Renowned as a beloved actor, gifted comedian, and frequent Oscar host, Bob Hope’s dedication to entertaining U.S. troops around the world is also a strong part of his legacy. For roughly five decades, Hope traveled around the globe to perform specifically for American and Allied troops with the likes of Jerry Colonna and Frances Langford, among many other talented entertainers, to boost morale through USO performances.
Thanks to the efforts of Martha Bolton, first woman staff writer for Bob Hope, and Linda Hope, Bob and Dolores Hope’s eldest daughter, Dear Bob…Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondences with the G.I.s of World War II is dedicated to Hope’s service to U.S. troops. Published by the University Press of Mississippi, the book showcases a variety of pictures, postcards, personal letters sent among Hope, various soldiers, and their families.
In these letters, it is evident that members of the military saw a friend and confidant in Hope. Soldiers, nurses, parents, and wives are among the many who sent letters to Hope and his cast, revealing difficult truths regarding the war, fear, worry, and loneliness while fighting. In the meantime, Hope connected with U.S. troops and civilians in person through shows or hospital visits, films, as well as on the radio, stirring up happiness and connection through comedy. The pieces of correspondence printed in this book all come from Hope’s personal files, now preserved at the Library of Congress (LOC).
While Hope’s comedy is certainly enjoyed on the surface, this book captures to the more complicated reality of the very sever and dire challenges of wartime and how entertainment could offer at least a temporary source of reinvigoration, escape, and inspiration. In the majority of cases, Hope was entertaining young men in the service who were quite far from home and were likely wondering if they would ever return home to a peaceful world again. With Hope’s comedy and cast of performers, soldiers at least had the opportunity to take a break from these thoughts and even perhaps enjoy some laughs with those thoughts dismissed for a time.
It is a delight to see Hope’s commitment to entertaining U.S. troops explored and preserved in Dear Bob… In addition to the National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military in San Diego’s Tuna Harbor Park, this book is an excellent tribute to Hope’s USO work and certainly expresses a bouquet of thankful letters for so many important memories.
Dear Bob…Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondences with the G.I.s of World War II is available for purchase through the University Press of Mississippi.
For more information about Hope for America: Performers, Politics, and Pop Culture, visit the LOC website here.