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ANOTHER VISIT TO THE WWII MUSEUM

Bob Hope Featured Exhibit

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Hi Y'all;

It was a short trip from Biloxi to Slidell, LA, about 85 miles. Having visited the WWII Museum on 2 other occasions I am on their e-mail list. It keeps me informed of happenings in their ever-expanding facility and programs. I recently read about a special 6 month exhibit devoted to Bob Hope's USO tours. His performances over his 5 decade career supported America's men & women in uniform during wartime. The concept was conceived by the War Dept. in the early stages of WWII as a way to boost the morale of the young troops most of whom were young 18-19-20 yr. old draftees. These young men were bewildered in the face of war, their uncertain future and many were homesick. Bob Hope was a widely known radio comedian, and also a Hollywood film star. He accepted the assignment with enthusiasm. They formed a small group dubbed the "Gypsies" performing with song, dance, and wise-cracking jokes. It was comprised of Hope, 2 male musicians who were comic 'side men', 2 Hollywood Pin-up actresses who sang and danced, as well, a joke writer who traveled with them writing comic material for the shows. Hope's sense of timing and ad-libbing made the shows hilarious. The troops who were starved of female exposure in the battlefields enjoyed seeing the beautiful girls on stage with their long legs, slender bodies, and halter tops. It was a formula for success. In all, over the years the Bob Hope USO shows performed for thousands of service men & women throughout the world. In WWII alone they traveled to battle zones throughout Europe, Africa, Sicily, Italy, the Pacific Islands, Australia, etc.
Once while in the Pacific they learned of a battalion of men (500-600) who had been marooned for months on a tiny island in the South Seas. Hope's Gypsies flew w/ military pilots to the island in 6 Piper Cub aircraft, planes small enough to land on the short jungle runway, to put on a 2 hour performance. They learned that two days after departing the Japanese attacked the island atoll and 45% of the soldiers had been killed. It was a life-altering event for Bob's Gypsies for they were witnessed to the dangers of wartime. Other wartime stories were shared as often they performed very near the battlefronts. Bob Hope was age 100 when he died. He performed during America's hostilities of WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, and Desert Storm, giving his last performance at age 93.

Another recently opened feature at the museum was the completely restored PT-305. Higgins Industries of New Orleans manufactured both PT boats like the one John F. Kennedy commanded and the shallow-draft Landing Craft used for beach assaults on D-Day, Africa, Italy, and the Pacific Islands. Five hundred thirty-one (531) PT Boats were built, 69 lost to war. Forty thousand (40,000) Landing Craft were manufactured at Higgins, all with plywood hulls, cypress wood bottoms w/ steel framing and superstructure. PT Boats were made of wood planking with steel superstructure.

It took 9 months to build the PT boats, then they were tested in Lake Pontchartrain before being shipped overseas to the battle zones of Europe and the Pacific. PT denotes P-Patrol, T-Torpedo. They are high-speed torpedo boats; 78' in length, 20' beam, 5'3" draft, powered by three V-12 Packard Engines of 1,000 hp each, propelling the boat to a top speed of 45 mph! and consuming 90 gallons of fuel/hour. The boat weighs about 50 tons. They had a crew of 2 officers and 11 enlisted men. Heavily armed with a 40mm anti-aircraft cannon, two 50 cal. machine guns, and two 20 mm cannons and four Mark 13 torpedos on her back (deck), pound-for-pound they were the most heavily armed US naval vessels of the war, and also the fastest. Highly decorated, PT-305 participated in 77 offensive patrols, served in two amphibious invasions in the Mediterranean theater and sunk three enemy vessels.

The restoration took 10 years to complete with 200 volunteers investing 120,000 hrs. in the project. Donations of $3,500,000. made it all possible. Today, the craft is berthed at Lake Ponchartrain where visitors can purchase a ticket for a 90 minute ride aboard PT-305, all for the bargain price of $300.00 per ticket. Maybe next time! It was a good day, so glad I stopped.

Posted by dixter 09:07 Archived in USA Tagged museum visit wwii

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