Like doctors with the last name of Bone or Blood, or dentists named Pullem or Paine, comedian/actor/philanthropist Bob Hope was born with the perfect family name, because he has literally given hope to millions, making them laugh and raising their morale.

Today, Bob Hope turns 100. As he likes to say, "Age is only a number. However, in my case, it is a rather large number."

From World War II to Desert Storm, Hope swaggered fearlessly through battle zones as if strolling the back nine of a golf course. As he turns 100, Hope remains the only civilian named an honorary veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The ailing comic, who spends most of his time at his Toluca Lake estate in the Los Angeles area, is no longer able to communicate and was not expected to appear at any of the numerous birthday celebrations. But his centennial has many servicemen offering remembrances of the entertainer, whose signature song is "Thanks for the Memory."

Jack Shea, 70

"I saw him twice. Once in Germany in 1949 during the Berlin Air Lift. I was in the Air Force. Then I saw him in Casablanca in 1951 in North Africa.

"He came to entertain us, in the dead of winter. It was a very cold night, we were all standing around, at least 1,500 people waiting to get in.

"MPs came out and let all the officers in first. They were showing up in staff cars driven by sergeants. The generals and majors went in first, dressed in their dress uniforms. They had their girlfriends with them. American soldiers could not bring dependents, didn't have their wives with them. Everyone had a German girlfriend. And they were dressed in fur coats, diamonds.

"They filled up almost the entire theater. At the end, they said they had room for 50 more, and they let 50 of us lowlifes in. We're all disgusted, standing there, us privates, corporals.

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Web site:

Official Website of Bob Hope

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"Then the doors open up, and out come all the officers and their girlfriends. The MPs say, 'OK, all you grunts come in here,' and all of us enlisted men come in.

"What happened was that Bob Hope went out and looked at the audience and said, 'Get them out of here. I didn't come here to entertain girlfriends and officers and civilians, I came here to entertain the troops, the guys. . . .' He cleaned out the theater and put us all in there. And he became a hero to every one of us guys. I'll never forget that as long as I live. I admire him to this day."

Henry Born, 85

"I saw Bob Hope in Aui Island, off of New Guinea. My brother-in-law, Jim Hill, was in the anti-aircraft division, off the Solomon Islands. Bob Hope was down there performing. My brother-in-law had a horrible birthmark down the side of his face. He met Bob Hope, and they chit-chatted a few minutes.

"Thirty years later, my sister was on the board of trustees at the University of Wisconsin, and they invited Bob Hope to give the commencement address.

"Bob was walking down the receiving line, and he saw my brother-in-law, and he said, 'Solomon Islands. You were a lieutenant.' Bob Hope had such a remarkable memory, that a man he spent three minutes with, 30 years later he saw him and recognized him."

Bob Gabella, 72

"In the fall of 1953, I was sports editor of the Purdue University daily newspaper. Bob Hope was playing our music hall. The parents of a young man with muscular dystrophy, now in its terminal phase, had written Hope and asked if he could visit their son, who was a big fan.

"It was right across the river, across the railroad tracks, in the grimiest, poor section of town. With his superb aplomb and good humor, Hope was ushered into what seemed more a cell than a bedroom. Here was a thin, hollow-eyed kid who wasn't old enough to shave yet. His face lit up like a Christmas tree when he saw Hope.

"Hope sauntered in and started kidding the kid with remarks like, 'Say pal, when are you going to go out and get a job?' He's the only guy in the world who could take that kind of approach with a sick person. The kid loved it. Crack after crack like this had the kid, his parents, and escorts, howling with laughter.

"Only Bob Hope had the knack, the delicacy, and the timing to pull off an approach like this. He did six or seven minutes. The timing was perfect. He asked the kid a few questions, and used his answers as a springboard for more gags.

"After about 10 minutes, Hope, who had progressed to sitting on the bed, reached out his hand for a handshake, which became a quick hug. To my way of thinking, whatever lifespan the boy had left was probably doubled or tripled by Hope's visit.

"Anybody ever asks me, when my time comes, the angels ask me, I'll say I saw a saint in action, and that was Bob Hope."


Contributing: The Associated Press