Elvis Presley famously made headlines when, at the height of his young career in showbiz in 1958, he was drafted to the Army and stationed in Germany. The same went for silver screen charmer James Stewart when he enlisted during World War II.
However, you might be surprised by how many other folks from Hollywood have stepped up for military duty over the years. Whether it happened before they found their fame or it was simply something they didn’t want to make a big fuss about, the surprising celebs below have their own set of dog tags hiding in their pasts.
Of course, I’m sure they’re all proud of the work they did for their country, no matter how brief their time in uniform might have been.
Did we miss any other entertainers who also happen to be military veterans? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your friends!
1. James Earl Jones
Jones joined the ROTC while attending the University of Michigan and studying pre-med. When the Korean War intensified by 1953, the actor was commissioned as a second lieutenant and attended Army Ranger School. Despite claiming he “washed out” of training, Jones received his Ranger tab and was promoted to first lieutenant before his discharge.
2. Jamie Farr
Famous for playing the crossdressing Corporal Klinger vying for discharge papers on M*A*S*H, Farr actually served in the Korean War and can be seen wearing his actual U.S. Army dog tags on the series.
3. Mel Brooks
The funnyman doesn’t seem like the militant type, but long before he made us laugh with his on-screen antics, Brooks was drafted into the Army during World War II. He served as a corporal, defusing land mines with his fellow soldiers.
4. Robert Duvall
Duvall’s father was a career Navy man who retired as a rear admiral, so it made sense that he would sign up when he came of age. However, the Apocalypse Now actor who “loved the smell of napalm in the morning” only served in the Army briefly during the Korean War and later explained, “I barely qualified with the M1 rifle in basic training.”
5. James Garner
The actor who played several military roles in film had plenty of experience to go on after joining the United States Merchant Marines near the end of World War II at just 16. Garner unfortunately suffered from chronic seasickness and rejoined high school, ultimately dropping out again his senior year to enlist in the Army National Guard. He suffered two wounds in Korea and was awarded with the Purple Heart.
6. Gene Wilder
The Army drafted Wilder in 1956, where he was assigned to the medical corps and given his choice of post. The budding actor knew he wanted to be in New York City to attend theater classes, so he chose to be a paramedic at the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Valley Forge Army Hospital for two years.
7. Steve McQueen
The handsome action star enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps back in 1947 but his rowdy behavior almost got him discharged before he could rank above private. After taking an unauthorized leave of absence to stay with a girlfriend, he was sentenced to 41 days in the brig, which inspired him to change his attitude and eventually save the lives of his fellow Marines who were put in danger during an arctic exercise. McQueen pulled five men from a tank before it sank. He was also appointed to protect President Harry Truman’s yacht before being honorably discharged.
8. Paul Newman
The man with piercing blue eyes initially hoped to become a pilot for the Navy in WWII but was dismissed when they realized he was color-blind. Instead, Newman was trained as a radio man and rear gunner. He narrowly escaped being the victim of a kamikaze bombing when his pilot had an earache and forced them to remain grounded while the rest of his squadron boarded the U.S.S. Bunker Hill in 1945.
9. Bea Arthur
As one of the few famous women from the past to sign up for duty during WWII, the future Golden Girls actress worked as a truck driver and typist in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve before being honorably discharged in 1945. The photo above might look like a mugshot, but it’s actually her military identification.
10. Buster Keaton
The silent movie comedian famous for his pratfalls and ability to bounce back from physical stunts served with the Army in France during WWI. It was during this time that he also suffered a severe ear infection, which permanently impaired his hearing.
11. Leonard Nimoy
Before he was Mr. Spock, Nimoy enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1953 and spent 18 months gaining the rank of sergeant. He also spent time with the Army Special Services, putting on shows he wrote and appearing in military training films produced by future Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
12. Willie Nelson
Long before he rocked his legendary braids, Nelson joined the Air Force with the hopes of being a jet pilot. He was discharged after a short stint of service due to back problems.
13. Humphrey Bogart
The Casablanca star enlisted in the U.S. Navy back in 1918. “At eighteen, war was great stuff,” he recalled. “Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn!”
Bogart spent his time at sea after the WWI Armistice, ferrying troops back from Europe. Rumors also claim that an injury during his service produced the scar on his lip and his iconic slight lisp.
Did we miss a famous face most people don’t realize served in the military? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE with your friends!