You know these faces, though they may be younger, from some of your favorite H&I shows. These actors are all veterans and served their country before or while their acting careers got started.
Some saw battle and some served as entertainers. We honor them all and thank them for their service.
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Although Brinegar played 65-year-old Wishbone on Rawhide, he was actually more than 20 years younger. An even younger Brinegar served as a chief radioman in the Navy during World War II. After his service, he continued to work as a radio repairman while getting his acting career started.
Image: The Everett Collection
Maverick actor Jack Kelly served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II.
Image: The Everett Collection
Rawhide actor Eric Fleming joined the Merchant Marines in 1941 where he served in the Pacific. In 1942 he joined the U.S. Navy to fight in WWII. In the Navy he served in a construction battalion as a master carpenter. Fleming completed his service in 1945 as Petty Officer Second Class.
Image: The Everett Collection
Have Gun, Will Travel actor Richard Boone served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1945. He trained in San Diego before serving on three different ships as an aviation ordnanceman. He saw combat in the Soloman Islands, the Caroline Islands, and the Ryukyu Islands. He rose to the rank of Petty Officer First Class over the time of his service.
Image: United States Navy Memorial
DeForest Kelley was already working as an actor when he started his service in the Army Air Corps in 1943. He worked as a public relations writer and control tower operator in Roswell, New Mexico. After that, they transferred him to Culver City, California, to be a part of the first Motion Picture Unit. The unit made films for recruiting and training, and Kelley originally worked as a technical assistant. It wasn’t long before he was moved over to acting alongside George Reeves and Ronald Reagan. Private First Class Kelley received an honorable discharge in 1946 and went on to a career as a doctor, er something like that.
James Doohan joined the Canadian Army in 1938. He served in the Royal Canadian Artillery, 14th (Midland) Field Battery of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division before he became a Commissioned Lieutenant and was sent to England in 1940. In 1944, he served on the front lines on D-Day. Upon approach to the beaches Doohan felt queasy, not because of the enemy ahead, but because of the rough waters. “We were more afraid of drowning than (we were of) the Germans,” he recalled to the Associated Press.
Doohan led his men carefully up the beach, over the anti-tank mines. Doohan shot and killed two German snipers along the way. They secured their position and settled in to care for the wounded. That night, while walking back to his command post, Doohan was shot seven times. An eighth bullet hit the silver cigarette case in his breast pocket, likely saving his life. He lost his right middle finger, but recovered and went on to become an officer. You can sometimes spot the missing digit in scenes of Star Trek.
Maverick actor James Garner served in the Merchant Marines and the Oklahoma National Guard before he was the first Oklahoman drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Garner served in the 24th infantry division in Korea over the course of 14 months. During that time he rose to the rank of corporal and was wounded twice, for which he received two Purple Hearts. The first Purple Heart was awarded to him while in Korea. He did not receive the second until 32 years later, shown in the photo.
Before the Maverick actor went on to be James Bond, he served in the British Army. Moore was drafted in 1945 when he had already been working as an actor. He was deployed to West Germany and rose to the rank of captain. “After a couple of years I was transferred to CSE, to Command Services Entertainment (unit),” where he entertained his fellow soldiers, recalled Moore in a 2006 interview.
Image: Film Inspector
Wanted: Dead or Alive actor Steve McQueen joined the U.S. Marines in 1947. The “King of Cool” recalled of his joining the ranks, “It was all very pleasant just lying in the sun and watching the girls go by, but one day I suddenly felt bored with hanging around and went and joined the Marines." And that he did, but just because it was by choice, doesn’t mean that he would stay out of trouble. McQueen was promoted to Private First Class and served with an armored unit, but his rebellious nature got him demoted a whopping seven times. The worst of it came when he decided to turn a weekend off into a two-week rendezvous with his girlfriend. Upon his apprehension, he resisted and landed himself in the brig for 41 days.
The punishment did the trick. After his time in the brig, McQueen started to embrace Marine values. He even jumped into Arctic waters and saved the lives of five men during a training exercise gone wrong. Several soldiers had drowned immediately. After that, he was chosen to serve in the Honor Guard protecting Harry S. Truman's yacht. He was honorably discharged in 1950.
Image: Together We Served
Before Clint Eastwood got his acting career started in Rawhide, he was a soldier in the U.S. Army. He was drafted during the Korean War and trained at Fort Ord in California. Eastwood swam competitively in high school. In the Army, he was assigned as a swimming instructor and stayed at Fort Ord for the duration of his service. During his time there, he became friends with David Janssen and Martin Milner who went on to act as The Fugitive and a cop on Adam-12, respectively. The three men shared an apartment in LA after they were discharged and looking to start their acting careers.
Image: We Are the Mighty
Leonard Nimoy wanted to focus on his acting, but needed a steady pay check. He made a logical decision in 1953 and joined the United States Army Reserves. In the Army, Nimoy was a part of the Special Services Division, the entertainment branch, comprised of actors, musicians, and writers who served by entertaining their fellow soldiers. Nimoy wrote, directed and acted in shows for the division. It wasn’t just stage acting either. Some of Nimoy’s earliest acting work is still available for us to watch today. Nimoy completed his service in 1955 after serving at Fort Ord, California, Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort McPherson, Georgia and reaching the rank of sergeant.
After he was drafted into the U.S. Army, West spent part of his time in the military helping to launch a military television station. The ultimate Batman (in our eyes, at least) was an announcer on the American Forces Network.