"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bob Hope: Christmas 1970, Camp Eagle

Camp Eagle Christmas Show

by Byron Edgington

Here's another vet’s recollection of Christmas in Vietnam, and the Bob Hope USO Show.

Bob Hope and his troupe came to Camp Eagle/Hue’ Phu-Bai at Christmastime in 1970. (I forget the exact date but it was pretty close to Christmas Day). 

Hope brought with him:

The Gold Diggers, a Hollywood manufactured gathering of singers, Lola Falana, Ursula Andress, Les Brown and his Band of Renown, of course, and a 22 year-old ballplayer my colleagues may remember, the 1970 National League MVP, a fellow by the name of Johnny Bench.

Johnny Bench with Bob Hope
 I remember Hope and Bench did a funny routine:
Bench: “I’m surprised you asked me to come with you on the tour, Bob.” 
Hope:  “Why are you surprised, Johnny?” 
Bench:  “’Cause I’m not a girl.”
Hope continued bantering with Bench for awhile, and then he introduced Lola Falana, a sexy, movie star and Las Vegas performer who had also done a Playboy spread.

The Gold Diggers sang and danced next as I recall, and then Hope did more of his schtick.  As I remember, the show lasted about an hour.

Lola Falana and Bob Hope
It concluded with all of us singing Silent Night, which made a bunch of tough, hard as nails military men get all sloppy and tear up, or maybe it was just the humidity?  (At least this guy teared up, I admit).

Being 12,000 miles from home at Christmas and hearing that familiar tune wash over me, sent me back over all those miles and made the war go away, if only for a few minutes.

The balm of its message was the opposite of what we all experienced day after day in Vietnam.

The Hope show gave me another war story, a kind of closure, that some may call coincidence, but I’m not sure it was.

A few years later, I was back home in Ohio and flying a Huey for the Ohio National Guard out of Columbus. 

The Ohio State Fair takes place in August, just north of downtown Columbus.  That particular fair, the director had requested a Huey and crew to be posted at the fairgrounds, out in the infield, to be used for medical evacuation -- if that became necessary. 

I was assigned the mission one day, so I flew the bird to the fairgrounds, shut it down in the grass directly opposite the grandstand and stood by.

The Gold Diggers
An hour or so after I landed, a group of young women wandered over to the aircraft and introduced themselves. There were four of them, and they were to be the day’s entertainment at the fair ...

They called themselves The Gold Diggers ... 

Yes, they had been at Camp Eagle in December 1970. 

Yes they did remember the show at which I was in attendance. 

Yes, they said, they would like to take a ride in my Huey. So, I took them for a quick helicopter tour of Columbus, and thanked them for their efforts. 

I can still see their smiles, as we cruised around above the Ohio State Fair, and I was finally able to return a gift those young women gave me one Christmas a long time ago, so far from home, at least in part.

Happy Holidays to my fellow vets, and to CJ for putting this blog together. Thank you.

Byron Edgington

Byron Edgington
The SkyWriter

Byron's Book

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. Bryon,
    In the 3rd picture down, Lola Falana and Bob Hope dancing, to the left behind Lola's hear is a guy holding a camera and taking a picture from the side of the stage. That guy is me. I was a combat writer and combat photographer for the 101st Airborne in 1970 and 1971. I was able to meet and greet Bob Hope and Johnny Bench at the Phu Bai airport when they flew in and also back stage before the Christmas Show. One of the Chaplains at Phu Bai was a personal friend of Johnny Bench from Oklahoma. It is a small world after all.
    Craig Latham
    Coshocton, Ohio

  2. What a rush, I was at Camp Eagle for the Bob Hope show on this date and it brings back a lot of memories. When they sugn Silent Night, I cried. Still have trouble with that yet today. I was serving with the 101st Abn Div at that time cause I started my in country tour of duty in June 1970. Many of my buddies didn't make it home, but I think of them every single day. Thanks for finding the picture of the show, wish I could find the film that was made, so I could get a copy. God Bless you for listing. Gerry Place 101st Abn Div (airmobile) 1970 to 1972 Quang Tri. S. Vietnam

  3. I had been in county for 3 months in December of 1970. I served with A Btry 4/77 Field Artillery ARA (Aerial Rocket Artillery) at Phu Bai and was chosen from our Battery to see the Bob Hope show at Camp Eagle. I don't remember the date but I think it was a day or two before Christmas. We were sitting about half way back in a crowd of maybe 3000 to 4000 guys or more don't know for sure but the place was packed. One of the biggest cheers Bob Hope got is when he said "Here we are with the 101st Airborne at Camp Eagle, you guys see more action than a traffic cop on the Ho Chi Minh Trail." I don't know if he used that line in every show he did but from where we were sitting the trail was maybe 50 miles away. I did not know then that this would be the last Christmas for some, including 6 from our own Battery. "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another." Vietnam Veterans of America

  4. I was there...Camp Eagle Christmas time for the Bob Hope show. I was in the infantry of the 101st...allowed to come in from the field for the show as I was relatively close to the end of my year. It was great...shower, clean clothing, mess hall, mail...and I wandered out on the pad when Bob Hope arrived...just saw him and the group of brass in his company. Great couple of days.

  5. Missed show. Socked in on mountain top "fog". Wish me and my brothers could have been there. 101st sgt brown

  6. Jim Zwit D/2/501st, 101st Airborne Div.

    That show will always live in my mind. The fortunate guys from our infantry unit got to hump about 4 clicks to QL 1 so we could load up in a cattle truck to Camp Eaagle to see the show. No shower, no clean clothes, just a great time! They put us up front just to the left of the stage. I will never forget singing, or should I say "crying" to Silent Night. Still have some great photos of that day.

  7. I had arrived in Vietnam in Oct of 70 for my second tour, and as was usual for that time of the year the weather was awful. Rain and low clouds had restricted our combat missions to the piedmont and low hills to the west and along the DMZ as far west as FSB Fuller north of Quang Tri City in I CORP. By Christmas the weather had gotten nothing but worse. I was one of the three Platoon Leaders in C 3/17 AIR CAV. An informal truce had been in effect for several days and we were grounded in the hope it would last. I had spent Christmas morning down at the flight line with my crew chiefs in the revetments running up engines and tossing ground walnut shell through them to clean the turbines. Nothing beats bonding with the crews in the pouring cold rain to give a good start to Christmas. With that task complete, I was slogging down the road in ankle deep mud in the pouring rain headed for my hooch when a jeep pulled up next to me. Door pops open and BG Hill, Commanding Officer of the 1/5 MECH REG, the Troops direct commander returns my salute and says,"There has been contact north by the DMZ. 3/5 CAV has causalities and DUSTOFF is headed that way as soon as they can get cranked. I want you to get a gun team and cover them in and out." With that the door closes and off he goes...Merry Christmas....causalities...truce is off.

    A quick assessment of the weather convinced me that having a pair of helicopters sharing the same cloud wouldn't be a good idea. It has to be a single ship mission as we're not likely to have more than 100-200 ft ceiling in the hills where I'm sure the ground element is.

    Ducking into the COBRA hooch, I quickly described the situation to the Aircraft Commanders there and asked for a volunteer to go with me. CWO Russ Whipple grabbed his helmet and we hurried down to the revetments.

    Once cranked and slid out to the active, "Quang Tri Tower this is 'CHARLIE HORSE', request departure north". With the tower's clearance and best wishes we headed north at about 10 ft off the ground with the rain peeling off the canopy. Finding DUSTOFF wasn't hard but the low ceiling was going to make for some risky gun runs. We followed the medevac to the area of the LZ and started answering the ground fire with 2.75 rockets. It quickly became clear that we didn't have the altitude or the range for the rockets to arm and we were just shooting 17 pound explosive fence posts. 40mm cannon and mini-gun sufficed while two troopers were loaded onto the medevac and the extract was complete. Red and green tracers...after all it was Christmas.

    Monitoring the ground element on FM and the DUSTOFF on VHF, the ADF (All Direction Finder) was tuned to the military radio station back at the combat base, and the direction finding arrow pointed south back to the source giving us assurity we wouldn't break north into the DMZ. On the ADF, in the background of all the radio chatter was Bing Crosby singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas". That is one of the strongest memories I have of either tour. GOD Bless all who served!

    Merry Christmas Y'all

  8. Served with the 20TASS (USAF) at Camp Eagle from March 1969 to March 1970. Actively participated in the Battle of Hamburger Hill in support of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. AFSC was 293X0 (radio operator) coordinating close air support.


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