In reminiscing, Hope brought a multitude of Christmases to millions of service men and service women, and it was more rewarding and fulfilling than he or his team could have possibly wished. Hope said it started in 1941 in Marshfield, CA. He said that with his first soldier audience, he looked at them, they looked at him, and they laughed at him – that was "love at first sight." TV Viewers looked forward to watching these annual broadcasts as it boosted their patriotism and caused them to pause and remember their loved ones far away, along with all the men and women protecting our rights and privileges as Americans.
Appearing in Time Life's Bob Hope Salutes the Troops are dynamite performances by Ann Jillian, Jerry Colonna, Anita Bryant, Lana Turner, Frances Langford, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Patty Thomas, Marie Osmond, Janis Paige, Khrystyne Haje, Jan Daley, Ann-Margret, Jill St. John, Lola Falana, Suzanne Charny, Linda Bennett, Fran Jeffries and Patty Thomas; The Pointer Sisters and The Golddiggers; Don Ho, Jim Nabors, Redd Foxx, Peter Leeds, Merlin Olsen, Rudy Cardenas, The Blue Streaks; Miss USA Amedee Chabot, Miss World Penny Plummer, Miss World USA Brucene Smith, Miss World Belinda Green, Miss World Ann Sidney, The American Beauties, The Hollywood Deb Stars; Athletes Rosey Grier, Johnny Bench, Roman Gabriel and Vida Blue; Billy Graham and Cardinal Spellman and The Korean Orphan Choir; Col. John Spears and Rear Adm. Alan Shepard.
Most shows closed on a solemn, heartwarming rendition of "Silent Night" as a prayer for all to sleep in peace. The entertainment brought merriment onstage, but the troops knew this was serious business from the ominous sound of fighter jets often roaring overhead. Every holiday tour could be dangerous, and this, coupled with a back-to-back show schedule, didn't impede the master comedian's determination to never fail to leave the audiences "laughing all the way."
During Operation Desert Shield, Bob Hope brought his USO Christmas show to the troops stationed in Saudi Arabia entitled Bob Hope's Christmas Cheer in Saudi Arabia (Original Air Date: January 12, 1991). Highlights from this performance include Cincinnati Reds Johnny Bench, Khrystyne Haje (Head of the Class), Marie Osmond, the Pointer Sisters, Aaron Tippin, together with Ann Jillian, Dolores Hope and Les Brown and His Band of Renown. There are comedy skits, song-and-dance, and, of course, Bob's monologues. The Pointer Singers sing "I'm So Excited," Jillian and Bob share a duet of "The Two of Us," and Marie Osmond calls a service man out of the audience so she could serenade him with the song "Crazy." Bob closes with a prayer to bring our men and women home where they belong.
The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the World with the USO (Original Air Date: January 16, 1969) toured Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Midway and aboard the USS Hancock and the USS New Jersey in the South China Sea. Hope's guest stars included Dick Albers, Ann-Margret, Linda Bennett, NFL star Rosey Grier, Miss World Penny Plummer, The Golddiggers and Les Brown and His Band of Renown, among others. The audience welcomed the troupe with casualty patients from the Vietnam combat, and the entertainment sang and danced their hearts out. In Tokyo, Japan, Bob opened with welcoming signs from the audience with messages for those at home. There was a Supper Show televised from Collier Field House to all our troops in Korea and Bob saluted the Second Infantry Division at the DMZ. Performers included Dick Alberts' trampoline act and The Korean Orphan Choir singing "Jingle Bells." In Okinawa, Bob welcomed 20,000 troops with a surprise act with Capt. Gardner parachuting into the audience and Ann-Margret singing "Dancin' In the Streets." 30,000 troops greeted the troupe in Long Binh where they were presented with a plaque of appreciation from Gen. Abrams, while in Hawaii, Bob greeted Adm. James S. McCain. Miss World Penny Plummer did a comedy routine with Bob, and in Cam Ranh Bay, Bob was welcomed by its Mayor. Rains unfortunately came during the show, with a thunderous downpour, and the show finished with Linda Bennett singing "Silent Night" – Hope and company were awed when the audience simply sat there in the rain and continued to sing with them. Hope noted, "It was the only Christmas they had and they weren't going to miss it."
On Christmas Eve, the troupe boarded the USS Hancock for their third show of the day. Bob welcomed the charismatic former NFL star Rosey Grier and Ann-Margret sang "The Two of Us." In Danang, Bob had a mail call when he called out three soldiers from the audience; one soldier recited a letter to his fiance with a kiss, another sent his mother a kiss, and the third soldier's mother requested that her son sing "White Christmas." Of course, this struck a chord with Bob as he recalled his old co-star, Bing Crosby, in the movie of the same name. Next stop was Phu Cat where the crew met up with Johnny Graham and then onto Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Linda Bennett blessed the audience with "Silent Night" in closing, then the troupe headed for home. Bob gave thanks to all the folks that helped them with this tour, he showed photos and films of the injured in hospitals, and closed with saying that they couldn't bring peace on earth to the soldiers, but they got a strong leg up on "good will toward men."
Bob closed this show with these heartfelt words:
We're paying too high a price in our greatest natural resource – our youth. We'd like to think we help these (soldiers') morale – but there's another kind of morale that gives them much comfort – and that's religion. No matter where they are, they find the time to set up an altar and pray. I say this every year ...we pray that this is our last trip to Vietnam. That 1969 will bring to the Vietnamese people an end to 25 years of continuous warfare and a chance to rebuild their shattered country. And, most of all, we pray that our men who helped them so courageously – unselfishly – will come home to begin building their own future. And let's face it – they are America's future – and it was our privilege to visit them this Christmas.Bob Hope: Memories of World War II (Original Air Date: August 5, 1995) boasts of memories for Bob and Dolores Hope, Frances Langford, Patty Thomas, and Jerry Colonna, including the shift from shipping audio recordings of radio shows from the U.S. to actually traveling overseas to perform for the troops abroad. Frances and Bob reminisce about service with the USO, their first wartime tour, the RMS Queen Mary in Danger in 1939, "The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope," and "War Bonds." The show closes with Bob's familiar song, "Thanks for the Memories."
In The Bob Hope Christmas Special (Original Air Date: January 15, 1965), guests appearing are Anna Maria Alberghetti, Anita Bryant, Jerry Colonna, Janis Paige, Miss World Ann Sidney, Jill St. John, Peter Leeds with Les Brown and His Band of Renown. The 1964 Christmas tour began in Guam, then to Okinawa and the Philippines, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. It was difficult to adjust to the drastic extreme in weather from Korea's freezing cold to Thailand's tropical heat and danger caused concern when the hotel across the street from the troupe was bombed. In this show, Jerry Colonna posed as Sigmund Freud, a Siamese twin and a guerrilla fighter. Janis Paige, Miss World Ann Sidney, Anna Maria Alberghetti, and Jill St. John danced with soldiers onstage. After a dinner hosted for the troupe by The Thailand King and Queen, it was off to Danang where Anita Bryant sang "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You," Col. Spears presented a "machine gun" as a gift of thanks, and a prayer from the chaplain of thanks to God, heritage, and the troupe. Bryant closes with hope for a peaceful "Silent Night," and the show ends with film clips of our soldiers in hospital, and Vietnamese children receiving gifts from the troops in Christmas celebration!
Next is The Bob Hope Christmas Show (Original Air Date: January 16, 1963) with Anita Bryant, Miss USA Amedee Chabot, Jerry Colonna, Janis Paige, Peter Leeds, Lana Turner, Miss Oklahoma, Les Brown and His Band of Renown. From more than a dozen military bases in the Pacific, Hope and his entourage perform the 1962 Christmas tour in Japan, Korea, Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa, Formosa, and aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. In Seoul, Korea, Lana and Bob perform "Sgt. 'No Class' Wingy Hope" as a beatnik jazz musician. Next, to the Tachikawa Air Base, Iwakuni Corp Air Station and onto Taipei, Formosa, Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Okinawa, and finally to the USS Kitty Hawk. Acts include Colonna as a "gusho" Texas geisha, Bob in "Mongolian Fruitcake," Lana doing the bossa nova and Janis Paige singing "Ballin' the Jack." Anita Bryant closes with "Silent Night" and poignant pictures of Korean surroundings with a Christmas tree that the Communist government demanded removed, but while it was there -- it was a symbol to all.
The Bob Hope Christmas Special: Around the Globe with the U.S.O. (original Air Date: January 17, 1972) begins its tour with Vida Blue, Suzanne Charny, Jan Daley, Don Ho, Carmen Sevilla, Rear Adm. Alan Shepard, Miss World USA Brucene Smith, Jill St. John, The Blue Streaks, and Les Brown and His Band of Renown plus others.. The troupe journeys to Hawaii and onto Wake Island, Okinawa, Utapao and Ubon, Thailand, Danang, Vietnam, Vientiane, Laos, and Camp Eagle, Vietnam, and with Christmas Day in Long Binh with the troops. The audiences enjoyed the roller skating act of The Blue Streaks, Miss World USA Brucene Smith, Vida Blue, Jill St. John; and at the last stop in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, Bob welcomes Rear Adm. Alan Shepard to talk about his walk on the moon. It was a great show with Jan Daley closing out with a peaceful "Silent Night."
Our program ends with The Bob Hope Christmas Special (Original Air Date: January 17, 1973) with guests Rudy Cardenas, Lola Falana, Redd Foxx, Roman Gabriel, Miss World Belinda Green, Dolores Hope, Fran Jeffries, the American Beauties, and Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Bob Hope makes his 22nd Christmas tour of U.S. Military bases to entertain troops, starting with a send-off from Santa Claus as they head for the Aleutians, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Diego Garcia, the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, and the USS Midway. Highlights include Redd Foxx in a fatigued version of Sanford and Son, juggling from Rudy Cardenas, Miss World Belinda Green, Lola Falana and LA. Rams Quarterback Roman Gabriel. Soldiers from Guam Air Force Base held messages in the audience for back home, and one proclaimed "Guam used to be hopeless – Bob is eternal!" Well, this is where the farewells began and thank you's began. Fran sang "Silent Night," and, as the troupe and audience joined in, tears are brought to the eyes of many as it reminds them of family, friends and home. With a final prayer of "... sleep in Heavenly peace," Bob wishes everyone a great 1973, and for all to pray for peace as the show closes with "God Bless You."
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this three-disc set from Time Life Bob Hope Salutes the Troops. I was so happy to see his shows, and I tried to imagine what the number of audience members were that Bob Hope had entertained in his career – and it was impossible. He certainly did a lot to encourage so many people and did an enormous service for our Country. While the film clips in this set did not show the entire shows, but singled out highlights due to time restraints, I'm certain this series will rekindle your loyalty and patriotism toward our wonderful country and troops.
The series has so many features and photographs to enjoy – the comedy, the song-and-dance, the reminiscing, the costumes especially for Bob and Colonna, the onstage service men and women who volunteered, the animals in the audience – a puppy, a baby pig, an enormous water buffalo; people parachuting into an act, sexy women, great athletes, amazing service men including Rear Adm. Alan Shepard, romantic songs, amazing variety acts, and a solemn closing to remember the Christmas season. I can't explain it, but these shows took me back to a place and time that stirred my soul – especially to see the dedication and enthusiasm of our troops as they hung on every word the crew brought to them from the USA. Just the sheer fact that they risked their lives every day for their friends, families and loved ones they left on safe soil – and those they didn't even know. Let's keep this part of America's heart alive so we never forget where we came from, who we are, and what we once were.
For thousands far from home, there was no one like Hope for the holidays. A visit from Bob Hope was the best present a service man or service woman could receive short of spending Christmas with their families. Thanks to Time Life's Bob Hope Salutes the Troops, Bob still has the ability to bring joy to millions for many years and many generations to come. It's a gift that keeps on giving. Bob Hope certainly was named appropriately because he truly brought HOPE to our soldiers from home.