Actress Carroll Baker snaps her fingers at cheering sailors on the USS Ticonderoga’s bridge as Bob Hope leads her to the stage set up on the flight deck. (AP )
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Bob Hope brought stars, jokes and smiles to troops in Vietnam with his USO Christmas show

Leslie Townes Hope was born in London on May 27, 1903. His parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1908, and there at age 12 he took up busking—singing, dancing and doing comedy routines for whatever passersby chose to pay him. After gaining experience in vaudeville, Hope was determined to make show business his career.

He created a mildly irreverent (including toward himself) persona and adopted the name “Bob” in 1929. Bob Hope became a star on stage, radio, film and television. During World War II he began entertaining at stateside training bases, then took his show overseas. His winning formula combined comedy monologues, specialty acts, celebrity guests, dancers, singers, skits…and women—to remind the troops, as he often put it, “of what they were fighting for.” By war’s end he and his troupe had appeared everywhere from Alaska to Berlin.

Hope did his first Christmas special in Germany during the 1948 Berlin Crisis and performed in Korea from 1950 to 1953, Vietnam from 1964 through 1972 and at numerous other military installations until 1990.

In 1997 Hope became the only civilian formally declared an honorary veteran for his hzalf century of service in the cause of U.S. armed forces morale. He died on July 27, 2003, at age 100. V

This article appeared in the December 2020 issue of Vietnam magazine. For more stories from Vietnam magazine, subscribe here and visit us on Facebook: