In 1997, as a result of his tireless efforts to entertain American troops and campaign on their behalf, an act of congress was signed which resulted in Bob Hope becoming the world’s ‘first and only honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces’. Nothing illustrates the effect of Hope’s humanitarian work more than the following letter, written in 1973 by a U.S. pilot named Frederic Flom. When he wrote the letter, Flom was days away from being released as a prisoner of war, an unimaginable 6½ years after being captured in Vietnam. After hearing of Hope’s POW-related work from another captured pilot, Flom felt the need to write Bob a letter of thanks.
Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
24 Feb, ’73
Dear Mr. Hope,
Just another fan letter from a different address. I am an F-105 pilot, shot down over North Vietnam on 8 August, 1966. I have been held captive since that time, but will finally be released in three days. We have almost no contact with the outside world here, however, some word has gotten in, via POWs shot down in ’72, concerning some of the activities of the American people, & you in particular, on behalf of the POWs. That is what prompted this note.
I want to thank you for all you have done or attempted to do on our behalf. You are truly a POW’s friend, & are deserving of more than just a letter from each of us. There have been many a dark & lonesome night when we have felt all but forgotten. It thrills our hearts & makes us glow with pride to learn that the American people have not forgotten us, & that a celebrity such as yourself has active concern. I extend to you & all of America my deep appreciation & I know I speak for all of us.
There is something great about our nation & its people. A celebrity can have a large effect in influencing its thinking & attitude. This effect can be positive or negative, good or bad. Thank you Bob, for being such a large part of America & our wonderful way of life.
Best of luck to you,