More Odd Facts

You’ve seen them a million times. On TV. In movies. On the stage. Here are some celebrities and other notables who are Veterans. Some have remarkable military careers. Others, not so much. But all served and for that we are grateful.

In 1947, at age 17, Steve McQueen received permission from his mother to join the Marine Corps. He went through basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina. Initially, he was promoted to private first class in an armored division, but had trouble with authority and was demoted to private no less than seven times. At one point, he went absent without leave to spend two weeks with his girlfriend and was confined to the brig for 41 days.

Robert Heinlein
Robert Heinlein

Robert Heinlein served in the U.S. Navy. In 1929, he graduated from the Naval Academy with the equivalent of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Engineering, ranking fifth in his class academically but with a class standing of 20th of 243 due to disciplinary demerits. Shortly after graduation, he was commissioned as an ensign by the U.S. Navy. He advanced to lieutenant, junior grade while serving aboard the new aircraft carrier USS Lexington in 1931. He worked in radio communications with the carrier’s aircraft. Radio communications was then in its earlier phases.Heinlein also served as gunnery officer aboard the destroyer USS Roper in 1933 and 1934, reaching the rank of lieutenant.[21] 

  Humphrey Bogart served in the U.S. Navy, enlisting in 1918 and discharged two years later in 1918. He served as a coxswain aboard the troop ship Leviathan (SP-1326). Later, serving in the Shore Patrol, a prisoner he was escorting attempted to escape. He was hit in the mouth with the hand cuffs. Bogart said, “The God Damned doctor screwed up my lip!” Some say the resulting scar gave him his famous lisp. He tried to reenlist during World War Two but was denied due to age.

Seaman Bogart
Dan Blocker

– Blocker was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War. He had basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He was an inantryman with the rank of Sergeant in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in Korea, December 1951 to August 1952. He received a Purple Heart for wounds in combat.

From MAY 1961 until MAY 1962,19 year old Jimmy Hendrix served in A Company, 601st Airborne Maintenance Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He was discharged for “Behavior Problems”. See his discharge request here.

Elvis Presley was drafted on his 22nd birthday in 1957. Serving in Texas and Germany, he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Was honorably discharged at Fort Dix, New Jersey on 5 MAR 1960.

Navy Brat, Bill Cosby quit school and joined the Navy. Pictured above playing basketball for the Navy, Cosby was a Naval Corpsman. From 1956 until 1961 he was stationed at Bethesda Naval Hospital working with wounded veterans of the Korean War. While in the Navy he completed his High School diploma.

Montel Williams attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, class of 1980. Williams enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1974. In 1976 he was honorably discharged and entered the Cadet Corps at Annapolis. Commissioned an ensign, he spent the next one and a half years in Guam as a cryptographic officer for naval intelligence, where he served at sea and ashore. In 1982 he was transferred to Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he studied the Russian language for one year. In 1983 he was transferred to Ft. Meade in Maryland, where he worked with the National Security Agency. What Williams did there is vague, due to the sensitive nature of intelligence work, but he performed various intelligence missions. He was offshore aboard ship during the invasion of Grenada. Williams retired after 22 years of service as a Lieutenant Commander.

Clint Eastwood served in the Army during the Korean war. He never saw combat and was stationed in California and served as a lifeguard. During this time, he hopped a ride to get back to California on a Douglas AD Sky Raider. A two seat torpedo bomber. The plane ran out of gas and the pilot ditched in the sea off of Point Reyes, California. Eastwood tells the story in the video below.

Douglas AD-5 Skyraider 132597
Johnny Cash

Famous Veterans of World War Two

Audie Murphy, little 5’5″ tall 110 pound guy from Texas who played cowboy parts in movies? He is the most Decorated serviceman of WWII and earned:
The Medal of Honor
The Distinguished Service Cross
2 Silver Star Medals
Legion of Merit
2 Bronze Star Medals with “V”
2 Purple Hearts
The U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal
The Good Conduct Medal
2 Distinguished Unit Emblems
The American Campaign Medal
The European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star
Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France)
The World War II Victory Medal
The Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp
The Armed Forces Reserve Medal
The Combat Infantry Badge
The Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar
The Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar
The French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre
The French Legion of Honor,Grade of Chevalier
The French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star
The French Croix de Guerre with Palm
The Medal of Liberated France
The Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm
In fact, Murphy is the most decorated U.S. soldier in history.

Murphy earned a battlefield commission to the rank of 2LT. He was appointed to West Point when the wounds he suffered disqualified him from military service. Upon medical discharge he found work in Hollywood.

Eddie Albert was awarded the Bronze Star as a Naval Landing Officer. Under enemy fire, he heroically evacuated wounded Marines during the invasion of Tarawa, NOV 1943.

Bea Arthur– Enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943,never going overseas, she first served as a typist. Later served as a truck driver and rose to the rank of Ssgt and was discharged in 1944.

Mel Brooks– Fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a corporal in the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion, 78th Infantry Division.

John W. “Johnny” Carson was an Ensign, U.S. Navy 1943-45 WW II. He enlisted as a Seaman Apprentice and received V-12 officer training at Columbia University and Millsaps College. He was en route to the combat zone aboard a troopship when the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war and then served as Officer in Charge of decoding messages on the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) in the Pacific. While in the Navy, Carson posted a 10-0 amateur boxing record, with most of his bouts fought on board the USS Pennsylvania.

TONY CURTIS– Born Bernard Schwartz, enlisted in the Navy in 1943 at the age of 17. Trained as a Signalman, he served with the Pacific Submarine Fleet. He went on one war patrol aboard the USS DRAGONET (SS-293) and was in Tokyo Bay to watch the surrender ceremonies with binoculars. He said, “As a youth, I remember seeing Cary Grant in ‘Destination Tokyo’ and Tyrone Powers in ‘Crash Dive’. I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a submariner.”

James Doohan (of Star Trek fame) was a true war hero. An enlisted man who rose to captain in the Royal Canadian Artillery, he was with the Royal Canadian Artillery on Juno Beach on D-Day. He was shot seven times, with an eighth bullet lodging in his metal cigarette case. Three bullets shredded the middle finger of his right hand. Eventually, the finger was amputated, which is occasionally noticeable in Star Trek episodes and movies.

Charles Durning was a 21-year-old Army Ranger on Omaha Beach, June 6th, 1944. Wounded, he was the only soldier in his outfit to survive the initial assault. He was wounded in Belgium, stabbed by a German teenager wielding a bayonet. He was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944, and survived the infamous machine-gun massacre of over 100 US POWs at Malmady. He returned to the site of the crime to help identify the bodies. Finally, as the war wound down and he helped to liberate the Nazi death camps, he took a bullet to the chest, effectively ending his tour of duty. Awarded three Purple Hearts and the Silver Star. And he spent the ensuing four years in and out of hospitals.

Buddy Ebsen-Rejected by the Navy, Ebsen was offered a commission in the U.S. Coast Guard. Because of his sailing experience, he was awarded the rank of Lieutenant, Junior Grade instead of Ensign and served as an instructor teaching seamanship to Naval Officer Candidates. He served as the Damage Control Officer and later the Executive Officer of the Navy frigate USS Pocatello, which recorded weather at its “weather station” 1,500 miles west of Seattle, Washington. These patrols consisted of 30 days at sea, followed by 10 days in port at Seattle. Ebsen was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard as a Lieutenant in 1946.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. – US Navy. He joined the naval reserves before the war. During the war he served on the Battleship Massachuesetts and was a Commando raider sent on several land attack missions. He retired from the reserves, years later, as a full Captain. He wrote about his war years in the book “A Hell of a War” which also covers his duties in helping organize the forerunners of today’s Navy Seals.

Alec Guinness served in the Royal Navy throughout World War II, serving first as a seaman in 1941 and being commissioned the following year. While in the military Guinness for awhile planned on becoming an Anglican priest. He commanded a landing craft taking part in the invasion of Sicily and Elba and later ferried supplies to the Yugoslav partisans.

Bob Keeshan, also known as “Captain Kangaroo” was a Marine Sergeant in World War Two. He never saw combat.Click Here to see proof
[ed. note:Bob Keeshan died on January 22, 2004, age 76. Thanks for the Memories Bob.]

Deforest Kelley enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 and served as a control tower operator at Roswell AB, New Mexico.

Lee Marvin,a private first class in the Marines received a Purple Heart for wounds received during the battle for Saipan in June 1944? He was wounded in his buttocks by fire which severed his sciatic nerve. His real name was Marvin Lee. When asked about the change he said that the Marine Corps did that and he got so used to answering to it, he kept it that way in civilian life. Marvin is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Proof

Ed McMahon was commissioned in the Marine Corps and was trained as a fighter pilot in the F4U Corsair. He served as an instructor pilot, never seeing combat. His assignment to the Marine Carrier Group was canceled when the atomic bomb was dropped. Reactivated for the Korean War. Ed flew the O-1E completing 85 missions and was awarded six Air Medals.

Donald Pleasance who played “The Forger” in “The Great Escape” was really a RAF pilot who was shot down and held as a pow by the Germans in World War II.

Don Rickles-After graduating from Newtown High School, Rickles enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served during World War II as a Seaman First Class on the USS Cyrene (AGP-13) a motor torpedo boat tender . The USS Cyrene arrived at Leyte in the Pacific on 1 JAN 1945. He was honorably discharged in 1946.

Charles Bronson served in World War Two as a B-29 tail gunner. He completed 25 missions and was awarded the Purple Heart.

James Arness (Gunsmoke) As a private in the famed Third Infantry Division he earned a Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Because of his stature, he was chosen to be first off the landing craft (to test the depth of the water) when his division landed at Anzio, Italy. He was subsequently wounded by enemy machine gun fire and spent eighteen months recovering in overseas and stateside hospitals.

Ernest Borgnine who played the skipper in
“Mc Cales Navy” was a Navy Gunner’s Mate 1935-1945 serving in the South Pacific.

Chuck Conners (The Rifleman) left college after two years, and in 1942 enlisted in the Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He spent most of the war as a tank-warfare instructor, stationed at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, and later at West Point.

Art Carney (The Honeymooners) A World War II veteran, served in France as an infantryman. Wounded in leg by shrapnel and was hospitalized for nine months. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

James Stewart was a B-24 pilot ( not a B-17) and rose to the rank of Colonel
and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Croix de Guerre. In 1959 in was promoted to Brigadier General.  During the Vietnam War, he flew as a non-duty observer in a B-52 on an Arc Light bombing mission in February 1966.[133]

Clark Gable was a B-17 gunner in Europe. He attended the Officers’ Candidate School at Miami Beach, Fla. and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28, 1942. He then attended aerial gunnery school and in Feb. 1943, on personal orders from Gen. Arnold, went to England to make a motion picture of aerial gunners in action. Click Here to see proof

Gene Roddenberry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941,and flew many combat B-17 Flying Fortress missions in the Pacific Theater with the 394th Bomb Squadron, the “Bomber Barons.” He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. On 2 August 1943, Roddenberry was the pilot of B-17E Flying Fortress, 41-2463, “Yankee Doodle”, of the 394th BS, 5th BG, when it crashed on takeoff due to mechanical failure at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, killing 2 crew.

Mickey Rooney served in the U.S. Army in Europe. Rooney was trained as a sniper but was assigned to do morale boosting “Jeep Shows” along the front lines. While at the front, he was known to sneak away and as he put it, “Practice the craft that the Army had trained him to do.” Rooney was awarded the Bronze Star with clusters.

The cap he wore as Cmdr Roberts was his uniform cap which he wore in the Navy.

Henry Fonda, who played the Vice Commander in Chief-Pacific (CINCPAC II) in In Harm’s Way (1965), was actually a naval veteran of World War II who served in the Pacific Theater. After making The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Fonda enlisted in the Navy to fight in World War II, saying, “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.” He served in the Navy for three years, initially as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee; later, Fonda was commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade (O-2) in Air Combat Intelligence. For his service in the Central Pacific, he won the Bronze Star, the fourth highest award for bravery or meritorious service in conflict with the enemy. After the War, Fonda starred in “Mister Roberts” on stage and later in the movie. The cap he wore as Cmdr Roberts was his uniform cap which he wore in the Navy.

Salvalas in the movie, Kelly’s Heroes.

Telly Savalas joined the Army in 1941. He 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 did not talk about his experiences as an enlisted man, and most of his records were destroyed in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973.

Rod Steiger (right). US Navy, World War II. He saw action on destroyers in Pacific.

Rod Steiger joined the Navy at age 16 to get away from home and served as a Torpedoman aboard a destroyer escorting the U.S.S. Hornet as part of Task Force 18 on the Doolittle Raid. Surprise was crucial and it was feared that the Task Force had been spotted by a Japanese fishing boats. Steiger was credited in sinking one of these vessels with machine gun fire.

Kirk Douglas served in the Navy as a Communications Officer and ASW Officer. Earning the Purple Heart he was discharged in 1944 due to the wounds he received in the Pacific.

B-17 Navigator (Johnson- back row, far left)

Russell Johnson, the Professor on Gilligan’s Island flew 44 combat missions as a bombardier in Boeing B-17 four-engine heavy bombers. While flying as a navigator in a B-24 with the 100th Bombardment Squadron, 42nd Bombardment Group, 13th Air Force, his plane and two other B-24s were shot down over the Philippines in March 1945 during a low level bombing and strafing run against Japanese targets. The planes were hit by intense flak and had to ditch in the waters off the port of Zamboanga. During the ditching, he broke both ankles and the radioman next to him was killed.