May is Military Appreciation Month: Actor. Singer. Dancer. Comedian. USO icon.: Bob Hope was many things, but to the USO and to the service members of the United States, he was the “one-man-morale machine.”
According to the non-profit organization USO, Bob Hope dedicated much of his nearly 80-year career to entertaining American troops, both at home and abroad. Undeterred by enemy fire or rough seas, Hope went straight to the front lines, delivering laughter, music and – above all else – a reminder of home to our men and women in uniform, just when they needed it most.
Hope’s work with the USO in support of the U.S. military paved the way for the many other entertainers who have followed in his footsteps and continue to lift the spirits of our military community today. Hope’s legacy lives on at the USO not only in the entertainment of the troops, but also in his unshakeable belief in – and dedication to – expressing gratitude to America’s service members for the sacrifices they make every day on behalf of this country.
Already an established comedian and actor by the onset of World War II, Bob Hope performed and broadcasted his first USO show on the radio for service members on May 6, 1941, at an Army Air Corps (now known as the U.S. Air Force) Base at March Field in Riverside, California. From that first show, Hope would go on to entertain the troops for nearly 50 years, through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanon Civil War, the Iran-Iraq War and the Persian Gulf War.
Hope was one of the first major stars to join the USO in entertaining the troops during World War II, but he soon became the organization’s most iconic USO tour veteran. Just nine months after the United States entered World War II, Bob Hope embarked on the first-ever USO tour by traveling to Alaska to entertain members of the Armed Forces. Soon after, he began traveling overseas to visit troops in the European and Pacific Theatres.
Regardless of where he was going or how high the risks were, Hope was committed to supporting our nation’s military. He often insisted on traveling straight to the front lines, even occasionally placing himself in harm’s way, in order to put on a variety show of comedy, singing and dancing.
His shows grew from a small comedy act to an ensemble of celebrity-studded, televised programs. Special guests on his shows included the likes of Ann-Margret, Redd Foxx, Brooke Shields, Lola Falana and more.
The USO relies solely on public donations. Contrary to popular belief, the USO is not a government-supported agency. To “Give More Than Thanks”, we can volunteer, donate, and support the USO with the purchase of one of its new 2021 USO T-Shirts: “Family, Home, Country Since 1941 USO.” Information is available at uso.org.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact Gayle Anderson at 323-460-5732 or Gayle.Anderson@KTLA.com.
Gayle Anderson reports for the KTLA 5 News on May 6, 2021.