Bob Hope and the USO

When I was a kid, I watched a lot of old movies — usually on Saturday afternoons and usually with a big bowl of microwave popcorn.

I was a sucker for comedies that featured famous duos: Abbott and Costello, Astaire and Rogers, Hepburn and Tracy … but my all-time favorites were the “Road” movies that Bob Hope and Bing Crosby made together. There were seven in all, and they took the duo from Zanzibar to Bali. At the time, I didn’t understand they were satire, I just knew I wanted to travel like Bob Hope.

USO Facts

• The USO supports wounded, ill and injured troops, their families and caregivers, families of the fallen, deployed troops and military families.
• The USO is a nonprofit, private organization that relies on the generosity of individuals, organizations and corporations to support its activities.
• The USO provides programs, entertainment and services at more than 160 USO locations worldwide.
• USO centers are visited by troops and their families nearly 9 million times per year.
• The USO’s satellite-based Private Telephone Network provides free phone calls and Internet bandwidth to USO centers in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

Learn more about American and USO working together to help military men and women and their families at or

Despite my memories of these exotic locations (and let’s face it, they were filmed on a sound stage), Bob Hope is probably best remembered for another kind of travel: USO Entertainment tours. Beginning his relationship with the organization in May 1941, Hope spent six decades traveling and entertaining U.S. troops. He would sing a little, dance and tell lots of corny jokes. He made so many journeys that, in 1996, the U.S. Congress declared Bob Hope the “first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.”

What Bob Hope did for the troops was his way of saying thank you. What the USO does, is America’s. Their main goal is to lift the spirits of U.S. troops and their families by delivering morale-boosting programs, services and entertainment. They have more than 160 locations worldwide staffed by 27,000 volunteers. Each provides military and family members a place to connect (via Internet or telephone), play video games, watch movies, have a snack or just relax.

Old Familiars
Let’s go back to Bob Hope and those “Road” movies for a minute, though. In each, Hope and Crosby would get themselves into a pickle, they’d meet up with the beautiful Dorothy Lamour and at least one of them would fall in love with her. It was a formula, sure, but everyone was in on the joke. One of my favorite things was when Hope would break the fourth wall, making inside jokes about either the studio or his co-stars. “Paramount will protect us because we’re signed for five more years,” he sang.

I’ve seen these movies a million times, and I often carry at least one of them with me when I fly. They’re comfortable, and it’s relaxing to laugh at those same jokes over and over again. Having a few things around that offer support or entertainment is important when you’re away from home. The USO thinks so, too.

Michelle Reneau is currently saving miles for a trip to Bali.

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