Recently I watched an old broadcast of a Johnny Carson show. He had Bob Hope as one of his guests. Hope had just returned from a trip to Iraq to entertain US troops stationed there. Hearing him talk of bringing his USO show to military personnel, my mind raced back to a time over fifty years ago.
In early January 1964 I flew commercial and military aircraft from North Carolina to South Korea via California and Japan. In South Korea, the U.S. Army assigned me to Camp Casey, a compound northeast of Seoul, situated along the likely invasion route from North Korea to Seoul. Located a few miles from the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, the 7th Infantry Division called Camp Casey home.
Within a few weeks, it seemed to my newly turned twenty-year-old brain that I had been born in a green uniform in a rugged environment far from my rustic North Carolina home. Time passed ever so slowly in the completion of my 13-month tour of duty. In early February 1965, I returned by air to North Carolina via the state of Washington and California, my time of active military service soon to end in a few months. After being reassigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, my stint in Korea had all the trappings of a dream sequence from a soap opera. However, two events I recalled vividly, and still do. I spent several days on leave in September 1964 traveling to various cities of Japan including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The photographs I saw of the destruction in those cities by atomic bombs impacted my heart and mind with an unforgettable vision of the quote, “War is Hell.”
The second event occurred in December 1964. Bob Hope brought his USO show to Camp Casey. Along with him, he brought several male performers and the band of Les Brown. Oh yeah, he brought five of the most beautiful women that I had ever seen. Clad in evening gowns that left little to the imagination, those women were the hit of the show, not withstanding the jokes of Bob Hope and the music of Les Brown’s band. Doing little more than standing before a sea of young men wearing U.S. Army-issued green winter gear, Ann Sidney (Miss World), Anita Bryant, Janis Paige, Anna Marie Alberghetti and Jill St. John brought cheers and smiles at their every comment and move. Personally, I fell in love with Jill St. John. Later, I learned that she also had a remarkably high IQ.
At the end of the show, Hope sang his signature song, “Thanks for the Memory.”