Bob Hope
Bob Hope
Click here to hear Bob's Opening Line At Camp Atterbury

Recollections of Bob Hopeís USO Shows

Camp Atterbury, Indiana

November 1951

By Joe L. Glass

 

I arrived at Camp Atterbury in July, 1951 as a 2nd Lieutenant, having graduated with a U.S. Army commission from Texas A&M University in 1949. I was assigned to the 91st Transportation Car Company, attached to 6th Corps Headquarters. Our CO was Captain Thomas J. Worlein, and the Camp Commander was General Paul Kendall.

 

The 91st had twelve 1950-51 Chevrolet sedans, in which we transported 6th Corps officers and others to their destinations. Some called us the camp ďTaxiĒ service, but thatís another story.

 

In early November we learned that Bob Hope was bringing his USO troupe to Atterbury. There was a contest linked to his then-latest movie "My Favorite Spy."  Contestants had to write why it should be premiered in his or her hometown, and a soldier at Camp Atterbury won. 

 

So Bob brought the movie and troupe to Atterbury, and it was premiered at two of the campís movie theaters. But there was more! Hopeís other purpose was to visit the patients at Wakeman Hospital, many of whom had been wounded in Korea, and were brought to Wakeman for special care. While they were at it, they put on two USO shows for the rest of the camp.

 

Our job was to pick them up at the Indianapolis airport and convoy them to camp in our fleet of sedans. A 2Ĺ ton truck also went for their equipment and baggage. November 28th arrived and there they were. They deplaned, and Atterbury staff officers made the welcoming overtures and instructed them where to board the vehicles. Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell got in the back seat of the sedan where I was located, and we waited for everyone else to board theirs.

 

The convoy was about to leave. No one was in the front passenger seat of the Hope vehicle, so I climbed in. As we drove off, a Major from Corps, whose name I do not recall, walked toward us, and Iím sure expected to ride in the car with them. He saw me there, and put his hands on his hips with disdain as we left for Camp Atterbury. He didnít even wave goodbye! Regrettably, I do not recall our driverís name.

 

So I got to ride in the car with Hope and Maxwell all the way to camp. They were very cordial and the conversation was light, but it became obvious that he was not feeling well. The 31-mile drive went by rapidly, at least for me. We pulled into camp and everyone disembarked at the large theater-gymnasium where the shows would take place that evening. Camp brass greeted them, and then the cast and crew retired to the theater for rehearsal, food, and rest.

 

Meanwhile, Hope's manager and I scheduled the transportation needs for the rest of the day. There were two USO shows, with the hospital visit between them. The manager told me "confidentially" that Hope was sick, and had 102 degree temperature. He swore me to secrecy, and to this day I don't know whether he actually wanted me to leak that information or not.

 

In the troupe with Hope were stars galore. Regular cast members besides Hope were Jerry Colonna, Les Brown (and a combo, not the whole orchestra), and his announcer. Other stars besides Marilyn Maxwell were Jan Sterling, Rhonda Fleming, Academy Award winner Gloria Grahame, and a group of seven or eight "Golden Circle Girls," young starlets, including Mary Murphy, who later starred in several movies, one of which was with Marlon Brando.

 

I did not attend the first USO show because we had to be ready to transport the troupe to Wakeman as soon as it was over. The visit to Wakeman was memorable. A few of us followed as they toured the patient areas for about an hour and a half. All the stars were very attentive to the patients. They chatted, held hands, smiled, and put on the "happy face," even though the condition of some of the patients was grim. They had been well prepared to handle all situations in the hospital. They knew just what to say and do and they did it with grace and aplomb. I was impressed.

 

Then - back to the theater for the second show, which I did attend. Hope didn't miss a beat, 102 temp or not, nor did anyone else. The soldiers, of course, really enjoyed the starlets, and Hope made the most of their beauty and persona. They laughed, giggled, flirted, sang, danced, and used their considerable talents to the delight of the entire audience. Comedy dialogue kept us laughing, and ovations occurred frequently. Calls for encores lasted a long time.

 

In retrospect, hereís a man, Bob Hope, who knows how to give soldiers a taste of home better than anyone. I donít know if his temperature broke or not, but his staying power was extraordinary; it never exhausted. I figure from the time the first show started, he and the whole troupe were on the go for at least eight straight hours. In fact, I believe they went from the second show straight to the airport. They had to fly out that night to be somewhere else the next day. I didnít make that trip.

 

Regular readers of these pages will remember that this was Hopeís second visit to Camp Atterbury, the first having taken place December 1, 1942. What an entertainer, what a trouper, and what a guy.

 

God bless Bob Hope during this season of his 100th birthday.

 

Joe L. Glass

June 18, 2003

 

6th Corps HQ was a training and inspection command, and full of "brass." Lots of full Colonels and below, and most were Regular Army. They flew all over the western part of the US inspecting military operations. I believe they were located at Atterbury because of the district they covered.

Because of the large number of Field Grade officers, HQ somehow got a Car Company in its command for ferrying them to the Indianapolis airport and about. Most of the field grades lived on the post. Very few of the company grades did.

We had 12 Chevrolet sedans, all 1950 models, painted olive drab, no AC, no radios, but with heaters. Our C.O. was Capt. Thomas J. Worlein, a career Transportation Corps reserve officer, and WW II veteran. Other than the Captain and me, we had an all-black company of about 30 men. Our "top" was a Sergeant Hodo. Later we got another 2nd Lieutenant whose first name was Kevin. He was from Chicago.

I entered the Army and immediately reported to the 61st in July, 1951. Got my 2nd Lt commission in the Transportation Corps (TC) from Texas A&M University when I graduated in 1949. I had been a reservist in Houston. I was the Platoon Leader and general flunky. One of my duties was get our men out of local and Indianapolis jails. (Use that last sentence with discretion.)

One of the perks we had was involvement in the Bob Hope USO show. We were temporarily the envy of the post.

2nd Lt. Joe L. Glass, 61st Car Company, 6th Army Corps Headquarters. Driver for Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell during visit to Camp Atterbury.

12/02/1942óCamp Crier


Francis Langford and Bob Hope at Camp Atterbury 11/28/1951

It was Bob "Camp Atterbury" Hope here last night as the nationally know radio comedian brought his whole troop, including lovely Francis Langford, Jerry Colonna, Vera Vague, and Skinny Ennis and his band to broadcast from this army training center and give two stage shows at Post Theater No. 2 for over 2,400 soldiers.

To packed houses in shows beginning at 8:45 and 10:30 pm, Bob and his gang, with their antics as well as their gags, keep the soldiers howling with laughter.

Miss Langford, deep-voiced Southern beauty, wowed the boys with a number of songs, including "You Made Me Love You" and "Manhattan Serenade". Miss Vague's comedy sketches, both on and off the air, kept the audiences laughing constantly. Mr. Colonna showed the boys how to play a trombone, after giving samples of his ability as a singer, and Ennis and his band played their specialty, "I've Got A Date With An Angel".

Bob and Jerry and the band, starring Guitar Player Tony Romano, also paid a surprise visit to an overflow crowd of several hundred at Service Club No. 2.

More than the usual number of Bob Hope radio fans in and around Franklin tuned in at 9 o'clock last night to hear the "localized" theme of the NBC Pepsodent show. Hope kept the radio fans howling too, with wisecracks about Indiana and Indianapolis.

Wendell Wilkie and Paul V. McNutt and Sonja Henie, who is playing a personal appearance engagement in the ice revue at Indianapolis, came in for a bit of humorous mention, by Hope in his myriad of "gags."

The Columbus Evening Republican
November 21, 1964

Bob Hope's Picture Premiered at Camp Atterbury

Comedian Bob Hope and his touring troupe "played" Camp Atterbury, November 28, 1951, and he premiered his movie "My Favorite Spy" at two of the camp's movie theaters.

Hope and his group, consisting of Rhonda Fleming, Jerry Colonna, Marilyn Maxwell, Les Brown, Jan Sterling and Gloria Grahame did two shows at the camp's sports arena and one for invalid patients in Wakeman Hospital, taping one of the shows for his weekly radio program.

The shows were scheduled as a result of a letter from an Atterbury GI, who entered a letter-writing contest "Why the Premiere of 'My Favorite Spy' Should Be Held in My Home Town."

Medal give Mary Murphy at the Premier Showing
at Camp Atterbury, Indiana

TO: MARY MURPHY
"My Favorite Spy" Premiere
Bellaire, OHIO and Camp Atterbury
Nov 27 - 28,1951
From PARAMOUNT




Cast overview

Bob Hope Peanuts White/Eric Augustine
Hedy Lamarr Lily Dalbray
Francis L. Sullivan Karl Brubaker
Arnold Moss Tasso
John Archer Henderson
Luis Van Rooten Rudolf Hoenig
Alden 'Stephen' Chase Donald Bailey
Morris Ankrum General Frazer
Angela Clarke (I) Gypsy Fortune Teller
Iris Adrian Lola
Frank Faylen Newton
Mike Mazurki Monkara
Marc Lawrence (I) Ben Ali
Tonio Selwart Harry Crock
Ralph Smiley El Sarif
Mary Murphy Hotel Employee
 ENCYCLOP∆DIA BRITANNICA
Hope, Bob
b. May 29, 1903, Eltham, near London, Eng.
original name LESLIE TOWNES HOPE, British-born American entertainer and actor.

Hope was the fifth of seven sons of a stonemason and a former Welsh concert singer; his family immigrated to the United States when Hope was four years old. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, manifesting the first signs of his vocation when he won a Charlie Chaplin imitation contest at the age of 10. His song-and-comedy vaudeville act eventually took him to Broadway, where he appeared in The Sidewalks of New York in 1927 and landed his first substantial role, in the musical Roberta, in 1933. The popularity of his satirical radio monologues won him a part in the film The Big Broadcast of 1938 singing "Thanks for the Memory," which was to become his theme song.

In 1940  Hope made The Road to Singapore, creating a comic persona of transparent bravado, glib repartee, and ingratiating mediocrity. There were six other "Road" pictures in this popular series, all costarring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour: The Road to Zanzibar (1941), . . . Morocco (1942), . . . Utopia (1946), . . . Rio (1947), . . . Bali (1952), and . . . Hong Kong (1962). His other comedy roles included Caught in the Draft (1941), Let's Face It (1943), The Paleface (1948), Fancy Pants (1950), and My Favorite Spy (1951).

In 1944 Hope's was the top-rated program on American radio, and in 1950 he made his television debut, appearing thereafter throughout his career in highly rated specials. He was given distinguished service awards from every branch of the armed forces for his more than 40 USO-sponsored Christmas tours to entertain U.S. troops. He was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire and received a People to People Award from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Congressional Gold Medal from President John F. Kennedy, and the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson. He received special Oscars from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for humanitarian service in 1940, 1944, 1952, 1959, and 1965. He was the author of eight books of light memoirs. In 1998 he was awarded an honorary British knighthood.

Page last revised 11/21/2012
James D. West
www.IndianaMilitary.org