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The History of Bob Hope USO Shows

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the USO knows a little about the history of Bob Hope’ USO shows. Since 1941, the United Service Organizations has provided support to the service members of the United States military. At all stages of a service member’s active duty and even beyond, USO volunteers are ready to provide support. 

  • At enlistment
  • On deployment
  • With their families
  • Away from home
  • When injured in service
  • Returning to civilian life

The History of Bob Hope USO Shows

Bob Hope’s USO shows were a staple for many decades, entertaining generations of military personnel in the United States Armed Forces.

Driving Force Behind the USO Tours

Though he wore many hats as an entertainer, starting out as a dancer, film actor, and radio comedian, Bob Hope is perhaps best remembered as the driving force behind the USO tours that featured the United States’ greatest entertainers traveling to show their support for the troops and lift the spirits of those fighting on the front lines. This tradition began in 1941, when he performed a radio show at March Field in Riverside, California. Fresh from his motion picture successes The Cat and the Canary (1939) and The Road to Singapore (1940), he was well received, and when the United States joined World War II in December of that year, he resolved to work with the USO to bring more shows to service members. Over the next 18 months, he traveled the length and breadth of the country performing at military bases, until he ventured overseas to the European and Pacific fronts to perform for troops stationed there.His Road to… co-star Bing Crosby also joined USO tours. As time went by and Hope’s shows became more of a staple, he assembled a team of regular collaborators: Tony Romano, the musician. Jerry Colonna, Hope’s sideman. Frances Langford, the singer.

For 40 Years Bob Hope USO Shows Brightened the Holidays

After the conclusion of World War II, Hope continued his film career and successfully made the transition to television. While famously he never won an Academy Award, he was awarded honorary Oscars multiple times. During the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and again when the Korean War began in 1950, Hope joined the USO to support the men and women of the US Armed Forces. He was also a frequent visitor to American forces stationed in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, regularly seen with his trademark golf club. Hope’s holiday specials, a tradition started in 1950 on NBC, also became part of his commitment to the USO. Between 1964 and 1972, Hope recorded 9 holiday shows in Vietnam. The 1970 show was one of American television’s most-watched events of all time.

Hope was an unstinting supporter of the members of the US armed forces, even at times when their actions were unpopular with the public. During the Vietnam War, it was difficult for Hope to secure talent to travel with, but this did not deter him. He worked with Raquel Welch, Ann-Margret, Connie Stevens, The Golddiggers, even Neil Armstrong.

Why Did Bob Hope Do USO Shows?

Bob Hope’s first holiday USO show was in 1948, during the Berlin Airlift. According to Hope himself, this effort was undertaken because he was expressly asked by the Pentagon. However, his future undertakings with the USO were inspired by this trip and the warm welcome and gratitude from the servicemen and women in Berlin. Hope’s last holiday special ‘Hopes for the Holidays’ was in 1994, almost 50 years after his first.

Was Bob Hope A Veteran?

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While the US Navy offered Hope a commission at the rank of lieutenant commander during the Second World War, Hope never served in the military himself. However, for his efforts over many generations to bring joy and recreation to military personnel both at home and overseas, the 

United States Congress conferred the unique honor of being an honorary veteran on Bob Hope in 1997. Hope passed away less than six years later, on July 27 2003, at the age of 100.

For more stories about veterans and military history, check out our TogetherWeServed Blog.


Tags: Academy Award, Ann-Margret, Berlin Airlift, Berlin Airlift in 1948, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope’ USO shows, Connie Stevens, he was awarded honorary Oscars multiple times, He worked with Raquel Welch, honorary veteran, Jerry Colonna, Korean War, Second World War, The Cat and the Canary, The Cat and the Canary (1939), The Golddiggers, The Road to Singapore, The Road to Singapore (1940), the US Navy offered Hope a commission at the rank of lieutenant commander, TogetherWeServed Blog, Tony Romano, US Armed Forces, USO, Vietnam, Vietnam War, World War II


  1. Bobbi Bueno

    I’m looking for pictures of the 1984 miss uso pagent in Hollywood, ca. I won miss congeniality that year & hit to meet Bob Hope. I was 19. I wish I had pictures to show my kids.


    I saw the Bob Hope USO show in Chu Lai Vietnam in December of 1967. I was in a USMC Combined Action Unit (K-1) unit on Hoa Me Island at the entrance to Chu Lai with approximately 12 other Marines. Another guy named “ski” let me take his spot as he had seen it the year before. I never thought to find out his name. I soon went to MTT-1 and after a few months we ended up in Tam Ky about 3 miles inland from the water. From boot camp till I got out I spent 2years 9 months on active duty. I made Sergeant in 2 yrs 6 months but decided not to stay in the service. Before I got out I was in charge of a radio section with approximately 70 guys in it. (mostly waiting to go to Vietnam.

  3. Henry (Hank) Bourdo, Captain, US Army, retired

    After my 1st tour in Vietnam I was stationed at Camp Zama, Japan as the Adjutant in the Army Transportation Command. The boss was a Full Colonel named Jack Tabb. One morning he stepped out of his office and, as he passed my desk he said, let’s go, we have a meeting. At the meeting a civilian gentleman named Bel Bishop was introduce to us as the “Front man for Bob Hope”. Col. Tab instructed them that myself and my assistant would handle all of his transportation needs during Hopes five day Japan tour. I was raised witty by our old Philco radio then later by a 12inch screen TV. I was elated.
    That was the beginning of the most intense yet enjoyable assignments of my career.
    2nd LT Barry and I met the charter plane at Haneda AP at about 2000 hrs. Of course Bob was first off the plane followed by Anne Margaret, Connie Smith, Miss world from India, Roger Smith and Rosie Greer, Mel Smith, Charlie White (Western Costumes) Les Brown and “His Band of Renown” (numbering 77 musicians), trunks and suit cases to form a mountain, instruments like crazy. “Col. Tab has screwed us I told Barry.
    Fortunately the gaggle was to stay in a hotel just a too the street from the Officers Hotel (the Sanno where we were staying).
    The part that drove Bob Hopes popularity to us was later, after getting them to the Hotel (let deal with that mass now), LT Barry and I were enjoying a much deserved cold beer in the Sanno’s Officers Club. The club was getting ready to close and there were many young waitresses scurrying around clearing tables etc. The door opened and in walked Bob followed by Mel Bishop. I waved to Bob and into a Club, which was coat and tie only Bob was wearing a polo shirt, vest and slacks and, carrying a putter. The Maitre ‘d showed up after they had sat down, looked at Bob and said ” Capitan you must tell you guest must have coat and tie,” He then smiled, looked Bob and continued “ahhh, Boba Hoppu des”
    The entire ensemble was courteous and we did survive. At the airport Bob thanked me, shook hands and then slipped a small box into my pocket, a gold plated cigarette lighter. To this day it has not been used.


    I was in the hospital at Camp Zama, Japan after being medivaced from Vietnam in November,1968. I attended a show Hope put on for those in the hospital. I remember Hope opening the show and looking at all the high ranking, brass sitting in the front rows of the theater and he told them – didn’t ask, but told them using some rough language – to move and give the seats to the wounded in the back of the room, many who were on crutches or in wheelchairs.
    The sight of all the non-wounded, stuff-shirt officers getting up and moving to the back of the room, and the cheers from the hundreds off wounded enlisted men when that happened, still rings in my ears.
    In November, 2022, I chatted with Ann Margaret while attending the 40th Anniversary Gala of the commemoration of the “Wall” in Washington, DC. about here visit then. A belated “thanks” to Mr. Hope and once again, to Miss Margaret. She is still as beautiful and gracious as ever.

  5. Jim McDonald

    Chu Lai. 1969. The only single piece of sanity in a long and disgusting tour.
    God bless you and Keep you, Bob and Delores.


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