From Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, 5th Fleet Public Affairs
The Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR 300) honored its late namesake by doing what Bob Hope would have wanted – supporting the troops. USNS Bob Hope has been deployed for the past 81 days in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the ship’s three main missions within the 5th Fleet area of responsibility, USNS Bob Hope transported nearly 38,912 tons of combat gear.
“The officers and crew of USNS Bob Hope have been proud to carry almost 40,000 tons of equipment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said the ship’s master, Capt. Joseph “David” Henderson Jr.
“Some of the equipment was used to support units like the 101st Airborne, a unit Mr. Hope entertained 33 years ago in Hue City, Vietnam. Some of it was water purifiers and construction equipment to help in the rebuilding of Iraq,” said Henderson, who hails from Sterling, Ill.
“He was a great man and a great American,” said Dallas native Army Staff Sgt. Craig Lankford, who serves with Charlie Company, 103 Military Intelligence Battalion. “Bob Hope went out of his way to share hope and humor with a great many people, even though he didn’t know them personally. He cared about the Soldiers. He brightened a lot of people’s lives.”
When former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton made the announcement that a new class of ships would be named for Hope, he called him a "military hero" and said, "We can never repay him for his contributions to the men and women in uniform, but we can show our appreciation with a class of ships named in his honor. This is our way of saying, ‘Thanks for the Memories.’"
Hope’s unwavering commitment to American servicemen and women began in 1941, when he went to March Field in California to perform a radio show for airmen stationed there. His first trip into a combat area was in 1943 during World War II, when he and his small USO troupe visited U.S. military facilities in England, Africa, Sicily and Iceland.
Following World War II, Hope didn’t forget the military audiences. He continued to make frequent visits to military bases and hospitals. Hope’s customary Christmas tours began in 1948, when he went to Germany at the request of then Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, to entertain the troops involved in the Berlin Airlift.
Twenty-four years later, Hope hailed his 1972 trip as his "last Christmas show," because it seemed the end of the Vietnam conflict was in sight. But each Christmas that followed, Hope was performing somewhere in the United States, whether it was a military base or veterans hospital. In 1983, the call came from Beirut, and Hope was on the road again
“I remember seeing his USO show off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983,” said USNS Bob Hope’s boatswain Emmert Holloway. “It eased a high-tension time for us all. He will be missed by all the U.S. Armed Forces as a true friend,” said the 48-year-old Sailor from Port Orchard, Wash.
In 1987, Hope flew around the world to entertain servicemen and women in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and also in the Persian Gulf. He embarked on a goodwill tour in 1990 to entertain military personnel stationed in England, Russia and Germany. At Christmas that year, he was in Saudi Arabia entertaining the men and women of Operation Desert Storm.
Hope was honored and befriended by Presidents of the United States since Franklin Roosevelt. His golfing buddies included Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton. He was hailed as "America's most prized ambassador of goodwill throughout the world."
Hope’s distinguished honors included the Congressional Gold Medal from President Kennedy; the Medal of Freedom from President Johnson; an honorary commission as Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth; and the Medal of Arts from President Clinton. Hope was also been cited by the Guinness Book of Records as “the most honored entertainer in the world,” because he had more than 2,000 awards and citations for humanitarian and professional efforts, including 54 honorary doctorates.
“It is an honor to serve aboard USNS Bob Hope, a vessel named
for a man that has done so much for our men and women in uniform,” Henderson said. “During times of conflict and separation from friends and family, he brought them a moment of happiness and laughter. I like to think he sails with us in spirit and approves of our small contribution. Bob Hope, I wish you fair winds and following seas as you travel to that distant shore.”
USNS Bob Hope is the first ship to have been built in the MSC’s Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off (LMSR) T-AKR 300 class of ships. It is 950 feet long and displaces more than 62,000 long tons when fully loaded.