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10 True Celebrity War Heroes & Military Men

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Learning about the real life experiences of some of our favorite celebrities can be
interesting, especially when they are war heroes.  There is no doubt that being involved
in a military conflict can change your life.  I have collected a list of some decorated war
heroes and military men that were also internatinal celebrities.  Most of the individuals
on the list gained stardom after their war service, but not all.  As you would expect,
many of these people were born in the early 1920’s or late 1890’s.  They were the prime
fighting age during World War I and II.
          

10. James Earl Jones

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James Earl Jones was born in Arkabutla, Mississippi in 1931.  In the early 1950’s the
conflict was intensifying in Korea and Jones awaited orders to be shipped off to war.
By the end of summer 1953, Jones received his official orders, and was sent to Fort
Benning to attend Basic Infantry Officers School.  His first duty station was supposed
to be at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, but his orders changed, and his unit was
instead sent to Colorado where the Army planned to establish a cold weather training
command at the old Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado.  His regiment was
established as a training unit, to train in the bitter cold weather and the rugged
terrain of the Rocky Mountains.  Jones eventually earned the rank of First Lieutenant.
The U.S. involvement in the Korean War was rather short-lived and James Earl Jones
never saw live action.
  
 

His first big role came with his portrayal of boxer Jack Jefferson in the film version of
the Broadway play The Great White Hope, which was based on the life of boxer Jack
Johnson.  Jones received a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal.  It made him the
second African American actor to receive a nomination, following Sidney Poitier.  He
was the first celebrity guest on the series Sesame Street, but is best known for his
voice over work.  In 1977, he landed the role as Darth Vader’s voice in the Star Wars
trilogy, which has become his most infamous role.  He was also the voice of Mufasa in
the 1994 film Disney animated blockbuster
The Lion King.  He was great in the 1989
release Field of Dreams and Coming to America (1988).

9. Lee Marvin

World War II

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Lee Marvin was born in New York City.  At a young age he left school to join the United
States Marine Corps, serving as a Scout Sniper.  The United States Marine Corps Scout
and Sniper
companies and the Scouts (Tank) companies of the tank battalions were the
first amongst the division's reconnaissance assets.  He joined the 4th Marine Division.
Lee Marvin saw a lot of action during World War II.  During the WWII Battle of Saipan
Lee Marvin suffered serious injuries after he was shot multiple times in the buttocks
area.  The wounds severed his sciatic nerve.  Most of his platoon was killed during the
battle.  He was awarded the Purple Heart medal and was given a medical discharge with
the rank of Private First Class. 
In 1950, Marvin moved to Hollywood.  He found work
in supporting roles, and from the beginning was cast in various war films.  As a
decorated war veteran he frequently assisted the director and other actors in realistically
portraying infantry movement, arranging costumes, and even adjusting war surplus
military prop firearms.
 
In the 1960’s Lee Marvin began to land some prominent co-starring roles, including The
Comancheros
(1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and Donovan's Reef
(1963). 
Marvin appeared in the groundbreaking The Killers (1964) playing an
organized, no-nonsense, efficient, business like professional assassin.  Lee Marvin won
the 1965 Academy Award for Best Actor for his comic role in the offbeat western Cat
Ballou
starring Jane Fonda.  After roles in The Professionals (1966) and the hugely
successful The Dirty Dozen (1967) Marvin became one of the biggest stars in America.
By the late 1960’s he was getting paid a million dollars per film, $200,000 less than
the biggest star in the world Paul Newman.  He continued to star in numerous films
throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.  Marvin's last big role was in Samuel Fuller's The Big
Red One
(1980).  He was offered the part of Quint in Jaws (1975) but declined. 

8. James Doohan

World War II

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James Doohan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Doohan was a successful
character and voice actor best known for his role as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the
television and film series Star Trek.  Doohan's characterization of the Scottish Chief
Engineer of the Starship Enterprise was one of the most recognizable elements in the
Star Trek franchise.  At the beginning of the Second World War, Doohan joined the
Royal Canadian Artillery.  He was commissioned a lieutenant in the 13th Field Artillery
Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.  Doohan went to the United Kingdom
in 1940 for training.  His first combat was the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach on
D-Day.  He is known for shooting two snipers and leading his men to higher ground
through a field of anti-tank mines, where they took defensive positions for the night.
  
 

Crossing between command posts that night, Doohan was hit by six rounds fired from a
Bren gun by a nervous Canadian sentry.  He was hit four times 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.  His right middle finger had to be amputated.  Something he would
conceal during his career as an actor, although it can be seen in various Star Trek
scenes.  Doohan trained as a pilot and flew the Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft for
666 (AOP) Squadron, RCAF, as a Royal Canadian Artillery officer.  Doohan was
considered by some to be one of the most giving and affable stars of the Star Trek
franchise and a war hero.
 

7. Ted Williams

World War II and Korean War

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Ted Williams was born in San Diego California in 1918.  He could play the game of
baseball and debuted with the Boston Red Sox in 1939.  Williams was one of the best
hitters the game has ever seen.  He was a two-time American League Most Valuable
Player winner, led the league in batting six times, and won the Triple Crown twice.  He
played 21 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, which was twice interrupted by military
service as a Marine Corps pilot.  Ted Williams’s career year was 1941, when he hit .406
with 37 HR, and 120 RBI’s.  It was the last season that any major league baseball player
has hit over .400.  Ted Williams enlisted in the Navy on May 22, 1942.  He joined the
V-5 program to become a naval aviator.  After numerous training programs and
exercises he received his wings and commission in the U.S. Marine Corps on May 2,
1944.  He served as a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Pensacola teaching young
pilots to fly the F4U Corsair and was in Pearl Harbor awaiting orders to join the China
fleet when the war ended.
  
 

Ted Williams did not play baseball from 1942-1946.  On May 1, 1952, at the age of 34,
he was recalled to active duty for service in the Korean War.  He was assigned to
VMF-311, Marine Aircraft Group 33 based at K-3 airfield in Pohang, Korea.  On
February 16, 1953, Williams was part of a 35-plane strike package against a tank and
infantry training program just south of Pyongyang, North Korea.  He eventually flew 39
combat missions before being pulled from flight status in June 1953 after a
hospitalization for pneumonia.  One of the most decorated athletes in American history
lost out on the prime years of his playing career in order to defend his country. 

6. Oliver Stone

Vietnam War

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Oliver Stone was born in New York City.  He attended Yale University and also spent
time in Vietnam teaching English at the Free Pacific Institute of South Vietnam in the
middle of the 1960’s.  With the civil unrest, Oliver Stone joined the U.S. Army and
fought in the Vietnam War from April 1967 to November 1968.  He specifically
requested combat duty as an infantryman and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division
and the 1st Cavalry Division.  Stone was wounded twice in action.  His personal awards
include the Bronze Star with "V" device, which he received after conducting
"extraordinary acts of courage under fire."  He was also given the Purple Heart with one
Oak Leaf Cluster.  Oliver Stone took his experiences and incredible film and directing
sense to become one of the most prominent U.S. directors working today.
  
 

He first gained notoriety after he made three films about Vietnam, Platoon (1986), Born
on the Fourth of July
(1989), and Heaven & Earth (1993). He has called these films a
trilogy, although they each deal with different aspects of the war.  He is known for his
edgy, real life depiction of screen characters.  His work frequently focuses on
contemporary political and cultural issues, most notably his 1992 release JFK.  A
feature of his directing style is the use of many different cameras and film formats, from
VHS to 8 mm film to 70 mm film.  He sometimes uses several formats in a single
scene.  Stone has also written numerous screenplays.  His first Oscar was for Best
Adapted Screenplay for Midnight Express (1978).  He won Academy Awards for
Directing Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July.

5. Bud Tingwell

World War II

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Bud Tingwell was born in the Sydney suburb of Coogee.  As a teenager he became a
cadet at Sydney radio station 2CH, becoming the youngest radio announcer in
Australia.  In 1941, at the age of 18, he volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force.
He trained as a pilot in Canada during 1942 under the British Commonwealth Air
Training Plan.  He qualified as a Pilot Officer in December 1942.  He served with
No.74 Operational Conversion Unit in British Palestine and qualified to fly the Hawker
Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, although he was also type qualified on the Bristol
Blenheim, Martin Baltimore, Bristol Beaufighter, de Havilland Mosquito and Airspeed
Oxford aircrafts.  Tingwell was posted to a photo reconnaissance unit, No. 680
Squadron RAF and flew 75 sorties in Hurricanes and Spitfires during the North African
Campaign and Allied invasion of Sicily.  Tingwell was promoted to Flying Officer in
June 1943 and Flight Lieutenant in December 1944.  Towards the end of the war,
Tingwell was transferred to Australia and served with No. 87 Squadron RAAF, flying
photo reconnaissance Mosquitoes over the Dutch East Indies.  He was awarded the
1939-45 Star, Italy Star and Defence Medal.
  
 

Upon the end of the war Tingwell began his incredibly successful career as a film,
television, theatre and radio actor.  In 1946, he won his first film role, as a control
tower officer in the film Smithy.  In 1952, he caught the attention of Hollywood and
landed the role of
Lt. Harry Carstairs in The Desert Rats.  Tingwell went on to star in the
British show Emergency – Ward 10,
playing Australian surgeon Alan Dawson.  He also
won the role of Inspector Craddock in all four films of the Miss Marple film series
between 1961 and 1964.  Tingwell appeared in over 100 films and numerous television
programs in both the United Kingdom and Australia.  Tingwell died this year in
Melbourne from prostate cancer, at the age of 86.  Up until his death, Tingwell was still
acting regularly.  He has a number of films and television programs that are in
production.  Bud Tingwell's status in Australian culture was signified when he was
given a state funeral, held at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne.     

4. Max Schmeling

World War II

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Schmeling and Hilter

Max Schmeling was a world class boxer that was born in Klein Luckow in the Province
of Pomerania.  He debuted as a professional boxer in 1924 and quickly built a record of
42 wins, 4 losses and 3 draws.  In 1930, Schmeling defeated Jack Sharkey and became
the heavyweight champion of the world.  He held the title for two years until Sharkey
defeated him in a rematch.  In 1936, Schmeling traveled to New York to face up and
coming boxer Joe Louis, who was undefeated and considered unbeatable.  He surprised
the boxing world by handing Louis his first defeat, dropping him in round four and
knocking him out in the 12th.  Schmeling became a national hero in Germany.  When
Joe Louis won the world Heavyweight crown in 1937, he said he would not consider
himself a champion until he beat Schmeling in a rematch.  The rematch came at Yankee
Stadium on June 22, 1938, with Louis defending his crown.  By then, a second world
war was clearly looming on the horizon, and the fight was viewed worldwide as a
symbolic battle for superiority between two likely adversaries.
  
 

When World War II broke out in 1939, Schmeling was drafted into the German Air
Force (Luftwaffe) and served as an elite paratrooper (Fallschirmjäger).  He was a
participant in the Battle of Crete against Greek and British Commonwealth forces in
1941.  He served in many combat situations.  By the end of the war (early 1945) he was
serving at the large German Army military hospital in Ulm.  He worked with seriously
wounded soldiers in the rehabilitation unit of the hospital until May 1945.  Max
Schmeling sustained numerous wartime injuries during his combat with the German
Army.  He has stated that he was never a supporter of the Nazi regime in Germany and
that he cooperated with the government's efforts to play down the increasingly negative
international world view of its domestic policies.  It became known long after the
Second World War that Schmeling had risked his own life to save the lives of two
Jewish children in 1938.  Max Schmeling died in 2005 at the age of 100. 

3. J.R.R. Tolkien

World War I

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein in the Orange
Free State (now Free State Province, part of South Africa).  In 1916, the UK was
engaged in fighting World War I.  Tolkien volunteered for military service and was
commissioned in the British Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers.
He trained with the 13th (Reserve) Battalion on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, for
eleven months.  He was then transferred to the 11th (Service) Battalion with the British
Expeditionary Force, arriving in France on June 4, 1916.  Tolkien served as a signals
officer at the Somme, participating in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge and the subsequent
assault on the Schwaben Redoubt.   He would later write that “junior officers were
being killed off, a dozen a minute.”  In October of 1916 Tolkien came down with trench
fever, a disease carried by the lice, which was common in the dugouts.  J.R.R. Tolkien
was invalided to England on November 8, 1916.  Many of his dearest school friends
were killed in the war.
  
 

“One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression;
but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914
was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years.
By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.”

 

J.R.R. Tolkien would become a world famous writer, poet, philologist, and university
professor.  Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford
from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature from
1945 to 1959.  He also wrote and published the legendary novels The Hobbit and The
Lord of the Rings.  His work directly led to the popular resurgence of the fantasy genre.
After his death, Tolkien's son, Christopher, published a series of works based on his
father's extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion.  This
work, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, form a connected body of
tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about an
imagined world called Arda and Middle-earth.  Tolkien's writings have inspired many
other works of fantasy and film.   In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of "The
50 greatest British writers since 1945".  Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the
Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972.  He passed away
the following year.

2. Russell Johnson

World War II

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Russell Johnson was born in Ashley, Pennsylvania in 1924.  He attended Girard College,
a private boarding school in Philadelphia, PA.  When Russell graduated from high
school in 1942 World War II was in full swing.  Johnson joined the United States Army
Air Forces as an aviation cadet.  During his time in the Army he flew 44 combat
missions as a bombardier and commanded the B-25 Mitchell bomber.  His plane was
shot down over the Philippines in March of 1945.  Johnson’s craft was severely
damaged during a bombing run against Japanese targets and made a crash landing at the
port of Zamboanga in the Philippines.  Johnson broke both his ankles during the crash,
but was rescued and taken to U.S. territory.  He earned the Purple Heart and was also
awarded the Air Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal,
the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one service star, and the World War II Victory
Medal.
  
 

He was honorably discharged with the rank of 1st Lieutenant on November 22, 1945.
Russell Johnson began his acting career in 1952.  HIs early roles were primarily in
westerns and science fiction.  He starred in It Came from Outer Space (1953), This
Island Earth
(1955), and Attack of the Crab Monsters (1956).  Johnson appeared in two
famous episodes of the original Twilight Zone.  He is best known for playing Roy
Hinkley (The Professor) on the television show Gilligan’s Island.  His character could
build all sorts of inventions out of the most unusual materials available on the island.
Gilligan's Island aired from 1964 to 1967, but has been shown in reruns ever since.   

1. Jimmy Stewart

World War II

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James Stewart was born on May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania.  In 1938, Stewart
began a successful partnership with director Frank Capra
and began his Hollywood
career.  He starred in the successful Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939 and
followed that up with The Philadelphia Story.  He won the Best Actor award for his role
in The Philadelphia Story.  Jimmy Stewart always had a passion for flying and received
his Commercial Pilot certificate in 1938.  In 1940, he entered the U.S. Air Force.
Stewart was concerned that his expertise and celebrity status would relegate him to
instructor duties and early in the war his fears were confirmed.  He was stationed in
Kirtland Air Force Base
and trained B-17 pilots.  The 36-year-old Stewart demanded
active duty and in August 1943 he was finally assigned to the 445th Bombardment
Group at Sioux City AAB, Iowa, first as Operations Officer of the 703rd Bombardment
Squadron and then as its commander.
  
 

Stewart flew as command pilot in the lead B-24 on numerous missions deep into
Nazi-occupied Europe.  He has been credited with approximately 20 missions over
Germany and took part in hundreds of air strikes. 
He earned the Air Medal, the
Distinguished Flying Cross, France's Croix de Guerre, and 7 Battle Stars during World
War II.  James Stewart retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968.  He returned to his
acting career directly following the end of WWII and starred in It’s a Wonderful Life in
1946.  He was noted as the first American celebrity to put his massively successful
acting career on hold to serve his country in battle.     

More Celebrities That Served Their Country

Alec Guinnes


Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in World War II, serving first as a
seaman in 1941 and being commissioned the following year.  He commanded a landing
craft taking part in the invasion of Sicily and Elba and later ferried supplies to the
Yugoslav partisans.   

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Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller was an American jazz musician, arranger, composer, and band leader in the
swing era.  He was one of the best-selling recording artists from 1939 to 1942, leading
one of the best known Big Bands.  While traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France
during World War II, Miller's plane disappeared in bad weather.  His body has never
been found.
 
    

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Audie Murphy


In 27 months of combat action, Murphy became one of the most highly decorated United
States soldiers of World War II.  He received the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's
highest award for valor, along with 32 additional U.S. and foreign medals and citations,
including five from France and one from Belgium.  He was more of a war hero then
actor, but he appeared in 44 American films and also found some success as a country
music composer.

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Clark Gable

Earnest Borgnine

Charles Durning

Jean Gabin

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Jean Gabin

Jamie Farr

Eddie Albert

Bob Ross

Michael Caine

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Michael Caine

Steve McQueen

Gene Hackman

George Carlin

Drew Carey

Shaggy

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Shaggy

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Comments:
 

Christopher Turberville - July 24, 2010

I find articles on celebrity war heroes very interesting.  i would really enjoy anymore
information.

John Pappas - September 9, 2010

The actors of today seem to support our enemies.  They give them comfort and
aid.  I am proud that I have served the American people twice.  I carry two
honorable discharges.  I served in the Vietnam War and 17 yrs later I served
again.  Nothing means more to me than the American people and all that we stand
for.

Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted October 15, 2009