Hollywood Heroes

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Alec Guinness (Star Wars) operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-Day.

James Doohan ("Scotty" on Star Trek) landed in Normandy with the U.S. Army on D-Day.

We received the following e-mail concerning Mr. Doohan:

Your excellent website is in error with respect to "Scotty," James Doohan. He was a Canadian, and landed at Juno Beach on D-Day with the Third Canadian Infantry Division. He killed two snipers personally, and was wounded a little later by a nervous sentry with a Bren gun, who among other things, shot off Mr. Doohan's finger, a deformity which the makers of "Star Trek" were at great pains to conceal. I've always suspected that his fellow-Canadian, William Shatner, helped him got the job on "Star Trek." I remember them both in CBC television productions when I was a boy in the '50's. There were six D-Day invasion beaches, three American, two British and one Canadian, Juno Beach.

Then there is this e-mail:

Correcting the correction for Mr Doohan...
He was most definitely NOT in the US army. He joined the ROYAL CANADIAN ARTILLERY in 1939 as a gunner, and worked his way up to the rank of Captain. In that capacity, he landed on Juno Beach (in the first wave) on D-Day. That evening, he was machine-gunned and wounded in the leg and hand. (I don't know where this "nervous sentry with a Bren gun" stuff has come from - James Doohan clearly pinned the blame on the Germans in his book 'Beam me up Scotty', which I suggest you read if you need further verification about when and where he served).
The bullets damaged the middle finger of his right hand such that it had to be removed. Once recovered from his wounds, he retrained as an Air Observation Pilot, and was posted to 666 squadron in Holland for the rest of the war.
His fellow-Canadian William Shatner had absolutely nothing to do with him getting the job on Star Trek. The 2 of them didn't even get along that well. James Doohan auditioned for the part by doing 8 or 9 different accents for producer Gene Roddenberry, and they agreed that the Enterprise's engineer should be Scottish. Simple as that - he got the role on merit, not because anyone needed to pull strings for him.

Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape) really was an R.A.F. pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans.

David Niven was a Sandhurst graduate and Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos in Normandy.

James Stewart entered the Army Air Force as a private and worked his way to the rank of Colonel.

During World War II, Stewart served as a bomber pilot, his service record crediting him with leading more than 20 missions over Germany, and taking part in hundreds of air strikes during his tour of duty.

Stewart earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, France's Croix de Guerre, and 7 Battle Stars during World War II. In peace time, Stewart continued to be an active member of the Air Force as a reservist, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in the late 1950s.

Clark Gable (Mega-Movie Star when war broke out) Although he was beyond the draft age at the time the U.S. entered WWII. Clark Gable enlisted as a private in the AAF on Aug. 12, 1942 at Los Angeles.

He attended the Officers' Candidate School at Miami Beach, Fla. and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28, 1942. He then attended aerial gunnery school and in Feb. 1943 he was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook where flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s.

Capt. Gable returned to the U.S. in Oct. 1943 and was relieved from active duty as a major on Jun. 12, 1944 at his own request, since he was over-age for combat.

Charlton Heston was an Army Air Corps Sergeant in Kodiak.

Ernest Borgnine was a U.S. Navy Gunners Mate 1935-1945.

Don Adams served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and took part in the landings and battle at Guadalcanal, where he contracted malaria.

He survived a serious bout with blackwater fever during his Marine Corps years in the Pacific (Guadacanal), which is usually 90% fatal.

We have made a change to the above information. We received an e-mail from Jim Beaver, who informed us that..."My father-in-law, Don Adams, did indeed contract blackwater fever malaria at Guadalcanal. But he was not shot.  He was hospitalized for a year with the tropical disease, but was never wounded." Thanks, Jim, for the correction.

Charles Durning was a U.S. Army Ranger at Normandy earning a Silver Star and awarded the Purple Heart.

Charles Bronson was a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps, more specifically on B-29s in the 20th Air Force out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.

George C. Scott was a decorated U.S. Marine.

Eddie Albert (Green Acres TV) was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic action as a U.S. Naval officer aiding Marines at the horrific battle on the island of Tarawa in the Pacific Nov. 1943.

Brian Keith served as a U.S. Marine rear gunner in several actions against the Japanese on Rabal in the Pacific.

Lee Marvin was a U.S. Marine on Saipan during the Marianas campaign when he was wounded earning the Purple Heart. In a time when many Hollywood stars served their country in the armed forces often in rear echelon posts where they were carefully protected, only to be trotted out to perform for the cameras in war bond promotions. Lee Marvin was a genuine hero. He won the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima. There is only one higher Naval award...the Medal Of  Honor.

John Russell, in 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he received a battlefield commission and was wounded and highly decorated for valor at Guadal canal.

Tyrone Power (an established movie star when Pearl Harbor was bombed) joined the U.S. Marines, was a pilot flying supplies into, and wounded Marines out of, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

James Arness (Marshall Dillon of Gunsmoke), one of the first Americans to set foot on Anzio Beach during the allied forces invasion of Italy. Because of his height, Arness' commander ordered him out of his landing craft before the remainder of the troops in order to determine the depth of the water.

Audie Murphy, little 5'5" tall 110 pound guy from Texas who played cowboy parts.

Most Decorated serviceman of WWII and earned: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Silver Star Medals, Legion of Merit, 2 Bronze Star Medals with "V", 2 Purple Hearts, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, 2 Distinguished Unit Emblems, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France) World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar, French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier, French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Medal of Liberated France, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm.

Neville Brand, many movies. He enlisted at 16 and emerged the 4th most decorated GI in WWII. He acted in training films in the Army & used the GI Bill to study drama. Little is known of his time overseas, but his official military records reflect that Neville Brand participated in the Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central European campaigns, and received the Silver Star while convalescing at the 21st General Hospital for gallantry in combat. His other awards and decorations are the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Ribbon, the European/African/Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Battle Stars, one Overseas Service Bar, one Service Stripe, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge. 

Have we left off anyone? Please contact us and let us know!

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1 comment
  • Hi, Jim Beaver again. Wanted to point out that Lee Marvin did not receive the Navy Cross for bravery on Iwo Jima or anywhere else. He was wounded on Saipan and missed the battle of Iwo Jima. There’s a fine and accurate study of his life, LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK, by Dwayne Epstein.

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