Monday, September 23, 2013

Celebrities In Uniform World War II

Some Celebrity Soldiers of World War II

Clark Gable Jimmy Stewart
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.
Bea Arthur
This recruit's name is Bernice Frankel. Do you recognize her?

Bea Arthur
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.

Betty White in uniform during World War II
Betty White in uniform ca. 1941.

If we're going to mention Bea Arthur upfront, then we should also mention her co-star on "Golden Girls," Betty White. As she recounted in a 2010 interview, When war broke out, Betty, who already had appeared on Television in 1939 around the time that she graduated from high school, was living in Los Angeles. She joined the American Women's Voluntary Services (AWVS) shortly after Pearl Harbor. Betty, who lived on Sunset Boulevard, drove a px truck to deliver goods in the Hollywood Hills. She also recalled that there were nightly dances with soldiers about to be shipped overseas. 

After the war, Betty tried television again, landing a gig as a co-host on "Hollywood on Television" with Al Jarvis. She went on to a spectacular career, spent mostly on television, and passed away on 31 December 2021 just days short of her 100th birthday.

Now, let's look at an unlikely female figure from the other side.

Gertrude Stein
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.
Werner Klemperer
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.
Monty Hall
The Manitoban, January 10, 1944.

Monty Hall
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.
Red Skelton
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.
Dr. Seuss
A wartime Dr. Seuss cartoon.

Dr. Seuss
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.
Charles M. Schulz
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.
Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks
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."
Jack Webb
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.
Edmond O'Brien
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.
Dick Van Dyke
Dick Van Dyke in London, 1967.

Dick van Dyke
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
Buddy Ebsen, center.
Nancy Kulp
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
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
Glenn Miller.

Glenn Miller
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.

Tex Beneke
"Tex" Beneke."

Gordon Lee Beneke was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1914. He acquired the nickname "Tex" due to his origins and was known as Tex Beneke throughout his career. He began playing the alto sax professionally in 1935. While Tex was in between gigs in 1938, Glenn Miller called him up and offered him a spot in his band for $50 because that was what everyone was getting. Tex replied that he would do it, but only for $52.50. Miller grudgingly agreed, and Tex gradually took a prominent place in the Glenn Miller Orchestra as both a solo sax player and vocalist. He was prominently featured on some of Miller's biggest hits, including as a vocalist on "Chattanooga Choo Choo" (the first million-selling single) and sax soloist on "In the Mood." Tex also featured prominently in the films "Sun Valley Serenade" and "Orchestra Wives."

After Miller enlisted in the military in mid-1942, Tex kept Miller's band together until it was taken over by another bandleader. Beneke then enlisted as a CPO in the US Navy. He spent his service time as a bandleader at the Naval Air Technical Training Center, or South Base, in Norman, Oklahoma. After the war, with Miller deceased, Miller's widow asked Tex to lead the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1945-1950. After that, Tex Beneke led his own bands until passing away on 30 May 2000.

Ray Eberle
Ray Eberle.

Bob Eberle
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
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
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
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
Bob Hope and sidekick Jerry Colonna during World War II.

Bob Hope Alaska World War II Veteran
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
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
Robert Montgomery.
Robert Montgomery
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
Neville Brand as psychotic henchman Chesters 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 makes Brand, along with Jimmy Stewart and Ernest Borgnine, one of the few U.S. celebrities on this page who was in the military before Pearl Harbor.

Neville Brand's 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. According to Brand, he was a sergeant and platoon leader when his unit was pinned down by German fire from a hunting lodge.

"I must have flipped my lid," he later recalled in 1966. "I decided to go into that lodge." It sounds like a video game maneuver now, but it was real life with deadly possibilities.

Brand received the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and several other medals. Before being discharged from the service in 1946, he worked on a U.S. Army Signal Corps film with Charlton Heston. This apparently began his love of acting. After leaving the service, Brand settled in Greenwich Village, NYC, and began taking acting classes on the G.I. Bill.

By the late 1940s, Neville had begun a brilliant career as a character actor. He made a memorable (credited) debut in "D.O.A." (1950) as a crazed henchman, then went on play gruff characters in Bonanza and other shows and films. Many people remember Brand from "Tora Tora Tora" (1970) as a lieutenant who can't get his superiors to understand the looming threat and then finally yells and points "There's your confirmation" as the planes attack. Neville Brand passed away in April 1992 and is buried in Sacramento, California.
Jack Warden
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
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
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
Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan
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
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
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
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

Jackie Coogan
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
PFC Charles Durning.

Charles Durning
Charles Durning.
Charles Durning apparently had exploits during World War II that are so impressive I had to double-check them just to make sure they're not some kind of fantasy movie script rather than his actual history. It turns out there is some controversy about his actual record and I can't find "the unimpeachable full story" anywhere. I'll provide what most records indicate here, with the understanding I've tried my best to verify everything.

Durning served in Normandy during the invasion. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine. There are claims that he arrived in the first wave on D-Day itself with the 1st Division (The Big Red One) and that he personally took out German machine gun nests, but I can't verify them. Other sources state he actually arrived on 15 June 1944 and quickly stepped on the mine. Since I'm unsure, I'll just state the different accounts and leave it alone. 

I mean no disrespect to Mr. Durning or other Vets by being uncertain. I just don't want to pass along misinformation or leave out important details that may well be true.

The story goes that later, reassigned from being a rifleman to an artillery observation battalion, 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 the men left alive in the snow surrounded by machine-gunned friends. He was found and repatriated, remaining in military hospitals until discharge along with everyone else in January 1946. 

Durning received the Silver Stars and the Bronze Star for his service, along with other medals.

I can't verify Durning's participation in the Malmedy massacre. So, once again, I've just relayed the account I've seen and left it alone again, noting that it appeared in his obituaries

Like many WWII Vets, Durning refused to discuss his service for which he was awarded numerous medals. "Too many bad memories," he told an interviewer. "I don't want you to see me crying." A true American hero. Mr. Durning later became known for classic roles in films like "The Sting" and "The Front Page" until his untimely passing on Christmas Eve 2012. Charles Durning is buried at Arlington, one of the very few on this page who is. 
Russell Johnson
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

Robert Stack
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
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
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

Walter Matthau
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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

Lee Marvin
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
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
Laurence Olivier narrating "The World at War" in the 1970s.

Ralph Richardson
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
Benny Hill.

Benny Hill
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
Jonathan Winters.

Jonathan Winters
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.
Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson.
Richard Anderson
The Richard Anderson action figure, complete with exploding briefcase.
Richard Norman Anderson was born on 8 August 1926 in Long Branch, New Jersey. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he acquired an interest in acting. When World War II came along, Anderson served for 17 months in the U.S. Army.

After the war, Richard Anderson continued acting, studying at the Actor's Studio, and finally nabbed a contract from MGM in 1950. This led to bit parts in some popular films such as "Forbidden Planet" (1956). While his film career continued successfully, Anderson found even greater success in television. He became a regular on "Perry Mason" and featured in the final episode of "The Fugitive." Many guest-starring roles in television series of the day followed such as "The Big Valley," but Anderson found his greatest fame as Dr. Oscar Goldberg in "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman." He was so identified with this role that Kenner even released an action figure made of him (which since has become prized by collectors). Anderson also became recognizable from playing the "Shell Answer Man" in commercials from 1976-82. Richard Anderson continued acting into the mid-1990s and passed away from natural causes on 31 August 2017 in Beverly Hills.
Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney.

Mickey Rooney
"Pvt. Mickey Rooney attends a Hollywood movie premiere with his mother, Nell Pankey, in 1944. The actor is back in Hollywood after completing 3 months of basic training at Fort Riley, KS." (AP Photo).

Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney received the Silver Service Medal at The National WWII Museum in 2009.
Mickey Rooney (born Joseph Yule, Jr.) served in the U.S. Army during WWII. Actually, it isn't quite that straightforward. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Rooney was 21 and one of the top stars in Hollywood. He decided to give it all up and enlist right away - and the army turned him down due to his high blood pressure. However, the Army relented to the extent of permitting him to become a host of Armed Services Radio. He continued making films, some of which were hugely successful, such as "National Velvet" (1944) and "The Human Comedy" (1943). Incidentally, as a matter of pure trivia, Andy Griffith of later Mayberry fame had an uncredited bit part in the latter film, which became MGM studio boss Louis G. Mayer's favorite film.

Mickey, however, was determined to actually wear the uniform. He tried again in 1944. This time, Rooney entered military service as a Private. He served more than twenty-one months, until shortly after the end of World War II. Both during and after the war he helped entertain the troops in America and Europe, and spent part of the time as a radio personality on the American Forces Network.

Rooney was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for entertaining troops in combat zones. He also received the Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal for his military service.

Mickey Rooney was a top box-office champ at the time of his induction, the long-time star of the popular "Andy Hardy" movies. Working with Shirley Temple and Judy Garland was nothing special to him, but after the war, things changed. Rooney, who had been famous for his boyish roles and playing teenagers, had grown up. Like many former child stars (though he was a special case), Rooney endured a long career slump. He worked through it, however, and managed to find work every year. When he took on some television work, it became classic, such as an appearance as a down-on-his-luck jockey in "The Twilight Zone." Mickey Rooney remained a force in Hollywood until his unfortunate passing in April 2014. Among his better Hollywood stories is that during the 1940s he apparently came up with Marilyn Monroe's stage name, though that is highly doubted by some.
Sammy Davis
Sammy Davis Jr. performs for members of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in an undisclosed location in Vietnam during February of 1972.
Sammy Davis Jr. served in a Special Services unit during World War II, entertaining troops. He was a Private at the Quartermaster Corps in 1943 where his last “Primary Military Occupational Specialty” was as Entertainment Specialist. Davis found that entertaining people was a way to blunt their prejudice:
My talent was the weapon, the power, the way for me to fight. It was the one way I might hope to affect a man's thinking.
After the war, of course, Sammy Davis Jr. became a legendary entertainer. He performed with his father and Will Mastin as the Will Mastin Trio. Davis became an "overnight sensation" after a performance in Ciro’s nightclub after the 1951 Academy Awards. He continued entertaining troops through the Vietnam era long after he had become a global celebrity.
Harry Dean Stanton
Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton
This one comes as a real surprise. This fellow just did not seem old enough to be a World War II Vet - but sure enough, he was.

Harry Dean Stanton (born July 14, 1926) was a US Navy veteran of World War II. Drafted into service, Stanton served as a cook aboard an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) during the Battle of Okinawa.

Harry was acting by the early 1950s on television, and was in the classic 1970 Clint Eastwood World War II film "Kelly's Heroes." However, he did not really start getting noticed until his 1973 part as Homer Van Meter in "Dillinger" with Warren Oates. That got him noticed, and the next year he was in "The Godfather: Part II." Harry Dean Stanton is perhaps best remembered for his lead role as Bud in the cult favorite "Repo Man" (1984).

Harry Dean Stanton worked his way up to everything he achieved, grinding it out in total obscurity. He would do three or four films or television projects every year, decade after decade.

Harry passed away at age 91 on September 15, 2017. He was working right up until the end, with his final film, "Frank and Ava" (2017), still awaiting release.
J.D. Cannon
J.D. Cannon in "Scorpio" (1973).
John Donovan Cannon was born on April 24, 1922, in Salmon, Idaho. He served in the US Army during World War II, though what he did while in the service is obscure. After the war, he got into acting and adopted "J.D. Cannon" as his professional name. His first television role was a bit part as a soldier on the Phil Silvers Show in 1958. J.D. gradually acquired a reputation as a gruff authority figure with - you guessed it - a heart of gold. His career gained momentum after Don Adams - another WWII Vet - gained prominence with "Get Smart" in the 1960s, as the two bore an uncanny resemblance. His roles improved, and he appeared on "The Fugitive" and other top crime shows as a police officer.  J.D. is probably best remembered as Chief Peter Clifford in the long-running "McCloud" cop show in the 1970s. J.D. Cannon continued acting until 1991 and passed away on 20 May 2005.
Hattie McDaniel
Hattie McDaniel.
Hattie McDaniel, Oscar winner for "Gone WIth the Wind" the year before the war, was a member of the AWVS during WWII.
Bob Keeshan
Bob Keeshan.
Bob Keeshan enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve late in the war and never left the states during the conflict. He became famous when he spent 30 years playing Captain Kangaroo on television. There is a story that Lee Marvin claimed to have served with him, but it is just an urban legend.
Don Adams
Don Adams.
Don Adams USMC 1941-45. Adams joined the United States Marine Corps at age 16 by lying about his age. He participated in the Battle of Guadalcanal and was wounded by small-arms fire. Contracted malaria and blackwater fever (there were more casualties on Guadalcanal from diseases like those than from actual combat) and spent a year in a Navy hospital in New Zealand. After recovery, Adams served in the US as a Marine drill instructor. Adams went on to comic stardom during the 1960s as Maxwell Smart in "Get Smart." Don Adams, American Hero.
Art Carney.
Arthur William Matthew “Art” Carney (November 4, 1918 – November 9, 2003) was an American actor in film, stage, television, and radio. Carney was drafted as an infantryman during World War II. During the Battle of Normandy, he was wounded in the leg by shrapnel and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

After the war, he achieved fame as Ed Norton on the Jackie Gleason television show "The Honeymooners." He won an Academy Award in 1973 for "Harry and Tonto."
J.D. Tippit
J.D. Tippit.
I don't expect you to recognize this man's name or why he should be on this, but I'll get to both in a moment - and he belongs here as much as anyone. While he is not a standard celebrity - not a movie star, not a politician, not an author or entertainer - you may recognize the name J. D. Tippit even though you may not immediately know why - though you will after you read this. J.D. - the initials stand for nothing, that was his actual name - was an ordinary guy born in 1924 who was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944. Assigned to the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 17th Airborne Division, J.D. participated in Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine River in March 1945. Whatever J.D. did during the operation, it involved a lot of valor, because he earned a Bronze Star. J.D. served honorably and mustered out on 20 June 1946.

After the war, J.D. kicked around for a while. He worked as a store clerk at Sears and tried his hand at ranching. Ultimately, J.D. joined the Dallas, Texas police department as an ordinary patrolman. He was driving a squad car on 22 November 1963 during a routine visit by the President of the United States when the worst possible news came over the radio. Alerted to be on the lookout for a suspect in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 45 minutes earlier, J.D. spotted someone matching the description walking down the street. J.D. stopped, questioned the man, and then got out of his car to question the suspect further. The man was Lee Harvey Oswald, who waited until J.D. was out of his car before drawing his revolver and firing four shots, killing J.D. Now recognized as a national hero, J.D. Tippit is buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas. He was buried on the same day as both President Kennedy and Oswald.
Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda
Henry Fonda in uniform.
Henry Fonda
"Lieutenant Henry Fonda, former Hollywood movie star, relaxes in a South Pacific area, July 10, 1944, where he is now on active duty on the staff of Vice Adm. J.H. Hoover, U.S. Navy commander of the forward area, Central Pacific." 

Henry Fonda
Lt. JG Henry Fonda (1905 - 1982) during his military service on board the USS Bearss (yes, that is spelled right), summer 1945. 
Henry Fonda (1905-1982) Lt. JG U.S. Navy 1943-45 WW II. Fonda was already a movie star when he enlisted, but he asked for no favors from the War Department, saying, "I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio." Despite being 37 and being classified as 3-A (family deferment) due to having three children, Fonda chose to join the navy as an ordinary seaman (compare this to John Wayne, who was in a virtually identical situation but chose not to enlist). Fonda later served for three years as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee as well as other ships. He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant JG in Air Combat Intelligence in the Pacific and was awarded the Bronze Star. He served on an Admiral's staff and in the primary unit of the Secretary of Defense / Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
Henry Fonda
Navy Lieutenant Henry Fonda with his precocious daughter, Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda (1943).
After the war, Henry was in 106 films and won an Oscar for "On Golden Pond." One of Fonda's signature roles in the 1950s was as Lt. jg U.S. Navy Douglas A. 'Doug' Roberts during World War II in the 1955 film "Mister Roberts." It was suspiciously similar to his real-life war experience. He was starring in motion pictures within a few years of the war's end and starred in his final film with his equally talented daughter, Jane Fonda.

Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon.
Col. Ed McMahon, USMC (Ret.) (1923-2009) had as his goal before the war to join the United States Marine Corps as a fighter pilot. Since at that time both the Army and Navy required two years of college for their pilots program, he enrolled at Boston College and studied there during the 1940–41 terms. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, the college requirement was dropped, so McMahon dropped out and applied for Marine flight training. His primary flight training was in Dallas, followed by fighter training in Pensacola, where he also earned his carrier landing qualifications. He was a Marine Corps flight instructor there for two years before being ordered to the Pacific fleet in 1945. However, his orders were canceled after Japan surrendered, and he mustered out but stayed in the reserves.

As an officer in the reserves, McMahon was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. This time, he flew the OE-1 (the original Marine designation for the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog), an unarmed single-engine spotter plane. He functioned as an artillery spotter for the Marine batteries on the ground and as a forward controller for the Navy and Marine fighter-bombers. He flew a total of 85 combat missions, earning six Air Medals, including some in an F-9 Panther. After the Korean war, he again stayed with the Marines as a reserve officer, finally retiring in 1966 as a colonel. In 1982, Col. McMahon received a state commission as a brigadier general in the California Air National Guard, an honorific awarded to recognize his support for the National Guard and Reserves.

Ed McMahon, of course, went on to become best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick on "The Tonight Show" and a participant for many years in the Labor Day MD Telethons.

Pat Hingle
Pat Hingle.
Pat Hingle, US Navy (Served 1941-1945). Pat Hingle was born Martin Patterson Hingle in Miami on July 19, 1924. He had completed one semester at the University of Texas when World War II broke out. He enlisted and joined the Navy, serving as on a destroyer, the USS Marshall, in the Pacific. After the war, he was recalled during the Korean war and served on another destroyer.

After his service, he joined the Actor's Studio in New York, got some Broadway parts, and ultimately became one of the top character actors in Hollywood. Many will remember Hingle from his appearances in such Clint Eastwood (a good friend) films as "Hang 'em High," "The Gauntlet," and "Sudden Impact."

Clint Walker
Clint Walker.
Norman Eugene "Clint" Walker was born on May 30, 1927, and dropped out of school during the Depression to work odd jobs such as in a factory. A large and muscular man, Walker entered the US Merchant Marine - unless I'm mistaken, he's the only one on this page that served in that branch - during the last year of World War II.

Unlike almost everyone else on this page, Clint Walker did not develop any acting talent either before or during the war. Afterward, he returned to doing odd jobs in the Southwest that suited his massive physique such as bouncer and doorman. At some point, Walker wound up in Hollywood, where an agent began getting him bit parts that again matched his large presence. The agent got him an interview with Cecil B. DeMille, who was casting "The Ten Commandments." On the way to the studio, though, Walker, being a naturally nice man, stopped to help a woman with a flat tire. Arriving late, he apologized to DeMille, who told him the woman was his own secretary. DeMille gave Walker a small role.

Later, Walker auditioned for a part in a TV Western that Warner Bros. was developing. He felt intimidated by all the big stars also auditioning, so he basically gave up, relaxed, and had some fun instead of trying hard to win the role. Jack Warner later saw the audition tapes and picked Walker due to his natural quality for the lead in "Cheyenne." Many experts (including, for instance, tv executive Fred Silverman) consider "Cheyenne" a turning point in television history because it led to a proliferation of westerns.

"Cheyenne" lasted for over 100 episodes and made Walker a star. He went on to memorable roles in films like "The Dirty Dozen" (1968) that further capitalized on Walker's large presence. Clint Walker passed away at the age of 90 on 21 May 2018.

Red Buttons
Red Buttons.
Red Buttons (1919 - 2006) was a successful Broadway actor when he was drafted into the United States Army Air Forces in 1943. He appeared in the Army Air Forces' Broadway show Winged Victory, along with several future stars, including Mario Lanza, John Forsythe, Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb. A year later, Buttons appeared in Darryl F. Zanuck's movie version of Winged Victory, directed by George Cukor. Buttons also entertained troops in the European Theater in the same unit as Mickey Rooney. Buttons went on to a storied acting career after the war, and my favorite performance was his role as the retiring suitor in "The Poseidon Adventure."

Betty White
Do you recognize this lady? Answer below.
I bet that you have no idea who the pert lass is in the above picture. Well, let's get to that in a moment.

Her first acting gig was on radio in 1930, playing an adopted child. She was a television star when World War II broke out. Yes, before the war. Unfortunately for her, there were only a few thousand television sets in the world at that time, so her exposure on an experimental Los Angeles TV station in 1939 did not translate into the big bucks. But if you're talking "pioneer"... you're looking at one. She was on television before World War II.

After kicking around for a while doing whatever modeling and stage acting gigs she could find, the lady enlisted in the American Women's Voluntary Services (AWVS) right after Pearl Harbor and stayed in for 4 years. She drove a PX truck. In 1945, she married Dick Barker, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot, but divorced quickly.

After that, she did a lot of radio, which still was a bigger gig than television. Then, she returned to television as more people bought sets and programming hours grew. It wasn't until 1962 that she got her first film role, but film work really was never her style and Television remained her bread and butter.

The '60s turned into the '70s, and she became a character actress on shows such as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." She gained a reputation for being "sickeningly sweet," which turned into some fabulous sitcom bits - and got her the Mary Tyler Moore gig, which fully and knowingly exploited that reputation and made her a household name.

So, it was the mid-70s and she was a World War II Vet, one of the first people ever to appear on television - and she was just now hitting her stride. From that point on, more character parts beckoned. It turned out that television was the right place for her all along. Eventually, she became the second Golden Girl to appear on this page and remains active in the business today - yes, one of the very first people ever to appear on television before World War II is still working as I type this in 2016. In fact, she has multiple TV appearances this year and shows no signs of slowing down, 86 years after getting her start in show biz.

Betty White
Do you recognize her now?
Well, you no doubt know by now that we are talking about the one and only, the truly fabulous, the eternal Betty White.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee.
Christopher Lee was too young to enlist upon the outbreak of war in September 1939. Instead, he volunteered to serve in the Winter War with the Finns. The politics became murky later, but at that time the Finns were still the good guys in the conflict.

In 1941, Lee enlisted in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. His eyesight prevented him from flying. Undeterred, Lee served as an officer in the RAF’s Intelligence Branch in Africa, which involved selecting targets and planning missions. At one point, he was strafed by a German fighter and wounded in the buttocks. However, it seems Lee may have got much closer to the action with his apparent involvement in secret units such as the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), which was the forerunner to the legendary SAS. The LRDG was later immortalized on television in the series "The Desert Rats," though Lee had nothing to do with that.

Lee gets little public recognition of his war efforts because he never talked about them. He explained it thus:
I’ve been entrusted with many secrets during World War II, and if I spoke, people died. I was in the intelligence service, special ops, and I’m not going to tell much more. I’ve signed the Official Secrets Act, which binds me for life. And what I mean by this is that I’m able to keep a secret, and if I’m asked to say nothing, I say nothing. Never.
Lee, of course, went on to become a legendary actor, first in the Hammer horror films and later in such epic series as James Bond ("The Man with the Golden Gun"), Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. He was knighted, became Sir Christopher, and passed away, working hard to the end, in 2015.

Robert Ryan

Robert Ryan-Marines-WW2-served with the OSS in Yugoslavia. This guy was a real war hero. He reached what many consider his peak playing the adversarial officer in 'The Dirty Dozen.'

Vladek Sheybal
Vladek Sheybal.
Władysław Rudolf Z. Sheybal was born on 12 March 1923 in Zgierz, Poland, near Łódź. World War II interrupted his studies, as it did for so many others, and he wound up in an occupied country with no prospects. Sheybal joined the Polish Partisans and was captured by the Germans twice and put in concentration camps. He escaped from both of them and thereby survived the war. Sheybal belongs to that murky class of veterans of the war who technically didn't muster into an army but participated in it as much as anybody and more than most. Was he "in uniform"? You decide. I think he merits the title. Anyway, you may not recognize the name, but I bet you recognize the face.

After the war, Sheybal was fairly aimless until he tried acting and was cast in a Polish television show in 1957. After building a little career momentum, he shortened his stage name to Vladek Sheybal. His career built slowly after that, but Shebyal got a huge boost by being cast as Kronsteen in "From Russia With Love." That is the role by which most people will remember him, even if they don't know his name. After that, Sheybal worked steadily in a constant stream of vaguely creepy roles. He was sort of the second coming of Peter Lorre, invariably playing sinister Eastern Europeans who often had vulnerabilities that made them charming and even sympathetic. Sheybal on occasion played German World War II soldiers, as in "Mosquito Squadron" (1969), which must have been somewhat surreal for him. Sheybal became a semi-regular on the British TV show "UFO" and appeared in the 1982 miniseries "Smiley's People." Vladeck Sheybal continued his character roles up until his passing on 16 October 1992 in London, England.

Alex Haley
Alex Haley.
Alex Haley, best known as the author of "Roots" and other best sellers, enlisted in the US Coast Guard in 1939 as a Mess Attendant Third Class (the only ratings in the Navy and Coast Guard open to minorities at that time).  When the US entered the war in December 1941 he was serving on the cutter Pamlico which sailed the waters of coastal North Carolina.  In May 1943 he was transferred to the cargo vessel USS Murzim and saw service in the Pacific; Haley began writing about combat conditions on board, which were published in the US.

Towards the end of the war, Haley was assigned to edit an official Coast Guard periodical.  He eventually became the editor of the Coast Guard publication ‘Helmsman‘ in New York City, advancing to the rank of Chief Petty Officer before his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959. He then began to publish novels.

Rod Serling
Rod Serling.
Writer T/4 Rodman Edward Serling, US Army (Served 1943-1946). Rod Serling enlisted in the military after graduating from high school. He trained at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, then served as a U.S. Army paratrooper and demolition specialist with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific Theater in World War II. He saw real combat in the Philippines. Private Serling was seriously wounded in the wrist and knee during combat, but that was better than being killed like three of his comrades. After recovering from his wounds, Serling served in the occupation forces in Japan. Reaching a final rank of Technician Fourth Grade (T/4). He was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and the Philippine Liberation Medal. He was discharged honorably in 1946.

After the war, Rod first worked in a rehabilitation hospital before becoming a top television writer, presenter, and producer. He was hobbled for many years by his "trick knee." Among many other projects, he created the legendary "Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery" series of the 1950s-1970s. He later joined a college faculty in upstate New York and passed away on 28 June 1975.

Hugh Hefner
Hugh Hefner.
Hugh Hefner enlisted in the US Army in 1944, straight out of high school, and served as an infantry clerk for two years. Hefner earned a sharpshooter badge during Basic Training due to his talent with an M1. Hefner also successfully made it past “Killer College” – a training which required troops to go through maneuvers while throwing out live hand grenades. Hefner did not serve overseas but was posted to Camp Adair in Oregon and Camp Pickett in Virginia, where he contributed cartoons for Army newspapers. After his discharge in 1946, he went to college on the GI Bill. He later became interested in magazines and reportedly put the first "Playboy" together in his kitchen.

Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson.
Rock Hudson enlisted in the US Navy in 1943 after graduating from high school and served in the Philippines as an aircraft mechanic. He was discharged in 1946, and later went on to play heroic military figures such as the submarine Captain in "Ice Station Zebra."

Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly.

Gene Kelly
Lieutenant Gene Kelly and wife Betsy Blair. October 1945.
The first shot above is a portrait of Lieutenant (JG) Gene Kelly (1912 - 1996) of the United States Naval Air Service, August 1945. The photo above at top was probably taken in Washington, DC. Below that one is Gene with his wife at the time, Betsy Blair.

Kelly enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Service at the end of 1944 and was commissioned as lieutenant junior grade after going through San Diego boot camp. He enlisted after helping to sell war bonds and entertain wounded troops. He did receive some deferments because the Board figured he was more valuable acting than shooting bullets.

This enlistment was particularly laudable because it happened shortly after MGM loaned him out to Columbia to work with Rita Hayworth in "Cover Girl" (1944), which turned out to be Gene Kelly's breakthrough role. So, Kelly went from being a sudden star to lining up for chow with every other grunt, though the military recognized his value and kept him working on films.

Kelly was stationed in the United States Naval Photographic Section, Anacostia, Washington D.C. He helped to write and direct many documentaries, which encouraged his interest in the production side of film-making (the most famous one produced there was "Victory at Sea"). Some of Kelly's wartime films included "Combat Fatigue Irritability," "Submarine Warfare. Now It Can Be Told," and "Treasury Salute no. 314. What’s the matter with Steve." So, they weren't particularly glamorous. The Navy let Gene off for some civilian films during this time there, such as the classic "Anchors Aweigh" with Frank Sinatra (during which Kelly dances with the animated Jerry Mouse of Tom and Jerry). Kelly received a certificate on satisfactory completion of active service in 1946.

After the war, Kelly returned to Hollywood and resumed his career as if World War II never happened. Some of Kelly's first post-war films were "Living in a Big Way" (1947) and with Judy Garland in "The Pirate" (1948).
John Coltrane
John Coltrane's enlistment photo.
John Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on August 6, 1945. It was an auspicious day, when the first U.S. atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. The war was over within a matter of days, but this list does not differentiate on the amount of time served during the war - Coltrane did, and that is that.

Coltrane trained as an apprentice seaman at Sampson Naval Training Station in upstate New York before being assigned to Pearl Harbor late in 1945. Coltrane was stationed at Manana Barracks, the largest posting of African-American servicemen. Coltrane joined the Melody Masters, the base swing band. It happened to be an all-white group, but he integrated it as a perpetual "guest performer." Coltrane mustered out as a seaman first class in August 1946. After the war, of course, John Coltrane became a legendary jazz performer. He passed away on July 17, 1967.

Bill Blass
Bill Blass, left, with fellow grunt Bob Tompkins. Credit via Bob Tompkins.
Another name I did not expect on this list is William Ralph "Bill" Blass (June 22, 1922 – June 12, 2002), better known simply as Bill Blass. He enlisted in the US Army in 1942, not long after Pearl Harbor. The Army assigned Blass to the 603rd Camouflage Battalion, and he was in the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. This unit employed "creative types" in designing items intended to mislead the enemy. They used recordings, inflatable tanks, and other false materials to create an illusion, such as with the completely phony "First US Army Group" (FUSAG) in Dover prior to D-Day. Blass served along with many other creative celebrities, including artist Ellsworth Kelly, the photographer Art Kane, and the watercolorist Arthur Singer. The unit became the subject of “The Ghost Army,” an hourlong documentary by Rick Beyer shown on PBS some years ago.

Bill Blass, of course, came back to New York in 1945 and began his legendary fashion career. By the 1970s, he was one of the top names in the industry. He also branched out into areas such as automotive design for the Ford Motor Company before retiring to his home in Connecticut shortly before his death.

Bill Blass
Nancy Kulp.
Nancy Kulp was in graduate school for English and French in Miami when she got the urge to join the military. In 1944, Kulp left the University of Miami and volunteered for service in the US Naval Reserve. She was a member of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service and commissioned as a Lieutenant Jg. Kulp received several decorations, including the American Campaign Medal, before mustering out in 1946.

Kulp became interested in acting when her husband was working at a Hollywood studio. Director George Cukor thought she had the right look and urged her to act, so Kulp began seeking parts and had quick success. She eventually got the plum role of Mr. Drysdale's assistant Miss Jane Hathaway on the television series "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Grant Taylor
Grant Taylor.
Grant Taylor was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in England on 6 December 1917. He moved to Australia as a child, then became a successful professional boxer as a teen. Taylor got involved in acting after auditioning for a part in "Gone to the Dogs" (1939). Not getting the part proved a good career move, as he met actor Alec Kellaway, who convinced him to go to acting school. This led to a role in "Dad Rudd, MP" (1940), and then to a breakthrough role in "Forty Thousand Horsemen" (1940). While a big international hit due to the presence in the lead of Errol Flynn, the film led nowhere for Taylor because the outbreak of World War II was disastrous for the Australian film industry. Taylor enlisted in the Australian army on 7 October 1942.

Taylor held a variety of positions in the army, including MP, but most revolved around entertaining troops in the Australian Army Entertainment Unit. During the war, he appeared in many propaganda films. Discharged on 26 February 1946, Taylor picked up his acting career again, but his breakthrough moment had passed. He became a solid supporting actor in both television and films but never became a global star. One might call Taylor a "working actor," which required a great deal of craftsmanship and effort without much celebrity. He continued his supporting and guest-starring roles through the 1950s and 1960s, returning to the UK in 1963. He is perhaps best remembered as General Henderson in British production TV "UFO" (1970). Grant Taylor passed away from cancer in 1971, his chance of stardom a casualty of the war. Grant Taylor, someone you probably never heard of, represents exactly what this page is all about, someone who deserves a sliver of recognition at last.

George Reeves

George Reeves served in the Army during World War II. He was in the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) First Motion Picture Unit during 1943, where he made training films. Reeves already was a big star before the war, having appeared in "Gone With the Wind." Reeves resumed his film career after the war with mixed success, appearing in classic World War II film "From Here To Eternity." Reeves is best known as the title star of television series "The Adventures of Superman," and for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death by gunshot at his home in 1958.

George C. Scott
George C. Scott.
George Campbell Scott (October 18, 1927 – September 22, 1999) was an American stage and film actor, director and producer. Scott joined the US Marines, serving from 1945-49 during World War II and afterward. Scott was only 17 and enlisted as early as he could, but missed combat when the war ended before he could be shipped to a combat zone, to his everlasting regret. Of course, but for the atomic bombs, he could have seen quite a bit of action.

Scott, of course, went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor for playing World War II hero General George S. Patton Jr. in 1970 classic "Patton."

Donald Pleasance celebrities in world war II
Donald Pleasance.
Donald Pleasance (1919-1995), born in Nottinghamshire, England. He initially was a conscientious objector, but later changed his stance. Upon entering the military, he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force, serving with No. 166 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command. His Avro Lancaster was shot down on 31 August 1944, during a raid on Agenville, France. Pleasance was taken a prisoner and placed in a German prisoner-of-war camp, where he produced and acted in plays. Reportedly, he was tortured by the Germans at some point. Pleasance later played the blind intelligence officer Flight Lt. Colin Blythe in "The Great Escape" and became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the 1970s.

William Hopper
William DeWolf Hopper Jr.
William Hopper was born in New York City 26 January 1915, the son of actor DeWolf Hopper and (future) Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. He and his mother moved to Hollywood in 1922, but by then baby Hopper already had made his film debut in "Sunshine Dad" (1916). He continued acting and became a contract player at Paramount. The roles were small but the pictures were good, such as "Stagecoach" (1939), "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942). Hopper then volunteered to serve with the Office of Strategic Services, including work with the Underwater Demolition Team in the Pacific Theater. Hopper participated in operations on Pelelieu, Anguar Island and the Occpation of Ulithi as well as other Islands in the Caroline Islands and on the Invasion of Leyte and the Lingayen pre-landing activities. Hopper did well and earned a Bronze Star and several campaign medals.

After the war, Hopper did not resume his acting career, which apparently he had never taken very seriously. Instead, Hopper tried various things, including being a car salesman (there was a lot of pent-up demand for new cars due to their prohibition during the war). However, in 1953 an old friend, director Bill Wellman, convinced him to appear in "The High and the Mighty" (1954), and Hopper immediately got right back into his old acting career as if it had never stopped. Once again, the parts were small but the films were great (including "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955)). After testing for the lead in "Perry Mason," Hopper was given the role of investigator Paul Drake, for which he was nominated for an Emmy. Many consider Hopper's portrayal of the dashing Drake as a key part of the classic series, providing some levity and action in what could have become a dull and dry exercise. After "Perry Mason" was canceled in 1966 after nine seasons, Hopper did little acting and instead enjoyed his semi-retirement with wife Jane Kies (Jane Gilbert). William Hopper passed away in 1970 at age 55 in Palm Springs from complications following a stroke.

Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau, showing his rank of Staff Sergeant.

Walter Matthau
Walter Matthau in 1952, publicity photo for Broadway play "Fancy Meeting You Again."

Walter Matthau (October 1, 1920 – July 1, 2000) served in the U.S. Army Air Forces with the Eighth Air Force in England as a B-24 Liberator radioman-gunner. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. While Matthau served in the same 453rd Bombardment Group as James Stewart, there is no record of their ever having met or flown together - though that is as likely as not. Certainly, Matthau must have seen Stewart during his service.

There are few photographs of Matthau from the World War II era available. It was not something that he later talked about or publicized. Many veterans were like that. That doesn't mean his service was any less important than that of the others on here, and it may have been very intense for all we know.

Walter always was a bit cagey about his real past on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and during the war. For instance, he allowed a rumor to stand for many years that his real birth name was "Walter Matuschanskayasky," under which he was credited for his bit part as a drunk in "Earthquake." This was accepted as fact for many years, while the reality was that his original last name was Matthow, which does not sound nearly as exotic or colorful. No doubt, Matthau (or Mathow) got quite a kick out of putting that one over as a kind of inside joke about how easy it was to con people about your past, how little people actually knew about stars like him, and how quickly people would swallow some unlikely edifice of a name for someone with a vaguely ethnic look. In this sense, he was a bit like James Doohan (see below). Matthau did not consider himself some big star who put on airs; instead, he liked to come across as just any old Matuschanskayasky you might meet on the street.

Matthau's life changed drastically because of his World War II service. While mildly interested in theater before the war, he became much more interested while stationed in England. He began acting for real afterwards, quickly moved on to Broadway, and eventually became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood in such films as "The Odd Couple" and "The Fortune Cookie," his breakthrough role in 1966. Jack Hawkins
Jack Hawkins in "The Cruel Sea" (1953).
Born 14 September 1910, Jack Hawkins already was an established leading man on both the London stage and in films when war broke out. He worked extensively with (Sir) John Gielgud doing Shakespeare and popular works throughout the 1930s. After the outbreak of war, Hawkins joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers, eventually becoming a colonel in the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA, later superseded by the Combined Services Entertainment (CSE)). Hawkins served in India and Southeast Asia, getting time off to make "The Next of Kin" (1942).

Hawkins was one of those lucky souls who resumed his career after the war as if he never had been away, appearing onstage in "The Apple Cart" two weeks after mustering out in July 1946. Actually, it is a bit blithe to say that he resumed his career exactly as it had been because he no longer commanded high wages and had to work his way back up again. That Hawkins did, though, signing with Alexander Korda to pay the rent, but eventually hitting major paydirt in the early 1950s with films such as "Malayan Emergency" (1952) and "The Cruel Sea" (1953).

Hawkins acquired a reputation as a "stiff upper lip" chap, and his memorable role of General Allenby in Richard Attenborough's classic "Lawrence of Arabia" sealed that reputation. Hawkins showed his versatility by playing Quintus Arrius in "Ben-Hur" around the same time, and with those two roles, he stole his scenes in two of the greatest films ever made. Hawkins passed away in 1973. Richard Todd
Richard Todd.
Richard Todd (born 11 June 1919) was of the perfect age to fight when World War II broke out, though he already had some stage experience (co-founding the Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1939). He enlisted in the British Army and received a commission in 1941. He was in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, then the Parachute Regiment. As a captain, Todd was in Operation Tonga, the glider landings that opened the D-Day invasion. The capture of Pegasus Bridge right behind the invasion beaches was their main target, and Todd and his men carried out their mission perfectly.

After mustering out, Todd resumed acting in his repertory theater. Somebody spotted him, and that got him a screen test and ultimately a contract with Associated British Picture Corporation. Major roles for Alfred Hitchcock (Stage Fright (1950)) and King Vidor (Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)) followed, but his real breakthrough came in "A Man Called Peter" (1955). That year he also played Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the classic British war film "The Dam Busters" (1955), which is the film that pretty much everyone (including me) remembers him for. In 1962, Todd played Major Howard in "The Longest Day" - Howard being Todd's real-life commanding officer during the D-Day battle and with whom Todd actually stood on Pegasus Bridge that day. Todd almost snagged the role of James Bond in "Dr. No," but scheduling issues handed the role to Sean Connery (who, incidentally, served in the Royal Navy, but not during the war). Richard Todd became an OBE in 1993 and passed away in 2009.

George Bush
George H.W. Bush.
George Bush
George Bush rescued by the USS Finback in the Solomon Islands - you can see the island where he would have been killed in the background
George H.W. Bush, US Navy pilot, WWII. George Bush flew combat missions in several major World War II engagements, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea. As is well known, George Bush later became a Congressman, CIA Director, Vice President, and President of the United States.

Shot down on a mission over the Bonin Islands (Chichijima), Bush was rescued by a submarine after making it back out to sea (with difficulty) while others in his flight bailed out over the land. He only learned well after the war, during his time as the 41st President of the United States, that every other pilot in his flight had been executed by the Japanese when they were captured on the island. He survived his own bail-out (his two fellow crew members did not) by luckily being picked up by a passing submarine (the Finback). By sheer chance, the rescue was filmed and photographed by someone on the submarine.

Lt. Bush flew 58 combat missions in total, including numerous ones after his bail-out. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to his carrier, the San Jacinto. He was honorably discharged in September 1945.

It became somewhat fashionable for certain opponents of President Bush's to call into question or deride his military feats. Lt. Bush was alone, on a small dinghy, in the middle of the ocean. No food, no water, "not a single luxury." He easily could have died there from exposure or dehydration - many others did. The others in his flight weren't so lucky; they did die, by beheading on the nearby island. Future President Bush got lucky when he was rescued by a passing submarine, and he knew it. Many, many other men in similar situations died horrible deaths from exposure, dehydration and starvation - all three at once is not a pretty sight. A small dinghy in the huge ocean is extremely hard to see, especially from the height of a submarine conning tower, even if you know where to look.

There was nothing phony about this incident. Compare this to the similar bail-out not long afterward of ace Pappy Boyington - Boyington also got picked up by a passing sub, but in his case, a Japanese one, and spent the next two years suffering in a POW camp. And that can make all the difference. George H.W. Bush passed away on 30 November 2018.

John F. Kennedy PT 109

John F. Kennedy PT 109

John F. Kennedy PT 109
John F. Kennedy on the PT 109 in 1943, Solomon Islands.
John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States of America. His exploits were detailed in an autobiography and a well-received movie. Everybody no doubt knows all about his exploits (his ship was cut in half at night by a Japanese destroyer, and despite his own injuries he swam for help). The pain from his war injuries followed him throughout the remainder of his life and, in an odd, sad and creepy way may have inadvertently contributed directly to his assassination in Dallas twenty years later. A true American hero.

A word here, too, for his older brother, Joseph Patrick Kennedy. Joseph passed away during a secret mission over France, 1944.

Johnny Carson
Johnny Carson.
John W. "Johnny" Carson (1925-2005). Ensign, U.S. Navy 1943-45 WW II. Carson enlisted in June 1943 as a Seaman Apprentice (apparently he wanted to be a pilot but was switched - the US military didn't particularly care what you wanted to do in those days) and later received a commission after studying at Columbia University. He served as OIC of decoding messages on the USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific. During his spare time, he fought as an amateur boxer and compiled a 10-0 record. He stayed on for a while after the war and continued decrypting messages. He liked to tell the story about the time he performed magic tricks for US Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal. After mustering out, Carson worked at an Omaha radio station, then hosted a morning television program, then did some bit acting before becoming the host of "The Tonight Show" for thirty years. Cesar Romero Cesar Romero
Cesar Romero.
Cesar Romero, American Actor (February 15, 1907 – January 1, 1994). Cesar is one of the least appreciated of World War II veterans. He was a leading man in the 1930s, starring as The Cisco Kid and as an assortment of foreign counts and Latin lovers. One could say that during that time he was more successful than many legendary peers such as John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Just like Stewart, though, Cesar gave it all up to face bullets and an uncertain future.

In October 1942, Cesar voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served in the Pacific Theater. He reported aboard the Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Cavalier in November 1943. He saw action during the invasions of Tinian and Saipan. He resumed his career after the war as if he had never left, and decades later became famous as the Joker on the "Batman" tv series and, again decades later, appeared on popular series such as Falcon Crest. Cesar Romero is at the same time one of the most successful and least remembered actors who served in the war.

Telly Savalas
Telly Savalas in "The Twilight Zone."
Corporal Telly Savalas was in the US Army. He served from 1941-1943. Telly was a member of Company C, 12th Medical Training Battalion, 4th Medical Training Regiment at Camp Pickett, Virginia. Although Telly received a Purple Heart for his service in World War II, little is known about his time with the armed forces.

Telly (full name Aristotelis Savalas) went on to become a top action star in the 1960s in films such as "The Dirty Dozen." He created the iconic television character of "Kojak" in the '70s.

Jack Elam in "Kansas City Confidential" 1952
Jack Elam in "Kansas City Confidential" (1952).
William Scott "Jack" Elam, born on 13 November 1920 in Miami, Gila County, Arizona, picked cotton as a boy. A childhood accident deprived him of his eyesight in his left eye. In the 1930s, Jack Elam developed an interest in accounting and worked as a bookkeeper for Bank of America and Standard Oil. When World War II began, he served two years in the U.S. Navy.

After the war, Elam resumed his job as an accountant, this time independently, and also managed the Bel-Air Hotel. He was a good accountant and later said he would have preferred to remain an accountant instead of pursuing the later occupation that led to his celebrity. Unfortunately, working long hours strained his remaining good eye, and his doctor told him to find something else to do. At loose ends and living in Los Angeles, Elam decided to give acting a try. He had an "in" because one of his accounting clients was Samuel Goldwyn.

His first film was "She Shoulda Said No!" (1949), a sort of "Reefer Madness" exploitation film. This led to a long series of character actor roles in which Elam played western outlaws, gangsters, and similar heavies. Often, and increasingly as he grew older, Elam worked in subtle understated, or disguised humor into his roles, even appearing in action comedies such as "The Cannonball Run" (1981) and its sequel. Perhaps his best-known, if one of his briefest, roles was as the leader of the three gunmen who meet the character played by Charles Bronson at the beginning of "Once Upon A Time In The West" (1969). Jack Elam passed away of congestive heart failure in Ashland, Oregon, in 2003.

Henry Kissinger
Private Henry Kissinger while with Company G 335th Infantry Regiment of the 84th Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne, La. (Robertson Collection).

Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923, in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany. His family was Jewish and the local Hitler Youth gangs harassed Heinz and his family. So, they fled in 1938 to London and then to New York, arriving in the latter on 5 September. They lived in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. At some point, Heinz Americanized his given name and became Henry Kissinger.

In early 1943, Heinz was drafted into the U.S. Army. He trained at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina. While there, in June 19433, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Kissinger was chosen for the Army Specialized Training Program, or ASTP, due to his fluency in German, but the program was canceled due to manpower issues. He was reassigned to the infantry as a rifleman and trained at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.

Assigned to Company G 335th Infantry Regiment of the 84th Infantry "Rail-Splitter" Division, Heinz participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Due to his German-language ability, he was placed in charge of the city of Krefeld, where he reestablished a civilian government. Reassigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC)as a CIC Special Agent and promoted from private to sergeant, Kissinger then led a team in Hanover that tracked Gestapo officers and other saboteurs. He received the Bronze Star.

After the war, Kissinger went to Harvard College and studied political science. After years of studying and teaching foreign policy, Kissinger became interested in politics and joined the campaign of Nelson Rockefeller in 1960. He remained a Rockefeller advisor until Richard Nixon won the Republican nomination in 1968. That led to Nixon appointing him his National Security Advisor in 1969 and Secretary of State in 1973, where he served until early 1977.

Kissinger then became an elder statesman, and, as of this writing in 2021, remains such at the age of 98.

J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger working on something related to Holden Caulfield during World War II, probably in Europe.
Jerome David "J.D." Salinger (January 1, 1919) was an unsuccessful writer from New York City when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. Having attended the Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania, he was a good catch for the military, and Salinger was duly drafted early in 1942. He wound up serving in the 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. This took JD on a tour of scenic French and German spots such as Utah Beach, the Ardennes, and the Hürtgen Forest, the experiences marred somewhat by the fact that people were shooting at him at all of those places. He wound up a Staff Sergeant.

Salinger had submitted numerous articles for publication, all rejected for one reason or another, before the war. However, as all writers know, if you write, you have to write and keep writing - there is no substitute. Learning from good writers also helps. So, J.D. sought out war correspondent Ernest Hemingway in Paris, who commented, "Jesus, he has a helluva talent." The two began corresponding, which continued after the war as well.

The Hemingway magic rubbed off on Salinger... eventually... and after the war one of his old writing professors at Columbia, Whit Burnett, tried to get some short stories Salinger had written published. One of these was a story, "Slight Rebellion off Madison," which JD had written before the war. It centered on an eccentric/raw character named Holden Caulfield. However, the publisher once again rejected JD's submission.

Eventually, after huge effort and endless rewrites, JD got a story published in the New Yorker several years after the war, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish." This got him rolling, and in 1951 he had expanded his story about Holden Caulfield into a novel, "The Catcher in the Rye," which Little, Brown and Company published. It was moderately successful at first, fell out of sight... and then, years later, slowly became a cult classic. Today, it is quite possibly the most well-remembered book of the 1950s and one of the classics of all of American literature. It also has sold millions upon millions upon millions of copies despite having controversial themes.

JD thus became part of a distinguished group of young American writers who served in the war and later wrote the "Great American Novel." Perhaps the other great example of this is Herman Wouk, with "The Caine Mutiny." Personally, I compare Salinger more to another Herman who also became a titan of literature for a spectacular one-off novel: Herman Melville, whose "Moby Dick" was published in 1851, exactly 100 years before "Catcher in the Rye." "Moby Dick" also was not particularly successful at first, and only later became revered as a classic. If you match "Moby Dick" with "A Catcher in the Rye," and throw in a Hemingway tale such as "A Farewell to Arms," you pretty much have the best that American literature has to offer.

No longer needing to work, JD eventually became a notorious and almost mythical recluse (satirized in shows like "Seinfeld,"). He passed away of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire in 2010.
Ernest Hemingway receiving his Bronze Star for service in World War II in 1947.
Ernest Hemingway definitely merits a mention here. Hemingway had a very complicated relationship with World War II, but since he received a medal for valor during it, it is impossible to say that he did not serve. He did - just not formally.

Born on 21 July 1899, Hemingway served in World War I as an ambulance driver in Italy and Paris (the army would not take him because he had poor eyesight). After volunteering to make special trips to the front lines in Italy, Hemingway was wounded by artillery fire. So, by the time of World War II, Hemingway had done his time and was well past service age by the time the war broke out. However, Hemingway was a go-for-the-gusto type, and had some very interesting associations with World War II anyway.

While writing his classic novels in the interwar period, which often recounted his own experiences during the war, Hemingway retained his interest in conflict and people fighting against oppression. Among other things, he was in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Shortly before the United States entered World War II, Hemingway engaged in an odd trip to China, which of course already was at war with Japan, in January 1941. There has been speculation that Hemingway and his wife, Martha Gellhorn, went there as US spies (Collier's magazine suddenly hired Martha on assignment, and Ernest sent in contributions from China to New York daily "PM," but neither seemed to merit a trip like that during a time of rising international tensions in the Pacific). In fact, it also has been alleged Hemingway was a Soviet spy during this trip, but everything about this incident is unclear. In any event, the trip was very suspicious for its timing and locale, and it is of some probability that Hemingway was spying for someone. Hemingway returned to the US with Martha in 1941 long before Pearl Harbor, stopping along the way in Manila and providing the military intelligence people there with valuable insights that proved remarkably prophetic.

During the war, Hemingway served as a war correspondent in various European operation zones. Shortly after the US Fifth Army under Mark Clark landing in southern Italy in September 1943, Hemingway and some of his fellow correspondents, on their own initiative, took a jeep on back roads and drove from the southern landing zone to the separate, northern perimeter at Salerno - a route supposedly blocked by the Germans. The Army called Hemingway in and asked how he did it, and apparently, his information helped the army advance to the north and relieve the surrounded forces at Salerno.

Hemingway went to London in May 1944. While there, he got into a car accident, which landed him in a hospital with a concussion. He talked his way out of the hospital just in time so that, while still wearing a head bandage, he could be on a landing craft to Omaha Beach, though the Navy wouldn't let him ashore because of his celebrity. In fact, no war correspondents were allowed ashore on the first day, but Hemingway saw the first wave hit the landing beaches.

Hemingway later was present at the liberation of Paris. Legend has it that he helped "liberate the Ritz," but this appears to be apocryphal (but it sounded great when he told the story at cocktail parties). Hemingway did meet Gertrude Stein and "forgave" her for being a collaborator. Hemingway then followed the troops east and observed the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. Hemingway also was present at the Battle of the Bulge, but quickly was hospitalized with pneumonia.

Now, here's the most interesting part, which is not well known: Hemingway received the Bronze Star for his service in World War II. The citation praised him for being "under fire in combat areas in order to obtain an accurate picture of conditions.... [T]hrough his talent of expression, Mr. Hemingway enabled readers to obtain a vivid picture of the difficulties and triumphs of the front-line soldier and their organization in combat." The medal apparently is on display at his home in Key West. Read the wording as one may, the citation could apply just as much to spying as to journalism.

After the war, Hemingway went on to what many consider to be his greatest literary achievement, the novella "The Old Man and The Sea," for which he received the Nobel Prize. After a long, momentous life, Ernest Hemingway passed away in 1961 at his home in Idaho from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Eli Wallach.
Eli Wallach playing Hitler during World War II - "Is This the Army?"
Eli Wallach was drafted into the Army in January 1941 - well before Pearl Harbour. He served as a staff sergeant in a military hospital in Hawaii and later sent to Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Abilene, Texas to train as a medical administrative officer. Commissioned a second lieutenant, he was ordered to Casablanca. Later, when he was serving in France, a senior officer noticed his acting career and asked him to create a show for the patients. He and his unit wrote a play called Is This the Army?, which was inspired by Irving Berlin's "This Is the Army." In the comedic play, Wallach and the other actors mocked Axis dictators, with Wallach portraying Adolf Hitler. After the war, Wallach was a founding member of the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg and Marlon Brando among others, where he met future wife Anne Jackson, became friends with Marilyn Monroe, and went on to a brilliant acting career. Eli Wallach passed away in June 2014.

Fred Gwynne
Fred Gwynne.
Fred Gwynne is best known as Herman Munster, but during World War II he served in the United States Navy. Gwynne was a radioman on a submarine chaser. His war service got him a Harvard College education under the G.I. Bill and that led to an acting career. His most memorable roles were in the television series "Car 54, Where Are You?" and "The Munsters." He had a late-career success with "My Cousin Vinny." Fred Gwynne passed away in July 1993.
George Kennedy.
George Harris Kennedy, Jr. (born February 18, 1925) put aside show business during World War II and served under General Patton. He was in the United States Army for a total of 16 years. He saw combat and worked in the Armed Forces radio. He also was involved with the opening of the first Army Information Office.

Kennedy later won an Oscar for "Cool Hand Luke" and starred in several box office blockbusters such as "Airport" and its many sequels and the "Naked Gun" films. Perhaps the best film showing him in the military was "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) with fellow Vet Lee Marvin. Mr. Kennedy passed away early in 2016.
Howard McNear.
Howard McNear was in the US Army Air Corps during WWII. He enlisted as a Private on 11/17/1942. He later went into light comedy and starred as the iconic affable barber on 'The Andy Griffith Show.' He suffered a stroke that forced him off the series, then passed away shortly thereafter due to another stroke.

Frank Sutton (1923-1974) tried to join the Marines but flunked the physical, so he wound up in the Army. He wound up participating in 14 assault landings in the Pacific Theater including Leyte, Luzon, Bataan, and Corregidor. Sutton saw combat and earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Somewhat ironically, Sutton ultimately became famous for his role as Marine Gunnery Sgt. & Drill Instructor Vince Carter in the TV series “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” Sutton, despite failing the physical, was no wallflower and later earned a Black Belt in judo.

Howard Cosell
Howard Cosell.
When the U.S. entered World War II, Howard Cosell joined the United States Army Transportation Corps. He eventually was promoted to the rank of major. Eventually, of course, he became the most famous tv sports announcer of all time.

I ran into Howard Cosell in the mid-1980s. He was a fairly short, unassuming man in a grey trenchcoat. The whole "This... is... Howard... Cosell" thing was his schtick, and he did it well. But he was a friendly sort, ready with a smile. He was a major in the Army during the war, that ain't beanbag.
Brian Keith.
Brian Keith (1921-1997), SGT, U.S. Marine Corps WW II. He served (1942–1945) as an air gunner (he was a Radio-Gunner in the rear cockpit of a two-man Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber in a U.S. Marine squadron), and received an Air Medal. He went on to fame in television and motion pictures after the war.

Nehemiah Persoff
Nehemiah Persoff as Carl Lanser in his memorable "Twilight Zone" episode, "Judgment Night" (1959).
Nehemiah Persoff (born 2 August 1919) was born in Jerusalem, Palestine. The Persoff family emigrated to the United States in 1929, where Nehemiah took up acting. He had just begun getting some success in the theater when World War II broke out. Persoff served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1946, getting an Honorable Discharge as a Technician 5th Grade. After the war, Persoff resumed his acting career right where he had left off, getting his Broadway debut in "Galileo" in December 1947. This led to his first film "The Naked City" (1948). Persoff was just an uncredited extra in his early films, but one of those appearances was as the cab driver during Marlon Brando's famous "contender" speech in "On the Waterfront." As the 1950s went on, Persoff's roles got better, and he built his true fame on hundreds of television appearances. Persoff was a reliable character actor usually portraying menacing or menaced characters of a vaguely Eastern European background. Nehemiah Persoff retired from acting in the 1990s but continues to be active as of 2019 as an artist.

Jack Klugman
Jack Klugman in "12 Angry Men."
Jack Klugman (April 27, 1922 – December 24, 2012). Klugman was born in Philadelphia, PA. He was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. He served with the US Army during WW II, where and in what outfit is unknown. Klugman went back to school after the war, probably on the GI Bill, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1948. After being told by his drama teacher that he was better suited to be a truck driver, Klugman became a renowned stage, film and television actor. He is best known for his role in "12 Angry Men," as Oscar Madison in the television series "The Odd Couple," a pool hustler in "The Twilight Zone," and the titular character in "Quincy M.E."

Hayden Rorke in "I Dream of Jeannie"
Hayden Rorke with K.T. Stevens in his  TV debut on “I Love Lucy” in “The New Neighbors” (ILL S1;E21) in early 1952. 
William Henry Rorke was a Brooklyn boy. Born in 1910, he enlisted after Pearl Harbor and served in the Provisional Task Force Show Unit of the Army, appearing in "This is the Army" (1943) shot in Burbank, California. He used the stage name "Hayden Rorke" professionally, Hayden being his mother's maiden name. After the war, Rorke did bit parts on Broadway before making his non-military screen debut in "Lust for Gold" (1949). He went on to a long career as a character actor, most famously as Doctor Bellows in "I Dream of Jeannie" (1965-70). After that, he made occasional guest star appearances on series such as "The Love Boat" and "Wonder Woman," usually playing professional figures such as judges, senators, professors, and the like. Hayden Rorke made one last appearance as Dr. Bellows in the TV film "I Dream of Jeannie... Fifteen Years Later" (1985) before passing away on 19 August 1987.
Forrest Tucker.
Forrest Tucker was in the Army during World War II from 1942 to 1945. He served as a Second Lieutenant. A bit actor before the war, he ascended to stardom immediately thereafter. Many remember his touching role in "Never Say Goodbye," a 1946 film with Errol Flynn in which Tucker, in a role close to reality, played a returning serviceman fulfilling the dreams of a young penpal. He went on to become a famous character actor notable for turns in "F-Troop" and "Chisum," among many, many other memorable roles.
Bob Newhart.
Yes, Bob Newhart served in the ETO in World War II. After mustering out, he became an accountant, which supported him throughout the 1950s. Somewhat appropriately, his first role was as a soldier in "Hell is for Heroes" (1962). He remains as of this writing one of the World War II Vets still working steadily at his trade in Hollywood. Reportedly, he was introduced to his (future) wife Ginny (still married over fifty years later) by the wife of fellow WWII Vet Don Rickles.
Harvey Korman.
Harvey Korman (1927-2008) served in World War II in the US Navy Reserve. I could not find much information about this period of his life. Born Harvey Herschel Korman on February 15, 1927, he was the son of a salesman of Russian-Jewish descent, Cyril Korman and his wife Ellen. After graduating from high school, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Seaman 1st Class during World War II, apparently based in Chicago. Afterward, he attended the Goodman School of Drama at the Chicago Art Institute. For the next 10 years, Korman supported himself with a variety of jobs while keeping his acting dream alive in summer stock.

Like fellow Vet Dick Van Dyke (who later appeared on some programs with Korman), Korman first came to the public eye only many years after the war in the early 1960s. He first became famous as a supporting star on The Danny Kaye show. Then, he became a household name when he starred on the Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978) and in several Carl Reiner (also a Vet) films, most notably "Blazing Saddles." Korman won four Emmys and one Golden Globe.
Glenn Ford.
Glenn Ford (1916-2006) SGT USMC (1942-44) WW II / CAPT USNR (1958-70s). Ford volunteered for the United States Marine Corps Reserve on December 13, 1942, and was first assigned to San Diego. Later, he was assigned to the Marine Corps Schools Detachment (Photographic Section) in Quantico, Virginia. After only a few months, Ford returned to San Diego in February 1944 and was assigned to the radio section of the Public Relations Office, Headquarters Company, Base Headquarters Battalion. He received a medical discharge on 7 December 1944 due to abdominal issues.

Ford re-upped with the military in 1958 and ultimately went to Vietnam in 1967 for combat scenes in a Marine training film. He earned a Navy Commendation Medal and finally retired in 1970.

Memorable Ford roles included many western characters, and Richard Dadier in “Blackboard Jungle,” as well as Superman's earth "father" in "Superman" (1978).
George McGovern.
Senator George S. McGovern was a 2nd Lieutenant and a B-24 Liberator pilot. Longtime Senator. Democratic Party candidate for President in 1972.

Dewey Martin
Dewey Martin
Dewey Martin is not one of the big celebrities on this page, but he did achieve a bit of fame for a couple of reasons and had a whale of a war record. I'm breaking my own rule and including him even though you almost certainly never heard of him unless you're really into obscure actors. He's just too fascinating. Author's privilege!

Martin is one of the few people on this page who was in the US military even before the war began (began for the US, that is). He had quite an eventful time, joining the U.S. Navy in 1940. Dewey became a pilot and flew Grumman F4F Wildcat and Grumman F6F Hellcats in the Pacific Theater. He fought in the Battle of Midway and ditched his Wildcat in the ocean because his carrier was damaged. You don't get more heroic than that! But that's not all. He later was shot down in 1945 and became a guest of the Japanese until the surrender. I'm not sure how he managed to convince the brass to allow him to continue flying for so long - most pilots were restricted to one or at most two year-long tours of duty - but he did it.

After the war, like many others on this page, Dewey resuscitated an old love of acting and began getting bit parts beginning in 1949's Nicholas Ray film "Knock on Any Door." While never ascending to leading man status, Dewey thereafter carved out a brilliant below-the-radar career as a supporting actor. He worked with Humphrey Bogart, Charles Bronson (before he became Charles Bronson), in a classic Twilight Zone episode, and in the usual run of classic TV series of the 1950s-1970s. You may not have known his name, but you likely saw Dewey if you watched TV back then.

Perhaps Dewey's most famous fifteen minutes was being married to singer Peggy Lee for two years in the 1950s. No, his career never really took off, but Dewey Martin must have had the best stories on set! Dewey Martin passed away on April 9, 2018, at the age of 94.

Peter Graves James Arness
Peter Graves and elder brother James Arness.
Peter Graves (real name Peter Duesler Aurness) graduated from Southwest High School in 1944 and spent two years in the United States Army Air Forces near the end of World War II. He went on to star in over 70 Hollywood productions during his career, including the lead in the popular television series "Mission: Impossible." One of his lesser-known, but more vivid, roles was as one of the POWs (one with a secret) in the classic World War II drama "Stalag 17." James Arness is best known for playing Marshal Dillon in "Gunsmoke" during its record 20-year run on network television.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney in the 1937 trailer for "Snow White."
Walt Disney is usually not thought of as having served in World War II. After all, he was born in 1901, so he was well past the draft age. However, while he did not carry a rifle, Walt Disney did serve his country during the conflict. Disney formed the Walt Disney Training Films Unit to produce instructional films for the military. These were not usual Disney fare: one was "Aircraft Production Methods," another was "Four Methods of Flush Riveting." Disney also produced cartoons to support the war effort, such as "Der Fuehrer's Face," which won an Academy Award. His unit also produced the classic film "Victory Through Air Power" (1943). To help the war effort, he made a public relations tour through South America in 1942.

Major Gregory Pappy Boyington
Major Gregory Pappy Boyington

Major Gregory Pappy Boyington
Medal of Honor winner Gregory "Pappy" Boyington.
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington was a leading U.S. air ace of the Pacific Theater. He did not have as many victories as Richard Bong's 40, but he was close enough (26). Pappy led the famous "Black Sheep" squadron to notoriety throughout the theater, disregarding propriety.

He became famous after the war by writing his detailed autobiography, "Baa Baa Black Sheep," which offered amazing insights into post-war re-integration into society, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress issues. Long after the war, Pappy became a consultant on the 1970s television series about his war exploits, first titled "Baa Baa Black Sheep" after the book, then simply "Black Sheep Squadron."

Pappy was known to be unassuming and a regular guy. After the war, he gave inspirational after-dinner speeches until he had some sort of mental breakdown. For a common man to become world-famous because of his wartime exploits, with all the millions and millions of men in uniform, was something special.

A Native American, Major Boyington was in the Marine Corps before war broke out, and was such a good pilot that he became a flight instructor at Pensacola. He resigned his commission to serve with the Flying Tigers in China before Pearl Harbor - Pappy wanted to fight. After that ended, he was parking cars in California during the war before he was re-admitted to the Marine Air Corps and became a fighter pilot again. Shot down and taken prisoner on one of his last days in service after two tours, he served out the war in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Japan, nearly starving to death. He was promoted to Colonel while imprisoned. This guy was an inspiration.
Kurt Kasznar.
Kurt Kasznar is not really a household name, but if you are of a certain age, you still instantly would recognize him on the screen. I'll get to that below.

Kasznar was born in Vienna in 1913, at the very end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was recruited into acting by director Max Reinhardt and became a top actor in post-war Austria. Still, with Reinhardt, Kasznar emigrated to the United States in 1936 with Reinhardt's acting troupe and continued his acting career.

Right after Pearl Harbor, Kasznar was drafted and assigned to a photographic unit of the US Army. He photographed several landings in the Pacific and the surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945 on the USS Missouri. He attained the rank of Corporal.

After the war, Kasznar continued his acting career in numerous Broadway plays. Kasznar received a Tony Award nomination for the role of Max Detweiler in the original Broadway production of "The Sound of Music" and never missed a day for over 1,000 performances. He branched out into films such as "Lilli," but really was your archetypal Broadway character actor.

Okay, so Kasznar became one of the true greats on Broadway, but his film work was a little light and he wasn't in any real film classics that you can point to and say, "Wow." So, why do I consider him a top celebrity worthy to be in the company of Presidents, Audie Murphy and Clark Gable, and also give him this much attention? Anybody who is a fan of old science fiction series will understand: Kurt Kasznar played Alexander Fitzhugh on Irwin Allen's "Land of the Giants."

Actress Merle Oberon and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr., 23 July 1941
Actress Merle Oberon and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. at an aluminum drive event held on 23 July 1941. 
Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. (1912-1999) was a member of the famous Vanderbilt family and a staple in the society pages. Before the war, he solidified his fame by becoming very active in the world of thoroughbred horse racing. When he was called into service for World War II, he captained a PT Boat in the South Pacific, earning the Silver Star for bravery. He was promoted to lieutenant, junior grade on March 2, 1944. After the war, Vanderbilt returned to racing and served as Chairman of the Board of the New York Racing Association from 1971 to 1975. Dale Robertson
Dale Robertson.
Dayle Robertson (1923-2013) (he used Dale Robertson for his career) entered World War II service as a private in the Horse Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas in Sepember, 1942. He was then stationed at Fort Knox and later at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. After being commissioned through Officer Candidate School, he served as a tank commander in the 777th Tank Battalion in the North African campaign. After D-Day, he was in the 97th Infantry Division in Europe. Robertson rose to 1st Lieutenant with the 332nd Combat Engineers, attached to Patton's Third Army. Robertson earned two Purple Hearts and was awarded the Bronze and Silver Star medals.

The war re-directed Robertson's life. A boxer before the war, while stationed at San Luis Obispo he went to a photographer in Hollywood with some buds to have a picture taken for his mother. The photographer apparently liked the photo and posted it in his shop window to publicize his craft - of such are legends born. Hollywood agents noticed it and contacted Robertson. After the war, his war wounds prevented the resumption of a boxing career, so he standardized his given name and gave acting a whirl. Will Rogers, Jr., gave Dale advice: "Don't ever take a dramatic lesson. They will try to put your voice in a dinner jacket, and people like their hominy and grits in everyday clothes."

Robertson delivered the hominy and grits, big time. Starting out in bit parts, he developed a reputation as a reliable actor in Westerns. Most of the films were standard white-and-black-hat oaters, but he began getting national recognition by starring in television series in the late '50s such as NBC's "Tales of Wells Fargo." He formed his own production company in the '60s, United Screen Arts, to release his films. Robertson did outstanding and memorable work as G-man Melvin Purvis in "Melvin Purvis: G-Man" (1974) and its sequel. He had high-profile television appearances in '80s series such as "Dallas," "Dynasty" and "Murder She Wrote."

Dale Robertson is in the Hall of Great Western Performers and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. He claimed Cherokee ancestry and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Gerald Ford.
Gerald Ford was a model at Yale University who eventually become the 38th President of the United States. He never received his full due as a war hero. We remember, Mr. President.

Clark Gable WWII gunner
Clark Gable in his actual Captain uniform of the U.S. Army Air Force circa 1943

Clark Gable WWII gunner
Clark Gable
Clark Gable WWII gunner
Clark Gable shaves off his trademark mustache for the Army, August 1942.
Clark Gable WWII gunner
Clark Gable with an 8th Air Force B-17 in England, in 1943.
Clark Gable

Clark Gable WWII gunner
Captain Clark Gable (1901 - 1960) in his war time capacity as captain of gunnery at an American Bomber station 'somewhere in Britain'. Gable's main role is to instruct new recruits, but has also made a training film that involved a bombing mission over Antwerp. 

Clark Gable WWII gunner

Clark Gable (1901-1960) Major US Army Air Corps 1942-44 WW II. Although beyond draft age, Clark Gable enlisted as a private. Assigned to OCS he excelled and received a commission. He flew five combat mission as an observer/gunner in a B-17, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross and an Air Medal. On his fourth mission, a 20mm shell cut the heel from his boot. His discharge was signed by Captain Ronald Reagan.

Gable starred in 67 movie films. He had been the biggest star in Hollywood when he enlisted, playing Rhett Butler in "Gone With the Wind." It is believed that he enlisted because his wife, Carole Lombard, died in a plane crash after appearing at a war bond rally, and he was heartbroken. Perhaps it was pure patriotism, just like Rhett Butler enlisting during his war. Whatever the reason, Hitler learned that the famous movie star Clark Gable (Hitler was a Hollywood movie fan, regularly screening films) was flying missions and put a bounty on his head. It never was collected.

One of the little-known facts about Gable is that he was a true pioneer for civil rights. Decades before it became fashionable, Gable stood up for Hattie McDaniel's right to be treated the same as other cast members during promotion for "Gone With The Wind." He was not one to talk about such things, but he acted when it counted.

Gable remained a top Hollywood star after the war until his death, which occurred shortly after filming "The Misfits." He never really got over the death of his wife, a tragic event for which he apparently felt he bore a share of the blame. His later films were good, but not quite the classics of the pre-war years. Clark Gable was probably the top star at the time who served, a statement Mickey Rooney alone might have authority to challenge. It is sad that after all he went through and all that he achieved, Clark Gable perished at the young age of 59 from a heart attack.

Audie Murphy
Audie Murphy.
Audie Murphy, June 1924 - May 1971, was the most decorated American soldier of World War 2. During twenty-seven months in action in the European Theatre he received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign awards (medals, ribbons, citations, badges) including five awards from France and one from Belgium.

After the war, Murphy became a celebrated movie star for over two decades. His best performance may have been in the Graham Greene Vietnam thriller "The Quiet American." Sadly, he died in a plane crash at the peak of his fame.

Claude Akins
Claude Akins.
Claude Akins served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War II in Burma and the Philippines. After that, he went to Northwestern on a GI loan and studied theater. Then, he turned to performing in B-movies and television guest-starring roles. By the mid-1950s he was well-enough known to appear on "I Love Lucy" when that show was at its peak of popularity. Akins hit the jackpot in the '70s when he played Sheriff Lobo on a couple of series and created an indelible character.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was the son of US President Teddy Roosevelt. Despite a heart condition and arthritis that forced him to use a cane, Brig. General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. led the assault on Utah Beach, landing with the first wave of troops. You just don't get more heroic than that, especially for someone in his condition. He died in France less than a month later of a heart attack.
John Ford.
John Ford (né John Feeney: February 1, 1894 – August 31, 1973) Born in Cape Elizabeth, ME. Served during WW II in US Navy as head of OSS photo unit despite being well beyond draft age. Wounded by shrapnel during the Battle of Midway. Landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Returned to active duty during the Korean War. Discharged Rear Admiral, Navy Reserve. Ford is a film director best known for John Wayne westerns. Won four Academy Awards.

What could I, or anyone, add to that kind of off-the-charts record of accomplishment.
John Wayne.
John Wayne visited Australia during World War II to entertain the troops in the forward areas. The photograph above was taken at the Albion Park Raceway, Breakfast Creek, Brisbane, on 27 December 1943. While too old to be called to serve and also subject to other exemptions, John Wayne did his part to help the war effort, and that deserves to be recognized. Yes, this is a controversial selection for some people, but we are going with reality here, not perceptions and not formalities.

Many like to use Wayne's lack of actual enlistment against him. However, if he had joined, he would have wound up doing exactly what he did do - entertain the troops. And there were a number of very valid reasons why he didn't actually enter the service.

To get a little more specific, Wayne was exempted from service due to his age (34 at the time of Pearl Harbor) and family status, classified as 3-A (family deferment). Wayne did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but Republic Studios, who held his contract, did everything it could to keep him on their lot and out of the military. There was huge money at stake. Herbert J. Yates, President of Republic, told Wayne that he would sue if Wayne acted like a fool and gratified his own ego by trying to enlist. Republic Pictures even intervened in the Selective Service process, requesting Wayne's further deferment. Sometimes, you just can't realize your dream. Apparently, late in the war, the US Army did send him a notice allowing him to join up, but he never received it due to having changed addresses just before it was sent.

Wayne wanted to serve. He couldn't. Some people have held his failure to serve against him. He couldn't win, and his enemies have used his predicament against him ever since.

Yes, Wayne could have said "to blazes" and simply enlisted and gone through the physical (which he very well might have failed due to injuries running all the way back to his college days). Clark Gable, for instance, didn't let his age get in his way etc., and Gable was perhaps the only bigger star in Hollywood than Wayne (okay, Jimmy Stewart and Mickey Rooney were big stars, too). Wayne would have ruined a lot of lives of people employed at Republic if he had enlisted, causing them to be laid off. It also would have ruined himself career-wise - that would have been an easy way to get on an informal blacklist, consigning himself to years of litigation. He was trapped and did what he was forced to do, and had to accept the fact that some later would say he was a shirker. Heroism can come in strange forms.

Wayne toured forward U.S. bases and hospitals in the South Pacific for three months in 1943 and 1944, when the above picture was taken. He did his part to entertain the troops. Mickey Rooney was awarded the Bronze Star for doing what John Wayne did, though Rooney admittedly did it longer and actually entered the service. Regardless of technicalities, what John Wayne did earn his way onto this page.

Charles Bronson
Charles Bronson before he became Charles Bronson.
Charles Bronson
Charles Bronson after he became Charles Bronson.
Charles Bronson (né Charles Buchinsky) (1921-2003) U.S. Army Air Force 1943-45 WW II. He enlisted in 1943 and served as an aircraft gunner in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron, and in 1945 as a Superfortress crewman (aerial gunner) with the 39th Bombardment Group based on Guam. He was assigned to a B-29 bomber. He flew on 25 missions over Japan and received a Purple Heart for wounds received during his service.

So, long before his shoot-em-up roles, Charles Bronson was shooting people down - for real.

After the war, Bronson became a top Hollywood actor who starred in numerous World War II films such as "The Dirty Dozen." He achieved his greatest fame as mild-mannered vigilante Paul Kersey in "Death Wish." Charles Bronson passed away on 30 August 2003 in Los Angeles. Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut.
Kurt Vonnegut, an influential 20th-century American writer, was a private with the 423rd Infantry Reg., 106th Infantry Div.

Vonnegut was captured during the Battle of the Bulge on Dec. 19, 1944. Held as a POW in Dresden, he witnessed the firebombing of the city in Feb. 1945, which destroyed most of it. He was one of a group of American POWs to survive the attack in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker used as a detention facility. This became the inspiration for his famous novel "Slaughterhouse-Five" and a film adaptation of that novel of the same name starring Michael Sacks as Billy Pilgrim. The film featured a scene wherein a Professor, played by John Dehner, tries to argue that the Dresden bombing served a military purpose when most historians disagree.
Olivia Newton-John.
No, Olivia Newton-John did not serve in World War II, having been born thereafter. However, her father, Welshman Brinley (Bryn) Newton-John, was a common British soldier who just so happened to take Rudolph Hess into custody following the latter's abortive peace mission flight in May 1941. Olivia was born in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, where her father was a headmaster. Oh, and her maternal grandfather was Max Born, a Jewish émigré in 1933 from Germany England who helped to invent quantum mechanics. So, Hitler in a roundabout way is why Olivia came to be. The family later moved to Australia, and many people assume that Olivia is Australian, but Olivia Newton-John is proud to be English and considers Australia to be her second home.

Chuck Connors
Chuck Connors.
During World War II (1939–45), Chuck Connors enlisted in the Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and spent most of the war as a tank-warfare instructor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and later at West Point. While Connors never made much of his service in later years, he became associated with weapons by starring in popular shows such as "The Rifleman." Connors also appeared in "Soylent Green" with the fellow below, John Carter.
Charlton Heston.

Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston in the Aleutians during the war.
Charlton Heston enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces in 1944 at age 20 under his given name, John Carter. Heston spent two years as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-25 Mitchell stationed in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands with the Eleventh Air Force. He reached the rank of Staff Sergeant. Sergeant Carter mustered out after the war along with everyone else and then was faced with the typical question of what to do with his life. He chose wisely, returning to acting. Heston first focused on stage and television roles until he received a standard seven-year studio contract for motion pictures based on his TV work in 1950 under his stage name of Charlton Heston (there is some confusion about whether Charlton was his actual first name or perhaps a childhood nickname based on an older relative, and Heston was the last name of his stepfather). After his key role in the highly successful "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952), Heston's film career was assured and led to such additional classics as "Ben Hur," "Soylent Green," and "Planet of the Apes."

Years later, Heston was chosen as a narrator for highly classified military and Department of Energy instructional films, particularly relating to nuclear weapons. Heston also held the nation’s highest security clearance for six years, Q Clearance. After participating in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Heston eventually became the leader of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Toward the end of his life, Heston received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Charlton Heston passed away in 2008.

Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster in "From Here to Eternity."
Burt Lancaster worked a series of indifferent jobs before the war, including being part of an acrobat act, a traveling salesman, and a singing waiter. He injured his shoulder in 1939, but that did not prevent him from later serving his country.

Lancaster joined the United States Army in 1942 and performed with the Army's Twenty-First Special Services Division. The group followed the troops on the ground and provided USO entertainment to keep up morale. He served with General Mark Clark's Fifth Army in Italy from 1943–45.

After the war, Lancaster decided to give acting a try. He obtained quick success in "The Killers" (1946) and then "From Here to Eternity" (1953). Lancaster earned numerous acting awards and is widely considered one of the great movie stars of the 20th Century.
Don Knotts.
Don Knotts served in the United States Army from June 21, 1943, to January 6, 1945. He reached the rank of Technician Grade 5, basically a Corporal. He was a decorated marksman in the Pacific Theater during World War II, receiving the World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with 4 bronze service stars), Army Good Conduct Medal, Marksman Badge (with Carbine Bar), and Honorable Service Lapel Pin. There is a legend that Don Knotts was a huge war hero and a sharpshooter, and in a way, Knotts indeed is a hero because he served in the PTO during the height of the conflict. However, Knotts wasn't fighting. Instead, he toured with an acting troupe called the Stars and Gripes, sailing around from island to island putting on shows. His act at the time was as a ventriloquist using a dummy named Danny "Hooch" Matador, which he grew to hate and eventually threw overboard. His medals speak for themselves.

Knotts went on to fame in Hollywood, starring, among many other things, as a serviceman in "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" (1964).  He is most famous for playing Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show" in the 1960s, for which he won five Emmy Awards.

There are some who point out that Knotts did not consider himself anything like his fidgety characters, and that he in fact considered himself a potential matinee idol adored by women. Regardless of the merits of this line of thinking, it never really worked out that way for Don Knotts. However, in one respect, Don has had the last laugh on that score: his eternal resting place is just down the block from Marilyn Monroe at Westwood Memorial Park, who did her own war work in aircraft plants in suburban Los Angeles during the war.
Tony Randall
Tony Randall.
Tony Randall served from 1942-1946 with the US Army Signal Corps during WWII. Before the war, he studied with Sanford Meisner and did some radio work. He refused an entertainment assignment with the Special Services. Interested in acting before the war, Randall later became a familiar face in Doris Day romantic comedies and in "The Odd Couple" in the 1970s.
Paul Newman.
Paul Newman served in the United States Navy in World War II in the Pacific theater. Newman applied to be part of the V-12 pilot training program of Yale University but was rejected because he was color blind. The military instead sent him to boot camp. Newman then received further training as a radioman and gunner. He qualified as a rear-seat radioman and gunner Aviation Radioman Third Class) in torpedo bombers, in 1944. His first assignment was Barbers Point, Hawaii. He later flew from aircraft carriers as a turret gunner in an Avenger torpedo bomber. As a radioman-gunner, he served aboard the USS Bunker Hill during the Battle of Okinawa, 1945.

After the war, Paul returned to college on the GI Bill and studied acting. Newman, of course, became one of the top leading men in Hollywood during the 1960s and thereafter. It is fair to say he became one of the top actors of the entire World War II crop.

William Holden

William Holden served as a 2nd lieutenant in the Air Force during World War II. He later rose to fame playing a similar character as a prisoner of war in "Stalag 17," for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Ernest Borgnine
Ernest Borgnine (then known as Ermes Effron Borgnino) Gunner’s Mate 1st Class US Navy 1935-45 WW II. Born in 1917, he served one term in the Navy after high school, then re-enlisted after Pearl Harbor. During the war, he served aboard the USS Lamberton (DD-119) in the Pacific Theater. Of his many movies, he is best remembered for his role as SSgt. “Fatso” in From Here to Eternity, and for the title role in Marty for which he earned an Oscar.
Ernest Borgnine.
Ernest Borgnine (born Ermes Effron Borgnino) served more than anyone else on this list with the possible exception of Jimmy Stewart. At age 18, after graduating from high school in New Haven, Connecticut, and undecided about his future career, he joined the United States Navy, where he served a six-year hitch. Well, so far so good, right? But shortly after he mustered out - the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

So, Ernie marched himself back down the recruiting center and signed up - again!

He stayed for a total of ten years until leaving in 1945. He is one of the very, very few celebrities who were in the service well before the war broke out, and he stayed for the duration.

Borgnine later went on to a brilliant acting career, of course, winning an Oscar in 1955 for "Marty" and remaining a top star until his death in 2012.

Norman Lear
Norman Lear.
Norman Lear was in the Army Air Forces from 1942-45, serving as a radio operator/gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. He flew 52 combat missions - which is a lot of missions, twice what he had to fly. He was awarded the Air Medal with 4 oak leaf clusters. He went on to produce shows such as "All in the Family" and became a noted liberal activist.
Gene Rayburn.
Gene Rayburn, the long-time host of "Match Game" and "Hollywood Squares," joined the United States Army Air Corps not long after the outbreak of World War II. He began training at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo, Texas and graduated in 1942, He flew combat missions in the Pacific Theatre with the “Bomber Barons” of the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bombardment Wing of the Thirteenth Air Force. On 8/2/43 he was piloting a B-17E Flying Fortress named the “Yankee Doodle” when a mechanical failure caused it to crash on take-off. He flew 89 missions and was awarded the Flying Cross and the Air Medal before 1945.

Hardy Kruger
Hardy Krüger.
Hardy Krüger was born in Wedding, Berlin in 1928. From 1941, he went to an Adolf Hitler School at the Ordensburg Sonthofen. However, Krüger preferred acting to fighting. At age 15, Hardy made his film début in a German picture, "The Young Eagles," but his acting career was interrupted when he was conscripted into the German Wehrmacht in 1944 at age 16. In March 1945, Krüger was drafted into the 38th SS Division Nibelungen, a late-war assemblage of men from the schools and shattered units, where he was drawn into heavy fighting before being captured by American forces. So, Hardy was a real, live SS man.

Hardy did what he was forced to do - he was just a kid! He went on to become a popular English-language actor, often portraying German soldiers. Out of many roles, I most enjoy his performance in "Flight of the Phoenix" (1965) as an unassuming Man with a Plan.
Klaus Kinski in "Kinder, Mütter und ein General"
Klaus Kinski (right) in "Kinder, Mütter und ein General (1955.)"
Klaus Günter Karl Nakszynski was born in the Free City of Danzig on 18 October 1926. His family, like many people in the area, was ethnic German, and in 1931 they moved to Berlin and took German citizenship. At age 17 in 1943, Klaus was drafted and served with the Luftwaffe as a paratrooper (Fallschirmjäger), considered elite troops in the Third Reich. His unit was committed to battle in the Netherlands around the time of the Battle of the Bulge, where he was captured by the British on the second day of battle. In later years, he told a wild tale in his autobiography about deserting, being captured by the Germans and sentenced to death for desertion, then escaping and being picked up by the British. He was sent to a POW camp at Berechurch Hall in Colchester, Essex, where he began exhibiting odd behavior.

After being released in 1945 or 1946, he adopted the stage name of Klaus Kinski. His first film was a bit part in "Morituri" (1948), and that led to a long career playing oddballs and misanthropic misfits, which from many accounts was not a particularly big acting stretch for Kinski. He typically had small but memorable roles in films large and small, including "Doctor Zhivago" (1965) and "For a Few Dollars More (1967). He is the father of famous model and actress Natassja Kinski. After a controversial career filled with arguments, fights, rabid cynicism, and soaring performances such as in "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1975), Klaus Kinski passed away on 23 November 1991.
Burl Ives
Burl Ives.
Corporal Burl Ives, US Army, served from 1942-1945. He was drafted in 1942. A musician before the war, Ives served first in the Army and then in the Army Air Corps, in both services performing in shows at military installations. He was discharged in September 1945.

After the war, Burl Ives did it all. He was a songwriter, a dramatic actor, a comedic actor, an author, a musician, a folk singer, and the voice of lovable characters in children's films and TV shows. Ives is well known for "A Big Country," for which he won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor, and voicing/singing the snowman in the animated classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Kurt Waldheim
Kurt Waldheim.
Kurt Waldheim served in Operation Barbarossa, the Invasion of the Soviet Union, as a squad leader. He was wounded in December 1941 and thereafter it gets a bit murky. He apparently took part in anti-partisan activities in Yugoslavia, during which captured partisans were usually routinely murdered, but he denied involvement in atrocities. He married in 1944 and received a law degree in 1945, so he must have been doing several things at once.

It is quite possible that Waldheim had nothing to do with murders, but he later admitted that he was aware of them. Waldheim is a controversial figure, but there is no question that he is a celebrity, and that he served in the war.

Waldheim had an extremely successful career as a politician after the war, especially in light of his war service. He crowned his career by becoming President of Austria in 1986. Waldheim has a unique place in history: as Secretary-General of the United Nations in the late 1970s, he recorded a message for inclusion on the Voyager spacecraft which awaits reception by someone - or something - on its journey through deep space. It may be the very last remnant of humanity to ever exist.

Max Schmeling
Max Schmeling.
Max Schmeling was the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion in 1930-32. He knocked out Joe Louis in 1936, but lost to him in 1938. On the outs with the regime for disgracing the fatherland, Schmeling tried to rehabilitate himself. He was trained as a paratrooper and participated in the invasion of Crete in May 1941. Many paratroopers were slaughtered by the defending British, but Schmeling survived. He only remained on duty for two days, though, due to intestinal problems. After the war, it was discovered that he had saved two Jews by hiding them in his Berlin apartment. After the war, Schmeling faded into obscurity.

Joe Louis
Joe Louis.
Joe Louis was a huge celebrity before the war, a famous boxer who fought the German Max Schmeling. He enlisted as a private and spent much of the war giving boxing exhibitions. He was instrumental in recruiting efforts and for his efforts received the Legion of Merit.

Steve Allen
Steve Allen.
Steve Allen enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II and was trained as an infantryman. He served his time at Camp Roberts, California. After the war, in the 1950s and beyond, Steve Allen became a prolific chat show and game show host, the first host of The Tonight Show, and a ubiquitous presence on television until his passing in 2000.

Vera Lynn
Vera Lynn.
Singer Vera Lynn was famous before the war, winning a 1939 poll among servicemen of their favorite musical performers. She is most famous for her rendition of "We'll Meet Again," first recorded in 1939 around the time that the war began and later used by Stanley Kubrick to ironic effect at the end of "Dr. Strangelove." Vera remains very much with us to this day as of this writing and even had a No. 1 hit in 2009 with a collection of her old songs.

Technically not a veteran, Vera Lynn was known as "the Forces' Sweetheart," served with the entertainment group ENSA in war zones, and was awarded the Burma Star in 1985 for her heroic services during the war. As with Bob Hope and John Wayne, that's close enough to a real service record for government work, so here she is. I doubt a single serviceman would begrudge Dame Vera Lynn being acknowledged as a legitimate Vet.

Patrick Macnee
Patrick Macnee.
Patrick Macnee (6 February 1922 – 25 June 2015) was born in London into a wealthy and eccentric family. He trained at Eton and later served in the Royal Navy, in which he received the Atlantic Star. He enlisted in the Navy as an Ordinary Seaman in 1942 and was commissioned a Sub-Lieutenant in 1943, becoming a navigator on Motor Torpedo Boats in the English Channel and the North Sea. It was hazardous work, as small boat actions could feature absolutely vicious and deadly combat. His boat was lost with all hands on a mission he missed due to illness.

After the war, Macnee began acting full-time, a profession which he had pursued with middling success both before and during the war. He spent the 1950s doing bit parts, one of which was a small part on the tenth episode of "The Twilight Zone" (playing, naturally enough, a British seaman). Macnee gradually built a resume, but almost retired from acting out of frustration with his lack of success before becoming internationally famous as John Steed in the classic British television series "The Avengers." He later appeared in the James Bond film "A View to a Kill," among many other productions.

Macnee lived a long life, gaining acclaim as an actor on both sides of the Atlantic. He always seemed to have a knowing take on life, never taking it too seriously and willing to "break the mold" when given the chance (which sometimes got him into trouble, such as when he was expelled from Eton for various illicit activities). Late in his career, Macnee even starred in a couple of music videos, one for The Pretenders and the other for hot '90s band Oasis. Patrick Macnee passed away on 25 June 2015. He was honored at that year's Emmy broadcast.

Terry Wilson of Wagon Train
Terry Wilson of "Wagon Train."
George William Newman, Jr. was born in Huntington Park, California, on September 3, 1923. After his parents divorced, mother Maryellen Pettibone Newman remarried Dr. William R. Wilson, and Bill took his stepfather's last name. Dr. Wilson loved horses, and young Bill took after him. The family moved to Trinity County, California, but after Dr. Wilson died in 1939 they returned to southern California. He played varsity football at North Hollywood High School before attending Cal Poly on a football scholarship. After his first year at the university, Pearl Harbor came along and Bill joined the Marine Corps in 1943. He fought in the rough Pacific Theater Battles of Saipan and Okinawa. After mustering out in 1946 along with everyone else, Bill decided to parlay his horse talents in a job and looked for work as a movie stuntman. "“Working as a stuntman looked like easy money to me,” he said later. “I was okay on all my riding stunts, but it took me six months of training to learn how to fake fights.” After graduating from Warner Brothers Stunt Director Allen Pomeroy’s training program, Bill changed his name to Terry Wilson and quickly found work doubling for Robert Mitchum in "Pursued." This led to work with John Wayne, for whom he occasionally doubled, Wayne's sidekick Ward Bond, and others in the Wayne orbit. Bill's career soared throughout the 1950s (he is briefly seen in "The Searchers") and he began to get actor parts. His friendship with Bond led to his being cast in 1957 in his most-remembered role, as Assistant Wagonmaster Bill Hawks in "Wagon Train." (Bond also cast stuntman Frank McGrath to be a costar - he obviously appreciated what these fellows did.) This show became iconic (Gene Roddenberry pitched his pet project "Star Trek" as "Wagon Train to the stars"), and it ran until 1965, with Bill doing his own stunts, of course. John Wayne and Bill gave remarks at Bond's funeral after his untimely passing in 1960. “I’m Bill Hawks on the show and off,” Terry told an interviewer, and that certainly is how his fans remembered him. Bill married skater Mary Ann Kramer along the way, fathered three children, and kept his hand in the movie business by working at the Big Sky Movie Ranch. He passed away from heart failure on 30 March 1999.  Terry Wilson certainly is not the best-known name on this list, but his was a story of success and patriotism that certainly earned him a place here.

William Windom
William Windom while in the service.
During World War II, William Windom served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army with B Company 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He fought in Operation Market Garden (the invasion of Holland) and the Battle of the Bulge. He was involved in some of the fiercest battles of the war.

While stationed in France after the war, Windom studied acting at Biarritz American University. After television work, he broke into films with "To Kill a Mockingbird (1961), but the TV was his most popular medium. Windom is most remembered for roles in the classic series "My Life and Welcome To It" and as doomed Commodore Matt Decker in the original "Star Trek." Somewhat ironically, given his deadly serious military background, Windom became a specialist at playing weepy men and became known as "Willie the Weeper" in casting offices. However, he was best at playing cynical, gritty characters devoid of sentimentality and with a heavy dose of fatality - exactly what you would expect of a former paratrooper. William Windom passed away on August 16, 2012.
Van Heflin.
Emmett Evan Heflin, Jr., better known by his stage name Van Heflin (December 13, 1910 - July 23, 1971), served during WWII as a combat photographer with the U.S. 9th Air Force, First Motion Picture Unit, which produced training and morale-boosting short films. He was already an established film actor when World War II broke out, winning an Academy Award for "Johnny Eager" (1942). He went on to star in such classics as "Shane" and "Airport." He and DeForest Kelley, below, had dinner one night where they discussed their mutual interest in character roles, an evening DeForest remembered fondly decades later, long after Van Heflin had passed away.


DeForest Kelley Star Trek
A 1947 newspaper article about DeForest Kelley

DeForest Kelley Star Trek
A newspaper article from June 4, 1967, about DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy on Star Trek.
Above is a newspaper article from 1947 detailing DeForest Kelley's military career and transition into feature films. DeForest, of course, played "Bones" McCoy on "Star Trek," and he had a long, successful career in Hollywood. This newspaper article couldn't have hurt him in getting started. According to the article, DeForest started off in the Army film corps in Hollywood but switched to the regular Navy when that didn't work out. He somehow was "discovered" by a film director only then - after he had left the film corps and become an ordinary grunt. So, back to the film unit he went.

Now, if some guys aren't born lucky... or, as Bones would put it, "Some guys have all the luck...."

James Doohan
James Doohan.
Continuing with my Star Trek theme here: James Doohan, who played Scotty on "Star Trek," served in the Canadian military during WWII. It is difficult to uncover exactly what happened to him during the war because Doohan was a notorious story-teller who liked to entertain himself by telling different people different versions of his own past. Various stories that others say he related included flying planes as an observer over Normandy beach the day of the invasion and other slightly different versions of that, most with a flying theme. Why flying? Who knows. William Shatner even put down one of the (apparently) manufactured stories in one of his memoirs.

However the real story appears to be this (at least it is the most likely): at the beginning of the Second World War, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery (Canada entered the war in 1939). He became a commissioned lieutenant in the 13th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. It did not involve any flying.

Doohan duly went to England in 1940 for training, among the very first Canadians to make the trip. His first combat was the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach on D-Day, not unusual for Canadians (apparently, Doohan missed out on the "fun" that was the BEF in France and the 1942 Dieppe raid). Coming ashore on D-Day, that's pretty impressive all by itself - no need to embroider that. However, most WWII vets did not like to make themselves look like "all that." They did what they were told, did it as well as they could, and that was that. No heroism involved, just doing a job.

What followed was actually a bit more harrowing than normal. Shooting two snipers on D-Day, Doohan led his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines, where they took defensive positions for the night. Crossing between Allied command posts at 11:30 p.m. in the dark, Doohan was hit by six rounds fired from a Bren gun by a nervous Canadian sentry: four in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger. The bullet to his chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case that he always carried that had been given to him by his brother. His right middle finger had to be amputated, something he would artfully conceal throughout his career as an actor. You did know that Scotty was missing a finger - right? I didn't think so.

Doohan was a real-life war hero. He knew it and didn't care to publicize it or make a big deal about it, so he told stories whenever it came up (Walter Matthau liked to do stuff like that, too). Doohan no doubt made up variations to have some fun with the gullible. He added to the mystique by often affecting a completely phony (but extremely realistic) Scottish accent - he actually spoke in regular flat Canadian tones. It was enough that Doohan knew what he had gone through, he wasn't looking to impress people. His adventure on Normandy Beach undoubtedly was an extremely personal memory he didn't like to talk about casually, as was the case with so many World War II veterans. James Doohan was the real deal.

Gene Roddenberry Majel

Gene Roddenberry Majel

Gene Roddenberry Majel
Gene Roddenberry with wife Majel.
Gene Roddenberry (August 19, 1921 – October 24, 1991) volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the fall of 1941. He graduated as a Second Lieutenant pilot and was sent to the South Pacific. Roddenberry flew in the 394th Bomb Squadron out of Hawaii, and also flew B-17 bombers at Guadalcanal. He flew missions against enemy strongholds at Bougainville and participated in the Munda invasion. In all, he took part in 89 bombing missions and sorties. That is a lot of missions; the standard on the Western Front was 25, and then you went home. Roddenberry was involved in some crashes, including one that twoo the lives of two crewmen. Like Gene Rayburn, above, he also was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. You don't get those by accident.

Gene Roddenberry came back from the war to fly for Pan Am. During that time, he was in a crash-landing and dragged wounded passengers to safety. He resigned in 1948 and joined the LAPD, becoming a technical advisor on an early television show. He began writing for the show ("Mr. District Attorney"), and then for other shows. His writing career took off, and he resigned from the police in 1956. Roddenberry's career grew over time, and in 1964 he came up with the idea for "Star Trek." The legendary television series occupied much of the remainder of Roddenberry's life with spin-offs, theatrical films, and numerous ancillary projects. He married one of the stars of the show, Majel Leigh Hudec, later known as Majel Barrett.

Incidentally, for those interested, Leonard Nimoy of "Star Trek" fame also served in the military. However, he was too young for World War II and served in the Army Reserves as a Sergeant from 1953-1955.

William Campbell celebrities in uniform
William Campbell, left, in the US Navy during World War II, and, right, in "Star Trek."
William Campbell, born 30 October 1923, was the perfect age to serve in World War II, having just turned 18. Information on his time in the service is sparse, but, apparently, Campbell served on a minesweeper in the Pacific Theater of Operations. During or immediately after the war, Campbell is credited with performing in ensemble roles in two Broadway shows: "Follow the Girls" and "Hats Off to Ice." Around this time, Campbell attended Fagin's School for Drama (the sources are sketchy so I may be off in the timing of these details).

Campbell's first film role was in the John Garfield thriller "The Breaking Point" (1950). He appeared with John Wayne in both "Operation Pacific" (1951) and "The High and the Mighty" (1954). Numerous supporting roles and TV appearances followed, many involving "men in uniform."

Most people will remember Campbell from his guest role on the original "Star Trek" series in which he played the mysterious and powerful, but playful and immature, "Squire of Gothos." According to Campbell, he specifically requested to appear in this particular series and Gene Roddenberry personally offered him the role. His episode is very fondly remembered by fans, many of whom view it as the precursor to the "Q" role in "The Next Generation" and a high point in the "Star Trek" universe.

Campbell also appeared as a Klingon in "The Trouble with Tribbles" and reprised that role in a later Star Trek series. A fan convention organized by Campbell was the site of filming for scenes in "Trekkies" (1997).  Campbell retained his association with the Star Trek franchise until his death on 27 April 2011. He is buried at Forest Lawn.

Orson Welles
Orson Welles leaving his US Army physical, 6 May 1943 (Acme Newspictures, Inc.).
Orson Welles is another celebrity like John Wayne, Bob Hope, Walt Disney, and Ernest Hemingway who did not technically serve in the military during World War II. However, like them, he did a great deal for the war effort. In fact, Welles sacrificed quite a bit, more than many would realize for many years.

Already a major star at the time of the US entry into the war, Welles was asked by the US government to go down to Brazil immediately to shore up relations with the Latin American countries, some of which had shown some signs of drifting toward the Axis. Nelson Rockefeller, a major RKO Radio Pictures shareholder and also the coordinator of Inter-American Affairs for the US State Department, persuaded Welles to travel to Brazil and film "It's All True" as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. This Welles did in 1942 at great cost to his career, filming "It's All True" in Brazil while his Hollywood career disintegrated with the studio butchering of "The Magnificent Ambersons." Welles had made a lot of enemies with "Citizen Kane" (1941) and its purported attack on William Randolph Hearst, and many quickly attacked Welles for not being drafted or enlisting. So, to satisfy the critics, Welles did something about it. Initially classified as 1-B (fit for only limited duty), that was changed to 1-A (fit for duty) in early 1943. Welles duly reported for his US Army physical on 6 May 1943. However, the military rejected Welles for having myositis (skeletal muscle inflammation), bronchial asthma, arthritis, and inverted flat feet. He was reclassified 4-F. Thus, Welles could not enlist or be drafted, but he made the attempt under extremely humiliating circumstances of intense media coverage.

It was accepted US government policy during World War II that certain celebrities were more valuable to the war effort working at their jobs and keeping up morale at home. That was not a decision that the celebrities made, but that the government made for them. Once he was classified 4-F, Welles did not have to do anything. However, Welles supported the war effort in print, on screen, and in other ways. Among other things, Welles directed and produced "The Mercury Wonder Show," which ran August 3–September 9, 1943, in an 80-by-120-foot tent located at 9000 Cahuenga Boulevard, in the heart of Hollywood. The show included many top stars, including Marlene Dietrich and Agnes Moorhead. This was just one of many efforts by Welles supporting World War II.

After the war, Welles solidified his standing as a Hollywood legend with appearances in films such as "The Third Man" and directing films like "Touch of Evil." However, the war interrupted Welles' career just like it did so many others, and it never fully recovered along the lines that it had been on 7 December 1941. Welles passed away in 1985, his celebrity stature intact and never regretting his support of the war effort during World War II.

It is critical to understand that people like Welles sacrificed tremendously to support the war effort in whatever way they could. Welles did it by continuing his craft. Others did it in a more direct fashion.

Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy Stewart circa 1942, apparently going through a pre-flight checklist. Those are the eyes of a real pilot doing his job.

Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy Stewart. The actor had to eat himself into his role in the U.S. Army in 1941. He was underweight when he was first classified. He became the first major movie star to wear a military uniform in World War II. Drafted as a private, Stewart flew B-17 bombers in Europe. He was highly decorated, served in the active reserves, and retired as a two-star major general during the Vietnam War.

Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy Stewart receiving one of his decorations.
Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy Stewart - the real deal.
Jimmy Stewart Old Buckenham
Jimmy Stewart at Old Buckenham Airbase, 453rd Bomb Group. Perhaps he is counting planes coming back from a mission.
Jimmy Stewart Old Buckenham April 19, 1944
Major James Stewart talks over the final details of a mission with flyers about to take off. England, April 19, 1944. "You expect me to go there?"
Who better to end this article than this guy?

Jimmy Stewart had become a huge Hollywood star before World War II, earning his only Academy Award in a competitive category (Best Actor, 1941) for "The Philadelphia Story" before Pearl Harbor. An early interest in flying caused Stewart to get his pilot's license in 1935. It came in handy when war broke out.

Jimmy Stewart enlisted as a private, but then applied for a commission in the air force. He wasn’t like most privates… For one, he was in his 30s. For another, he had won an Oscar for The Philadelphia Story. Putting his Hollywood career on hold to join the United States Army Air Forces, Stewart ultimately reached the rank of colonel, flew 20 combat missions, and came back on the Queen Elizabeth wearing the Distinguished Flying Cross.

While the military wanted to confine him to public service appearances, Jimmy had other plans. Officially, he was credited with the standard 20 bomb missions, but he flew on many, many more without any credit. He was leading missions by late 1943 when Germany still had powerful air defenses and was shooting down US bombers left and right.

Stewart rose through the ranks by serving in real positions, not phony "actor" slots. He served as Operations Officer to the 703rd Squadron, 445th Bomb Group and then as Group Operations Officer to the 453rd Bomb Group. Stewart eventually rose to the rank of Major in command of the 2nd Bomb Wing, and full Colonel on March 29, 1945.

Stewart won numerous decorations and promotions because of his war service. Stewart continued to play a role in the United States Air Force Reserve after the war, reaching the rank of Brigadier General on July 23, 1959. He even flew on a B-52 mission over Vietnam during the 1960s, which he did not want to be publicized as some kind of stunt because it was done solely to fulfill part of his service requirements. Stewart retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968. There aren't a lot of guys who flew in both World War II and Vietnam, but Jimmy Stewart was one.

Eventually, Jimmy was promoted to major general on the retired list by President Ronald Reagan, something which was quite deserved if misunderstood by many at the time. It was no stunt.

Jimmy Stewart was a real soldier. He was the real deal, an actual soldier who achieved success on the merits. An American hero, and a genuinely nice guy. America at its best.

Jimmy Stewart
Pilot and actor Jimmy Stewart chatting on the phone in his father’s store after returning from the war, 1945
Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy fooling around in his father's hardware store after the war.


  1. I would say your picture of Harvey Korman as a young soldier is an error. His facial features don't match at all, particularly the teeth, look at both,

    1. I'm willing to consider everything. If it's not him, the picture goes. However, I don't agree with you that the facial features don't match. I think they actually are a very close match. As for the teeth, one of the first things big Hollywood stars do when they hit the big time is fix their teeth. I highly doubt that Korman's teeth were that perfect when he was born. I'm just being straightforward about it. If anyone else has any thoughts on this, feel free to add to this thread. For now, I will keep the picture up so that people can consider the matter themselves. As they say in court, your objection is duly noted.

    2. I can see the resemblances in ALL of the other pics, you can just see the same face in both the young and the older. There is nothing the same between these two pics, the shape of the jaw, the color of the eyes, definitely the shape of the teeth (he COULD have had his teeth made smaller and chiseled down, but he probably didn't.) The other 'younger' pics I can find of him, he's the same, doesn't change dramatically. I just think someone made a mistake, and if I can find another actual pic of him in his military days, I'll send it. I'm not trying to be a pest, I just do not see how this can possibly be him. Thank you for your reply!

  2. May I suggest an actor to add to this list? Sir Christopher Lee although finding exact details might be problematic, he held to his oath of secrecy about some of his assignments. A fascinating veteran and actor.

    1. Done. Thank you for the suggestion, Christopher Lee indeed deserves to be recognized.

  3. The "phony actor slots" often weren't by choice. Reagan was near blind and wasn't considered suitable for any combat role.

    You go where they tell you, and if you sometimes can persuade them to do you a favor, you're lucky.

  4. You mentioned Dr. Seuss but forgot the (arguably) most famous cartoonist, Charles Schultz. He was armored in Europe. Always referenced Bill Mauldin in his strip.

    1. That is a fair point, I have now corrected that omission. Charles M. Schulz is a legend, glad you noticed that.

  5. Fashion designer Bill Blass served with the 603rd Camouflage Btl. known as "The Ghost Army" in Europe during WW2. Great documentary on the outfit.

  6. Great article with lots of information about some folks I never knew! Very enlightening. Wish we had folks doing the same these days... Would you consider doing the same for our following wars? It could prove educational, particularly as concerns Vietnam. It would be interesting to see who went Dennis Franz, Rocky Blyer, etc.) and who didn't.

    1. Thanks. I've been thinking of doing Vietnam, I think I will be able to get to that at some point. Appreciate the kind words.

  7. Another worthwhile mention is Jack Hawkins who starred in The Bridge Over The River Kwai amongst other films. He served as a Captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers fighting in Burma.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, I now have included Jack Hawkins. I know this list is a bit light on British celebrity soldiers, I'm just not as familiar with them as I am American stars, but I'm working on evening that up a bit.

  8. Another name worthy of note is Richard Todd, in WW2 he was in the Parachute Regiment and was among the first to jump into Normandy on June 6th. His group was tasked, and succeeded, in capturing and holding the crucial Pegasus Bridge. He later went on to play his own commanding officer in a recreation of the same battle in the classic movie The Longest Day. Now that is bringing realism to the big screen

    1. Thank you for the suggestion. I now have included Richard Todd. I also learned a bit about him from writing him up, always a good thing. Interesting man, should have gotten better parts in his later years.

  9. You've put a lot of work into this article, and I was fun to read! May I suggest an additional entry - JD Salinger?

    1. Thank you, Karl, for the compliment, but more so for the suggestion. This page only improves as folks such as yourself make capital suggestions like that. I added an entry, JD is a fascinating character, especially for those of us who write.

  10. Well, they needed actors to pull off scam called The Theatre Of War. While I am not saying war is a total hoax but I am saying much of war is scripted. Nearly all the celebrities that participated in war have been made heroes when in fact they are all traitors & fraudsters! Piss on them all.
    Judgement day is coming!

  11. Hollywood certainly has been washed into the sewer since those days. Marxist credentials are a prerequisite to work in entertainment now.
    EARLSWORLD (above) would probably be given preferential treatment.

  12. Don Knotts did not play Police Lieutenant Barney Fife, but Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife.

  13. How about Terry Wilson (Bill Hawks) from “Wagon Train” he was a Marine, but didn’t become famous until after the war. Thanks!

    1. Capital idea, I added him, thank you for the suggestion.