Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to Hope in 1946, Past National Commander John R. Quinn called the entertainer "the personal jester of every man and woman in uniform ... Wherever they were - in foxhole, Quonset hut, jungle or warship - he administered the toxin of cheer and laughter. ... He has flown one-half million miles to perform in the din of the front lines as well as in the hush of hospitals."

Hope responded, "I don't have to tell you that this is rather a surprise to me. I didn't read it in the paper until three weeks ago, you know, but it is really wonderful, and I know that (Bing) Crosby will never believe it." Never without a joke, he added, "Of course, he hasn't received anything like this since Gen. Lee gave him his (medal) for leading the retreat from Bull Run."

British-born Leslie Townes Hope was 4 when his family immigrated to Ohio. The film and stage star started his "military" career in 1941, just a few months before Pearl Harbor. He and his USO troupe traveled England, Africa, Sicily, Ireland and the South Pacific.

Hope's beloved Christmas show started in 1948, with his "last one" scheduled in 1972 in Vietnam. But every Christmas after that, he continued to entertain U.S. troops. He spent so much time in the field that Congress made him the nation's first honorary veteran in 1997, at 94.

Called "America's No. 1 Soldier in Greasepaint" and "GI Bob," Hope made a few more public appearances, celebrating his 100th birthday in May 2003. He died two months later.

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