“When the time for recognition of service to the nation in wartime comes to be considered, Bob Hope should be high on the list. This man drives himself and is driven. It is impossible to see how he can do so much, can cover so much ground, can work so hard, and can be so effective. He works month after month at a pace that would kill most people.”No less than author (and war correspondent) John Steinbeck wrote those words, speaking of the USO shows that the legendary entertainer, philanthropist and late-in-life Catholic performed for over half a century, from World War II to Iraq. Such service inspired a unique, nearly come-to-life tribute located, fittingly, near the naval yards of San Diego.The “National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military,” a bronze sculpture setting created by Eugene Daub and Steven Whyte, offers visitors to Tuna Harbor Park by San Diego Bay not simply a glimpse but a more intimate feel of what hundreds of thousands of overseas American service personnel experienced during and between the brutality of war. That’s when Hope and an entourage of fellow entertainers would perform — often at Christmastime, and alarmingly close to the battlefront — to give troops far from home a much-needed break between the bombs and bullets.Set in a circular plaza amidst coral trees, the presentation represents a typical USO road show, as a smiling Hope stands before a microphone, surrounded by smiling military figures — depicting men and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard — as Hope’s comedy routines play over loudspeakers.The military figures — in uniforms authentic to the various eras of Hope’s career from World War II through the first Persian Gulf War — were designed and fabricated by the Daub Firman Hendrickson Group and the Steven Whyte Studio. The figures (descriptions condensed from www.portpfsandiego.org) include:—World War II Paratrooper, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne paratroopers (the Screaming Eagles), part of the First Allied Airborne Army. During the Battle of the Bulge the 101st defended the vital road junction of Bastogne. —Korean War Infantryman. The 45th infantry (aka, Thunderbird) division — formed from citizen soldiers in the Southwestern U.S. — had at least two Native American Medal of Honor winners in the Korean War. Its insignia is the Native American thunderbird. —Gulf War Soldier in Desert Storm, an African American 2nd Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne (in wheelchair, injured in combat). She has a notebook on her lap, hoping to receive an autograph from Bob Hope.—Korean War Sailor, a Seaman 1st Class, who holds one of the handles of the Gulf War soldier’s wheelchair. He is in his dress blues.—World War II Fighter Pilot, a captain in the Army Air Force, with the 332nd Fighter Group (the Redtails) within the 15th Air Force. Composed entirely of African Americans, it is the only fighter escort group to lose no bombers to enemy fighters. —Vietnam War Artilleryman, a private holding a home-made sign which reads “Go Bob!” and wearing a T-shirt with no insignia. U.S. artillery in Vietnam played a significant role in supporting American and allied infantry.—Vietnam War Air Force Mechanic, a Hispanic technical sergeant in the Air Force, seated on a wooden ammo box. The first Air Force mechanics in Vietnam were sent in support of the French in 1954. —World War II Marine Corps Sergeant, a patient from the 44th Field Hospital in the Philippines, on crutches, freshly pinned with the Purple Heart. Some 15,000 soldiers endured amputations between 1942 and 1946.—Korean War Marine. An African-American wearing a standard issue cold-weather uniform required by the harsh Korean winter holds a sign marked “Thanks for the Memory,” appreciating Bob Hope and his efforts with the USO.—World War II Navy Machinist Mate, Third Class Petty Officer (PO3) from the USS Lark (standing on a box) who served during the Battle of Leyte Gulf near the Philippines following the return of U.S. forces in October 1944. —Coast Guard Squadron One: In the waters surrounding Vietnam, Coast Guard crewmen assisted in patrols, rescues, and topography. Hispanics played a valuable role in Vietnam and accounted for 25 percent of the casualties.—Gulf War Air Force Staff Sergeant: A young Asian-American female Staff Sergeant from the Communications Squad, stationed in Kuwait City (c. 1990), wears a standard issue battle dress uniform with standard-issue desert combat boots.—World War II Navy Pilot Lieutenant, wearing a light summer flight suit to protect against the Pacific’s heat and humidity. He wears non-standard boots; Navy pilots feared that standard-issue foot wear would become water-logged in a sea landing.—Vietnam War Navy Medic, a Hospital Corpsman Third Class, U.S. Navy, from Quang Nam Province (c. 1968), sitting shirtless atop an ammunition box suggesting the often-makeshift nature of Hope’s impromptu stages.—World War II Army Nurse: During World War II, more than 59,000 American nurses served in the Army Nurse Corps, closer to the front lines than ever before. This figure is sketching a caricature of Bob Hope with a love heart.The inspiration and planning for the project was provided by a World War II Navy veteran’s group: Task Unit 77.4.3/Taffy 3 (or “Taffy III”), who served on warships that were sunk during the Battle off Samar during the Battle for Leyte Gulf on Oct. 25, 1944. In recent years, these men have devoted their efforts toward raising awareness and money for monuments to preserve the history and honor the veterans of this era. The project was built with donated funds.A 1997 act of Congress signed by President Bill Clinton named Hope an "Honorary Veteran." Hope remarked, "I've been given many awards in my lifetime — but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most — is the greatest honor I have ever received.”The National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military — located at Harbor Drive at the G Street Mole in San Diego — is part of a Port of San Diego public art display entitled “Greatest Generation Collection: A Commemoration of Military Heritage Through Art.” Information: (800) 854-2757 or www.portofsandiego.org/publicart.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/0706/hope/{/gallery}