By Shelby Vick
Editors' Note: Shelby Vick is one of our most devoted followers. As this year marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Shelby sent us a list of those in Hollywood and the film industry who placed their careers on hold while they fought against the Axis powers. We found his article most interesting and want to share it with you, our loyal audience. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Thank you, Shelby. By the way, Shelby is also a talented science-fiction writer and you can read his works at www.planetarystories.com - an online homage to the S-F pulp magazines of the ‘30s through the ‘50s. Our own science fiction maven, Steve Herte, is preparing an article on a few of the stories for the website, which you’ll see here in the near future.
Don Adams, US Marines: Adams saw combat in the invasion of Guadalcanal and was the only survivor of his platoon. He contracted blackwater fever and nearly died, remaining hospitalized for more than a year. After his recovery, he served as a drill instructor.
Eddie Albert, US Coast Guard: Albert served as a lieutenant in the Coast Guard in the Pacific. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943, when, as a landing ship pilot, he rescued several hundred wounded Marines while under heavy enemy machine-gun fire.
James Arness, US Army: Severely wounded in the Battle of Anzio, leading to a lifelong limp. Military awards and medals include: the Bronze Star; the Purple Heart; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Star devices; World War II Victory Medal; and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
Bea Arthur, US Marines: Arthur was one of the first women to become an active-duty United States Marine, serving as a truck driver and a typist while stationed at Marine Corps and Navy air stations in Virginia and North Carolina. During her military career, Arthur's rank went from private to corporal to sergeant to staff sergeant, the title she held upon her honorable discharge in September 1945.
Gene Autry, US Army Air Corps: Sgt. Gene Autry ferried fuel, ammunition, and arms in the China-India-Burma Theater of war, flying over the Himalayas, the hazardous air route known as "The Hump."
Lew Ayres: The star of the 1930 antiwar film All Quiet on the Western Front was so affected by the film's message that he became a conscientious objector when called to duty in World War II. Ayres volunteered for duty as a non-combatant medic and was one of 16 medics who participated in the invasion of Leyte, setting up evacuation hospitals under fire and later tending to wounded soldiers. He donated his Army salary to the Red Cross. Publicly perceived to be a coward (MGM dropped his contract) it wasn’t until after the war that the public learned of Ayres' bravery under fire as a non-combatant medical corpsman and he was permitted to resume his career.
Parley Baer, US Army Air Corps: Served in the Pacific theater, earning seven Battle Stars and a Presidential Citation. He also attained the rank of captain.
Neville Brand, US Army. Joined the US Army in 1939, meaning to make a career in the military. Over the course of his career, Brand earned the following awards: Silver Star for gallantry in combat, Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Ribbon, the European/African/Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Battle Stars, one Overseas Service Bar, one Service Stripe, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
Charles Bronson, US Army Air Corps: Enlisted in 1943 and served as an aircraft gunner in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. In 1945, he was a B-29 Superfortress tail gunner with the 39th Bombardment Group based on Guam. He also served on Tinian and Saipan, and was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received.
Richard Burton, RAF: During World War II, he was admitted to Exeter College, Oxford, in 1944 to take the "University Short Course" for six months as a Royal Air Force cadet. He served until 1947.
Joseph Campanella, US Navy: During World War II, Campanella became one of the youngest ever skippers in the wartime Navy.
Frank Capra, US Army: Enlisted in the Army as a major four days after Pearl Harbor. Assigned to work directly under US Chief of Staff General George Marshall, Capra directed or co-directed war information documentaries, including the seven-episode Why We Fight series.
Art Carney, US Army: Participated in the landing in Normandy. Wounded in the leg by shrapnel, he was hospitalized for nine months, and walked with a limp the rest of his life.
James Doohan, Royal Canadian Artillery: Landed on Juno Beach on D-Day as a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery. While walking across a minefield, he and his unit came under attack by enemy fire. He was hit by four times in the leg, the middle finger of his right hand was shot off, and a bullet struck his chest. His life was saved when it hit a silver cigarette case that had been given to him by his brother.
Roy Dotrice, RAF: Born on the Island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France. Escaped to England with his family when the Germans occupied the island. Joined the RAF at age 16 and was trained as a wireless operator and air gunner. In 1942, his plane was shot down and he was captured where he served out the remainder of World War II (over three years) as a prisoner of war in Germany.
Charles Durning, US Army: Landed at Normandy on D-Day. Shot multiple times. Awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Survived the Malmedy Massacre.
Glenn Ford, US Marines: Helped build safe houses in France for those hiding from the Nazis and was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1944. WWII decorations include American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Rifle Marksman Badge, and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He retired from the Naval Reserve in the 1970s with the rank of captain. In 1992, France awarded him the French Legion of Honor Medal for his WWII service.
John Ford, US Navy: Enlisted in the Navy and became head of a photographic unit with the rank of commander. While aboard the USS Hornet he filmed the departure of Doolittle's Raiders. Wounded during the Battle of Midway and received a Purple Heart. Moved to the ETO as head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services. In preparation for D-Day, he crossed the English Channel on the USS Plunkett (DD-431) and anchored off Omaha Beach at 0600. He observed the first wave land on the beach from the ship, landing on the beach himself later with a team of US Coast Guard cameramen who filmed the battle from behind the beach obstacles with Ford directing operations. After the war, Ford became a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy Reserve. His wartime footage was used for many of the action scenes in such films as Midway, Tora, Tora, Tora, In Harm's Way, and The Longest Day, among others.
Steve Forrest, US Army: Wounded during the Battle of the Bulge.
Jean Gabin, Free French Army: When the Germans defeated France in 1940, Gabin went into exile in Hollywood along with Jean Renoir and Julien Duvivier, and worked with Fox and RKO. But a gnawing patriotism led to his dissatisfaction with Hollywood, and he joined the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle. He rose to sergeant and commanded a tank, fighting in North Africa, France, and Germany. Following D-Day, Gabin was part of the French contingent that liberated Paris. He was awarded the Medaille militaire and a Croix de guerre for his wartime valor.
Clark Gable, Army Air Corps: Although beyond draft age when the U.S. entered the war, he enlisted as a private in the Air Corps. Attended Officer's Candidate School in Miami Beach, Fla., graduated as a second lieutenant. Attended aerial gunnery school and in February 1943 was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook, England, where he flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s making film records of the missions. Capt. Gable was rotated back to the U.S. in October 1943 because he was over-age for combat and was relieved from active duty as a Major in 1944.
Alec Guinness, Royal Navy: In 1941, he entered the Royal navy as a seaman and was commissioned the next year. Operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-Day.
Sterling Hayden, Marines: Ran guns and supplies to Yugoslav Partisans through a German blockade of the Adriatic. He also parachuted into Croatia for guerilla activities. Won the Silver Star and a citation from Tito of Yugoslavia.
John Huston, US Signal Corps: Helmed a number of film documentaries for the U.S. government including the controversial Let There Be Light (1946), which was narrated by his father, Walter.
Louis Jourdan, Maquis: Following the German occupation of France during World War II, he continued to make films but after refusing to participate in Nazi propaganda films, he joined the French Resistance.
Ted Knight, US Army, Combat Engineers: Decorated five times for bravery.
Don Knotts, US Army: Enlisted in the Army at age 19 and served in the Pacific Theater. Discharged in 1946 with the rank of Technician Grade 5, which was the equivalent of a Corporal. He was awarded the WWII 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.
Myrna Loy: Too old to serve active duty during World War II she quit making movies and served with the Red Cross.
Lee Marvin, US Marines: Wounded in action on Saipan. Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Sec. 7A next to Greg Boyington and Joe Louis.
Spike Milligan, Royal Artillery: Served in the Royal Artillery in World War II in North Africa and Italy, where he was hospitalized for shell shock.
Robert Montgomery, US Navy: During World War II, he joined the Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. He served in both the European and Pacific theaters of war, commanding PT Boats.
Wayne Morris, US Navy fighter pilot, USS Essex: Downed seven Japanese fighters.
Audie Murphy, US Army: America's most-decorated soldier, earning the Medal of Honor; Distinguished Service Cross; 2 Silver Star Medals; Legion of Merit; 2 Bronze Star Medals with 'V'; 2 Purple Hearts; U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal; 2 Distinguished Unit Emblems; American Campaign Medal; 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); World War II Victory Medal; Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; Combat Infantry Badge; Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar; Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar; French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre; French Legion of Honor; Grade of Chevalier; French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star; French Croix de Guerre with Palm; Medal of Liberated France; Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm.
David Niven, Lt. Colonel, British Commandos: He attended Sandhurst Military Academy and served for two years in Malta with the Highland Light Infantry. At the outbreak of World War II, he re-joined the army (Rifle Brigade). On his return to Hollywood after the war, he was made a Legionnaire of the Order of Merit (the highest American order that can be earned by an alien), presented to him by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
George O'Brien, US Navy: He was the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the Pacific Fleet during World War I. During World War II, he hung up his spurs, and re-enlisted in the Navy where he fought in the Pacific and was decorated many times.
Paul Picerni, Army Air Corps: Flew 25 combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was the bombardier on the plane that bombed and destroyed the real bridge made famous in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
Donald Pleasence RAF: Shot down over France, held prisoner, and tortured by the Germans.
Denver Pyle, US Navy: Wounded in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Medically discharged.
Tony Randall, US Army Signal Corps: Refused an entertainment assignment with Special Services to remain with the Signal Corps.
Ron Randell (Australian Air Force): Shot down five Japanese planes in combat.
Ronald Reagan, US Army Air Corps: Reagan served as a 2nd Lt. in the Cavalry Reserves before the war. His poor eyesight kept him from being sent overseas with his unit when war came so he transferred to the Army Air Corps Public Relations Unit, where he served for the duration. By the end of the war, his units had produced some 400 training films for the AAF.
Dale Robertson, US Army: Tank Commander in North Africa under Patton. Wounded twice. Received a battlefield Commission.
Harold Russell, US Army: While an Army instructor, training with the U.S. 13th Airborne Division 1944, a defective fuse detonated an explosive he was handling while making a training film. As a result, he lost both hands and was given two hooks to serve as hands. After his recovery, he attended Boston University as a full-time student. He was featured in an Army film, Diary of a Sergeant, about rehabilitating war veterans. Director William Wyler saw the film and cast Russell in the film The Best Years of Our Lives, playing the role of Homer Parrish, a sailor who lost both hands during the War. The movie won seven Oscars, including two for Harold Russell, the only actor in Oscar history to win two awards for the same film. (Best Supporting Actor and a special Oscar for bringing hope and courage to disabled veterans.)
James Stewart, Army Air Corps: Enlisted as a Private and worked his way to the rank of Colonel. Served as a bomber pilot, his record credits him with leading more than 20 missions over Germany and taking part in hundreds of air strikes during his tour of duty. He earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, France's Croix de Guerre, and 7 Battle Stars during WWII. In peacetime Stewart continued to be an active member of the Air Force Reserves, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring.
Dolph Sweet, Army Air Force: Navigator on a B-24; shot down during a raid and captured, spending two years as a POW in Germany. He was honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross and The Purple Heart.
Darryl F. Zanuck, US Army Signal Corps: At 15, he joined the U.S. Army, and fought in Belgium in World War I. During World War II, he served as supervisor for Signal Corps training films and the photographic record of the North Africa invasion. He was awarded the Legion of Merit.
Efram Zimbalist, Jr., US Army: Awarded a Purple Heart for a severe wound received in the Huertgen Forest.
VOLUNTEERED, BUT REJECTED:
Walter Brennan: Served in an artillery unit during World War I, where he was gassed, the exposure ruining his vocal chords, leaving him with the high-pitched tone that enabled him to play senior citizens while still in his thirties. Tried to enlist for World War II but was rejected as too old.
Randolph Scott: Tried to enlist in the Marines but was rejected due to injuries sustained while in the Army during World War I.