Bob Hope was known for his lifelong service performing for troops overseas with the United Service Organization. The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but Hope kept finding himself performing for the Viet Cong one way or another until his death in 2003. Here are the five times he accidentally boosted Viet Cong morale, long after the U.S.’ involvement.
1. The time he climbed into a USO tour van that had been commandeered by the Viet Cong: When President Nixon announced the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Bob Hope was just wrapping up a USO tour for American troops in the region. Eager to celebrate the news with the soldiers, Hope hopped into his USO van and started to plan his final act. To his surprise, though, the van immediately drove off base, and when he stepped out, Hope found himself standing in the jungle before 4,000 raucous Viet Cong cheering beneath a homemade banner that read “National Liberation Front for South Vietnam Welcomes Mr. Hope.” Disoriented and scared, Hope started his act off a bit rocky, but after improvising a bit about the Viet Cong’s elaborate tunnel system, he was met with applause and celebratory gunfire. Ever a brilliant performer, Hope evaded capture by running into the jungle instead of doing an encore, and fought his way back to the U.S. military base three days later.
2. The time he was supposed to perform at the Berlin Wall but boarded the wrong flight: Right before the destruction of the Berlin Wall, President Reagan called Bob Hope and personally asked him to perform for Western troops stationed in the region. Hope agreed, but when he showed up to LAX to board his plane, he became hopelessly lost and accidentally boarded a one-way flight to Da Nang. When he landed, Hope was greeted by an old farmer holding a sign with his name, and, not knowing what else to do, he got on the back of his bike. Three hours and several miles of travel later, they arrived at the top of a mountain where Bob Newhart was already performing for the Viet Cong. Newhart, having warmed up the crowd, brought up Hope, but had to do some serious damage control in Vietnamese when Hope started to bomb. Hope was once again able to escape after his set, but Bob Newhart was never heard from again.
3. The time he accidentally spent Christmas with the Viet Cong: Christmas of 1992 was the year Bob Hope accidentally spent the holidays with the Viet Cong. Hope was originally supposed to perform for soldiers stationed on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, but after running into fuel troubles, they had to make an emergency stop to refuel in Vietnam. Upon docking, Bob Hope heard a familiar sound: The harbor was packed with crowds of raucous Viet Cong. Thinking on his feet, Hope immediately went onto the deck of the boat and started performing his classic Christmas bit that he had prepared for U.S. soldiers. Realizing it might not be appropriate for the Viet Cong, however, he ripped his Santa suit to shreds, creating a character that the Viet Cong know today as “Nicholas the Bloody Capitalist.” With his now-moderate knowledge of Vietnamese, a horrified Bob Hope received a standing ovation and was called out for two encores. He returned home safely several weeks later.
4. The time he headed to the Gulf War and a sandstorm took him 4,000 miles east: Bob Hope had just boarded a military helicopter at Fort Mason. He was heading to Kuwait, and at 88 years old, he had promised himself that this would be his last performance for the USO tour. However, two hours into the flight, the Blackhawk he was in got caught in a series of sandstorms, which carried Hope and the crew over Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf, Iran, and Pakistan. Unfortunately, the only place that would take their radio call was a small runway in Hanoi. As they descended through the clouds toward the helicopter pad, Bob saw something horrifying: Hundreds of elderly Viet Cong soldiers were standing on the runway, cheering for his return. Unsurprised, Bob put on his tattered “Nicholas the Bloody Capitalist” hat and waved at the crowd from the helicopter to deafening applause. The Viet Cong reportedly loved the performance so much that they later made him an honorary general.
5. The time Bob Hope got his first-ever spam email sent to him by the Viet Cong: Fast forward to October of 2000, and Bob Hope had just created his first Yahoo account. After checking his inbox for the first time, he saw a note from what appeared to be a USO email address, with the subject line “INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY: Perform For USO In Vietnam!!!” Excited, Hope shut his computer and immediately boarded a flight for Southeast Asia. When he arrived, however, an old farmer once again greeted him holding a sign with his name on it. “Fuck, of course,” he said, getting on the farmer’s bike, along with Brooke Shields and Toby Keith, who had also received similar emails. Traveling into the jungle, the three were dropped off in a clearing, where they performed for the last 30 surviving Viet Cong. After tepid applause, Bob Hope returned to the U.S. and never performed again. He died in 2003.