15 Celebrities Who Actually Fought In Battles
It might be somewhat difficult to believe, but historically, there have been many celebrities who fought in wars across the globe. Most can agree it takes a brave and courageous person to serve their country during times of conflict. Especially when we consider the ages gone past when technological advances and medical inventions weren’t what they are today. Scores of famous actors, comedians, authors, and producers have played different roles in the various wars. Incredibly, some found their inspiration for acting while participating in these efforts, while others began their acting careers in the Army. There were even those who left their acting professions to enlist and aid their country.
- Photo: kate gabrielle / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0
Of all the celebrities who served in the military, American actor Kirk Douglas was one of the most well-known. After failing the dexterity test, Douglas was sent to Notre Dame to pursue a course in the Navy instead of the Air Force. So, in 1941, Douglas joined the United States Navy. He progressed on to the Pacific Theatre to drop depth charges on the Japanese. During his time in the US Navy, Douglas served as a communication and gunnery officer abroad on the USS PC-1139 and specialized in anti-submarine warfare.
Perhaps the historical account that he is most famous for is when, in 1943, he was seriously injured during a mission that involved hunting a suspected Japanese submarine. One of Douglas’s shipmates was meant to fire a depth charge marker but instead made the mistake of launching a live ashcan. The ashcan reportedly hit the waves hard, and once it detonated, the PC-1139 that Douglas was in was hurled into the air.
The accident led to him sustaining severe abdominal injuries from being thrown against the ship, and he had to be sent to recover at the Balboa Hospital in San Diego. After his time spent in the Navy and due to his prolific acting career that demonstrated a commendable contribution to America, Douglas was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981. This award is the highest civilian award in the United States.
Most probably don’t know that famed singer Tony Bennett's career began during his service in the United States Army during WWII.
Bennett joined the war effort during its final stages in 1944. He was enlisted as an infantryman assigned to the 63rd Infantry Division, popularly referred to as the blood and fire division. The 63rd Division’s role was to fill in for the heavy losses that were suffered on the front lines in France and Germany, and as such, many referred to this as the “front-row seat in hell.”
According to historical accounts, Bennett was one of the soldiers to serve on the front line and managed to escape death on several occasions. After the war, Bennett went on to say that the experiences he endured during WWII led him to become a pacifist and focus his life on music and bringing joy to the world. Despite not having received any military awards, Bennett is known for his role in liberating a German concentration camp and his 20 Grammy Awards, two Emmy awards, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Many may know Oliver Stone through his award-winning movies, such as Platoon, Scarface, and Born on the Fourth of July, but many may not know of his service during the Vietnam War. Stone joined the US Army in 1967 and specifically requested combat duty when he enlisted.
Upon his enlistment, Stone was assigned to the Bravo Company’s 2nd Platoon in their 3rd Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. While participating in combat duty, Stone was injured on two separate occasions and was transferred in 1968 to the 1st Cavalry, a specialized Long Range Reconnaissance Platoon. After 15 months of service, Stone was discharged and awarded the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster that denoted two awards. Additionally, he was awarded a Bronze Star with a V device because of his extraordinary acts of valor under fire and a Vietnam Service Medal, amongst others.
- Photo: US Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Jaimes Maitland Stewart, or Jimmy Stewart as he was commonly known, was an aspiring actor in the 1930s before taking up service in the Air Force during WWII. In the late 1930s, Stewart’s career boomed from hit shows he had acted in, such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. With the certainty of war looming, Stewart left acting to pursue a US Army Air Corps career, where he went on to become a WWII bomber pilot.
Stewart enlisted in 1941 but wouldn’t officially participate in the war until nine months after enrolling when he joined the 703rd Bomb Squadron. Stewart began flying his B-24H in 1943. And during his service, he flew 20 combat missions, including to German air bases, chemical and oil plants, and ammunition bases.
When the war was over, Stewart joined the reserves list, and in 1959, he was promoted to Brigadier General, but his journey didn’t end there. In 1966, Stewart embarked on another deployment and participated in one more combat flight during the North Vietnam War. Interestingly after his bombing missions in WWII ended, Stewart went back to acting in 1946 and played in the famous movie of the time It’s a Wonderful Life. Stewart received the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters after his service, the French Croix de Guerre with bronze palm, and a distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters.
- Photo: Mutual of New York / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Gene Roddenberry Flew 89 Air Force Combat Missions In WWII
Before he brought joy to the hearts of many, Star Trek creator Eugene Roddenberry was an American pilot in the Army Air Forces during WWII. After Pearl Harbor’s events, Roddenberry decided to enlist. He was commissioned in August 1942 and was posted by the Army to the Pacific Theater of Operations.
Upon this posting, he joined the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bombardment Group of the Thirteenth Air Force. During his time in the Air Force, Roddenberry flew an astonishing 89 combat missions, and during these flights, he would often be required to fly strike missions. The flights were often hazardous, with one example involving Roddenberry reportedly having to fly alongside his squadron on May 20th, 1943, in a deadly mission involving fragmentation bombs and a well-defended Japanese target.
After achieving the rank of Captain, Roddenberry was awarded the Air Medal and the Flying Cross for his efforts in the war. After leaving the war, he became a commercial pilot before making a career change and becoming a freelance writer.
Before James Montgomery Doohan was well known for his portrayal of a Scottish engineer on Star Trek, he was a lieutenant in World War II. During his service in the Canadian Royal Army, Montgomery served in the 14th Field Artillery Regiment in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. While participating in the notorious D-Day battle on June 6th, 1944, Montgomery navigated a minefield with his fellow soldiers between command posts on Juno beach, and he was shot multiple times.
He took four bullets to one of his legs and one to his hand that resulted in him losing his middle finger. Additionally, another bullet hit his chest and would have been fatal if it was not for a silver cigarette case deflecting the bullet. The shots actually came from a fellow soldier who was somewhat mistaken about who the enemies were. Montgomery received many military medals, including the France and Germany Star, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal, and Defence Medal.