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SAIGON - Comedian Bob Hope paid high tribute to troops fighting in Vietnam and gave forth with some lightning flashes of wit during a press conference at Tan Son Nhut AB on the outskirts of Saigon Saturday.

Hope accompanied by members of his troupe, flew in from Bangkok to present an afternoon performance before thousands of troops assembled at an athletic field at the air base.

(General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam, presented Hope with a gold medal for distinguished service entertaining troops overseas during the past 15 Christmases, UPI reported.

(The award gave Hope membership in the Defense Department's Patriotic Civilian Service Assn.)

Hope, always well received on his annual Christmas tours to entertain troops overseas, said he found soldiers in Vietnam even "warmer and more affectionate," than usual.

"Of course," he quipped, "I have Phyllis Diller, who is scaring both sides."

Comedienne Diller told reporters that .part of her charm is due "to the fact that I know absolutely nothing."

Hope described his 2-hour-15-minute show as a show with "fresh people and material."

At one point, in a serious vein, he said that he felt the war should be escalated "far enough to win fast." He made it clear he was expressing his personal opinion as an individual.

Among members of the show Hope introduced was singer Anita Bryant who said she was impressed by the enthusiasm troops have for doing their jobs.

Asked about audience reaction, she said, "Being a girl you don't really have to do anything - I just stand there."

Reita Faria of India, Miss World 1966, confirmed that she had had received a warning her passport might be lifted if she came to Vietnam, but said she came here in a non-political capacity to help entertain the troops. She said she was as happy and proud as any of the show members to be in Vietnam entertaining American servicemen.

She credited an encouraging statement from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with firming up her resolution to come.

Singer Vic Damone termed the trip "one of the most exciting experiences of my life."


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