A New Look at Bob Hope: 11 Rare Photos from the USO Archives

By Mike Case

When most people think of the USO, the first thing that comes to mind, understandably, is the legendary entertainer Bob Hope.

A true patriot, Hope first performed for U.S. troops in California in May 1941, just a few months before the Pearl Harbor Attacks and the country’s official entrance into World War II. Over the next few years, he went on to travel around the world with USO Camps Shows, Inc., bringing a much-needed dose of laughter to U.S. troops serving in Europe, Africa and, the Pacific.

When the war ended in 1945, Hope didn’t stop performing for his military fans, particularly during the holidays. In December 1948, Hope started the tradition of hosting an annual USO holiday show when he, his wife and other entertainers traveled to Germany to perform for U.S. troops involved in the Berlin Airlift.

Over the next few decades, Hope brought his “Bob Hope Christmas Special” to troops serving in places like Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, in addition to broadcasting them live on radio or T.V. back home. It should also be noted that Hope also continued to do other USO tours at other times of the year. In 1990, Hope his final USO tour, ending an era of incredible service through entertainment to hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of military family members. He passed away at the age of 100 in 2003.

We at the USO are privileged to hold a special collection of never-published photos documenting the true joy Bob Hope brought to the military community over the years. The photos are a little bit of everything: an amateur snapshot taken by an audience member; a photo by a military photographer; a sneaky behind the scenes look.

We had a tough time narrowing our favorites, but we hope you enjoy these 11 (well, 12 if you count the snapshot at the top of Hope in Beirut in the 1980s!) photos of Bob Hope doing what he loved best – entertaining the troops:

Bob Hope during World War II

Photo credit USO Archives

By 1942, thanks to his radio broadcasts, Bob Hope was already immensely popular with the troops, even before his first overseas trip in 1943. In this photo, Bob Hope dons the uniform of a ticket taker in the Presidio of San Francisco Post Theatre to take tickets for his own broadcast.

Photo credit USO Archives

During WWII, Bob Hope travelled the globe entertaining troops. Here, he performs for troops in Hawaii in 1944.

Bob Hope during the Korea War

Photo credit USO Archives

During the Korean War, Bob Hope visited troops serving in both Japan and Korea. In this photo, Hope wears a pilot’s gear and climbs out of the cockpit of a jet fighter while on a visit to Kimpo Air Base in Korea, Bob in 1950.

Photo credit USO Archives

Although he often did USO tours throughout the year, Hope was arguably best known for his holiday trips overseas. Here, Lana Turner and Bob Hope perform for GI’s stationed in the Far East during a 1962 USO tour.

Photo credit USO Archives

Bob Hope also brought fellow celebrities on his Christmas tours. Here he and actress Jill St. John wave from atop the US Air Force C-135 aircraft which took them on a tour of U.S. bases in Southeast Asia and the Pacific in 1964.

Photo credit USO Archives

Hedda Hopper, Jerry Colonna, Erin O'Brien, Jayne Mansfield, Bob Hope and two service members pose during the 1965 Bob Hope Christmas Tour.

Photo credit USO Archives

Hope continued his tradition of Christmas USO tours for decades. Here, he and Phyllis Diller and several thousand sailors aboard the USS Bennington, off the coast of Vietnam in 1966.

Photo credit USO Archives

History break! Did you know The Salvation Army was a founding agency of the USO? Here, Bob Hope stands with members of the Salvation Army during a ceremony in 1969.

Bob Hope during the Vietnam War

Photo credit USO Archives

Bob Hope traveled to Vietnam annually from 1964 to 1972, bringing dozens of stars with him over the years. Here, Hope and the Golddiggers dance for the troops during the 1970 USO Bob Hope Christmas Special.

Bob Hope during Operation Desert Shield

Photo credit USO Archives

Almost 50 years after his first performances for the troops, Hope headed to the Middle East during Operation Desert Shield in 1990.

Photo credit USO Archives

Hope’s performances in the Middle East in 1990 would be the final overseas shows of his legendary 50-year career of entertaining the military.

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