Popular Celebrities Who Served in the US Military
Hollywood and the military have a long history together. The film industry has created both critiques and propaganda about politics and global conflicts. And many actors and directors are veterans. So which popular celebrities served in the U.S. military? Here are their experiences, from lying to enlist to being discharged.
You won’t believe which Golden Girls star served in the Marines during World War II (page 10).
1. Clint Eastwood
- Clint Eastwood survived a forced water-landing in a Navy plane.
- He later directed Sully, the true story of a plane landing on the Hudson River.
Drafted into the Korean war, the actor went to California’s Fort Ord for basic training, reports Military.com. After visiting Eastwood’s Seattle home, his plane had engine trouble and was forced to land on water off of San Francisco. The website claims he swam over a mile to get to shore.
Eastwood later directed Sully, the true story of Chesley Sullenberger saving his passengers and crew by landing his plane on the Hudson River. Sully‘s star, Tom Hanks, discussed Eastwood’s experience with directing the movie. “He almost froze in the water! I mean, no one else but Clint could have or should have made this movie.” Eastwood also discussed his experience:
We went down at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I could see the Marin County coast from a distance. I don’t know how far it was — it seemed like 50 miles, but it was probably a mile or two. Then it got dark. It was quite a way into nightfall before we reached it.
Next: This Star Wars star joined the Marines after 9/11.
2. Adam Driver
- Adam Driver was discharged for a bike injury.
The actor joined the Marines after 9/11 and completed two years of basic training before getting discharged after a mountain bike injury. Later, Driver became a star as Kylo Ren in Star Wars. He told The Guardian. “There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away … When you get your freedom back, there’s stuff you want to do.”
Next: This rapper got punished for stealing while serving in the Army.
- The rapper, along with other soldiers, reportedly stole a rug.
The actor joined the Army after high school. Military.com reports he was involved with a group who stole an infantry rug and deserted. A month later, the rug was found and Ice-T finished training with non-judicial punishment. He began his rap career after serving four years in the Army.
Next: This music icon was sent to Germany to fulfill military duties.
4. Elvis Presley
- “The King of Rock and Roll” served two years in the military.
Before he became a music icon, Elvis Presley served in the military and was a member of two battalions. He served in Germany from 1958 to 1960 before leaving active duty and getting discharged.
Next: This actor lied about his age to join the Army.
5. Sidney Poitier
- The Academy Award-winner lied to join but quickly changed his mind.
According to CNN, Sidney Poitier lied about his age and joined the Army at 16 years old. Then, he pretended to be insane to leave nine months later. The Lilies of the Field actor went on to become the first black performer to win an Oscar.
Next: This mustached TV star served during the Vietnam War.
6. Tom Selleck
- Tom Selleck was drafted and is proud of his service.
The Blue Bloods star was drafted during the Vietnam War then joined the California National Guard. He served from 1967 to 1973. “I am a veteran,” Selleck said. “I’m proud of it. I was a sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry, National Guard, Vietnam era. We’re all brothers and sisters in that sense.”
Next: This martial-arts actor started learning the craft in the military.
7. Chuck Norris
- Chuck Norris began martial arts training while serving.
The actor was in the Air Force. While stationed in Korea, he started learning Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do, according to Military.com. He was eventually discharged in 1962.
Next: A military beginning for this scandalous magazine editor
8. Hugh Hefner
- The Army wasn’t really a fan of Hugh Hefner’s work even though he served for two years.
During World War II, Hefner served in the Army for two years during World War II. Later, anti-porn lobbyists allegedly pressured the Pentagon to keep Playboy magazine away from troops, reports The Washington Post.
Next: This producer joked about his high-pressure job in the service.
9. Mel Brooks
- Mel Brooks had one of the most intense Army jobs: diffusing bombs.
The Oscar winner was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was a combat engineer and had to defuse landmines. “Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering,” Mel Brooks said according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Next: This Golden Girl was a Marine during World War II.
10. Bea Arthur
- Bea Arthur joined the Marines when it wasn’t common for women.
The Golden Girls star served as a Marine in World War II. “I was supposed to start work yesterday but heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so [I] decided the only thing to do was to join,” the actress explained, according to Mental Floss. She went from a private to staff sergeant before getting discharged.
Next: This difficult actor also didn’t take direction well as a Marine.
11. Gene Hackman
- Gene Hackman admitted he was not a good Marine.
The Oscar winner discussed joining the military with Larry King. “I went in the Marines when I was 16. I spent four and a half years in the Marines and then came right to New York to be an actor,” Hackman said.
Known to be difficult, he admitted he was the same as a Marine. “I have trouble with authority. I was not a good Marine … I made Corporal once and was promptly busted. And I just have always had trouble with authority.”
Next: This fellow actor and veteran worked with Tom Selleck.
12. Isaiah Washington
- Tom Selleck invited the actor to stay on his show.
The actor served in the Air Force for four years, bonding with Tom Selleck over the experience while on Blue Bloods. “[Selleck] was very excited to have me there because I’m former military; he fell in love with the idea that I could really salute,” Isaiah Washington told the New York Post. “He said, ‘Can you please just stay on the show so you can consult the other actors coming in and teach them how to salute?'”
Next: This actor was discharged for injuries.
13. Kirk Douglas
- Kirk Douglas was medically discharged from the Navy.
The Spartacus star served in the Navy from 1942 to 1944. He enlisted and worked as a gunnery and a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare, according to Together We Served. He was medically discharged for war injuries.
Next: This actor chopped down this many trees as a punishment.
14. Mr. T
- The person who punished Mr. T reportedly didn’t tell him how many trees to chop down.
The actor enlisted in the Army and served in the Military Police Corps and was promoted to Squad Leader. According to Military.com, he was given the punishment of chopping down trees and ended up chopping down over 70. He was later discharged.
Next: This iconic musician was discharged for “behavioral problems.”
15. Jimi Hendrix
- Hendrix’s service reportedly started and ended with scandal.
The iconic guitarist enlisted to the 101st Airborne Division to avoid prison for riding in stolen cars, according to Complex. He was later discharged for “behavioral problems” which was reportedly masturbating in platoon areas.
Follow Nicole Weaver on Twitter @nikkibernice.
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