated Press
December 1971: Bob Hope entertains troops at Cu Chi, 20 miles northeast of Saigon.
December 1971: Bob Hope entertains troops at Cu Chi, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. Associated Press
Dec. 27, 1983: Bob Hope gets a hug from an unidentified fan upon his return to Van Nuys Airport afte
Dec. 27, 1983: Bob Hope gets a hug from an unidentified fan upon his return to Van Nuys Airport after a trip entertaining American troops in Lebanon. Rosemary Kaul / Los Angeles Times
Dec. 25, 1983: Bob Hope, center, emerges from a tinsel decorated bunker during a visit to U.S. Marin
Dec. 25, 1983: Bob Hope emerges from a tinsel-decorated bunker during a visit to U.S. Marine camp near Beriut. Hope gave a special one-man show to 1,200 Marines on Christmas morning — arriving unannounced for security reasons. Gary Null / NBC / Associated Press
Dec. 21, 1987: Phyllis Diller hams for the camera during send-off for Bob Hope and other entertainer
Dec. 21, 1987: Phyllis Diller mugs for the camera during the sendoff for Bob Hope and other entertainers at the Air National Guard base at Van Nuys Airport. The troup, not including Diller, was leaving for an eight-day tour of U.S. military bases. Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here

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