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From to , Hope included South Vietnam on his annual trips to visit troops during the holiday season, a tradition that started for him during World War II. Under a hot sun or a driving rain, his young audiences laughed and cheered the legendary comedian and his cast of singers, dancers and the musicians of Les Brown and his Band of Renown. Already a giant movie and radio star, Hope traveled overseas six times, logging more than a million miles during World War II.
Later, Hope traveled to Korea in the early s after North Korean troops invaded South Korea, and all during the s his show played at military bases in Japan. Although planning moved at a steady pace for a show, the Pentagon ultimately pulled the plug on it because of what it considered too high a risk. Nevertheless, at age 61, Hope persisted and won approval for his first Vietnam shows in December With his new destination came a new twist to the shows: They would be filmed to be broadcast as holiday specials in early January of the next year.
The Vietnam Years at www. Hope remained the star and the driving force behind his tours. Other leading performers such as Connie Stevens, Ann-Margret and Joey Heatherton welcomed the opportunity to join him, despite the stress of travel into a far-flung war zone and the hardships they encountered there.
The tour covered 25, miles and included stops at Wake Island and Guam. Someone stole the runway. And the locations of all his shows remained secret.
That Girl - Season 3 Episode 11: Ann vs. Secretary | TVBuzer
Even Hope and his staff never knew the name of the base they were to perform at until they landed. Troops who made up the audiences were never told who would be visiting until the last minute. Hope and his entourage were given stern warnings from MACV. While some were routine for any overseas travel—avoid all water and ice because none was safe to drink, and stay away from all milk products—the threats related to terrorism were especially serious.
They were told to stay away from windows in restaurants and in their hotel rooms, and to keep their drapes closed.
Bob Hope's Vietnam Christmas Tours | HistoryNet
And a final caution: Drop to the floor when they heard an explosion. In spite of the dangers, the shows went on, but the sound of aircraft overhead during a performance always brought a startled look from Hope. The first show in Vietnam, on Christmas Eve, began almost immediately upon landing at Bien Hoa air base, which the Viet Cong had bombed in November, destroying many aircraft.
What a welcome I got at the airport…they thought I was a replacement. Hope and most of the performers stayed at the Caravelle Hotel, while Brown and members of the band stayed at the Continental Palace.
Both were close to the Brinks Hotel, which served as a bachelor officers quarters for the Americans. That afternoon, a bomb flattened the Brinks, sent glass and other debris into some rooms of the Continental and shook the Caravelle.
No one in the troupe was injured, but the explosion left all the hotels without water or electricity. True to form, Hope stitched this incident into his act at Tan Son Nhut the next day: We opened with a bang!
We met a hotel going the other way. While the performers changed and the locations varied, Hope was always the star and began the shows by strutting on stage with his golf club in hand, firing off jokes tailored to each base. He always had the reigning Miss World and always tried to bring the troops the outstanding glamour star from back home. He started appearing onstage in military uniform shirts and jackets outlandishly decorated with patches, stripes, stars and insignias.
Hope and his guest stars made stops at hospitals and on ships to visit with wounded servicemembers. All the shows were filmed live and later edited down to minute television specials broadcast on NBC in January, sponsored by Chrysler and run commercial-free.
The telecasts featured not only the entertainers, but also plenty of shots of the U. At the end of the telecast, Hope displayed his more serious side: And they said thank you….
Two fighter escorts accompanied the entertainers to Tan Son Nhut on Christmas Eve, and the cast was rushed to the site of the show. The troupe flew next to Cam Ranh Bay, where Hope, sauntering across the stage wagging his golf club, scolded the troops: Hope looked relaxed and genuinely enthusiastic—even in the withering heat—when he delivered his monologue at Bien Hoa for the rd Airborne Brigade on Christmas Day.
Hope then set the mood, opening with: It was here that Hope had some serious reflections on what he was seeing among the troops he was meeting. After the show, Hope told an interviewer: They have more confidence in our leaders. Each show lasted more than two hours, and typically there were two performances a day.
Every tour he made to South Vietnam drew the attention not only of American fighting forces, but of the enemy as well. It was not unusual for the Communists to fire on or attack a base shortly after the show ended. Actress Chris Noel, who was asked by Hope to join the show for this performance, arrived on a chopper in time to join him and the troops for a traditional turkey dinner in the mess.
Joined on the tour by actresses Raquel Welch and Barbara McNair, Hope performed for 25, men and women at Long Binh who sat in a brutal sun while organizers fretted about security. He told the troops at Da Nang that Dow Chemical just got even with student protesters: At Cam Ranh Bay, where it poured rain, the ensemble donned hats and remained on stage. As with all great comedians, dissecting contemporary culture, politics and changing societal mores was a Hope staple.
NBC removed most of the drug jokes prior to its January broadcast. Our security officers said a lot of you are growing your own grass.
I was wondering how you guys managed to bomb Hanoi without planes! His jokes were also harsh and sometimes negative about the countries where the troops were stationed. The Bob Hope Christmas tours continued to go to Vietnam until On the last tour, the group spent less time in Vietnam because of the drastic decrease in the number of American troops by then. And even though they spent less time in Vietnam, the grueling Christmas tour lasted more than two weeks with shows at bases in the Philippines, Singapore, Guam and a Christmas morning performance for 1, SeaBees at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
The brass always managed to find Hope on stage somewhere, to thank him and his performers for bringing a bit of Christmas cheer to the troops. Clearly, after nine consecutive Christmas trips to Vietnam, Hope was tired, and he was also suffering from a serious eye condition.
In addition, he was increasingly criticized because of his vocal support for a war that much of the public had turned against. Vietnam tore the nation apart and Hope got caught in the fray. After more than three decades of making troops around the globe laugh during wartime and peacetime, he found himself defending his commitment.
During the final montage of photos and film of his last televised Vietnam Christmas special in , Hope narrates film footage of Long Binh shot a year earlier, bustling with troops. But most of them are really where they belong, home with their loved ones. She is now working on a study of private contractors during the Vietnam War. For more on Hope, she recommends: