From the Stars and Stripes archives

Bob Hope brings Christmas cheer to troops in Vietnam

Bob Hope catches up on some paperwork during the flight to the next stop on his 1964 Christmas tour of Vietnam.


By MIKE MEALEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 26, 1964

BIEN HOA, South Vietnam — Bob Hope, who said he wasn't scared to come to Vietnam, but added they had to blindfold the airplane, brought some laughter to a place of war Christmas Eve.

The comedian and his troupe arrived from Thailand Thursday and an hour later Hope, a golf club in one hand and a beautiful girl at the other, made it feel like Christmas here.

He had told his official welcomers, "We've been looking forward to coming here. We've been warming up — if you can call it warming up — in Korea, then the Philippines and Thailand.

"It's kind of a kick to be here on Christmas Eve."

Then Hope, aided by Jerry Colonna, Jill St. John, Janis Paige, Anita Bryant, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Julia Bubbles, Miss World Ann Sidney, Peter Leeds and Les Brown and his band put on a two-hour show as fighter bombers and helicopters whizzed overhead.

Hope quipped: "It's a thrill to be here in Sniper Valley. Hope I do as well as Henry Cabot Lodge — he got out. What a welcome I got — they thought I was a replacement. We got a 40 gun salute. Three of them were ours.''

He went on and on. And the veteran Miss Paige and the other beauties in the cast had the men whistling and clapping every time they flashed a smile.

Maj. Gen. Richard Stilwell, who welcomed the troupe to Vietnam, thanked Hope on behalf of the more than 23,000 Americans in Vietnam, adding that it was the biggest occasion of the year for any serviceman.

A cloak of secrecy surrounded the tour here for security reasons. Newsmen, given only a two-hour advance of the arrival, weren't even told where they were going until they were airborne out of Saigon. Military police were everywhere, and Hope, commenting on the security backstage, seemed amazed and appreciative. Even under a blistering sun that sent the temperature to 92 degrees, it seemed like Christmas when the cast ended the show with Silent Night.

The approximately 1,000 airmen in the audience sang along, heads lowered, then rushed to the stage to shake hands with the stars. One man put it simply, "It's a great thing for them to come here. It makes it feel a little like home."

(UPI said Hope dined Thursday night with blood on the cuffs of his shirt after personally shaking hands with 42 of the American victims of a Viet Cong bombing which coincidentally welcomed him to Saigon.

(Hope noted the bloodstains when a UPI correspondent pointed them out.

("I didn't realize I had the bloodstains," he said, surprised.

(Hope said he and his group were driving into Saigon from the airport when the blast occurred.

(Security agents sent their baggage truck racing back to the airport but permitted Hope and his party to proceed to the fashionable Caravelle Hotel, less than 100 yards from the still burning officers barracks where the explosion went off.

("We could smell the explosion," said Miss Sidney. "I saw them sweeping the glass off the pavement when we arrived."

(Hope left a dinner with American Ambassador Maxwell D. Taylor and the commander of the U.S. forces in Saigon, General William C. Westmoreland, and visited the U.S. Navy Hospital, talking to wounded Americans.)

Bob Hope with servicemembers who greeted him at Nha Trang with a "Welcome Bing" sign, playfully confusing the comedian with his movie partner, Bing Crosby, who wasn't on the tour.