According to the Smithsonian Postal Museum, during the years of 1943-1945 the amount of mail doubled. A good portion of that mail volume was thanks to one man—Bob Hope. At the height of World War II, this radio and film star was receiving an estimated 38,000 letters per week. And he would do his best to answer as many as he could. He was the postman’s nightmare and G.I. Joe’s hero.
These were no ordinary fan letters either. The G.I.s were writing to their “buddy.” They’d send their complaints about military life, share their personal memories of battles they survived and friends they had lost. They’d tell him about their families back home, their dreams for the future and their hopes for a world at peace.
The letters arrived at Bob’s home in a variety of forms. One envelope was simply addressed to Bob “location doubtful but probably somewhere near Hollywood, California” Hope.
I first heard about the letters decades ago while working as a staff writer for Bob Hope during the 1980s and 1990s. I was so moved by them, I suggested to Bob that they would make a good book. He agreed and added he could hardly read those letters without being taken back to that time and all the memories. He suggested I talk with his daughter Linda, about it.
Linda Hope had grown up with these letters and even did a high school paper about them. We had a few meetings about the project and then began the arduous task of going through the letters and making the selections.
The book continued to move ahead as schedules permitted, but then Bob’s health declined and he passed away at the tender young age of 100. As much as we both believed in the book, the manuscript moved to the sidelines, awaiting its perfect timing.
Dear Bob… Bob Hope’s Wartime Correspondence with the G. I.s of WW II has now released, just in time for the 80th anniversary of Bob Hope’s first military show at March Field in Riverside, California (May 6, 1941).
Here are some samples from the pages of Dear Bob…
March 7, 1948
Mr. Bob Hope
… I have always felt that roses should be given to people while they could still smell them rather than sending them to funerals, so here goes.
During the recent war, it is well known that you made a number of trips into various theaters of action to entertain combat troops, and those ex-combat troops relegated to hospitals. During one of these trips, you and your troupe entertained the patients of a certain hospital en masse, and then, taking time from what few minutes you had to attend to personal matters, you visited many bedridden men in wards who were unable to be moved to where the original performance took place. I was one of those patients.
I am not griping or complaining, rather, I am explaining when I tell you that on the morning of the day that I saw you I had been told that I could take my choice of two things: keeping what legs I had left with the probability of never walking again, or having them amputated with the possibility of walking with artificial limbs. I’ll not lie … I was plenty scared … down in the dumps … a young kid with what appeared to be a pretty dismal future. Understand you, I was NOT feeling sorry for myself, but I’d definitely be lying if I told you that I wasn’t giving it plenty of thought.
Mr. Hope, you’ll probably never remember this, but as you walked down the ward saying a few words to first one man and then another, you gave each man a new chance to regain himself by the cardinal dosage, i.e., laughter cures all ills.
The thing I refer to as your not remembering is what you said when you looked at me. With your permission, I will quote your exact words as you walked up beside my sack, glancing at my legs before you spoke: “I BET YOU’RE GLAD YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO COME DOWN AND HEAR US TODAY.” Didn’t have to? …I couldn’t have moved six inches if my life depended on it! Allow me to tell you, sir, that could you possibly recall, I made no answer to the statement in quotes above, but that I broke into almost hysterical laughter. Imagine, had you said what I expected to hear, i.e., that old soap about how are you, old man, and is there anything we can do, etc., I’d have probably been cussing yet.
That, Sir, is why I am writing this letter. I know of no other man whom I have ever encountered who could have so well lifted a lowered man’s spirits than you did that day. To go further, when I commenced to laugh, you said, and again I quote, “THAT’S A BETTER LAUGH THAN I GOT DURING THAT ENTIRE THREE HOUR SHOW AND I HAVEN’T SAID ANYTHING YET!” You stayed within range of my hearing about 20 minutes that day, and if I live to be a million, I will always treasure it as the outstanding day of my life.
Mark you well, Sir, I do not write this as idle praise or in any sense of flattery, neither do I have any requests or axe to grind. This comes from the bottom of my heart in the most sincere manner I can possibly express, THANK YOU.
Jack A. Simmons
On October 30, 1997 Bob Hope was made America’s first honorary veteran. After fifty years of entertaining our troops, Bob’s last military show was when he was 87 years old. At an age when Bob could have lived a very nice retirement, he was climbing in and out of helicopters, going to remote regions of the world, just to be there for the troops.
“I was offering time and laughs — the men and women fighting the war were offering up their lives. They taught me what sacrifice was all about.” …Bob Hope
Bob Hope was known for his unparalleled career and selfless service, as well as his perfect timing. For this book to come out at this point in our nation’s history, after all the loneliness, confusion and loss of 2020, when we’re all looking for hope and realizing how much we need each other, could it be just another example of Bob’s perfect timing?
Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) member Martha Bolton was Bob Hope’s first female staff writer and is the author of 88 books. She has received nominations for an Emmy, a Dove Award, and a WGA Award. Co-author Linda Hope is an Emmy award-winning television producer and the eldest daughter of Bob and Dolores Hope.
Are you a Christian Woman Author or Speaker or are you called to be one? Join AWSA— applyawsa.com.