19. Playing Before the World’s Toughest Critics
In 1953, Hoge and his band found themselves entertaining US troops on the front lines in Korea, within hearing of the enemy. For the most part, the communists tolerated, and perhaps even enjoyed, Hoge’s music. However, the Chinese were pretty tough musical critics, who did hesitate to make their disapproval known, in no uncertain terms. As Hoge described it decades later: “As soon as you started playing music they did not like to hear, they started sending [artillery] rounds in”.
Following Korea, Hoge took a fifteen year long breather from danger, until Uncle Sam sent him to Southeast Asia. His reaction? “I said to myself, oh mannn”. In 1968, Hoge, by then feeling himself a bit long in the tooth, found himself serving with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam. He ended up in charge of a service club band, but still came under fire on numerous occasions. In a 2016 TV interview, Hoge was astonished – and grateful – for his good fortune: “I walked away from all three [wars]. I don’t know how many people can say they did”.