After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the need for revenge was felt the nation over. Even celebrities took up the call to arms. Many actors went off to war, while others were protected under studio contracts to not go overseas. They still wanted to help in any way they could. Some became trainers and many of the actresses did their part to raise awareness for the need for salvage and support for the troops. Among the millions of Americans who answered the call to join the armed services were some of the biggest names in film, leaving the comfort of Hollywood to serve their nation and play their most significant role. Many of them deserve to be honored, not simply because they joined the armed forces, but because they inspired many others to do the same. Here are some of the bravest Hollywood actors who risked their lives to serve their nation: Charlton Heston (Academy Award winning actor from Ben-Hur), Paul Newman (known for auto racing and acting), Jimmy Stewart (known for countless films including “It’s a Wonderful Life”), Henry Fonda (known for “Once Upon a Time in the West”), Tony Curtis (best known for “Some Like it Hot”), and Clark Gable, nicknamed “the King of Hollywood” (best known for “Gone with the Wind”). (Smithfield, 2016)
Rita Hayworth springs to mind as one actress who was outspoken in the salvage drives. She rallied people to help give salvage to the war effort. When I say salvage, I don’t mean people were recycling aluminum cans and other small objects, though they came in handy. No. Civilians were so involved in the war effort that they ripped bumpers off their cars, melted down jewelry, and gave silk stockings all to be made into planes, bullets, and parachutes respectively.
Did you know?
The Germans considered Clark Gable enemy number one and made several unsuccessful attempts to capture him alive. Reportedly, Adolf Hitler, who was one of Gable’s greatest fans, offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could capture Clark Gable and bring him to Germany. Hitler’s plan to capture Gable proved to be unsuccessful and the actor returned to the States safe and sound. (Smithfield, 2016)
Jimmy Stewart was a bona fide movie star before World War II, having starred in such big screen hits as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “The Philadelphia Story,” for which he won an Academy Award. In early 1941, Stewart became one of the first Hollywood stars to enter the armed forces when he traded his tailored suits for a bomber jacket and joined the Army Air Corps. He came from a family with a tradition of service in the Army. A flying enthusiast, he had already gained his private pilot certificate in 1935, but was turned down for service, because he was underweight. He had to pack a few pounds onto his lanky frame to meet the Army’s minimum weight requirement, but Stewart was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942 and served as a four-engine instructor at Moffett Field, California. Much to his dismay, Stewart stayed stateside for almost two years working as a flight instuctor, until commanding officers finally yielded to his request to be sent overseas. He became a squadron commander in the 445th Bombardment Group in England and flew 20 combat missions as a B-24 pilot including raids deep into Germany. His missions included bombing raids to Berlin, Brunswick, Bremen, Frankfurt, and Schweinfurt. His most memorable mission was as the flight leader of a 1,000 plane raid to Berlin. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and several other honors for leading bombing raids over Germany and France. All the while, the everyman actor continued to send his Hollywood agent ten percent of his meager military salary. Stewart ended the war as a colonel, and remained in the Air Force Reserve even after jumping back in front of the camera. He was later promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1959. (Andrews, 2014)