Rare, Candid Photos of Bob Hope’s USO Shows
Bob Hope was known for his dedication to American troops, and these rare photos attest to his lasting impact. More: Read Hope’s original reminisces about performing during wartime, from a 1971 Reader’s Digest.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Bob Hope
Click through for an exclusive excerpt from this collectible keepsake, available here.
Born to Entertain
An identification card from the U.S.O. Camp Shows, Inc. reveals Hope’s full name: Lester Townes Hope. “I get a lot more than I give,” Hope wrote modestly in a 1971 article in Reader’s Digest.
Bob and the Bombshells
Hope and Frances Langford help load an artillery shell as part of a USO show, 1944. Langford replaced Judy Garland on Hope’s radio show in 1941 and went on tour with the comedian soon after. “Frances Langford came out and began singing, ‘I’m in the Mood for Love,’” Hope recalled. “Some sailor yelled, ‘You’ve come to the right place, honey,’ getting the biggest laugh I ever heard in a jungle.”
One of Bob’s Gals
One thing Bob Hope never forgot to bring along on his trips abroad were Hollywood starlets to boost GI morale. Here, Jayne Mansfield performed with Hope, backed by Les Brown and His Band of Renown. “If there’s anything that gives our GIs a lift, it’s the sight of a pretty girl, so I always take plenty along,” Hope recalled.
“Their morale is unbelievable”
An identification card issued to Hope in 1945 from Washington. “People ask if I don’t mind leaving my family at Christmas to fly halfway around the world to be with the troops,” Hope wrote, “[but] the satisfaction that comes from bringing a few hours of laughter and home to these men living such hard, dangerous lives is difficult to express. I don’t care how often you’ve seen the war on TV or read about it, you have no idea what it’s really like until you’ve felt the heat, tasted the dust, sloshed through the mud, and talked to the men, especially the wounded. Yet their morale is unbelievable; it gives you a lift just to be with them.”
Back on Tour
A scant five years after Hope’s last WWII performance, he was back in Asia entertaining American GIs. Here Hope sits with men of the U.S. Army’s X Corps as members of his troupe entertain at Wonsan, Korea, October 26, 1950. “They say there’s a healing power in laughter, so I always go well supplied with jokes. And I’ve discovered that our men are pretty quick with the jokes themselves,” Hope reminisced.
Christmas with the Troops
Bob Hope visiting troops on Christmas Day, 1964, in South Vietnam. “They are great faces and great men,” wrote Hope. “The best we have.”
Bob and Jill St. John
Hope realized early on that the perfect formula involved plenty of laughs, a song and dance, and a pretty girl, meaning each era of Hope’s career was defined by the day’s most popular sex symbols. Here, Jill St. John came with him on his annual Christmas show in 1964. “The most poignant moment of our trips is always Christmas Eve, when our cast joins with the GIs in singing ‘Silent Night,’” reflected Hope.
A Mountain of Thanks
Hope reads an 80-foot-long letter (equal in length to the average 18-wheeler) of birthday wishes from GIs in Vietnam at his North Hollywood home, June 15, 1966. “Leaving Vietnam is always a wrench,” recalled Hope, “for though we’re going back to comfort and safety, the thousands of men we have entertained are trudging back to the danger, dirt, and heat of a bloody war.”