By the time an "oppose the war but support the troops" ethos would gain credibility during the Gulf War, Hope was still on top of the issues. During Operation Desert Shield, at age 87, he was getting laughs from military audiences that were, in some cases, quite literally made up of the grandchildren of the soldiers he'd entertained in World War II.

"The Stealth bomber, that's a big deal, flies undetected, bombs, then flies away," he told them. "Hell, I've been doing that all my life."

With the passing of almost all the stars of his heyday - Bing Crosby, George Burns, Dorothy Lamour, Lucille Ball, Milton Berle - Hope has been called the last of an era. No major public scandal has tainted him - "As a father he was easygoing and fun, more like one of the kids," says Linda Hope. Married to the same woman (Dolores Hope) since 1934, he still lives in the Toluca Lake, California, house the family moved into in 1940. Now enjoying full retirement - his last TV special for NBC aired in 1996 - Hope is, according to family members, in good health for a man of 100, though limited by failing eyesight.

"He'll probably spend his 100th birthday at home," says Linda Hope. "Just have a quiet day in the house with family and a few friends."

Unless he sees it on the news or in the paper, he might not think about Hope, or even know it's his birthday, but a few miles away in Riverside, Paul Seitz will probably spend the day pretty much the same way. Putter around the house. Check on the yard. Make a phone call or two.

It's unlikely that either man will recall that rainy, youthful day they shared 60 years ago in the Solomon Islands. Their thoughts will probably be of a simpler variety: How good it is to be home, with the yard and friends and family nearby. Fitting for these veterans - for that is what Hope undeniably is, act of Congress or not - who once traveled so far to fight for that thing that, in the end, they were headed for all along: home.