Honor, Duty, Country. These famous words spoken by General Douglas MacArthur are mantra to which all the men and woman in the armed forces live by. When the call of duty arises, they are the first to put country before self and risk the ultimate sacrifice to protect the values of their fellow man. In honor of Memorial Day, we here at Classic Movie Hub would like pay tribute to a few of the brave men and woman of the Classic Hollywood Era who put their careers on hiatus to serve the greater good.
Eddie Albert: Before his film career even began, Albert was an actor. While touring Mexico under the guise of high wire artist, he would secretly take photos of German U-boats in Mexican harbors for U.S army intelligence. He would later be awarded Bronze Star for his actions during the Tarawa Invasion where he rescued forty-seven stranded Marines while under heavy enemy fire. The battle would cause him to lose most of his hearing.
Humphrey Bogart: Much like his characters that have trouble with authority, Bogart was expelled from Prep School at the age of eighteen. With his school days behind him, he enlisted in the Navy and is recorded to have become a model sailor during his time of service. Much of his time spend at sea was ferrying troops back from Europe.
Marlene Dietrich – Already an international super-star prior to World War II, Dietrich’s involvement is a narrative taken from the storybooks. Becoming an American Citizen in 1939, she renounced her home country of Germeny following the rise of fascism. She would become a fearless supporter of the Allied Forces, participating in war bond drives, making anti-Nazi broadcasts in German, and often performing as close to the front lines as allowed. For her efforts she was awarded the Medal of Freedom for “meeting a grueling schedule of performances under battle conditions… despite risk to her life”
Henry Fonda: Sick of merely playing a hero on the big screen, Fonda interrupted his prominent film career to enlist in the Navy. He would rise to the rank of Quartermaster 3rd Class while serving on the destroyer class USS Satterlee.
Clark Gable: Like a hero he would portray on the sulver screen, Gable enlisted in the U.S Army Air Corps after his wife, Carole Lombard’s tragic death in 1942. Because he was technically above recruitment age, he spent much of the war effort in the U.K making recruitment films on special assignment. He was eventually able to fly a few combat missions over Europe as a gunner.
James Garner: Before going to Hollywood Garner enlisted in the National Guard and would go on to serve 14 months in 5th Regimental Combat Team of the 24th Division during the Korean War. On his second day of combat, Garner was wounded in the hand and face with enemy shrapnel while on patrol. For this wound, as well an injury received from an unfortunate case of friendly fire, Garner received the coveted Purple Heart.
Carole Lombard: Known through out the free world as the “Queen of Comedy,” Lombard would travel coast to coast across the nation selling war bonds to support the World War II effort. Having already raised over 2.5 million dollars, Lombard agreed to headline a War Bond Rally in her home state of Indiana with Jack Benny. Unfortunately, the plane she was on crashed over Nevada, killing everyone aboard. She was just thirty-three.
Jeanette MacDonald – Like many starlets of the World War II era, MacDonald would use her star power for USO concerts and War Bond Rallies. Unlike many starlets, the proceeds from her concerts went to the American Women’s Voluntary service, an institution she helped found. Through her tireless dedication to helping the troops, she made the largest single donation by a Hollywood Star to the Army Emergency Relief Fund.
Audie Murphy: At five foot, 5 five inches and a slim one-hundred and ten pounds, Murphy was initially rejected by the Marines, Army, and Navy only to go on and become the most decorated solider of World War II. He served in the Army, rising in ranks from Private to Major after fighting in Italy, Sicily, and France. After the war, Murphy’s fame as a solider would carry him to Hollywood where he went on to star in films such as his own autobiographical story To Hell and Back.
Paul Newman: Unfortunately for Newman, his colorblindness would prevent him gaining the pilots license he desperately wanted after enlisting in the States Air Force. He would instead be assigned to radio operations and gunnery detail. As a radioman-gunner, he served aboard the USS Bunker Hill during the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945.
David Niven: Although originally commissioned in the Royal army in 1930 after attending Sandhurst Military Academy, he went on to serve two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. After the outbreak of Word War II, he would be re-commissioned in 1940 as lieutenant in Rifle Brigad. Niven would to see combat action at Normandy Invasion, arriving several days after D-Day.
Harold Russell: Russell was just an average citizen who believed in country when he enlisted in the army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While an Army instructor, training with the US 13th Airborne Division stateside in 1944, a defective fuse detonated with both his hands being lost in the explosion. He was given two hooks to serve as replacements. Director William Wyler heard his story and casted Russell in the film The Best Years of Our Lives, the story of three veterns returning home after World War II. Russell went to become the only actor to receive two Oscars for one role: The first being a competitive Supporting Actor Oscar and the second a honorary Oscar, “For bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans.”
James Stewart: At risk of sounding trite, Stewart went into the Army a boy and came out a man. You can see by watching his films. Enlisting before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Stewart was one of the first A-list Hollywood stars to enlist. Already an avid pilot, he would be trained as a bomber pilot for the Army Air Forces and go to serve in over 25 bombing missions over enemy territory. After the war, Stewart remained in service, eventually reaching the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force reserves.