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Celebrity Veterans

Before you knew them as actors, musicians, politicians and important personalities, these brave men and women served their respective countries in both times of war and times of peace. This page serves as nothing more than a way to honor that legacy of commitment and service.

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Entries in USO Entertainers (2)


Sammy Davis Jr., US Army (1943)

Sammy Davis Jr. (Entertainer)
b. 8 Dec 1925 – d. 16 May 1990
US Army, 1943
(WWII, Entertainment Special Services)

Davis was drafted into the US Army in 1943, when was eighteen, and his experiences were not happy ones. When he arrived for basic training he saw a PFC sitting on the steps of the barracks.  He walked over to him and said, "Excuse me, buddy.  I'm a little lost.  Can you tell me where 202 is?  The man jerked his head back and said "Two buildings down and I'm not your buddy, you black bastard!"

Overnight the world looked different. It wasn't one color any more. I could see the protection I'd gotten all my life from my father and Will (an "uncle" with the Will Mastin Trio). I appreciated their loving hope that I'd never need to know about prejudice and hate, but they were wrong. It was as if I'd walked through a swinging door for eighteen years, a door which they had always secretly held open. 


Due to his abuse by fellow soldiers, he was transferred to an entertainment regiment, and eventually found himself performing in front of some of the same soldiers who had painted the word "coon" on his forehead. For example, after one performance at the Officer's Club, a fellow soldier motioned for Sammy to join his table, he said he wanted to make peace and slid a pitcher of beer towards Sammy.  When Sammy poured a drink and started drinking, the soldiers fell out laughing.  Sammy soon discovered that he was actually drinking urine. (Later this same group would kidnap Sammy out of the barracks and paint him white from head to toe.)

In spite of enduring this extreme racism, Davis found that the spotlight lessened the prejudice. Even prominent white men admired and respected his performances. "My talent was the weapon, the power, the way for me to fight. It was the one way I might hope to affect a man's thinking," he said. After his discharge, Davis rejoined the family dance act, which played at clubs around Portland, Oregon. He began to achieve success on his own and was singled out for praise by critics, releasing several albums under contract with Decca Records and going on to international fame in both movies and music.

During the 1960s and 70s and into the 80s, Sammy Davis, Jr continued to support his country by touring with the USO around the world. He described his USO tours as among the most exciting and satisfactory experiences in his career. Above are several pictures of him during his Vietnam tour in 1972, along with a plaque commemorating his Vietnam tour, and Sammy dancing  with Lola Falana in Germany, September 1968. Below is a video of him joining Bob Hope in 1981 on the USS Lexington docked in Pensacola, FL. 



Bob Hope, USO 1941-1990s

Bob Hope
b. 1903 - d. 2003 

Any discussions of celebrity veterans would be incomplete without their globe-trotting muse, Mr. Bob Hope. Although he didn't serve in the traditional branches of the military, Hope gave a lifetime of service to the US military forces by entertaining them for 6 decades. Three months after the USO was founded, Bob Hope led a group of celebrities to perform for airmen stationed at March Field in California—the beginning of a great tradition. He never let up in his lifetime. 

"America's No. 1 Soldier in Greasepaint." to the GIs, he was "G.I. Bob" and their clown hero. It began in May, 1941 when Bob, with a group of performers, went to March Field, California, it continued on with his first trip into the combat area in 1943 when he and his small USO Troupe - Frances Langford, Tony Romano and Jack Pepper visited US military facilities in England, Africa, Sicily and Ireland.

Six decades later, in May 1997, Bob stood by in New Orleans as his wife Dolores christened the USNS Bob Hope (AKR 300), the first of a new class of ships named after Bob. Not to be outdone, one month later the U.S. Air Force dedicated a new C-17 in his name. 

The United States Congress has honored Bob on five separate occasions for his service. In October 1997, Bob received one of his greatest tributes when Resolution 75 was unanimously passed by members of both Houses making him an Honorary Veteran. In July 2001, the 'Pentagon' paid a visit to Bob Hope's home in Toluca Lake, California for the presentation of the Order of Horatio Gates Gold Medal for his life-long contributions toward maintaining the high morale of soldiers around the world.

Here's a short video highlighting his USO service with commentary from friends Raquel Welch, Alan Alda, Barbara Walters, Phyllis Diller and more.