For more than 50 years, Bob Hope entertained men and women of the U.S. Air Force and the other services at home and overseas, in peace and in war. At least 10,000,000 G.I.s benefited from his efforts, and the United States Air Force thanks Bob Hope for those 50 years of memories.
World War II
Already a popular comedian and movie star in the 1930s, Hope started his long service of entertaining American military personnel just before America entered World War II. It began in May 1941, when he and other performers broadcast a live National Broadcasting Company (NBC) radio show before an audience of Army Air Corps personnel at March Field in Riverside, California. All through the war, he performed radio shows at military installations around the United States. Usually, he opened the radio show with the same familiar phrase: "This is Bob -- the name of the installation -- Hope." Starting with a trip to Unimak Island, Alaska, in 1942, he made annual tours with the United Service Organizations (USO) for troops stationed in the war zones. Throughout the rest of WWII, Hope and his fellow entertainers logged thousands of miles and gave countless scheduled and unscheduled performances for troops around the world. In the summer of 1944 alone, Hope logged over 30,000 miles across the South Pacific and gave more than 150 performances.
Berlin Airlift and Korean War When the post-WWII peace turned to a Cold War, Bob Hope again entertained the troops protecting America's interests overseas. In 1948 the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin and the newly created U.S. Air Force implemented the Berlin Airlift. At the request of the secretary of the Air Force, Hope went to Germany that Christmas to perform for the troops, and this gesture of support became a Christmas custom for the next 30 years. When the Korean War broke out, Bob Hope again took his USO shows to the troops in combat zones. In the fall of 1950, he entertained the troops fighting in Korea.
Vietnam War During the Vietnam War, Hope's Christmas tours entertained American service members throughout Southeast Asia and the southwestern Pacific. Many of his shows were filmed and televised later in America. For his 1966 Christmas show, filmed in Southeast Asia, Bob Hope won an Emmy. However, Hope's "Around the World with the U.S.O." tour in 1969 became the most ambitious of all. Starting with a performance at the White House for President Richard Nixon and guests, Hope gave performances in Germany, Turkey, Thailand, Korea and South Vietnam.
Beyond the Cold War
In 1983 Bob Hope spent Christmas with the American troops in Beirut, Lebanon, and seven Christmases later, he and his wife Dolores traveled to Saudi Arabia for the troops serving in Operation DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM.
A Grateful Nation Described by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the "most honored entertainer," Hope received more that 2,000 awards and citations for humanitarian and professional efforts, including 54 honorary doctorates. In October 1946, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower presented Bob Hope with the Medal of Merit. Over the next 50 years, he received many other awards from presidents of the United States: President John F. Kennedy presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal; President Lyndon B. Johnson honored him with the Medal of Freedom; and President William J. Clinton bestowed upon him the Medal of the Arts. In 1997 Congress unanimously made Bob Hope an Honorary Veteran, the first individual so honored.
A Grateful United States Air Force
As part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Air Force, the service paid Bob Hope the highest tribute it could bestow. On April 22, 1997, the Air Force named a Boeing C 17 Globemaster III the Spirit of Bob Hope. Secretary of the Air Force Sheila Widnall correctly stated: "After all, both span the globe in the best interests of America and its military." Her statement proved true when the Spirit of Bob Hope transported the aircrew of the downed U.S. Navy EP 3 reconnaissance plane from Hainan Island, China, to Hawaii in 2001.