Bob Hope is shown here during a performance on Christmas Day, 1972 in Vietnam.

Editor’s Note

This story was originally published by the Ohio History Connection. It’s being republished here via a collaborative agreement.

CLEVELAND — Bob Hope was born May 29, 1903 in London, but always considered himself a Buckeye.

The lifetime entertainer immigrated to the United States in 1908, came through Ellis Island and settled in Cleveland. From that point until his death at the age of 100 in 2003, he was a fan of the Cleveland Indians and Ohio State Buckeyes.

A singer, actor and even a dancer of international acclaim, the entertainer endeared himself to a worldwide audience with a long list of philanthropic pursuits.

Dolores Hope

The photograph at the top of this story shows the comedian at a special show for U.S. troops in Vietnam on Christmas Day, 1972. Dolores Hope is with the audience in the second photograph.

The show also featured Dolores Hope, Redd Fox, and Lola Falana. The photographs were taken by John Hill, a native of Tiffin, Ohio who was stationed in South Vietnam from 1971 to 1973.

After graduating from East High School in Cleveland, Hope spent time as an amateur boxer before entering show business.

He worked in vaudeville and on Broadway before turning to radio and then television. Hope first began performing for troops stationed overseas in World War I, and continued through the first Gulf War.

He starred in more than 50 films and was awarded five special Oscars for humanitarian work and in 1985 he was awarded the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for Lifetime Achievement.

John David Hill (b. 1948) served in the United States Army from 1971 to 1973. A graduate of Tiffin Columbian High School and Heidelberg College with a degree in education, he enlisted at Cleveland in June 1971. After completing basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and serving close to a year at Fort Hood, Texas, he was given orders for Vietnam.

Because of his college degree in physical education, Hill’s position was that of a Recreational Specialist. He arrived in Saigon in May 1972 and was first stationed at Bien Hoa Army Base, adjacent to the air base northeast of Saigon.

There, Hill worked with Special Services organizing the sports programs and special events, such as a show on Christmas Day 1972 with Bob and Dolores Hope, Redd Fox, and Lola Falana.

In August, Hill was transferred to An Son, 10 miles from Quin Nhon, and about 300 miles north of Saigon. He ran a sports program, a craft shop, and photo lab to entertain the soldiers in their free time.

Hill flew home to Ohio for temporary duty after Christmas 1972, believing that Nixon would sign the cease-fire before his return, but he flew back to Vietnam and was present for the cease fire in January 1973. He helped disassemble the post’s craft shop, leaving Vietnam in February 1973.

After leaving the army, Hill earned advanced degrees from University of Buffalo and Bowling Green State University and was the basketball coach and athletic director of Heidelberg College from 1976 to 2002.

He then became athletic director of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.

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