Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Anne Frank, Face of the Lost

The face of the Lost, Anne Frank

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Anne Frank.

Annelies "Anne" Marie Frank (12 June 1929 – early March 1945) was just an ordinary Dutch girl from an ordinary family. The family happened to be Jewish, which is why terrible things happened to them.

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I have been to the Anne Frank Huis (more than once), but obviously, these are not my pictures.

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Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, the second daughter of Otto Frank (1889–1980) and Edith Frank-Holländer (1900–45).

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Anne Frank poses in 1941 in this photo made available by Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands. It is astonishing how some photos from the period have crystal clarity like this, but it does happen depending upon how well they were preserved over time. (AP Photo/Anne Frank House/Frans Dupont)

The family, including sister Margot Frank (1926–45), moved briefly to Aachen, Germany, and then to Amsterdam, in 1933.

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Margot Frank, the older sister of Anne Frank, standing in front of the doorway of the Jeker school in Amsterdam with a plaque at her feet that says 'memory of my school year 1936' in Dutch.

That was the year that Hitler took power in Germany.

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Margot and Anne Frank

There is every indication that the Franks lived an ordinary life in Germany during the 1930s. Mr. Frank was a successful businessman. Anne and Margot lived the lives of ordinary girls.

The Germans invaded Holland, a neutral nation, in May 1940. At that point, it was too late to try to leave. The Germans gradually rounded up all the Dutch Jews, and finally, they got around to the Franks.

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In July 1942, Margot Frank received a call-up notice from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung (Central Office for Jewish Emigration). She was to report for relocation, which meant going to a work camp.

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Margot and Anne Frank in the Spring of 1932.

Rather than split up, the family went into hiding. Otto found a hidden attic behind his business, Opekta, also known as Gies & Co. and relied upon his trusted employees to help out by bringing food and other necessary items. The attic has become known as the Annex.

The plan worked beautifully for over two years. On the morning of 4 August 1944, though, there was a knock on the door, and it wasn't gentle. An informer who was never identified had sent the police to the Annex.

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On August 1, 1944, Anne Frank makes the last entry in her diary.

The police were led by SS-Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer of the Sicherheitsdienst. The group of German uniformed police (Grüne Polizei) took the Franks to headquarters. After some shuffling around, they wound up at the Westerbork transit camp.

The war was winding down rapidly - the Allies were already in Brussels, Belgium - but there was time for one last train to Auschwitz. On 3 September 1944, the group was deported on what would be the last transport from Westerbork to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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Anne Frank before the war.

All of the Franks survived the initial screening - failing meant death in the gas showers - but that was only the start of their troubles. About a month later, Anne and Margot were transferred to another death camp, Bergen-Belsen. Edith stayed behind at Auschwitz and soon died.

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Anne Frank, with her mother, Edith, circa 1932-33.

Anne and Margot wound up at Bergen-Belsen. They survived through a miserable winter, but not long after.

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The sisters both died in March/April 1945. Food was scarce and epidemics raged through the camps in unheated dormitories. Bergen-Belsen was liberated on April 15, 1945, by British troops, but it was too late for Anne Frank.

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Anne and Margot Frank.

Otto Frank survived. He found out that Edith had died, but there was no word on the two girls. He had no word for months.

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Anne and Margot Frank, 1933, Aachen, Germany.

Mr. Frank finally found out from the Red Cross in July 1945 that Anne and Margot had died that spring in Bergen-Belsen.

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The Franks in Frankfurt, Germany, 1933.

Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl were two of the employees who had been helping to shelter the Franks. They found some papers that the Franks had left behind and kept them in safekeeping. When Otto Frank came by, they gave him the papers.

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Anne (second from left) and friends, including Hanneli Goslar and Barbara and Sanne Ledermann.

Looking them over, Otto recalled that Anne had kept a diary. The diary was among the papers. It was a very detailed and comprehensive diary. It ended right before the Franks were arrested.

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Anne Frank and Sanne Ledermann.

Otto went and saw a historian, Annie Romein-Verschoor, about having the diary published. She didn't have any luck but gave it to her husband, Jan Romein.

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I don't know the date for this shot of Anne but looks as though it probably was taken sometime in the late '30s.

He wrote an article in the local paper about the diary. It might have ended there, but the article attracted notice. A publisher was found.

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Anne Frank (on left) and friends.

The diary was published in Germany and France in 1950, and in England in 1952. At first, it attracted little attention. For some reason, the Japanese were the first to really recognize Anne Frank as a cultural figure of great significance. Her fame grew from there.

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Anne Frank, undated.

Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote a play based on the diary. It won a Pulitzer Prize. A successful movie followed in 1959.

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Anne Frank at the Montessori school in 1940. She is 11 years old.

"The Diary of Anne Frank," as it is known in the publishing world, has only grown in popularity over the subsequent decades. It is considered a key part of the curriculum of schools around the world. It is especially revered in Holland.

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Anne Frank, Amsterdam, May 1941.

The Anne Frank House opened to the public on 3 May 1960 after Otto Frank went to great lengths to preserve it for history. It consists of his Opekta warehouse and offices and the Achterhuis where the Annex was located. It remains open to the public and is a top tourist attraction in Amsterdam. Clearly, Anne Frank demonstrated the power of the pen and never will be forgotten.

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Anne and Margot Frank, 1942. This is believed to be the last photo of Anne Frank.

The above photograph is believed to be the last known photo of Anne Frank with her sister Margot taken in early to mid-1942. This was shortly before they went into hiding. Later that year, in July 1942, Margot would receive notice that she was to be sent to Germany. The authorities were ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. Anne was then told by her father that the entire family would go into hiding rather than split up. This they did, and they were successful for two full years. The Frank family finally was discovered and arrested on the morning of August 4th, 1944. Somebody tipped the Germans off, but the identity of that person never has been determined.

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Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.

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Anne Frank's father, Otto.

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Anne Frank diary in Amsterdam.

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Anne Frank stamp 1988

The 60 agorot stamp above was issued by Israel in 1988. It shows images of young Anne Frank and the Amsterdam house at Prinsengracht 267, partially obscured by a tree, as it appeared in the 1940's.

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Victor Kugler.

Victor Kugler (5 June 1900, Hohenelbe/Vrchlabí – 16 December 1981, Toronto) was one of the people who helped hide Anne Frank and her family and friends during the German occupation of the Netherlands. In Anne Frank's posthumously published diary, "The Diary of a Young Girl," he was referred to under the name Mr. Kraler.

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Miep Gies.

Miep Gies was one of the Dutch citizens who hid Anne Frank, her family and several family friends in an attic annex above Anne's father's place of business. This was intended to keep the Germans from finding them during World War II. "I am not a hero. I just did what any decent person would have done."

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Peter Schiff.

Peter Schiff. The photo was taken: 1939. Discovered: 2008. In Anne Frank’s Diary, Anne called Peter Schiff her “one true love.” In 1940 at the age of 11, she wrote:
Peter was the ideal boy: tall, slim and good-looking, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face. He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely pointed nose. I was crazy about his smile, which made him look so boyish and mischievous.
For more than 60 years there were no photographs known of Anne Frank’s childhood sweetheart. Now, there is one.

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The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

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Anne Frank annex.

This is the Annex where Anne Frank, her family, and four others lived for two years and one month until they were anonymously betrayed to the authorities, arrested, and deported to their deaths in concentration camps.

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Karl Silberbauer, date unknown. Note the Swastika pin.

This is a picture of Karl Silberbauer. He was the officer that found and captured Anne Frank and her friends in the Secret Annex. He was a member of the SS.

The story of Silberbauer is important. Some might think that he was a cruel and inhuman monster who should have been hung outright as soon as he was identified as the man who arrested Anne Frank. That is an understandable feeling, based on the injustices of the world and the barbarity of the system in which he served.

Perhaps you think that, too, and that is ok. Not everybody does.

Simon Wiesenthal, the famed war criminal hunter, went to great lengths to find Silberbauer. He finally did. Silberbauer had returned to Austria and, after a jail sentence by the Russians due to his brutal interrogations of Communists, had been released. After many years of working to infiltrate possible terrorist groups for the government (basically as a continuation of his sentence), Silberbauer was rehabilitated and set free. He rejoined the Viennese police force, which is where Wiesenthal found him many years after the war.

At this point, Anne Frank had become a world celebrity. The play and diary and film were all worldwide hits. Upon learning of his past, the Austrian authorities were aghast. Silberbauer was suspended by the police force pending an investigation of what he had done during the war. It was a decisive moment in the life of Silberbauer, who freely admitted to having arrested Frank and remembered the incident with clarity. There was a media outcry against him. People hated him for what he had done.

Silberbauer admitted everything. He did not have any information about who had betrayed the Franks and simply stated that he had done his job without rancor. He had been a tiny cog in an immense wheel of injustice.

Incredibly, Otto Frank stepped forward on his behalf and testified to the court that Silberbauer had acted correctly and without cruelty during the arrest. Silberbauer, he stated, even had done his job with some degree of courtesy. That statement implies nothing about Silberbauer or his intelligence, morals or ethics or anything else aside from that limited point. Otto Frank figured that the unknown person who had betrayed them was the malefactor, not Silberbauer, who was simply doing as ordered. Mr. Frank was not joined by many in this assessment, but his opinion was decisive in Silberbauer's fate.

Otto Frank had class.

Based on Otto Frank's ability to be fair and speak up on Silberbauer's behalf, the Dutch and Austrian courts cleared Silberbauer of any wrongdoing in the incident. He had just been doing his job, they concluded. Silberbauer was reinstated to the Vienna police force and allowed to continue with his life unmolested, probably grateful that the whole thing had been hashed out and resolved. He died in Vienna about ten years later, in 1972, aged 61.

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Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father and the only surviving member of the Frank family, revisiting the attic they spent the war in.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Celebrities In Uniform World War II

Some Celebrity Soldiers of World War II

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Captains Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart ca. 1943.
If you are looking for a specific celebrity, do Control-F (pc) and type in their last name. This is a long article, but believe me when I write that it could be ten times longer and still not do justice to everyone.

Below are some celebrities who served in the military during World War II. Naturally, a huge number of celebrities participated in the war effort, and so this list is not by any means meant to be all-inclusive or exhaustive or anything like that. Nobody is left out intentionally, the only rule was that to be on this page, the person had to be a celebrity whose fame extended beyond the duration of the war - before or after. I hope to make this fairly comprehensive over time, but it will never be complete because there are simply too many veterans who became (or had been) celebrities.

Celebrity warriors generally fall into three camps:
  1. Celebrities who were famous before they served in World War II (and almost invariably remained famous thereafter, though there were exceptions such as Max Schmeling). The top figures in this category are Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Mickey Rooney; 
  2. Celebrities who only became famous many years later, being unknown or largely unknown at their time of enlistment. Some names in this huge field include Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and George Scott; and 
  3. Celebrities who initially became famous to some extent due to their war service during the war, and greatly extended it after the war in some new direction. Audie Murphy and Pappy Boyington exemplify this group.
I have tried to concentrate on the first two categories, because "war heroes" will get their own page. However, there are some pure war heroes with no other real connection to enduring celebrity aside from the fact that they served (e.g., Pappy Boyington) who truly deserve recognition because of how they branched out and developed themselves as celebrities in other fields after their war service.

Follow on below for a peek at some of the well-known - and unexpected - names on this list.
John Banner- Army Air Corps- WWII.
Don't cheat and read the caption. This is an unknown actor posing for a (US) propaganda shot in 1942.  He was Jewish, born in Vienna, and left Europe when Hitler annexed Austria. He became an actor entirely by accident and had a few Hollywood roles as Gestapo agents and such before joining the US Army. Odds are you never learned his name or background, as he never truly became a household name. But look directly below, I bet you will recognize him from 20 years after this publicity shot.
Most of the celebrities below have passed away at the time of this writing, but some - Mel Brooks, for instance - remain living links to that generation.
John Banner- Army Air Corps- WWII.
This is probably how you remember Mr. John Banner.
Please note: there are a few German celebrities included who served in the Wehrmacht. They were not convicted of any crimes and, in fact, in at least one case, saved the innocent lives of people who would have been murdered. They were or became celebrities and they were in uniform, so they are included for purposes of seeing how that played out at the time and in later years. They also happen to be household names in the U.S or were at one time. I don't mean to offend anyone by including any particular person.

I also want to pay special respect to celebrities who perished during the conflict during their service. These include Glenn Miller and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

There really isn't any order to this page, and it is not alphabetical. If you served in the war, you were as good or bad as anyone else that served. There were no movie stars at 20,000 feet over Hamburg. I prefer to believe that every star, no matter how big, would have agreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment and asked for no preferential placement. For practical purposes, though, I did put a star or two in a particular spot to aid the flow of the article. Otherwise, it is pretty much random.

As always, if you want to see someone mentioned that I (so far) have overlooked, or you see any factual errors, drop me a note in the comments and I will get on it. I update this and add new names from time to time, it's a continuing project. I do it just because I feel these men deserve to be remembered for their service as much as their later fame. I know many men of this generation didn't like to talk about their service.

Apologies to those celebrities who just missed World War II, such as Gene Hackman and Warren Oates (both enlisted 1946), Steve McQueen (enlisted in the Marines in 1947), Willie Nelson (USAF 1950), Clint Eastwood (1951), and Sean Connery, among many others. They also served honorably, but this is a list of World War II Vets. Once again, I apologize for the Vets I have overlooked.

All right, let's start off with someone unexpected. Ladies first.
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This recruit's name is Bernice Frankel. Do you recognize her?

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Bea Arthur, accepting her Emmy for "The Golden Girls".
Bea Arthur (née Bernice Frankel) (1922-2009) SSgt. USMC 1943-45 WW II. Bea enlisted at the age of 21 and was assigned as a typist at Marine HQ in Washington D.C., then served at air stations in VA and NC. She apparently was a truck driver for a while. Did you know there were female Marines in World War II? How about during World War I? Yes, to both questions - and Bea was one of them, at least in WWII.

Arthur was one of the first members of the Women's Reserve before World War II. On her volunteer application, Bea listed her active hobbies as hunting with a ".22 caliber rifle and a bow and arrow." When she was interviewed for enlistment, the notes described her as "officious – but probably a good worker – if she has her own way,” as well as “argumentative” and “over-aggressive.” I know, go figure, right?

Arthur achieved fame as the character Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcoms "All in the Family" and "Maude," and as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom "The Golden Girls," winning Emmy Awards for both roles. She was a successful stage actress both before and after her television success. Being in the Marines no doubt helped to shape her abrasive professional personality that kept her busy for decades as a top character actress with an edge of sardonic humor.

Now, let's look at an unlikely female figure from the other side.
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Gertrude Stein.
Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) is a somewhat unlikely figure to appear in this article. She was a native of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, but when she was three, her family moved to Vienna, Austria for a year. They then moved back to Oakland, California. She became a well-known writer and "life partner" of Alice B. Toklas. All of this you may have known, or at least parts.

The part about World War II, though, is a little less well known. Gertrude Stein, though Jewish and a vocal lesbian, was a supporter of fascists such as Francisco Franco and Vichy leader Marshal Philippe Pétain. To put it gently, Stein became a collaborator of the German war machine during the war. At one point in 1934, fully aware that Hitler was "driving out the Jews from Germany," Stein "joked" to an interviewer from the New York Times that Adolf Hitler deserved the Nobel Peace Prize because he was removing sources of internal conflict from Germany. Stein was warned to leave by US officials, but she chose to stay in France.

Stein spent the early war years in Paris doing translations for the Vichy regime into English until that became unnecessary after Pearl Harbor. As late as 1944, Stein was lauding Petain's policies as being "really wonderful." The extent of Gertrude Stein's participation in the Axis war machine and her motivations for doing so is a very controversial topic. Many are quick to defend Stein and make excuses and argue this point or that, but there are undeniable facts that must be confronted.
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Werner Klemperer.
Well, we talked about John Banner above, so let's also mention his "Hogan's Heroes" co-star, Werner Klemperer. The son of a famous conductor, Werner Klemperer grew up in Germany (Cologne, Wiesbaden, Berlin) before in 1935 his family moved to California (Werner's father became head of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) before World War II to escape the Holocaust (his father was Jewish). Young Werner defied his father and skipped college in order to study at the Pasadena Playhouse (his first play was while he was in high school). The Klemperer family became US citizens, and Werner, after moving to New York to pursue his career, was drafted into the US Army in 1942. Werner was an infantryman in a combat division but then transferred to a special services theater group by auditioning for it. Werner spent most of the war in Hawaii, serving with Carl Reiner and other show people, mustering out honorably in 1945.

Werner continued his career after the war, becoming primarily a television actor. He typically played the heavy. In the mid-1960s, Werner was offered the part of a commandant in a German POW camp in the TV series "Hogan's Heroes." It became a smash hit. Klemperer came up with the riding crop and monocle for his character Colonel Klink and creating an enduring image. "Hogan's Heroes" remained a huge success in syndication after its long original run, becoming a cult hit even after went off the air in 1971. After that, Klemperer mixed film and television work with stage appearances (earning a Tony Award nomination for his performance in Cabaret in its 1987 Broadway revival). Werner Klemperer, recognized as his "Hogan's Heroes" character "Colonel Klink" (of which he was very proud) for the rest of his life, passed away on 6 December 2000.
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The Manitoban, January 10, 1944.

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Monty Hall in The Manitoban, March 1, 1944.
Monte R. Halparin was born on August 25, 1921, in Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada. Details are murky, but apparently, Halparin served in the Canadian Army during World War II and emceed a series of Army shows as part of his military duties. After he mustered out, Monte embarked on a broadcasting career in Canadian radio and television. In 1946, Halparin began a job at radio station CHUM in Toronto. Management decided to promote Halparin's show on billboards, but they decided his last name was too long, so they shortened it to Hall. They also misspelled his first name as "Monty," so from that point forward, Monte Halparin worked under the stage name Monty Hall.

After his Canadian television employer, CBC, let him go, Monte Halparin moved to New York City in 1955. Monty began hosting game shows in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with his big break being "Video Village" on CBS TV in 1960. Monty Hall then helped develop and hosted "Let's Make A Deal," a famous game show which he continued to host until 1991 and with which he remained associated until his death on 30 September 2017. In all, Monty Hall hosted 4700 episodes of "Let's Make A Deal." Monty Hall received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 24, 1973, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars in 2000, and in 2002, he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
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Red Skelton.
Richard Bernard Skelton, known professionally as Red Skelton, was a huge radio comedy star when the war broke out. As a married man, he had a deferment, but his wife left him (while sticking around to manage his career) in 1943. So, he lost his deferment and was drafted. Drafted in early 1944, Red became a private on 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day.

Initially, just an ordinary private, Red was transferred into the entertainment corps and entertained troops both stateside and in Italy. He undertook a huge workload and developed voice problems, which sent him to a VA hospital in Virginia. Once the war ended, Red was honorably discharged in September 1945 and resumed his NBC radio show on 4 December 1945. His radio show turned into a top-rated television show which continued until 1971, and he also did occasional appearances in films. While his service was just a blip in his long entertainment career, it had one enduring legacy: the termination of his radio show upon his induction led to his bandmaster, Ozzie Nelson, and his wife Harriet getting their own show.
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A wartime Dr. Seuss cartoon.

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The Cat in the Hat & Dr. Seuss at the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden - Springfield, MA; statues designed by Theodor Geisel's step-daughter, sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates; photo by Erika_F
Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) was a well-known children's book author whose pen name is universal - Dr. Seuss. He joined the Army as a Captain in 1943 after having supported the war effort informally and was the commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. He wrote films that included "Your Job in Germany," a 1945 propaganda film about peace in Europe after World War II, "Our Job in Japan," and the "Private Snafu" series of adult army training films. While in the Army, Dr. Seuss was awarded the Legion of Merit. Only after the war, in the 1950s, did Dr. Seuss craft the series of children's books such as "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs with Ham" that is synonymous with his pen name and have sold over 600 million copies. I have a tribute page with more of Mr. Geisel's World War II work here.
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Charles M. Schulz.
Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000) was drafted into the United States Army at the age of 20 in 1943. He served as a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in Europe, as a squad leader on a .50 caliber machine gun team. His unit saw combat only at the very end of the war. Schulz did not like to play up his service and said later that he only had one opportunity to fire his machine gun - but forgot to load it. Fortunately, the German soldier he could have fired at willingly surrendered. Years later, Schulz proudly spoke of his wartime service. Schulz was good friends with Bill Mauldin, another celebrity cartoonist with deep roots in the war. Schulz, of course, later became famous for his "Peanuts" strips, among other classic works.
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Mel Brooks worldwartwo.filminspector.com

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Mel Brooks.
Mel Brooks (actual name Melvin Kaminsky) is well known as the director and writer of classic comedies stretching back to the 1960s. Among his better-known productions are "Young Frankenstein," "Blazing Saddles" and "The Producers."

A fact that is a little less known is that Mel served as a private, then a corporal, in World War II, including combat during the Battle of the Bulge. After specialized training at Virginia Military Institute, Mel was in the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion. One of his jobs was defusing landmines, which is no laughing matter and killed a lot of soldiers. He remarked of his service, "I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering."
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Jack Webb in "Appointment with Danger," 1950.
John Randolph Webb was born on 2 April 1920 in Santa Monica, California. Nicknamed "Jack," he was popular in high school, being elected class president. After going to college, Jack Webb enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, but he "washed out" of flight training. Webb later received a hardship discharge because he was the primary financial support for both his mother and grandmother. This gave him a head start on developing a post-war career which he took full advantage of.

Webb then moved to San Francisco, where he got into radio broadcasting. He had his own show, "The Jack Webb Show," in 1946. He got some film roles, but that career never took off. His radio career blossomed, however, and Jack Webb became a key figure on "Dragnet" in 1949. Webb's character of Detective Joe Friday struck a chord with listeners, and he carried the character over into a television show that ran from 1952 to 1959. "Dragnet" also became a 1954 feature film. Webb formed a successful production company, Mark VII Productions, which he ran for the rest of his life. Some of the Mark VII Productions were "Noah's Ark," Emergency," and a second incarnation of "Dragnet" from 1967-1970. Webb was famous for directing all of his television "Dragnet" appearances and also writing many episodes for it and the other Mark VII productions, including 174 episodes of "Adam-12."

Webb was going to resuscitate "Dragnet" again in the 1980s when he suddenly passed away from a heart attack on 23 December 1982. Jack Webb has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for radio (at 7040 Hollywood Boulevard) and the other for television (at 6728 Hollywood Boulevard), and was posthumously inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1992.
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Edmond O'Brien during World War II.
Edmond O'Brien was born in Brooklyn on 10 September 1915. He developed a love for show business early, performing magic acts for neighbors under the tutelage of Harry Houdini himself. O'Brien began acting in school plays, in Fordham University plays, then studied under Sanford Meisner and others. RKO Pictures noticed his work in a Broadway play in 1937 and signed him to a contract. This led to a starring role as Pierre Gringoire in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939), which became a classic, and other films. In 1942 or 1943 (sources vary), O'Brien entered the US Army Air Force and joined its entertainment division, which led to work in the service's Broadway Play "Winged Victory." He appeared in the filmed version and also toured with the production for two years despite mustering out honorably in  1944.

O'Brien resumed his Hollywood career in 1946 like the war had never happened. After starring in the classic "The Killers" (1946), O'Brien signed with Warner Bros. This led to a string of primarily film noir roles as gangsters, cops, victims, and sometimes all three at the same time. His best films during this period were "White Heat" (1949) with Jimmy Cagney and "D.O.A." (1950), both of which are among the finest films in the genre. Mr. O'Brien probably would consider this period as the highpoint of his career. After these brilliant successes, though, O'Brien's career subsided and he played an increasing number of supporting and character roles. He tried several TV series, but none of them were particularly successful, and he even tried his hand at directing. By the mid-1960s, O'Brien was complaining to interviewers about his lack of "personality success," though he was almost always working. This is not to imply that O'Brien's talent waned. He brilliantly played a doomed terrorist in Rod Serling's "Doomsday Flight" (1966), a film that deserves more recognition as the true forerunner of the "Airport" series of films that followed. Unfortunately, O'Brien's health declined rapidly during the 1970s as he developed Alzheimer's disease at a young age. Edmond O'Brien, the winner of an Academy Award and with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, passed away on 9 May 1985.
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Dick Van Dyke in London, 1967.

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Dick Van Dyke with Mary Tyler Moore ca. 1961.
In doing research for this page, I found that most of the results I already knew. A few, though, absolutely shocked me, and this is one of them. This is something I should have known but didn't.

Part of my confusion lies in the fact that this man seemed to break through as a beginning actor in the early 1960s and appeared unconnected with his own generation. He also played, quite convincingly, a stranded serviceman in "Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N." in 1966. Overall, he always seemed much younger than he was (and still does, in fact). All that is deceiving, because this legend had been working on his "overnight success" for the entire decade of the 1950s. It was all local fame prior to the 1960s, however.

Okay, it is Dick Van Dyke. Dick enlisted to be a pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II but initially did not make the cut. Van Dyke did not meet the weight requirement. He tried three times to enlist, before barely making the cut. He then served as a radio announcer during the war, and he never left the United States nor flew a plane.

Dick was stationed at Camp Crowder in Missouri, and this became part of his acting career. In the first season of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," he several times alludes to that camp. During the show, as emcee of the entertainment for the troops at Crowder, he meets a singer/dancer played by Mary Tyler Moore, who, in the sitcom, he will later marry.

Camp Crowder had an awful reputation amongst the troops for its uncomfortable living arrangements. Apparently, it was hot, dirty, and bug-infested. Besides Van Dyke, the camp counted among its inhabitants the humorist Jean Shepherd and the cartoonist Mort Walker ("Beetle Bailey"). Apparently, service there brought out the humor in people.

After the war, Van Dyke tried doing local radio advertising in Danville (his father was a salesman), then when that failed tried to become a radio announcer but failed to get a job, then teamed up with a hometown friend looking for a partner. This led to a nightclub act in Los Angeles (lipsynching to popular records) that toured the country and lasted until 1953. Local TV and radio shows followed, including stints in Atlanta and New Orleans, and then an old army buddy (Byron Paul) hooked him up with a seven-year CBS network contract in 1955. He became the host of the network morning show (7-10 am) for a while. After a couple of failed pilots, a children's show (CBS Cartoon Theater), and some guest star appearances, he was let go from his contract in 1958 "because they didn't know what to do with me." He scrambled for work on ABC and Broadway and got his first sitcom appearance on the Phil Silvers Show. Gower Champion then showed up out of the blue and gave Van Dyke his big break, the lead in "Bye Bye Birdie." This became a massive success and led to "The Dick Van Dyke Show," which made him a household name.

As of this writing in 2020, Dick Van Dyke remains very much a working actor, though he has numerous times declared that he was "retired." Apparently for Vets like Dick, being retired means continuing to work. Dick is among the last of the World War II Vets still going strong in his occupation, 70 years after his service.
Buddy Ebsen worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Buddy Ebsen, center.
Nancy Kulp worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Nancy Kulp.
Two stars of "The Beverly Hillbillies" served in World War II, and, strangely enough, they had the same rank. Buddy Ebsen, already a big star who almost appeared in "The Wizard of Oz" but had to withdraw due to health issues, applied to serve in the US Navy but was rejected. Instead, he joined the US Coast Guard and served as the damage control officer and later as executive officer on the Coast Guard-crewed Navy frigate USS Pocatello, which observed the weather at its "weather station" 1,500 miles west of Seattle.

The other star is probably going to come as a surprise. Nancy Kulp was just starting out in her career as a journalist when she decided to enlist in the women's branch of the United States Naval Reserve. We'll do a more complete write-up of Kulp below.

Both Kulp and Ebsen left the service (along with practically everyone else) in 1946. Oh, the rank held by both Buddy Ebsen and Nancy Kulp was lieutenant, junior grade.
Charles Boyer worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Charles Boyer ca. 1920.
Charles Boyer was born in Figeac, Lot, France, on 28 August 1899. He worked as a hospital orderly during World War I, then briefly studied at the Sorbonne. His main career interest was acting. In 1920, he got a big break by replacing the leading man in a stage production in Paris. This led Boyer to become a stage star, renowned for his suave and debonair image. He also began acting in films, the first being L 'homme du large (1920), and this career quickly escalated to star status as well. Metro Goldwyn Mayer brought him to Hollywood in 1930. In 1931, Boyer had his first English-speaking role in "The Magnificent Lie." He split his time between working in France and the United States for the remainder of the decade, with his biggest hit being "Algiers" (1938), an English-language remake of French classic "Pepe Le Moko." His phrase from the film's trailer, "Come with me to the Casbah," said with Boyer's heavy French accent, became his tagline. Animator Chuck Jones later based his cartoon character Pepe Le Pew on Boyer's performance in "Algiers." So, Charles Boyer was an international film star by World War II.

When war broke out in September 1939, Boyer happened by chance to be in Nice, France, working on a French film ("Le corsaire," never completed because of the war). The production ceased immediately when France declared war. Although 40 years old, Boyer joined the French Army. However, he was short and not in very good shape (despite his image). The French government discharged him from the army by November 1939 and told him that he would serve his country best by continuing to make films. Boyer immediately returned to Hollywood and began the most famous portion of his career, working for all the top studios. He thus avoided the occupation of France, not returning until after the war. Perhaps Boyer's most famous film was "Gaslight" (1944) with Ingrid Bergman, whose plot involved trying to convince his wife that she was crazy. The word "gaslight" since has entered the lexicon for people lying to try to convince another of a false fact.

Boyer's career continued after the war, and he was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. However, his career seldom again reached the heights that it had during the war years. However, he became a successful television show producer in the 1950s as one of the founders of Four Star Productions with David Niven and Dick Powell. This set him up financially for life to the extent his earlier successes may not have.

Charles Boyer remained a top star, and even earned an Oscar nomination for "Fanny" (1961). He received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and many other honors. However, his later years featured some family tragedies from which he never recovered. Charles Boyer passed away on 26 August 1978 two days after the death of his long-time wife, British actress Pat Paterson.
Glenn Miller worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Glenn Miller.

Glenn Miller worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Glenn Miller, writer, and performer of classic jazz compositions such as "In the Mood," "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Moonlight Serenade," was at the peak of his fame when the war started. In 1942, he was aged 38, with his own band and hit records. He was well beyond draft age and could have sat out the war entertaining civilians and troops stateside. Instead, he volunteered for service in 1942, joining the Army after the Navy turned him down. He quickly became a Major.

On December 15, Miller was flying to Paris in a light plane that disappeared. Modern research suggests that his plane was hit by bombs dropped by Allied bombers returning from an abortive raid on Siegen, Germany. A crew member on one of the bombers stated that he saw a small plane hit by the bombs and sent into the sea, but there is no proof that it was Miller's plane. There are other theories, including a controversial one that states that Miller actually made it to Paris but died of a heart attack there while in flagrante delicto with a local girl. According to this version, Miller's actual cause of death was covered up because of the embarrassing circumstances and a cover story of a lost flight was crafted out of whole cloth. Whatever happened, Glenn Miller died in the service of his country. Perhaps his plane will be found someday - assuming there is a plane to be found.
Ray Eberle worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ray Eberle.

Bob Eberle worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bob Eberle.
Ray Eberle was a vocalist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra who was in the service at the same time that Glenn Miller was. Eberle sang on some of Miller's most beloved records, including "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "At Last." You might think that Miller gladly would have re-teamed with Eberle while they were both wearing the uniform. However, Miller had fired Eberle in June 1942 under murky surfaces, and Miller apparently never requested Eberle's participation in his own army band due to lingering bad feelings. Instead, Eberle, who was drafted in December 1943, served out his two years in the army quietly.

Ray's brother, Robert Eberle, also was a top singer and served in the army during the war. He sang with the Wayne King army band. However, it is unclear if Ray sang in the service as well. Bob Eberle, a Corporal, is perhaps most famous for singing "Bésame Mucho" with Kitty Kallen in 1944. He also sang on the "Notes From Your Soldier's Notebook" NBC Blue Network radio program later in 1944.

After mustering out after the war, neither Eberle regained his former popularity as a vocalist. Ray struggled to form his own band, hooked up with other performers such as Tex Beneke, and had occasional television appearances (including on "Happy Days"). Ray Eberle passed away on 25 August 1979 in Douglaston, Georgia, and Robert Eberle passed away on November 17, 1981. Ray's daughter, Jan, also became a singer and wrote a biography of her father.
Ralph Byrd worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ralph Byrd.
Ralph Byrd was a star of B-movies and serials before World War II. He was best known for starring in two popular Dick Tracey serials and was known "as" Dick Tracey. This did not stop him from being drafted at the age of 35 into the Army in 1944. He served in the United States Army after being inducted into the service in San Pedro, California, in 1944. Unlike some other stars, Byrd did not have any credits during his hitch, simply doing whatever the Army told him. Upon returning to the Hollywood scene in 1947, he found that RKO Radio Pictures had recast the role of Dick Tracey in two films. However, after theater exhibitors complained, Byrd was rehired for more Dick Tracey roles including "Dick Tracey's Dilemma" and "Dick Tracey Meets Gruesome," both in 1947. Aside from that one role, however, Byrd was often an uncredited bit-part actor just hustling for roles. While starring as Tracey in an early television series, Ralph Byrd suddenly passed away in 1951 from a heart attack at the age of 43 in Tarzana, California.
Bob Dole worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bob Dole.
Bob Dole-Army-1942-48-WW2-10th Mountain Division-Bronze Star, 2 Purple Hearts. He later became a Kansas Senator, Senate Majority Leader, and 1996 Republican candidate for US President. Bob is a long-time resident of the Watergate Hotel in Washingon, D.C. As of 2016, Senator Dole, who lost partial use of one arm from enemy fire, is still very much with us and serving as an elder statesman.
Paul Maxwell worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Paul Maxwell.
Paul Maxwell was born on 12 November 1921 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He served in the Royal Canadian Artillery during World War II "somewhere in Europe." After the war, Maxwell graduated from Yale University and moved to England, where he met and married Scottish actress Mary Lindsay. Maxwell began getting bit parts in film and on British television in 1957, and these gradually grew in prominence though he never became a headliner. However, Paul Maxwell was very respected behind the scenes. Maxwell hooked up with Gerry Anderson in the mid-1960s and voiced various characters on "Fireball XL5," later returning for voice roles on "Thunderbirds are Go" and "Captain Scarlett," and a final live-action appearance on "UFO." Maxwell often filled a particular niche role of playing an American or an implied American/Canadian on British productions due to his flat accent. While not particularly familiar to American audiences except in the occasional British production that crossed the pond, Maxwell is perhaps best known globally as the character Panama Hat in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989). Paul Maxwell passed away on 19 December 1991 in London at age 70.
Eddie Albert.
Eddie Albert was an amiable, avuncular actor who never seemed to have a harsh word for anyone. However, he was far from being a milquetoast. Below, an article is reprinted which goes into some detail about what Eddie Albert actually did during World War II.

Actor first earned fame for heroism in combat
By Charles A. Jones - Special to the Times
Posted : November 26, 2007

Best known for his role as lawyer-turned-farmer Oliver Wendell Douglas on the 1960s TV show “Green Acres,” Eddie Albert also had a strong following in the 2nd Marine Division after he helped save the lives of dozens of leathernecks during the Battle of Tarawa.

Albert, whose real name was Edward Albert Heimberger, established himself as an actor in pre-war Hollywood with his first movie, 1938’s “Brother Rat.”

But after the bombing of Pearl Harbor launched the U.S. into World War II, he joined the Navy in 1942 and was commissioned as a Naval Reserve lieutenant junior grade.

He sailed to Tarawa as a salvage officer on the troop ship Sheridan, one of many ships that arrived on Nov. 20, 1943. Tarawa was a strategically vital Pacific island that was key to helping U.S. bombers attack Japanese forces in the Marianas.

Albert guided the assistant control boat he commanded to the designated drop zone on the beach, where it unloaded Marines and supplies.

However, a blunder by military planners predicting the tides stranded many landing craft hundreds of yards off-shore on reefs and exposed Marines to Japanese fire.

As Marine casualties mounted in the lagoon, Albert assumed the initiative, plucking the injured and dead out of the water and from under enemy fire in his salvage boat. He transferred the leathernecks to landing craft, which then transported them to ships further offshore for medical treatment.

When his boat was damaged, Albert sent it and the wounded Marines aboard to the Sheridan, taking command of a landing craft and rescuing more men.

Assuming command of a third craft, he led four other boats to the beach and loaded them with wounded Marines, taking them to various ships, including destroyers providing fire support.

Albert took 46 wounded Marines to the Schroeder on his final trip; records show 42 of them survived.

His last task at the end of the battle was to recover bodies from the surf. After Tarawa, Albert made training films and did war bond tours. He left the Navy after the war as a lieutenant.

Albert resumed acting and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for 1953’s “Roman Holiday” and 1972’s “The Heartbreak Kid.”

Forty-four years after the battle, due largely to efforts of Schroeder crew members, Albert received a Bronze Star with combat “V” for his actions at Tarawa. He died at age 99 in 2005.
Bob Hope Jerry Colonna World War II worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bob Hope and sidekick Jerry Colonna during World War II.

Bob Hope Alaska World War II Veteran worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bob Hope's service papers.
Purists will argue that Bob Hope never enlisted during World War II. Well, they would be correct. However, in fact, Bob was every bit as much a veteran of World War II as any GI who invaded an enemy beach or airman who shot down an FW-109.

How can this be?

On Dec 23, 1942, Bob Hope agreed to entertain U.S. airmen in Alaska. This was during a time when Japanese soldiers still occupied some Alaskan territory. It was the first of the traditional Christmas shows that Bob later performed for the troops into the 1990s. The trip to Alaska, then a U.S. territory, required a special permit. So, he entered a combat area and did his duty there.

In 1997, Bob Hope was designated an honorary veteran for his humanitarian services to the United States Armed Forces by Congress. He is the only individual in history to have earned this honor. He certainly is the only man born in England to win that honor from the United States.

So, Bob belongs here. I have no patience with people obsessed with technicalities. He went into a war zone in the service of his (adopted) country, he was almost 40 at the time of Pearl Harbor yet exerted himself to help the cause, he didn't have to do squat and yet did a great deal, and veterans invariably loved him. That's good enough for me.
Kevin McCarthy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Kevin McCarthy as Biff Lohman in "Death of a Salesman" (1951).
Kevin McCarthy was born in Seattle, Washington on 15 February 1914. After his parents died in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, McCarthy grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After a rough childhood, he attended the University of Minnesota and began acting. He served in World War II in the entertainment unit of the United States Army Air Force. After making some training films, he appeared in the "Winged Victory" Broadway show along with many others on this page. After the war, he became a founding member of The Actors Studio. His big break was the film "Death of a Salesman" (1951), which was his first true film role (aside from a bit part in the film version of "Winged Victory") and which earned McCarthy an Academy Award nomination. Quite a career start!

After that breakthrough, McCarthy settled into a career primarily as a television guest star actor. One of his relatively rare lead film roles, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956), though, turned into a surprise science fiction cult classic. McCarthy's epic scene of running through traffic shouting to warn people of imminent danger became iconic and was parodied many times afterward, including by McCarthy himself in the 1978 remake. Many would consider "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" to be the highlight of his career, though McCarthy himself might disagree. The role cemented his place in Hollywood, and McCarthy remained a working actor until his death (in fact, some of his work was released after his death). While continuing his TV work, McCarthy also played amiable supporting roles in films, usually portraying a conflicted character or put-upon authority figure, but almost never a lead actor. He did have a lead role in the "Flamingo Road" television series of the early 1980s and also a recurring role in "The Colbys." Kevin McCarthy passed away on 11 September 2010 at age 96 in Hyannis, Massachusetts.
Robert Montgomery worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Robert Montgomery.
Robert Montgomery worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery filming Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941). Lombard gave her life for the war effort, perishing in a plane crash during a war bond tour early in 1942. Montgomery signed up about the same time.
Oscar-winning actor Robert Montgomery (1904-1981) joined the U.S. Navy and served as Naval Attache on British destroyers hunting U-boats. He became a PT boat commander and participated in the D-Day invasion on board a Destroyer.

Montgomery served five years of active war duty, was awarded a Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Ribbon, the European Theater Ribbon with 2 Battle Stars, one Overseas Service Bar, and promoted to the rank of Lt. Commander.

You likely don't know who Robert Montgomery was because chances are his star rose, burned very bright, and then set before you were born. He actually was quite famous in his day, starring in, for instance, the original "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" with Carole Lombard for director Alfred Hitchcock. Big time actor, biiiiiiiiig star both before and after World War II.

I know, still not ringing any bells. I understand. Let's try again.

Well, he had a very successful anthology show named after him that ran for almost the entire decade of the 1950s. Montgomery was a huuuuge television presence throughout the decade. Huuuuuuge.

No, huh. Still not ringing any bells. I know, that show has never been in repeats for some reason so it might as well never have existed.

Ok, one last shot: he was the father of Sabrina in "Bewitched." Yes, Elizabeth Montgomery was his daughter. Yes! Score!

See? There you go! Montgomery was a great hero!
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. joined the Royal Navy as a lieutenant, junior grade during the Second World War. Fairbanks served on Lord Mountbatten’s staff in England – giving him access to areas most reserve officers did not have. Fairbanks became proficient in military deception skills. He used this new-found talent to create the Beach Jumpers, whose mission was to land on beaches and make the enemy believe they were the force to be reckoned with when in fact the main attack was elsewhere. Fairbanks also led an assault on Casquet lighthouse on the French coast. Later, Fairbanks conducted a desert raid on Sened Station, North Africa. Fairbanks also took part in Allies' landings in Sicily and Elba in 1943. On D-Day, Fairbanks commanded a detachment of PT boats that sailed toward the coast of France in a non-targeted area in order to deceive Germans about the true location of the invasion. Fairbanks earned the British Silver Star award and DSC, the Italian War Cross for Military Valor, the Legion D’Honneuer, and the Croix Guerre with Palm. He stayed in the military after the war and eventually made captain.
Neville Brand worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Neville Brand in "D.O.A."
Neville Brand isn't much of a household name these days. However, you would recognize him if you saw him on screen.

After being born in Griswold, Iowa, Brand joined the Illinois National Guard in October 1939 as a private in Company F, 129th Infantry Regiment. This unit was absorbed into the U.S. Army on March 5, 1941. After training at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Brand served with B Company, 331st Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division. Neville Brand saw action in the Battle of the Bulge and was wounded on the Weser River on April 7, 1945. He received the Silver Star and several other medals. The Silver Star came about because he decided to singlehandedly go into a hunting lodge being used by Germans as a machine gun nest and subdue it. "I must have flipped my lid," he said in 1966.

After the war, Neville began a brilliant career as a character actor. He made a memorable debut in "D.O.A." (1950) as a crazed henchman, then went on play gruff characters in Bonanza and other shows and films. Neville Brand passed away in April 1992 and is buried in Sacramento, California.
Jack Warden worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Jack Warden.
Jack Warden, along with Ernest Borgnine, is one of the few celebrities who were in the military both before and during the war. Not only was he in it - he saw more of it than just about anyone else. Warden was another Vet who didn't say much about his experiences later while pursuing his acting career, but Jack Warden earned his battle stripes.

Warden served in the U.S. Navy from 1938-1941, then joined the Merchant Marine as water tender in the engine room. He then learned that he heartily disliked convoy duty because of Axis aircraft attacks and his dangerous location 3 decks below the main deck which made survival highly unlikely in the event of a quick sinking (some ships went down literally in seconds) -- this, as he says, ended his "romance with the life of a sailor." Warden left the Merchant Marine in 1942, joined the Army and became a platoon sergeant and parachute jumpmaster in the 101st Airborne - the outfit that held Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The 101st were (and are) the ultimate badasses. That's just an amazing career progression in the military for anyone, much less a celebrity.

Oh, and Jack Warden later became a top character actor on television and films. He was Juror 7 in "12 Angry Men" (1957), but after that mostly played gruff-but-understanding types in a slew of television series. My personal favorite Jack Warden appearance was as a lovelorn convict in the original "The Twilight Zone," where he somewhat played against type, and he cornered the market on gruff-but-understanding police lieutenants in "N.Y.P.D." (1967-1969). Jack had an interesting career progression in Hollywood, too - he started out in films, became a huge television actor starring in about as many different series as anyone in the business, and then spent the final decade of his career almost entirely in films again. If you like cult films, pick up a copy of "Used Cars" (1980), with Jack as feuding twin used car salesmen, a role he was born to play. Jack Warden passed away in 2006.
Bob Barker worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bob Barker, USN.
Bob Barker was in Drury College on a basketball scholarship when he joined the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot. When World War II began, Barker enlisted in the U.S. Navy and began training as a fighter pilot. However, the war ended before he could be assigned to a seagoing squadron. After the war, Bob resumed his education at Drury and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics. Much later, Bob Barker became the long-time host of "The Price is Right" and won a phenomenal 19 Emmy Awards (among many other honors, and he has quite a few). Bob Barker remains active in the entertainment business as of this writing in 2018.
Julia Childs worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Julia Childs.
Julia Child was an American spy during WWII for the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to CIA). She became a top-secret researcher for the director of the OSS, the legendary William "Wild Bill" Donovan. And, later, she worked to reduce the threat of U-boats, the deadly Kriegsmarine submarines.

Yes, cooking show hostess Julia Child. Yeeesss, Julia Child. Big war hero.
Ronald Reagan worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ronald Reagan, May 2, 1942.
Ronald Reagan, the future United States President in the 1980s, already was a leading man in Hollywood at the time of Pearl Harbor. The original caption of the second photo above, written on the back, reads: "5/2/1942-San Francisco, CA- Picture shows Lt. Ronald Reagan, New Morale Officer at Fort Mason in San Francisco, CA at Hamilton Field."

Many people know a lot about Ronald Reagan due to his political success. Even people who know more than others, though, may not appreciate that Reagan actually joined the military well before not only Pearl Harbor, but even before Hitler invaded Poland. Despite being a huge film star already, Reagan enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corp of the Cavalry on 25 May 1937.

After war broke out, Reagan was called up on 18 April 1942. Due to poor eyesight, his service options were limited. The Army sent him first to Fort Mason, California, where he served as a liaison officer. Later, he transferred to the Army Air Force (USAAF), again serving in public relations. Ultimately, he wound up in the First Motion Picture Unit in Culver City, California. He later participated in war bond sales, and his unit produced some 400 USAAF training films. Reagan did what the Army wanted him to do, and he did it well. He mustered out on 9 December 1945 with the rank of Captain.

Mr. Reagan returned to his film career after the war, did some television work, served as President of the Screen Actors Guild, then graduated to politics in the 1960s.
Ronald Reagan worldwartwo.filminspector.com
David Niven in 1944 "somewhere in Europe."
David Niven is seen by many Americans as the archetypal posh English pouf attended to by servants and drinking champagne in the back of his jalopy while cracking jokes. While all of that may be true... well, actually it's not true at all. But Niven is one of my favorite actors, and it's great that he also was a bona fide war hero.

James David Graham Niven in point of fact did come from a distinguished family, full of heroic types killed with glory in the Zulu War and bearing hyphenated names and distinguished medals and all that. Niven, however, was a bit of a black sheep and got thrown out, as they say, but in his case for real, of some of the best schools in England. Winding up at Sandhurst, he graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1930. He served for a few years, got bored, resigned (that's a delicate way of putting it, he actually escaped from house arrest and fled to America), tried selling whiskey in New York City, tried to break into acting in Hollywood, went to Mexico and worked menial jobs to earn his way back into the States with a resident alien visa, and then finally got accepted by Central Casting as, well, the archetypal Englishman who might be attended to by servants and drink champagne in the back of his jalopy.

Success followed - how could it not for someone who so firmly fulfilled the image? - and by 1939 David Niven was the toast of the town, friends with Errol Flynn and renting Rosalind Russell's house. However, after 3 September 1939, he quickly returned to England - the Foreign Office wanted successful actors like him to stay there and work in patriotic films, but David had shown that he didn't take kindly to instructions of that nature - and re-assumed his old rank of Lieutenant on 25 February 1940. Apparently, the little matter of insulting the General (that's why he had been under house arrest) was forgiven now that there was a war on. Niven wound up in the Commandos because, once again, he got bored with ordinary soldiering, and worked in the Film Unit - which was a nice cover for what he was really doing. You know that film "Argo"? Stuff like that, for real.

Niven went ashore a few days after D-Day as a member of the "Phantom Signals Unit." It was a sort of military intelligence outfit, but Niven - like many of his day, see Christopher Lee elsewhere in this article - refused to talk about it afterward, so we don't really know what he did. Suffice to say there was some skullduggery involved, the whole false-mustache bit at which he, a top actor, excelled. Niven ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel, receiving the Legion of Merit at the hands of General Dwight D. Eisenhower for whatever it was that he did - and it must have been something indeed to get that kind of honor.

Niven returned to Hollywood after the war and became one of the top leading men of his day, once again playing bon vivant types who never earned an honest day's pay in their lives. He won the 1958 Academy Award for Best Actor playing, what else, a Major in "Separate Tables." He also gave a fantastic turn in "The Guns of Navarone" that should have received more awards as a soldier who's seen one too many dead men for his liking but stands tall when it's time to be counted.

One of the most under-appreciated (for his military service) heroes of the war, Niven continued for the remainder of his career to draw roles which inevitably saw him elegantly attired in tuxedos and sipping champagne playing Sir such-and-such. Perhaps his greatest honor was the fact that Ian Fleming, a former spy type himself, chose Niven as the only Bond actor ("Casino Royale" 1967) to mention by name in any of his novels.
Jack Palance worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Jack Palance.
Jack Palance (1919-2006), US Army Air Corps, 455th bomb group. Required facial reconstruction from terrible injuries received in 1943 when, as a student pilot, he had to bail out of a burning B-24 Liberator bomber during a training flight over Arizona. Previously he was a boxer. He went on to play both boxers and soldiers during a phenomenal 55-year career in Hollywood. He experienced a late-career resurgence with films such as "Batman" (1989) and "City Slickers" (1991), for which he won an Oscar. His was perhaps the most successful facial reconstruction in history.
Jack Palance worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Gene Autry.
Gene Autry (1907-1998) was in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. Before the war, Autry already was a well-established radio, film and rodeo star. He also earned his own private pilot's certificate, which came in handy during the war. He was inducted during a live broadcast of his radio show.

Autry enlisted in 1942 and earned his Service Pilot rating in June 1944. Starting out as a Technical Sgt, he became a flight officer and flew the C-109 transport for Air Transport Command. Autry ferried fuel, ammunition, and arms to China in the China-India-Burma theater of war flying over the Himalayan air route, "The Hump." Autry also volunteered his talents as an entertainer for numerous Air Force shows. He had his own radio show entitled "Sergeant Gene Autry." When the war ended, he was reassigned to Special Services where he toured with a USO troupe in the South Pacific until 1946. Autry received the American Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.

After the war, Autry continued his radio show and film career and also had his own television show beginning in 1950. In the early 1960s he bought the Los Angeles/California Angels major league baseball team, and eventually his "number" - 26, for 26th man on the 25-man roster - was retired due to his passion for the franchise (he also briefly had considered a baseball career as a young man). Autry retired from show business in 1964 after having made almost 100 films and thereafter focused on numerous very successful business interests such as the Angels and the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona.

Gene Autry passed away in 1998. He is buried at the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, where his epitaph reads, "America's Favorite Cowboy ... American Hero, Philanthropist, Patriot and Veteran, Movie Star, Singer, Composer, Baseball Fan and Owner, 33rd Degree Mason, Media Entrepreneur, Loving Husband, Gentleman." Gene Autry is remembered every Christmas season due to broadcasts of his classic rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which continues to this day to be a top-played carol every year, and "Here Comes Santa Claus," which he wrote.
Jackie Coogan worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Jackie Coogan worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Jackie Coogan.
John Leslie "Jackie" Coogan (October 26, 1914 – March 1, 1984), enlisted in the United States Army in March 1941, well before Pearl Harbor. He is somewhat of an oddity because he was a fairly famous child actor ("The Kid,") whose career was fairly steady from 1917 onward, but he entered the service (the US Army) before the war anyway. He then had a wildly odd career in the service, engaging in cloak-and-dagger stuff, then afterward he returned to Hollywood - which he had apparently willfully given up in 1941 - and became a huge television star in numerous productions. His acting resume from the 1960s and 1970s reads like a list of classic shows.

So, he was a huge star as a kid, then basically a nobody in the military, then a huge star again later. Perhaps he just needed a change of scenery midway through his career. He sure got one! Once his wanderlust was cured, Coogan went back to work.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Coogan requested a transfer to United States Army Air Forces as a glider pilot because of prior civilian flying experience. He wound up in the 1st Air Commando Group, which sent him to India in 1943. Coogan volunteered for hazardous duty in March 1944 and flew British troops ("Chindits"), landing them at night in a small jungle clearing 100 miles behind Japanese lines. Yes, Uncle Fester was actually an American hero!
Rod Steiger worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Rod Steiger.
Rod Steiger (1925-2002) USN 1941-45 WW II. Steiger dropped out of high school at 16 and enlisted in the Navy. He served on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater. After discharge, he worked at the VA and joined a theater group. Studied acting at several New York schools on the GI Bill, knew all the legendary figures of the '50s. He is best remembered for roles in “On The Waterfront” (’54), “The Pawnbroker” (’64), and “In The Heat of the Night” (’67), which won him an Oscar. Big Civil Rights crusader. Some considered him the greatest living actor shortly before his passing.
celebrities war worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Bobby Troup.
Bobby Troup served in the US Marines during World War 2. He was the Captain in command of the Montford Point Marines. Following a cross-country drive, he wrote the song "I Got My Kicks on Route 66," which became a popular standard. Troup later became an actor famous for roles in shows such as "Emergency!" as well as being a renowned jazz musician.
celebrities war worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Richard Burton.
Richard Burton entered the Royal Air Force as a navigator at the age of 18 in 1944.  He went to Canada for further training, but the war ended before he could gain any combat experience.  A frustrated Burton had to endure a further 2 years waiting to be demobilized. He got involved in acting during periods of leave from the RAF and went on to marry Elizabeth Taylor - twice.
Joe Dimaggio worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Joe Dimaggio.
Joe DiMaggio served in the Air Force during World War II from 1943-45. He played for the Yankees the seven seasons before and the six seasons after his service time. He set various baseball records, including a 56-game hitting streak that still stands and quite likely will never be broken. His presence transcended baseball, and he became a symbol of the era.
Sherwood Schwartz with Bob Hope worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Sherwood Schwartz, standing to the right next to his brother Al, with Bob Hope in 1938 or 1939.
Sherwood Schwartz was a successful writer on Bob Hope's very successful Pepsodent radio show when he entered the Army in 1943. He served a writer on the Armed Forces Radio Network until mustering out. After the war, he wrote for the Ozzie and Harriet radio show before writing for various television shows, including the Red Skelton Show for over seven years. After serving as a script supervisor for "My Favorite Martian," Schwartz got his own show on the air, "Gilligan's Island," which became iconic. He followed that up with "The Brady Bunch," which also became legendary. Not only did Schwartz write the scripts, he also wrote the theme songs. Sherwood received many accolades thereafter, including a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, before passing away in 20011.
Soupy Sales worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soupy Sales.
Soupy Sales grew up in North Carolina and served in the Navy during World War 2. He enlisted during the last years of the war and was assigned to the USS Randall (APA-224) in the South Pacific during the latter part of World War II. He was a natural ham and sometimes entertained his shipmates by telling jokes and playing crazy characters over the ship's public address system. One of the characters he created was "White Fang", a large dog that played outrageous practical jokes on the seamen. The sounds for "White Fang" came from a recording of "The Hound of the Baskervilles."

Soupy used "White Fang" and other old characters he developed in the Navy when he had his own show during the 1950s and 1960s, "Lunch With Soupy Sales" and "The New Soupy Sales Show." The show brought him fame and controversy. His most notorious stunt was one in which he told the little children listening to his show to grab all the green paper with faces on them in their parents' wallets and send them to him at his studio - and many did! That kind of thing pretty much makes a comic's work immortal. Soupy passed away in 2009.
Ed Koch worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ed Koch.
Ed Koch entered the Army in World War 2 after being drafted in 1943. Koch was an infantryman with the 104th Infantry Division, landing in Cherbourg, France, in September 1944. Koch earned a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, a World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge for service in the European Theater of Operations. After V-E Day, because he could speak German, Koch was sent to Bavaria to help remove tainted public officials from their jobs and find reliable people to take their place. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1946. Thereafter, he studied law, entered politics, and became a member of the House of Representatives from New York City and longtime Mayor of the City of New York.
Charles Durning worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Charles Durning.
Charles Durning was in the first wave on D-Day with the 1st Div. He was the only member of his unit to survive. He took out several German machine guns and was wounded about a week later when he stepped on a mine.

Later, he rejoined his unit in December 1944, just in time for the Battle of the Bulge. He reportedly was bayoneted 8 times in hand-to-hand combat. At The Bulge he survived The Malmedy Massacre, one of only two men left alive in the snow surrounded by machine-gunned friends. He was wounded and repatriated, where he was in military hospitals until discharge in January 1946. He received the Silver Star.

He refused to discuss his service for which he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts. "Too many bad memories," he told an interviewer. "I don't want you to see me crying." A true American hero. He later became known for classic roles in films like "The Sting" and "The Front Page" until his untimely passing on Christmas Eve 2012.
Russell Johnson worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Russell Johnson, best known for his role as the Professor on Gilligan's Island, passed away on Jan 16, 2014. He was a World War II hero, awarded the Air Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, WWII Victory Medal and the Purple Heart. While flying as a navigator in March 1945, his B-25 was shot down and had to ditch, during which he broke both his ankles.
Russell Johnson, best known as "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island, served in the US Army Air Force during WWII. He flew 44 combat missions as a bombardier in B-25 bombers. In March 1945, his and two other B-25s were shot down in the Philippines. He broke both his ankles and the radioman next to him was killed. He really was stranded on a Pacific isle.

Johnson earned a Purple Heart, among other honors. He was honorably discharged and later served in the Army Reserve. He used his GI Bill to fund his acting lessons. He is best remembered as the Professor on '60's television show Gilligan's Island, a comedic turn which he later related was quite different from his usual role as a quiet cowboy. Russell Johnson passed away in early 2014.
Robert Stack worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Robert Stack worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Robert Stack, here with Lana Turner.
Robert Stack (January 13, 1919 – May 14, 2003) was an established Hollywood star when Pearl Harbor was bombed. His breakthrough role was in the war-themed "To Be or Not To Be" (1942) with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard, released just a month or two after the attack. He disappeared from Hollywood during the war to serve but resumed his career there afterward as if nothing had happened.

During World War II, Stack served as a gunnery instructor in the United States Navy. Because of his expertise as an Olympic champion skeet shooter, Stack was assigned to teach anti-aircraft gunnery in the United States Navy. He thus was one of the rare top actors, including Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable, who performed a useful function in the service that was unrelated to performing.

Stack was multilingual and stayed active in Hollywood as an actor and television host until his passing. He is perhaps best known for starring as Eliot Ness in "The Untouchables" and as the long-time host of "Unsolved Mysteries."
Tony Curtis worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Tony Curtis.
Above, 17-year-old Tony Curtis. Navy Reserves 1942-45 WW II. Curtis enlisted in the United States Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Curtis joined the Pacific submarine force, serving aboard a submarine tender, the USS Proteus. He stayed there until the end of the war. On September 2, 1945, Curtis had the privilege of witnessing the official Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on board the USS Missouri from his own ship's signal bridge about a mile away.

One of the many oddities of Hollywood is that Curtis chose the submarine service in part because of a Cary Grant film, "Destination Tokyo" (Tyrone Power in "Crash Dive" (1943) also influenced his choice of services). Grant and Curtis later starred together in the World War II submarine comedy "Operation Petticoat." Tony Curtis, of course, became one of the true legends of Hollywood, starring in some of the greatest films of all time such as "Spartacus," "The Boston Strangler," "The Great Race" and many others. Tony Curtis passed away in 2010.
Tony Bennett worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Anthony Benedetto aka Tony Bennett during World War II.
Anthony Dominick Benedetto was drafted into the US Army in 1944 when he turned 18. After basic training at Fort Robinson and Fort Dix, he served in France and Germany as an infantry rifleman - an ordinary GI. After discharge in 1946, Tony studied at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill. He changed his stage name to Tony Bennett and became one of the most renowned singers in the world. Tony Bennett continues to perform as of this writing in 2018.
Walter Matthau worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Walter Matthau worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Larry Storch.
Lawrence Samuel Storch aka Larry Storch served in the US Navy during World War II. He was on the submarine tender USS Proteus alongside pal Tony Curtis. The ship was anchored near the USS Missouri on 2 September 1945 when the Japanese Empire formally surrendered to the Allied powers to end World War II.

Larry's friendship with Curtis proved instrumental in his career. Larry did some stage work and impressions after the war but was looking for more. He made his film debut - unbilled - in Tony's film The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951) after Curtis put in a good word for him. That jump-started Larry's film career, but it stalled out in the early '60s. Tony stepped in again and gave Larry some choice film parts, which eventually led to the role for which Larry is best-remembered by many fans: Corporal Agarn in the comedy classic "F-Troop." After that, Larry became a true celebrity recognizable to fans around the world.

Larry Storch is still with us as of this writing. He is said to attend some fan conventions and play his saxophone in the local park when he isn't off receiving tributes such as the 2013 Barrymore Award for Lifetime Achievement in Film and TV from the Fort Lee Film Commission.
Tyrone Power worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Tyrone Power.
Tyrone Power was an established movie star when war broke out despite still being only in his late 20s. In fact, Tyrone was the second-best box office star of 1939, behind only Mickey Rooney. Power enlisted in the US Marines in August 1942 and served for the rest of the conflict.

An accomplished pilot before the war, Power became a transport pilot and flew missions in war zones including Kwajalein, the Marshall Islands in February 1945, the Battles of Iwo Jima (Feb-Mar 1945) and Okinawa (Apr-Jun 1945). Power mustered out in January 1946, but stayed in the reserves, reaching the rank of Captain in 1951. Power resumed his acting career and was one of the top film stars of the 1950s. Tyrone Power was the Real Deal during his military service, performing a useful service right at the front lines at a very high level of competence.
Mickey Spillane worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Mickey Spillane (on left).
Frank Morrison Spillane, born in 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, was one of the thousands of young men who rushed to enlistment centers on Monday, 8 December 1941, immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was accepted into the US Army Air Forces and became a flight instructor in the Air Training Command for fighter pilots based in Greenwood, Mississippi. He mustered out in 1945 with the rank of First Lieutenant.

Spillane had become interested in writing for comic books before the war, and the writing bug remained with him during his time in the Air Force. While in the service, Spillane became friends with some fellow soldiers who were interested in writing, and all later published novels. Adopting the pen name Mickey Spillane, Frank began writing pulp novels in the then-popular detective style, and they were immediately successful. He claimed to have written his first novel, "I, the Jury," in just 19 days, and it sold 6-1/2 million copies very quickly in the United States after being published in 1947. Sales were helped by lurid covers, sexy situations, and Frank's gift for descriptive passages that included lots of colloquialisms. His next five novels in a similar vein also sold exceptionally well. Soon, Hollywood was producing films and television series based upon his main "Mike Hammer" character.

By the mid-1950s, Mickey Spillane was a household name. Frank became one of the first "celebrity authors" whose ranks included (among others) Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote, appearing in many public situations as himself but loosely adopting the Mike Hammer persona. Frank Spillane continued writing and occasionally acting until he passed away on 17 July 2006.
John Glenn worldwartwo.filminspector.com
John Glenn.
John Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 and the oldest person to fly in space at age 77 in 1998, left college to enlist in the US Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor. After some training, he wound up in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw action in the South Pacific.

He also served two separate tours in Korea and downed some MiGs. He was baseball star Ted Williams' wingman for a while in Korea. From there, he went to Test Pilot School, which eventually led to NASA, which led to Outer Space, which led to the US Senate, which led to John Glenn becoming a legend.
Kirk Douglas worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Kirk Douglas.
Kirk Douglas attended Midshipman School at Notre Dame University and was subsequently commissioned as an ensign in the US Navy in 1942.  He served as a communications officer on anti-submarine operations in the Pacific but was wounded in an attack by a Japanese destroyer.  Douglas was medically discharged with the rank of Lieutenant in 1944. Douglas, of course, went on to a huge career in Hollywood, and he portrayed a Naval officer in the PTO in "In Harm's Way" with John Wayne. He also lived to be over 100 - no small achievement. In fact, he is still kicking as of this writing in 2019.
Don Ricles world wartwo.filminspector.com
Don Rickles with his father before shipping out for service in WWII. March 1943. You can see the bubbly personality even at that young age.
Don Rickles world wartwo.filminspector.com
“C.P.O. Sharkey.”
Don Rickles (1926-2017) was a Seaman 1st Class USN 1941-46 WW II. He enlisted in the Navy after high school graduation. Served on the USS Cyrene, a torpedo boat tender, in the Pacific. He later became a stand-up comic and actor in more than two dozen films, most notably "Kelly's Heroes" (1970). He is best remembered as an “insult” comic, a frequent guest on the Johnny Carson Show, and in the title role of TV’s “C.P.O. Sharkey” 1976-78. Don Rickles passed away on 6 April 2017.
Burgess Meredith world wartwo.filminspector.com
Burgess Meredith on June 10, 1943 (AP Photo).
Oliver Burgess Meredith, more popularly known by his shortened stage name Burgess Meredith, was 34 when war broke out. He served as a public relations officer with the air transport command of the U.S. Army, at the U.S. Army headquarters in London. He was an accomplished stage and screen actor before the war broke out. Meredith became known for playing George in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" ("Which way did they go, George?"). He reached the rank of Captain before mustering out in 1944 so that he could work on the patriotic flick "The Story of G.I. Joe," in which he starred as the popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle. Burgess Meredith went on to gain two Academy Award nominations in the '70s for "The Day of the Locust" and "Rocky." The former film was close to reality for Burgess, as it portrayed alienated film stars in Hollywood just before Pearl Harbor. Burgess passed away on 9 September 1997.
William Conrad world wartwo.filminspector.com
William Conrad.
John William Cann Jr. was born on September 27, 1920, in Louisville, Kentucky. He had an early introduction to show business because his parents owned a movie theater. During high school, the Cann family moved to southern California, now the home of the motion picture industry. Cann developed an interest in theater and majored in drama and literature at Fullerton College, in Orange County, California. Cann soon began working as an announcer, writer, and director for Los Angeles radio station KMPC, but he was drafted and wound up being commissioned as a fighter pilot in 1943 at Luke Field on the same day that he married his wife, June Nelson. Cann was a bit of a daredevil and twice flew his P-39 under the Golden Gate Bridge - something usually frowned upon by the US Army Air Force. Cann continued his entertainment work in the military as a producer-director of the Armed Forces Radio Service and eventually mustered out as a captain.

After leaving the military in 1945, Cann continued his acting in bit parts and at some point adopted the stage name William Conrad. However, his main success was on the radio, and he was on literally thousands of radio programs due to his clear, deep voice. However, he also continued his acting career throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and the parts gradually got better. At some points, he combined his vocal talents with the new medium of television, such as when he was the narrator on "This Man Dawson" from 1959-60 and "Rocky and His Friends" from 1959-61. He achieved some fame for voicing Dudley Do-Right on The Bullwinkle Show in the early 1960s. In the mid-1960s, Conrad was the narrator throughout "The Fugitive."

Conrad's acting career, however, was catching up to this vocal career. In 1970, he was cast in the Quinn Martin pilot of "Cannon," playing a corpulent private eye. This resulted in a very successful television series that ran from 1971-76. Conrad then resumed narrating series and doing guest appearances until "Jake and the Fatman" came along, a successful series that ran from 1987-92. Conrad retired from acting after that. William Conrad passed away on February 11, 1994, and is buried in the Lincoln Terrace section of Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery, California. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1997.
Jeff Chandler worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Jeff Chandler.
Jeff Chandler (December 15, 1918 – June 17, 1961) was interested in acting before the war and spent some time in summer stock. With uncanny foresight, Chandler enlisted in the Cavalry on 18 November 1941, just a few weeks before Pearl Harbour and around the time when the Japanese attack fleet was planning to set sail. Chandler served in World War II for four years, mostly in the Aleutians, finishing with the rank of lieutenant. Chandler was a solidly built leading man and gave his height as six foot four inches and his weight as 210 pounds. After the war, he immediately began getting film roles, and was one of Hollywood's leading stars throughout the Fifties, with hits such as "Broken Arrow." His last film role was "Merrill's Marauders," which opened after his tragic passing at age 41 from a botched back operation.
James Arness worldwartwo.filminspector.com
James Arness.
James Arness (1923-2011) USA 1943-45 WW II. Arness, who stood 6'7" or 6'8" (references vary), said he wanted to be a fighter pilot. However, the height limit for aviators was 6’2”, so that was not going to work. Instead, he was drafted in ’43, served as a rifleman in the 3rd Infantry Division, and was severely wounded at Anzio, Italy in early 1944. After several surgeries, Arness was discharged but had a lifelong limp.

The Anzio incident encapsulates the experience of many average soldiers, so is worth briefly retelling. Arness was the first American soldier to jump off his boat at the Anzio beachhead. He was ordered to do so by his commanding officer because Arness was the tallest man in his company, and the water’s depth needed to be tested as a safety precaution. Naturally, if it had been too deep, Arness could have drowned given his full pack, or been picked off by a sniper as the first one off and being so visible due to his size. People did what they were told then, however hazardous, and they were chosen simply because they were the right person for whatever reason. That is how it went during the war: you might be lucky to be tall, and you might wind up getting shot or drowned because of it.

Arness earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, and the European-Mideast Campaign Medal. Best remembered for his role as Matt Dillon in the TV series “Gunsmoke” during its 20-year run. He also is the brother of another celebrity on this list, Peter Graves.
Lee Marvin worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Lee Marvin worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Lee Marvin.
Lee Marvin. Great actor, Academy Award winner, scout sniper, and actual war hero.

Marvin enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II and served throughout as a Private First Class. During the battle for Saipan in June 1944, he was part of the assault on Mount Tapochau, which resulted in the death of most of his unit ("I" Company, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division). Marvin himself was wounded in the buttocks from Japanese machine-gun fire, which severed his sciatic nerve. He received a medical discharge.

Marvin participated in seven island campaigns in all.

Lee Marvin later starred as a World War II serviceman in numerous films, including "The Caine Mutiny" and "The Dirty Dozen." The "Caine Mutiny" role is particularly interesting for Marvin fans because he plays a sailor who is called to testify about the numerous island campaigns in which he had participated - basically, reciting Marvin's own real-life experience in a candid moment of cinéma vérité. When asked once his secret for success as an actor by Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, Marvin simply cocked his fingers and went "Rat-a-tat-tat."

Marvin died of a heart attack in 1987 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His headstone reads: “Lee Marvin, PFC US Marine Corps, World War II.”
Lee van Cleef worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Lee Van Cleef.
Lee Van Cleef served in the US Navy during World War II from 1942 to 1946. He was on a submarine chaser in the Caribbean Sea. Later, he served in the Black China Sea on a minesweeper. After the war, Van Cleef (his real name) rose to prominence as an actor in the 1960s. Working as an accountant, he got his start in films by being hired for the opening scene of "High Noon" (1952) - quite a way to begin a career. He is best remembered for his roles in the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood, particularly "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" (1966). "Being born with a pair of beady eyes was the best thing that ever happened to me." Lee Van Cleef passed away on 16 December 1989.
Laurence Olivier worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Laurence Olivier narrating "The World at War" in the 1970s.

Ralph Richardson worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ralph Richardson.
Laurence Olivier, born in 1907, was too young for World War I. By World War II, he was at the far end of normal service range and was perhaps the most renowned actor in England - which, given the country's rich theatrical tradition, is a bit more significant in terms of prestige than being merely a bankable actor in the States. He also had migrated to Hollywood to make films and gotten married to Vivien Leigh, but his heart (and hers, as they were both British) remained home in Britain.

Wishing to contribute despite being in the States, which was not yet at war, Olivier called Duff Cooper, the Minister of Information under Winston Churchill, hoping to get a position in Cooper's department. Cooper politely advised Olivier to continue what he was doing, and make patriotic films. Olivier did that, including "That Hamilton Woman" and "Henry V" among other works that had a tinge of wartime propaganda. In hindsight, it seems just the right decision, maintaining public confidence that the country was still functioning normally despite the hardships of the war.

While in Hollywood, Olivier trained as a pilot. He eventually came back to England in the middle of the war and joined the Fleet Air Arm, stationed at RAF Worthy Down and rooming with fellow pilot and thespian Ralph Richardson. Neither was worth a tinker's damn to the war effort as a pilot (or so they liked to tell their buds over drinks), but they were unique A-grade celebrities who could rouse great enthusiasm amongst the public. Thus, the pair was used by the military to give speeches and making additional propaganda films such as "The Demi-Paradise." Olivier served for two years as a pilot, resigning his commission in 1943 as a Lieutenant-Commander. Olivier went on to become the most respected actor in the world, with all of the accouterments. Both Ralph Richardson, who served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander, and Olivier eventually were knighted.
Benny Hill worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Benny Hill.

Benny Hill worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Benny Hill early in his career.
Benny Hill served five years during the war, but he never considered himself any kind of a hero. He later appeared in movies and as the star of the successful "The Benny Hill Show."

Born Alfred Hawthorne Hill, Benny Hill was drafted in 1942 and served for the balance of World War II. Hill was a Driver/Mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in the British Army but basically became a jack-of-all-trades. He served as a mechanic, truck driver, and searchlight operator in Normandy after September 1944.

Hill later claimed to have hated the Army, saying (probably correctly in his case) that there was always someone above you to shout at you. He later transferred to the Combined Services Entertainment division before the end of the war. He was eventually transferred to Germany and began entertaining, ending up in the production ‘Stars in Battledress’. He later summed up his military service with, "I was five years in the army and never got a stripe." Regardless of his negative feelings about his service (no doubt shared by millions of non-celebrities), Hill was every bit a veteran.

After the war, Hill scratched around for a bit trying to build a career as a performer and adopted "Benny" as his first name in homage to Jack Benny. As Benny Hill, he got his first gigs on the radio, but they did not lead to much. He then tried the new medium of television in 1950 and found that it matched his skill set as a comic. Within a few years, he was named England's entertainer of the year. It is said that he became the first comedian who became famous on television, or at least as a result of television.

After that, Benny Hill's career built over the years. He tried feature films beginning with "Who Done It?" (1956), but television was his bread and butter. By 1962, Hill had his own series, first on BBC, then later (beginning in 1969) on Thames Television. His show lasted until 1989 when Thames Television unceremoniously refused to renew his contract (he received other offers thereafter which he turned down). The large body of television comedy Benny Hill had created by then was repackaged and shown around the world.

Although he made millions of dollars, Benny Hill spent little of it and lived simply. This apparently was due to his frugal upbringing, many children of the Great Depression were like that. For instance, Hill never bought a car (preferring to walk fairly long distances or take the bus even after he was famous), and always rented a simple apartment. Benny Hill passed away on 20 April 1992 (aged 68) from a heart attack (coronary thrombosis). However, his work continues to be enjoyed around the world.
Jonathan Winters worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Jonathan Winters.

Jonathan Winters worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Jonathan Winters.
Jonathan Winters, USMC WW II. Winters was born in 1925. At age 17, he quit high school and joined the Marines, serving two and a half years in the Pacific Theater. Winters was a gunner on the aircraft carrier, Bon Homme Richard.

In terms of his subsequent acting career, Winters was a late bloomer, like some of the others on here (e.g., Dick Van Dyke). Winters did not really get his film/television career rolling until the 1960s despite having occasional appearances starting around 1950.

Winters' breakthrough film was the 1963 Stanley Kramer comedy "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" - which was kind of an ironic title, because Winters literally had just been released from an insane asylum (he later claimed for being bipolar, and he had admitted himself to "the funny farm" as he called it voluntarily) days prior to filming. It is easy to speculate that his mental difficulties during that period may have been delayed PTSD from his war duties. Whatever the origin, Winters overcame his issues and went on to become a comedy legend.