Veterans' Day - Hooray for Hollywood (of Days Gone By)
by, 11-07-2009 at 06:00 PM (1025 Views)
Keeping in mind that November 11 is Veterans' Day, it seems like a good time to mention some of our Hollywood heroes who were also heroes in real life. There aren't many instances (in my limited research) where famous actors joined the military to fight in the Vietnam War or the Gulf War(s). But in World War II (and even Korea) things were different. Here is a partial list:
Alec Guinness (Doctor Zhivago, Star Wars)
Operated landing craft on D-Day for the British Royal Navy.
Alex Haley (author of Roots)
Served in U.S. Coast Guard from 1939-59. Earned Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal. After WWII, became journalist for USCG, and became first Chief Journalist in the Coast Guard.
Arthur Lake (Topper, Blondie movies)
U.S. Coast Guard during WWII
Brian Keith (Parent Trap, With Six You Get Eggroll)
U.S. Marine, rear gunner in Pacific Theater on Rabal.
Charlton Heston (10 Commandments, Ben Hur)
Served in Army Air Force from 1944 to 1947. Was radio-gunner in the Aleutian Islands.
Charles Bronson (Apache, The Magnificent Seven)
Tail gunner in Army Air Corps, flying out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan in the Pacific Theater.
Charles Durning (The Sting, Evening Shade)U.S. Army Ranger at Normandy. Earned Silver Star and Purple Heart
Clark Gable (Gone with the Wind, It happened One Night)
Enlisted in Army Air Force in 1942, became officer later that year. Flew missions as gunner on B-17 bombers.
Clayton Moore (Long Ranger)
U.S. Army Air Force during WWII
U.S. Navy in WWII
Darryl Zanuck (Producer: The King and I, Twelve O'Clock High)
Lt. Col. in U.S. Signal Corps in WWII. Made training films; Accompanied Allied Command in invasion of Africa to make photographic record of event. Awarded Legion of Merit.
David Niven (The Guns of Navarone, Pink Panther)
Graduate of Sandhurst. Lt. Colonel of British Commandos at Normandy.
Dennis Hopper (Perry Mason, Rebel Without a Cause)
Joined U.S. Coast Guard at start of WWII, served as frogman. Awarded Bronze Star.
Dennis Weaver (McCloud, Gunsmoke)
U.S. Navy in WWII as an F4U Fighter Pilot
Don Rickles (Hollywood comedian, CPO Sharky)
U.S. Navy, served on a hot destroyer.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Destination Milan, Gunga Din)
U.S. Navy office, first American Officer to command British Flotilla during commando operation. Chief Officer of Special Operations.
Don Adams (Get Smart)
U.S. Marine at Guadacanal.
Donald Pleasance (actor in the Great Escape)
R.A.F. pilot was shot down, imprisoned by Nazis, and tortured.
Ed McMahon (The Incident, Big Top, Johnny Carson Show)
Marine Figher Pilot in WWII, flew missions in Korean War.
Eddie Albert (The Longest Day, Green Acres)
Awarded Bronze Star for heroic action as U.S. Navy officer, island of Tarawa, Pacific Theater, 1943.
Ernest Borgnine (McHahill's Navy, Marnie, Torpedo Run)
U.S. Navy Gunners Mate, 1935-45
Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek)
Decorated WWII fighter pilot, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal
George C. Scott (Patton)
Decorated U.S. Marine
Glenn Ford (It Started with a Kiss, Superman)
U.S. Marines in European Theater. Awarded European Theater Ribbon with 3 battle stars, French Legion of Honor.
Glenn Miller (Bandleader, Sun Rise Serenade)
Volunteered for U.S. Army in 1942, transferred to Air Force. Formed 50-piece band that toured Europe entertaining troops in over 800 performances. Died in plane crash in 1944.
Harold Russell (The Best Years of Our Lives)
Joined U.S. Army the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Served as instructor in Parachute Corps until his hands were blown off in explosives accident.
Henry Fonda (Yours Mine and Ours)
Served in Pacific Theater on destroyer. Earned Philippines Liberation Medal with battle stars, Asiatic Pacific Theater Medal with battle stars.
James Arness (Gunsmoke)
Fought at Anzio Beach during Allied invasion of Italy.
James Doohan ("Scotty" from Star Trek)
Canadian, wounded in D-Day invasion at Normandy.
Jason Robards, Jr. (A Thousand Clowns, Murders in the Rue Morgue)
U.S. Navy, served in 14 major battles in Pacific Theater. Received Navy Cross.
Jimmy Stewart (Glenn Miller Story, Harvey, Rear Window, Strategic Air Command)
Started as a private in the Army Air Force; worked his way up through rank of Brigadier General. Bomber pilot during WWII with over 20 missions over Germany. Awarded Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, France's Croix de Guerre, and 7 Battle Stars.
John Russell (Rio Bravo, Fighting Coast Guard)
U.S Marine, wounded and highly decorated for actions at Guadalcanal.
Karl Malden (Streets of San Francisco)
U.S. 8th Air Force NCO in WWII.
Kirk Douglas (Young Man with a Horn, Spartacus, War Wagon)
Joined U.S. Navy in WWII, served in Pacific in submarine hunting duties.
Lee Marvin (Dirty Dozen, Paint Your Wagon, Cat Balou)
U.S. Marine on Saipan, awarded Purple Heart
Lee Powell (played Lone Ranger in movies)
U.S. Marines, fought at Tarawa and Saipan. Killed in action.
Mel Brooks (History of the World Part 1, Silent Movie)
Graduate of Virginia Military Institute, fought in WWII at Battle of the Bulge, defused landmines.
Neville Brand (Birdman of Alcatraz, Love Me Tender)
He was the 4th most decorated soldier in WWII. Active in Ardennes, Rineland, and Central European campaigns. Awarded Silver Star, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Ribbon, European/African/Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 3 Battle Stars.
Paul Newman (Hud, Butch Cassidy and the Sundace Kid)
U.S. Navy, flew in TBM Avengers in WWII
Red Skelton (Red Skelton show, comedian)
U.S. Army, 1944-45.
Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady, Dr. Doolittle)
Served in the Royal Air Force in WWII, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant
Robert Montgomery (Once More My Darling, The Gallant Hours)
U.S. Navy, served as Naval Attache on British destroyers. Became PT Boat commander and was in D-Day invasion on a destroyer. Earned Bronze Star.
Robert Ryan (Longest Day, Bad Day at Black Rock)
U.S. Marine and served with the OSS in Yugoslavia
Rock Hudson (Ice Station Zebra, Lover Come Back)
Served in the Philippines, U.S. Navy, WWII
Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night, Pawnbroker)
Ran away from home at 16 to join the U.S. Navy during WWII, served on destroyers in Pacific Theater
Rod Serling (Twilight Zone)
U.S. Army, served with 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Awarded Purple Heart.
Roy Dotrice (Treasure Island, Nicholas and Alexandra)
Member of Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Shot down in 1942 and spent the rest of wWII in a POW camp.
Sam Peckinpah (Straw Dogs)
U.S. Marine Corps in WWII
Sterling Hayden (The Godfather, Nine to Five)
U.S. Marines, served in the OSS
Timothy McCoy (Around the World in Eighty Days, The Outlaw Deputy)
Enlisted in WWII after having served in WWI as well. Won Bronze Star.
Tom Poston (Newhart, Mork & Mindy)
Served as as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force during WWII
Tony Bennett (Bruce Almighty, Analyze This)
U.S. Army WII. 63rd Infantry Division (Blood and Fire Division), served in France and in Germany. Studied music under G.I. Bill.
Tony Curtis (Some Like It Hot, Operation Petticoat)
U.S. Navy, witnessed (from the bridge of a submarine) Japan signing the Document of Surrender aboard the USS MISSOURI
Tyrone Power (Captain from Castile, The Sun Also Rises)
U.S. Marine, pilot, flew wounded Marines out of Iwo Jima and Okinawa
Walter Matthau (Fortune Cookie, Odd Couple, Grumpy Old Men)
U.S. Army Air Forces in WWII, served with 8th Air Force as B-24 radioman-gunner
Wayne Morris (Star of Texas, Lonesome Trail)
First Hollywood actor to enter service for WWII. Served in Pacific Theater flying F6F Hellcat off the carrier USS Essex. Flew 57 missions. Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, 2 Air Medals.
But there are many more examples. Learn from the links below: