Recently I came across a segment about the entertainer Bob Hope on CBS Sunday Morning. It talked about the USO tours that he undertook during three consecutive American wars in the mid-20th century. What made this of great interest to me is that I wrote about one of these shows he did for Marines and Sailors in the South Pacific in 1944. This television program even included footage that I described in great detail in my novel Above the Water:
At chow that evening on Pavuvu the men were told that Bob Hope would be flying in the following day for a ninety-minute show with a USO troupe. That he would come to such a godforsaken place as this island made the men feel that much closer to home. Harry overheard one young Marine in his company ask another, “You think he’s coming here just for us?” His counterpart answered sarcastically, “No, he’s on his way to France, I hear. This was the most direct route.” “Gosh, I didn’t know we were so close to Europe,” said the young Marine earnestly.
The show that Hope and the other entertainers put on the next day was the best Harry had ever seen. The jokes seemed funnier and less corny. But the true highlight was the dance routine of Patty Thomas outfitted in a dazzling one-piece leotard and fishnet stockings. The men were awed by her beauty and her grace. As they watched her wiggle and shake, Stubby grumbled, “God Almighty, I’m gonna go crazy, sure as hell.”
Bob Hope wrapped up the show with his trademark song “Thanks for the Memory.” When he finished singing, the men were quiet for a moment, caught up in their own memories of loved ones. Bob, Patty, and the others were then given a rousing send-off as they flew off in the Piper Cubs in which they had come over from the naval base on nearby Banika Island.
For his selfless and untiring acts of goodwill toward American soldiers overseas, Bob Hope was made an official veteran by an act of Congress before he died in 2003 at the age of one hundred.
Photos: National WWII Museum
Link to Bob Hope singing Thanks for the Memory