Hollywood goes to war
I find it interesting to see what celebrities have served in the Armed Forces. Ronald Reagan was an actor in the Army, and Don Knotts – also Army – was a comedian. Bill Cosby served as a hospital corpsman in the Navy. Humphrey Bogart served in the Navy after World War I.
World War II-era veterans:
- Singer Tony Bennett fought on the front lines in France and Germany as a rifleman in the Army.
- Don Adams, who played Maxwell Smart from Get Smart, served at Guadalcanal in the Marines, and went on to become a drill instructor.
- Theodore Geisel – “Dr. Seuss” – was a cartoonist for the Army
- “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Shulz operated a machine gun during World War II. Shulz stated that the only chance he had to fire his weapon in combat, he forgot to load his weapon. The only German he saw willingly surrendered.
- Jimmy Stewart enlisted as a private in the Air Corps, earning a commission as a B-17 pilot. He split time as a flight instructor and an Air Corps motion picture unit. In 1943, Stewart requested a combat assignment, and was sent to the European Theater to a B-24 squadron. Stewart flew 20 combat missions, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals, and the Croix de Guerre. He also flew as and observer on a B-52 Arc Light mission during the Vietnam War. Stewart retired from the Reserves as a Brigadier General.
- Eddie Albert of Green Acres spied on German U-Boats in Mexico for Army intelligence before joining the Naval Reserve where he rescued dozens of Marines stranded offshore at Tarawa under heavy enemy fire while piloting a landing craft.
- Ed McMahon became a Marine aviator during World War II, but the war ended before he could participate. He flew 85 combat missions during the Korean War as a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog pilot, earning six air medals. McMahon later flew as a test pilot and instructor. He retired from the Reserves as a colonel, and later received a commission as a brigadier general in the California National Guard.
- Johnny Carson enlisted in the Navy in 1943, hoping to become a pilot. Instead the Navy commissioned him and sent him to the battleship USS Pennsylvania. The war ended the day Carson arrived. Afterward, he served as a communications officer, decoding encrypted messages.
- Henry Fonda served as a quartermaster on the USS Satterlee before becoming a commissioned officer in a air combat intelligence unit.
- Lee Marvin enlisted in the Marine Corps and was wounded by enemy machine gun fire in the assault on Saipan’s Mount Tapochau.
- Bob Keeshan, better known as “Captain Kangaroo,” enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, but World War II ended while he was still in the U.S.
- George C. Scott served in the Marines at the end of World War II, teaching at the Marine Corps Institute.
Korean War-era and later:
- Two castmembers of M*A*S*H served in the Army: Alan Alda (Hawkeye) joined ROTC while in college and served a six-month tour in Korea as a gunnery officer in the Army Reserve after graduating, and Jamie Farr (Cpl. Klinger) was drafted by the Army and served two years in Japan.
- Larry Hagman (J.R. in Dallas) joined the Air Force during the Korean war.
- Clint Eastwood was an Army swimming instructor at Fort Ord, Calif. during the Korean War. After his discharge, Eastwood used his G.I. bill to study acting.
- Chuck Norris became an MP in the Air Force in 1958 and served in Korea (where he began studying martial arts).
- Gene Hackman also studied acting on the G.I. Bill after joining the Marine Corps at sixteen.
- Elvis Presley served in the 3rd Armored Division in Germany.
- Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak served as an Army disk jockey for Armed Forces Radio in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
- Drew Carey joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1980
Lots of great comments from readers can be found below. I will incorporate names as I come across them and as time allows. Athletes are found in this post.