Thanks For the Memories
Air crews recall their service as roadies for Bob Hope's USO show.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- Air & Space magazine, January 2010
Department of Defense
(Page 4 of 10)
We couldn't taxi, we were all iced up, and had only one engine. So all the generals come rushing out of there, and the base commander and so on, and they were thanking Bob for a safe trip and everything, and I was the last one to come out of the airplane. And Bob put his arm around me and said, "Okay, now let's go to the barracks and change our drawers." And that's how we became the best of friends.
When I met him, at age 22, it changed my whole life.
Far East, 1962
James Mock was a member of the California Air National Guard in 1962 when he was asked to fly Hope and his troupe to various U.S. military bases in Asia. His military flying career had started in the Missouri Air National Guard, where he flew B-25s, B-26s, and RF-84Fs.
After leaving the military, Mock spent 37 years with TWA, retiring as a 747 captain. In 1995, he purchased the Caravelle Theater in Branson, Missouri. Bob Hope would perform his last live stage show at the Caravelle later that year.
I went to TWA in 1953 and flew Martin 202s and 404s, and DC-3s, and then I took military leave and went into the Air Force. I thought you had to be an Air Force pilot—or Navy, or Marine—to make your mark in the world.
When [the Department of Defense] needed someone to fly Bob Hope [in 1962], I was just off active duty Air Force for the Berlin Wall crisis, was a flight commander, a Boeing C-97 instructor, and I knew the routes, so they asked me to do it.
We started from Van Nuys [airport] and went to Japan, and started flying all through the Air Force bases in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.
We were flying a C-97 [Boeing Stratocruiser]. That airplane is built on the same chassis, you might say, as a B-50 or a B-29, but with bigger engines, so it has a huge cargo bay. The plane was a little bit VIP, but the main thing is that we had the cargo bays stacked with mattresses so Bob could crawl in there for the long, long flights. He'd come out and he'd smile and say, "Well, I'll just slap my wrinkle cream on and we'll be ready to go."