Thanks For the Memories

Air crews recall their service as roadies for Bob Hope's USO show.

Actress Ann Jillian joins Hope in a duet on the Forrestal in 1984. (Department of Defense)
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So we did the show, and got back to the airport at about 9 p.m., and it's raining. And the mountains are 12,000 feet high there. So we did a tight turn at 12,000 feet through the rain and started on course, and we got into the ice and one engine quit. And then the radio went out. So there we were, the mountains higher than we were, losing altitude about 200 feet a minute, and how we got through is beyond me to tell you, other than God was looking out for us.

I remember Bob coming up and tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Everybody back there is praying."

I said, "You tell 'em don't stop!"

The commander of the 11th Air Force had sense enough when they couldn't contact us to turn on all the search lights, and point them to this same point in the sky over Elmendorf. And on our arrival, as we were letting down at about 6,000 feet, we saw the glow in the murk in the sky, and let down on that and landed.

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.

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