Monday, November 22, 2010

The Medic & Bob Hope

Bob Hope and his wife Dolores returned to America aboard the RMS Queen Mary just as World War II was breaking out in September 1939. When the news officially came, the ship was put on full alert as her crew took every precaution necessary to avoid contact with one of Hitler's dreaded U-Boats. It was a bleak time to be sure, but with Captain R.B. Irving's permission, Mr. Hope performed in the First Class Main Lounge that night to try and raise his fellow passengers' spirits.

As World War II progressed, Mr. Hope became heavily (and quite famously) involved with the USO by putting on many comedy shows and helping to raise the troops' morale. The Queen Mary would transport him several more times during the course of the conflict, and the following passage tells of how one American medic was able to meet Old Ski Nose by accident. It comes from an autobiography entitled Warrior Without Weapons: An Army medic's life aboard the Queen Mary during World War II by Robert R. Copeland:

The Bob Hope Show traveled to England twice aboard the Queen Mary while I was doing my tour of duty. As usual, I was too busy in the hospital and missed all the shows. But I did meet both Jerry Colonna and Bob Hope personally, and while the incidents don't prove much of anything, they are occasions I remember vividly because of the famous personalities involved.

After discussing how he met Jerry Colonna "head-to-head rather than face-to-face," Mr. Copeland continues on:

My encounter with Bob Hope was equally unmemorable to anyone but myself. We were mid-ocean heading east and had so few patients that trip we closed the ward just off the lab. I was therefore very much surprised one evening when I went into the lab to get a report and heard some unusual noises in the vacant ward. I opened the door and switched on the lights, and there in the center of the room stood Bob Hope!

"How in the hell do I get out of this place?" he demanded.

I said, "No problem, Mr. Hope, I was just wondering how in the hell you got must have come in through the wall."

"No I didn't. I was outside and saw that door there and just walked in quick-like to get out of the wind and rain...and it closed on me...and there's no knob to re-open it," he explained.

And it was true. There had been a cabinet in front of that door, so there was no knob on it. We never used it as a door, and I had forgotten it was there. I escorted Mr. Hope out through the lab, and in an effort to be friendly, and perhaps also to have something to tell my grandchildren offered him a tour of the hospital.

"No thanks...hospitals give me the creeps!" he said, and with that, Mr. Bob Hope left my life forever.

References: Robert R. Copeland, Warrior Without Weapons: An Army medic's life aboard the Queen Mary during World War II, ed. Martine H. Justak (Indianapolis: Griffing-Horne Press, 1989), 56-57.

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