Friday, April 28, 2006

When Hollywood Went to War

I know there have been a few articles like this floating around the last couple of years but John McCaslin's was one of the best I'd seen. It's a keeper...

Hollywood is missing in action when it comes to fighting for America in recent conflicts, not the least being the war against terrorism.

We hereby challenge readers to name one modern American celebrity, apart from the late football star Pat Tillman, who served or fought for his or her country in the past 15 years.

"Even Hollywood . . . sent its best to wars prior to Vietnam," University of Dayton professor Larry Schweikart reminds us in his new book, "America's Victories," writing that professional actors were as "thoroughly represented" in the fighting military during World War II as any other group.

In fact, we read an amazing list of Hollywood men who tossed aside lucrative scripts for their country. Topping the list, albeit technically too old to serve, was Clark Gable, who enlisted as a private and ended up flying B-17s over Europe. Jimmy Stewart started as a "buck private peeling potatoes," the author notes.

Stewart's radioman was Walter Matthau, awarded six campaign stars. Charles Bronson was a tailgunner on B-29s; Gene Autry flew C-47s; Robert Conrad flew F4Us; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry flew C-46s; Robert Altman flew B-24s; and Jack Palance crash-landed his B-17. (Let's see Tom Cruise try that when not leaping off Oprah Winfrey's sofa.)

The list of Hollywood's brave soldiers, sailors and Marines (several of whom died or were injured in battle) is extensive, among them: Humphrey Bogart (a World War I vet, he tried enlisting in World War II, but was too old), Jason Robards (Pearl Harbor), Henry Fonda (the South Pacific), George C. Scott (Europe), Glenn Ford (France), Brian Keith (Rabaul), Ernest Borgnine (where else, the South Pacific), Eddie Albert (Tarawa), and Navy buddies Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Kirk Douglas, Shecky Greene, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Bob Barker, Jackie Cooper, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Cliff Robertson, Rod Steiger, Dennis Weaver and Robert Stack.

Also dressed for battle were James Arness (Marshal Dillon of "Gunsmoke" was wounded at Anzio), Alan Hale Jr., Victor Mature, Telly Savalas ("Kojak" earned a Purple Heart), Arthur Godfrey, Tyrone Power, Ed McMahon, Lee Marvin (survived fierce combat on Saipan), Don Adams, Sterling Hayden, John Russell (wounded and decorated for valor at Guadalcanal), James Whitmore, Rod Serling (wounded with his 11th Airborne Division), Jack Warden, Ted Knight (Ted Baxter of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") cleared land mines and was awarded five Bronze stars, Burt Lancaster (North Africa and Italy), George Kennedy (served under Gen. George Patton in France), Art Carney (wounded invading Normandy), Burgess Meredith, Cameron Mitchell, Kevin McCarthy, Martin Balsam, Jackie Coogan, Dale Robertson, "Superman" George Reeves, Russell Johnson, Robert Preston, George Gobel, Gene Raymond, Karl Malden, Red Buttons, Robert Taylor and Charles Durning (the Tony Award winner earned three Purple Hearts as one of the few American POW survivors of the massacre at Malmedy, France.)

Lee Powell, the first silver screen "Lone Ranger," was killed invading Tinian. Also in uniform were Carl Reiner, John Agar, Jeff Chandler, Ossie Davis, Frank Gorshin, Werner Klemperer, Rick Jason (who starred for five seasons on TV's "Combat"), Charlton Heston, William Holden, Robert Montgomery, Desi Arnaz (first rejected for being a Cuban, he was injured as an infantryman), Norman Mailer (invaded the Philippines), Alex Haley, Louis L'Amour (Normandy) and Bob Keeshan of "Captain Kangaroo" fame...