Is there anything nobler than serving your country in the Army?
When we learn about our favorite celebrities, we usually discover details about their professional actions or their love life. There are many A-listers though who, before building their huge careers in Hollywood, served in the US Army.
Some did it to earn a little cash in times when they struggled financially, while others wore the Army’s uniform to serve their country in times of war. Thankfully, nearly all of your favorite stars came back home safe, and they were able to tell their story. Here are some of them.
Sean Connery – British Royal Navy
He might be known as the ultimate James Bond actor, but Sean Connery once worked in the British Royal Navy. That must be where he learned his spy-moves from! The Scottish star joined when he was only 16, without even having proper health insurance.
Connery stayed in the military for three whole years. However, he faced many health issues that made his release essential. After leaving the Navy, he went on to attempt an acting career, growing into the Hollywood star he is today.
Gene Hackman – US Marines
While many popular actors take satisfaction in their time as soldiers, Gene Hackman wasn’t too thrilled about joining the US Marines back in 1946. His father had left the family and his mother struggled with alcohol abuse. Hackman wanted to leave home, so he lied about his age and become a US Marine.
In 1947, he was transferred to China, where he often served as a radio operator. He was later sent to Hawaii, but as he insisted, he got demoted three times since he had issues negotiating with power and discipline. Sounds like a perfect actor!
Rock Hudson – US Navy
Rock Hudson entered the US Navy in 1944, just after he had finished high school. We don’t know if he did it to boost his earnings or if it was an intentional act, but in any case, he obtained his training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
Soon afterward, he embarked on the military transport ship Lew Wallace, where he was eventually sent to the Philippines serving as an aircraft mechanic. He was released in 1946 when he had already returned to the US. It was only after that that he chose to take up acting!
James Garner – US Infantry
Before entering acting, James Garner was a respected US Veteran. He joined the US Merchant Marine way back in 1944 in order to make some cash. However, he later discovered that he experienced from severe seasickness, something that didn’t help at all!
Consequently, he enlisted in the California Army National Guard before joining the 5th Regimental Combat Team as a shooter. Garner then spent 14 months in Korea during the Korean War. He was hurt twice but he luckily survived. He was awarded many medals even though he never managed to become a sailor. Respect, sir!
Jimmy Stewart – US Air Force
Jimmy Stewart is thought of as the first Hollywood star to join the Army while in WWII. His first try to enlist came in 1940, but his weight didn’t match his height standards, so he returned in 1941 (after a lot of exercising!) and this time passing the tests.
He joined the Air Corps and was elevated to a squadron commander in the 445th Bombardment Group. Here, he led 20 combat operations across Europe. Stewart left the Air Force in 1968, and America gave him with a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service to his country
Yogi Berra – US Navy
Yogi Berra’s experience in the Army was marked with prominence, as the Yankees player took part in the notorious D-Day. Serving in the US Navy, Berra was on the USS Bayfield, a support boat where he was a shooter during the infamous landing at Omaha Beach. As he declared, he had also been deployed at Utah Beach as well.
Luckily, he came back to the US and his family, but he was obliged to visit a treatment center due to being injured on the battlefield. He was eventually awarded a Purple Heart, among other medals.
Montel Williams – US Marine Corps and Navy
The Montel Williams Show Star actually joined the US Marines in 1974, straight after his high school graduation. He completed a lot of training and exercise, and he ultimately became the first African American to finish his training both in the Naval Academy Prep School and in Annapolis.
Williams left the Marines in the late ’90s, on a Lieutenant Commander and Corporal ranks after also having served in submarines. He then worked as a mentor for young troops and their families, supporting them and helping them build their confidence.
Clifton James – US Army
Clifton James was an actor who grew to fame way back in the 1970s due to the roles he had on Live and Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, and The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. James had a very interesting time while he was a part of the U.S. Army since he was a well-decorated soldier platoon sergeant during WWII.
Difficulties due to diabetes was the ultimate cause of his death back in 2017. He was married twice and was a father of six children, who live on with him as an example.
Henry Kissinger – US Army
Kissinger used to be the National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in the United States for Presidents Nixon and Ford. Back in the late 1930s, Kissinger flew the Nazi Persecution after his family left Germany and went to London, UK.
They finally settled down in Manhattan, New York, and this is where he succeeded to get drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 20. With all that he has done for the country, we’re sure he was given the best of the best. In 1974, he married Nancy Maginnes, a woman known for her involvement in several charity organizations.
Josephine Baker – French Resistance
French-American entertainer Josephine Baker was just one of the women who helped her country for the greater good. Pretty modern for her time, Baker had chutzpah! During World War II, Baker was recognized for being a part of the French Resistance as a covert agent.
The French military even bestowed her the Croix de Guerre once the war was finished. After all, she must have really put her life at risk many times! She was 68 years old when she died at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital back in 1975, due to a brain hemorrhage.
Ernest Hemingway – Red Cross
When it comes to works like The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and For Whom The Bell Tolls, we have Ernest Hemingway to thank! He was able to observe different things during The Great War and this really became the inspiration for his writing.
He was a member of the Italian Red Cross as an ambulance driver. There was also a time where he ran a mobile canteen that served chocolates and cigarettes for the soldiers. Being in the war is hard, but had Hemingway not been there the world would have never been treated with his subsequent work!
Charlton Heston – US Air Force
Charles Heston was an actor whose work lasted for about 60 years. He gave extraordinary performances in famous movies like The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and The Greatest Show On Earth.
In the 1940s, Heston had been with the U.S. Air Force. He began as a radio operator but he ultimately became an aerial gunner. Heston, apart from his militia duties, had to battle prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease as well making him even more of a hero. Sadly, he died in 2008 due to pneumonia at the age of 84.
Oliver Stone – US Army
Oliver Stone is most recognized for being the filmmaker and writer behind famous movies like Platoon, Scarface, and Midnight Express. The Vietnam War was the main center of his movie Platoon and the story was so good because Stone had truly served in the Vietnam War.
Well, now it all makes total sense! He entered the U.S. Army in 1967 and went on combat duty. He received a number of awards during his entire military work. He is not yet entering retirement and is reportedly coming out with more acting roles to keep him busy.
Sidney Poitier – US Army
Sidney Poitier takes the honor as the first ever Bahamian-American actor to earn the Best Actor Award at the Academy and Golden Globe Awards. This was due to his superb performance in the movie, Lilies of the Field.
He had so many economic problems when he was younger and when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in the Second World War, he was forced to lie about how old he actually was. Luckily, he only worked as an aide for mental hospitals. Well, you can be valuable even if you are not on the battlefront!
Alec Guinness – Royal Navy
Star Wars star Alec Guinness was a successful actor from the 1940s all the way until the 1990s. During World War II, the original Obi served in the Royal Navy. He began out as a seaman but got advanced to sub-lieutenant and finally, lieutenant.
He was already really into acting throughout the war and he even requested for a temporary leave so that he could perform in the play, Flare Path. Of course, most of us will always remember him as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Unfortunately, Guinness passed away in 2000 from liver cancer.
Hugh Hefner – US Infantry
Hugh Hefner was seemingly the last man you’d assume to wear an Army uniform, however, it is right! The late Playboy founder had just stopped studying in the Steinmetz High School when he joined the US Army in 1944.
He wasn’t disposed to the battlefield; instead, he worked as an infantry clerk. He probably saw this as a form of training for his drawing and publishing skills, before finally being honorably discharged in 1946. From that period in time and onwards, we bet you are all accustomed to his story!
Johnny Cash – US Air Force
The world’s most popular country musician, Johnny Cash, had his part of serving in the Army when he joined the US Marines back in 1950. He practiced at the Lackland Air Force Base and at the Brooks Air Force Base in Texas, before getting drafted as a radio operator in Germany.
His work can be considered something similar to cybersecurity today, as he sought to intercept Russian Morse Code messages. He created his first band called The Landsberg Barbarians during his time in the Air Force, composing his first entry in his otherwise packed portfolio even before he was discharged from the army.
Sam Elliott – 163rd Airlift Wing
Sam Elliott might be famous as a gun-slinging cowboy of the Wild West, but in real life, he is more of a military man – at least for a while. Elliott did a short time in the California Army National Guard, working in the 163rd Airlift Wing and was situated on the Channel Islands.
Eventually, he got his first role as a cowboy on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In 2018, Elliott played Bobby Maine on the A Star Is Born remake, and it was critically acclaimed.
Paul Newman – US Navy
Paul Newman was a renowned actor who had a very impressive career from the 1960s through all the way to the 1980s. Prior to maturing to an actor, he was a noble member of the U.S. Navy.
He was also preparing to be a Navy V-12 pilot but they later dismissed him from the training program since he was actually color blind. Newman was 83 years old when he died in 2008 of lung cancer. It was believed that was the cause of his death, but it was never settled.
Humphrey Bogart – US Navy
Humphrey Bogart was in the United States Navy when WWI happened. He joined the Navy in 1918 as a teenager. The prominent scar he had on his upper lip was considered to have been from one of his adventures during his time on the Navy.
After the war, Bogart began a career on Broadway and finally became a big screen actor. He died in 1957 due to esophageal cancer, though we have no additional information if he had managed to improve his medical health insurance to combat it.
Carl Reiner – US Air Force
Carl Reiner is a comedian who also did some work behind the scenes in movies as a writer and director. He is one of the people who helped make The Dick Van Dyke Show. And still has a strong reputation in Hollywood today
Back in the 1940s, he worked as a corporal in the U.S. Air Force. He also had assignments as a translator and radio operator. Reiner is now an impressive 96 years old and he is known for Tweeting a lot to his 282k followers. Awesome!
Alan Alda – US Army Reserve
Most of us remember actor Alan Alda for providing life to the role of Hawkeye Pierce in the classic show, M*A*S*H. Alda first had a feeling of military training back when he was still a senior at Fordham University and matured one of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
After graduating, he worked at Fort Benning and traveled to Korea with the U.S. Army Reserve for about six months. He still appeared in television, even getting a role in the classic hit The West Wing.
Ernest Borgnine – US Navy
Soon after actor Ernest Borgnine was finished with high school, he chose to join the U.S. Navy. He loved helping his country and even if he was honorably released at one point, he still had the chance to return due to the Pearl Harbor attack.
Borgnine was permanently done with his Navy work in 1945 and this was when he had decided to pursue a path in Hollywood. He would be most recognized for performing in Marty, McHale’s Navy, and Airwolf. In 2012, the actor died of kidney failure.
Mickey Rooney – US Army
Mickey Rooney began an acting career at a very tender age, and he was already a successful actor while he joined the U.S. Army in the 1940s. He was a member of the Special Services who was hosting the American troops.
After his military stint, he later succeeded to continue on building an awesome acting portfolio and performed in films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He passed away in 2014 due to natural causes and old age.
Robert Duvall – US Infantry
Robert Duvall’s family had quite a few members who served in the US Army. Even his father was a Rear Admiral back in the day. Duvall considered taking a shot in the military and serving, so he decided to join the US Army back in 1953.
Many people don’t know that Duvall even took part in the Korean war. Although don’t let this fool you: his fighting experience was basically nothing at the time! He left the service in late 1954 as a Private First Class. He definitely made his parents proud of him, although the uniform wasn’t exactly what he wanted. While serving, he was already acting out of hours – paving the way for his career.
Steve McQueen – US Marines
The iconic Steve McQueen actually served in the US Marines between 1947 and 1950. However, his natural rebellion made his time in the Army a lot more difficult than he had hoped. Because of his behavior, was actually demoted to private seven times! This led him to go AWOL for two weeks.
Eventually, when the shore patrol finally found him, he was with a girlfriend and tried to resist arrest! Looking back, he defined his time in the Marines as generally a positive experience, admitting it helped with discipline and self-control.
Sammy Davis Jr. – US Infantry
In 1943, Sammy Davis Jr. had graduated from high school. Soon after, he joined the US Army during WWII. He has described his time then: his father always shielded him from bigoted views, and inside the Army, he soon was the subject to racism and mockery.
Luckily, he was transferred to an entertainment unit. This is where he started to make his fellow soldiers laugh by performing jokes in front of them. Even though it was a depreciating experience, it helped him with his mental health. He says it raised his confidence and his performance skills in front of audiences.
Mel Brooks – US Infantry
This comedian and filmmaker’s time in the Army happened during the tragic Second World War. He had just finished college when he joined the US Army. He served in the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion, even working up to the position of Corporal.
He was sent to Germany (as a soldier, not a Jew) where his official mission was to diffuse land mines. This was so that troops could advance towards Nazi targets. Of course, he returned home safely after the war and become the icon we all now love.
Bea Arthur – US Marine Corps Women’s Reserve
Bea Arthur never actually said that she served in the US Army. However, a few eager fans did some research and spotted official documents revealing that she once spent 30 months in the US Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. She signed up in 1943 when she was only 21 years old. Fans noticed that she served under her real name, Bernice Frankel.
Arthur primarily served as a truck driver while there. There are a few ideas why she never actually confirmed she served in the Army. Mainly, she needed treatment for venereal disease and never wanted anyone to know.
Tony Curtis – US Navy
According to Tony Curtis, joining the Army wasn’t part of Tony Curtis his plan. Instead, it was the attack on Pearl Harbor that inspired the iconic actor to enlist in the US Navy in order to help his country. He served in the Pacific Submarine Force between 1943 and 1945.
Throughout his life, he was always a strong supporter of US troops and veterans. When he died, he was buried with military honors due to his contribution to America’s historic win.
Zulay Henao – US Army
You might not have known that this gorgeous model and actress is actually a US vet. Henao served in the military for three years right after high school and before she entered her acting career.
After her time in the army, Zulay studied acting at the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. Today, she is famous for her roles in The Single Moms Club, True Memoirs of an International Assassin, and many others. Do you like her work?
Harvey Keitel – US Marine Corps
Instead of continuing education, actor and producer Harvey Keitel joined the United States Marine Corps when he was just 16. When he returned home, he became a court reporter for the news. Keitel worked for a couple of years before he realized he wanted to be an actor.
In 1967, he landed the lead role in Martin Scorsese’s first film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door. Since then, he’s had quite an impressive career and is still very active today. Keitel starred in the movie, The Last Man, and will appear in the upcoming biographical crime film The Irishman.
Johnny Carson – US Navy
Johnny Carson was in the Navy during World War II. He joined to fight for his country in 1943 and was a decoder of encrypted messages. When he returned, he eventually got a degree in journalism. His initial goal in life was to become a comedy writer. But like the rest of us, he changed his mind a few times and decided he wanted to work with the radio.
One thing led to another and he became the host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He would go on to become a pop culture icon in entertainment and win six Emmy Awards for his work.
Douglas is one of the last surviving actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 1941, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a communications officer. He stayed there until 1944. After returning to the real world, he decided he wanted to be an actor.
His debut was in 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. He went on to become a box-office star for many years. Now aged 102, he makes rare public appearances accompanied by his family members.
George Carlin – US Air Force
George Carlin joined the Air Force and he was initially trained as a radar technician. However, he was labeled an “unproductive airman” and discharged in 1957 – a sign of things to come! After the army, he created a comedy team and began performing with DJ Jack Burns.
In time, Carlin became one of the most famous stand-up comedians ever. Even today, he remains famous for his dark comedy and guts to take on all the tabooed subjects. Throughout his life, Carlin had heart problems and actually suffered three heart attacks, one of which ultimately killed him.
Mr. T – Military Police Corps
Mr. T, original name Laurence Tureaud, enlisted in the Army Military Police Corps only because he was expelled from Prairie View A&M University. Soon, he was promoted to squad leader but was soon discharged. ‘T’ then worked as a bouncer for nightclubs and created the persona, Mr. T. It was around the same time that he started wearing gold chains.
Apparently, he would collect the jewelry that clients would lose on their nights out. Today, Mr. T is a retired professional wrestler and actor. He is probably best known for his work on Rocky III and The A-Team. He stopped wearing his jewelry after the devastating Hurricane Katrina.
Bill Cosby – US Navy
Bill Cosby served in the Navy in 1956 where he acted as a hospital corpsman managing physical therapy for injured soldiers. From this, he got his high school equivalency diploma and got a scholarship to Temple University in 1961. He quickly left Temple to become an entertainer.
Cosby was the star of his own sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show and later conceived the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids animated series based on his characters. We’re not sure if character recovery is plausible for Bill who was accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 women. In September 2018, Cosby was convicted to 3 to 10 years in prison.
Owen Wilson – New Mexico Military Institute
Our favorite funny guy, Owen Wilson, once registered at the New Mexico Military Institute. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Wow!’ Imagining Wilson in a military uniform seems a bit amusing, as this man is a classic comic. He probably had the same feeling, and he never finished his studies nor did he continue his military practice.
After leaving the military institute, the famous actor went to the University of Texas, where he studied the Arts. This makes a lot more sense – Owen, you were born for comedy! Regardless, we thank him for his service.