Americas and Oceania Collections blog

25 December 2009

Nixon and Bob Hope

The Christmas Special 1973

It appears from a copy of a letter dated 22 January 1973 in the Declassified Documents Reference System, that even presidents like the regular Christmas specials we enjoy annually on our television sets. The letter in question was from President Nixon to Bob Hope where he commends Hope on surpassing previous specials, describing it as the 'best ever,' that 'we ran in the White House.'  Nixon goes on to admit 'the shots… [of] the audiences of servicemen really tugged on our heart strings', and offers Hope his sincere thanks for all his work since the Second World War with the United Service Organizations (USO).

Hope’s relationship with the USO spanned from its outset in 1941, when he performed in May of that year. Throughout his career, Hope played for US troops on more than sixty tours for USO. By 1944 the USO was at its zenith, with in the region of  3,000 clubs around the world providing entertainment, dances and a taste of home comforts for servicemen for the primary purpose of maintaining morale. 


The USO also often concentrated on sending female entertainers and volunteers for a 'touch of  home'; from an historical context the USO offers an insight into gender in American culture during the war years and beyond, a period when gender relationships where redefined against the background of world conflict.  Works such as Meghan K. Winchell’s Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun (BL Shelfmark:YK.2009.a.31794) offer examinations of the important role played by women in conflicts through the lens of the USO.   


In the 1973 message, Nixon quips that the 'young and vigorous' Hope would outlast him, perhaps unintentionally presaging the early end to his presidency and his resignation announcement of the 8 August 1974. And Hope did indeed outlast Richard Nixon; his final tour with the USO took place in December 1990 to US troops stationed in Kuwait.




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