Have Jokes, Will Travel

Backstage stories from Bob Hope’s USO tours.

Bob Hope and actress Ann Jillian entertain sailors and shipyard workers on the USS Forrestal in 1984. (Department of Defense)

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When Bob Hope's troupe was scheduled to perform at Cu Chi in Vietnam in 1967, they got a little help from Robert D'Agostino, a 33-year-old warrant officer with the U.S. Army.

It was Christmas 1967. I was sitting in the Thunderbird Lounge, our little club at Cong Ly Villa, having a couple of beers with Charlie Prather. The Commanding Officer came in, and he was kind of upset, and we asked him “What's up?”

He said, “Oh, I've gotta get up at 4 o'clock and transport Miss America from this forward firebase to Cu Chi in time for the Bob Hope show.”

So I spoke up and told him, “Well, you just need a couple of good warrant officers to take care of that. We can do it better than a commissioned officer.” So he said, Ok, you've got the mission.

We were flying a UH-1. We left about 4 a.m. out of Bien Hoa to fly up to the firebase. It was pre-dawn when we got there. Miss America, Jane Jayroe, had stayed overnight with some of her people—you know, the entourage that goes along with her: the runner-up, a couple of other beauty queens, publicity people, and a cameraman. We waited until sun-up to take her from the forward firebase to Cu Chi. We had to be at Cu Chi at a certain time because the show was starting. She and her crew got on, and we took off and gave them a brief discussion of what kind of area we'd be flying over, and don't get upset if you see some flashes or something, we're high enough that small arms [fire] will not get us.

We landed at Cu Chi, dropped them off, and left. We didn't get to stay there and chitchat or anything, we had to report back.

You know, I was there for two years in Vietnam, and Bob Hope visited both years I was there, and I didn't get to see either of his shows.

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