"Catching Bob Hope"

  It was a bone-chilling cold week before Christmas 1972. I was 19 years old and had been in Korea
for just one month. I rolled out of the sack at Camp Stanley, near Uijongbu, a little later than usual
because it was Saturday morning. As I headed toward the mess hall for some late breakfast, I saw
several deuce-and-a-halves lined up in my battalion area warming up and ready to roll. As I
wondered what was going on, an NCO shouted toward me: "Do you want to go up to Camp Casey
and see the Bob Hope Christmas Show?" I remember some other youngsters such as myself
around me, who also had heard the NCO's query, shout in reply that there was no way they were
going to ride some twenty miles freezing in the back of a deuce-and-a-half, to see some "old MFer"
like Hope do his lame routine.

  As a point of reference here I should note that during the early 1970s there was a virtual young
GIs revolt against authority on-going in the Army, which had spread from Vietnam to Korea, and
included rampant drug and alcohol abuse, blatant defiance of superior NCOs and commissioned
officers (sorry Lt. Ken), and even violent racial conflicts among these same young GIs; so flipping
off Hope was part-and-parcel of this cultural backdrop.

  I myself, although certainly no stranger to the substance abuse department (actually it's a wonder
I survived), retained due respect for my superiors (thanks to my conservative Lancaster County PA
upbringing), so I thought twice about catching this Hope Show. I grabbed a hand-full of donuts and
carton of orange juice from the mess hall, jumped into the back of one of the trucks, and off we
went--freezing all the way.

  At Camp Casey a scene awaited me that I shall never forget. This was Hope's last East Asia
tour--through Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Guam, and I don't know how many other
military outposts in the region. His stage was set up in the Schooner Bowl and there were
thousands of us sitting on the ground, sprawled out onto the surrounding hillsides. I had a fairly
good seat about 25 yards from the stage. He came out carrying his signature golf club and wearing
a field jacket with exaggerated NCO sleeve insignia--about a dozen stripes and rockers. For his first
joke he apologized for being a little late but some slicky-boys had stolen the runway at Osan
Airbase where he flew in.

  He had some great acts, although the only too I can remember were Lola Falana and Miss
Australia Universe (va-va-va-voom!!!).

  So this is just one of my special moments in Korea--I now have a memory of being present at
Hope's last East Asia tour. There were many other moments--some equally uplifting, some ominous
and scary. In retrospect of everything, I'm sure glad I wasn't so much of a young, rebellious
(immature), punk-kid, and that I made the right choice on this one.

Michael Witmer
Medical Corpsman
1st BN 15th Arty
Second Infantry Division
1972 - 1973