Comedian Bob Hope gave his last Christmas show to U.S. servicemen in Saigon on this day in history, Dec. 24, 1972.
The iconic entertainer, who starred in more than 50 films, kept up a tradition of visiting troops deployed overseas since WWII.
Hope’s 1972 show marked his ninth consecutive Christmas appearance in Vietnam, according to History.com.
Hope took his first USO trip to Vietnam in 1964 to record a special holiday episode of “The Bob Hope Show.”
The seasonal special soon became a smash hit — and he never showed up alone.
He often brought in major celebrities each year.
Among those who did shows with him: Ann-Margret, Lola Falana, Raquel Welch, Rosie Grier, Neil Armstrong and Sammy Davis Jr.
Hope’s longtime sideman Jerry Colonna was also known for playing Santa Claus, according to the USO.
Service members — as well as Americans who closely watched the specials in hopes of catching a glimpse of their soldiers — remember Hope’s Vietnam-era tours fondly.
In later reflections highlighted by USO, soldiers who were selected to attend Hope’s performance in person remember their disbelief at seeing Hope in person, as well as other celebrities — as well as being issued clean uniforms.
As Hope’s time in Vietnam came to an end, he reflected on the last two decades of spreading joy to America’s troops.
“I hope I can be excused a little sentimentality as I look back over 22 of these Christmas trips [and remember] the millions of servicemen and women who responded to our efforts with warmth, enthusiasm and affection,” he said, according to USO.
Hope was honored with South Vietnam’s highest civilian medal for his “anti-communist zeal” after endorsing then-president Richard Nixon’s bombing of North Korea.
Even though he was criticized for supporting government policies concerning the war, Hope believed it was his responsibility to “lift spirits by entertaining the troops,” as History.com reports.
Bob Hope lived to be 100 years old.
On the morning of July 27, 2003, he passed away of pneumonia at his home in Toluca Lake, California, two months after his 100th birthday.