Popular Celebrities Who Served in the US Military

Hollywood and the military have a long history together. The entertainment industry has been involved in creating propaganda, but it also created work criticizing the politics around world conflicts. This is because many actors and directors are veterans and used their experiences in their work.

So which popular celebrities served? Here are popular celebrities who served in the U.S. military and the surprising experiences they’ve had from lying to enlist and weird reasons they were punished or discharged. You won’t believe which surprising Golden Girls star served in the Marines during World War II (page 9)!

1. Clint Eastwood

Military Technical Advisor Sgt. Major James Dever

Military Technical Advisor Sgt. Major James Dever and director Clint Eastwood | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

  • Eastwood survived a Navy plane having to land on water.

The iconic actor was drafted during the war in Korea and went to Ft. Ord in California for basic training, according to Military.com. He was once on a Navy plane returning from his visit home in Seattle and it experienced engine trouble to the point where it had to land on water off of San Francisco. The website claims he swam over a mile to get to shore. He was later discharged in 1953.

Eastwood eventually directed Sully, a movie about the true story of Chesley Sullenberger landing a plane in the Hudson River saving the passengers and crew. That’s when he opened up more about his personal experience.

We went down at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon,” Eastwood said according to The Hollywood Reporter. “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.”

The movie’s star, Tom Hanks also talked about Eastwood’s experience going into directing the movie. “He almost died! He almost froze in the water!” Hanks said according to The Hollywood Reporter. “I mean, no one else but Clint could have or should have made this movie.”

Next: This Star Wars star joined the Marines after 9/11.

2. Adam Driver

Staff Sergeant, US Army Michael Kacer and Actor Adam Driver at the 10th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event

Staff Sergeant, US Army Michael Kacer and Actor Adam Driver attend as the 10th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event | Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

  • The actor was discharged for getting injured from biking.

The actor grew into star status through his role of Kylo Ren in Star Wars. But before that, he joined the Marines after 9/11 and went through two years of basic training before getting discharged. He was injured from mountain biking.

“There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away,” Adam Driver told The Guardian “that whole clarity of purpose thing. It becomes very clear to you, when you get your freedom back, that there’s stuff you want to do.”


Next: This music icon was in Germany during his duty.

3. Elvis Presley

receives his first bundle of mail at the Friedberg US Army base in Germany

Elvis Presley receives his first bundle of mail at the Friedberg US Army base in Germany | Keystone/Getty Images

  • The music icon 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 history-making actor lied about his age to join the Army.

4. Sidney Poitier

Diahann Carroll and Sidney Poitier are seen on stage at the 36th NAACP Image Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 19, 2005 in Los Angeles, California.

Diahann Carroll and Sidney Poitier | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

  • 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. He then pretended to be insane to leave nine months later. He went on to become the first black performer to win an Academy Award.

Next: This martial arts actor started learning the craft in the military.

5. Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris poses with U.S. military members at the drivers meeting prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500

Chuck Norris poses with U.S. military members at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 | Robert Laberge/Getty Images

  • The actor started his martial arts training while serving.

The actor was in the Air Force and was stationed in Korea. It was there that he started learning Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do according to Military.com. He was eventually discharged in 1962.

Next: This celebrity was in the Army before he made his famous magazine.

6. Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner poses at Playboy's 60th Anniversary special event

Hugh Hefner | Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Playboy

  • After serving, the Army wasn’t really a fan of his work.

Hugh Hefner served in the Army for two years during World War II. This is interesting given anti-porn lobbyist later reportedly pressured the Pentagon to keep Playboy magazine away from troops, according to The Washington Post.

Next: This rapper got in trouble in the Army for reportedly stealing this.

7. Ice-T

Hip-hop artist Ice-T

Ice-T | Brad Barket/Getty Images for CBGB

  • The rapper reportedly was in a group that stole a rug.

The actor joined the Army after high school and served four years. According to Military.com, he was involved with a group who stole an infantry rug and deserted. After a month, the rug was recovered and Ice-T completed his training with a non-judicial punishment. After serving he started his hip-hop career.

Next: This actor was discharged for injuries.

8. Kirk Douglas

Undated portrait of actor Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas made his Broadway debut in 1941, served in the US Navy, and embarked on a screen career in 1946. | AFP/AFP/Getty Images

  • 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 actress was in the Marines during World War II.

9. Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur accepts The Quintessential Non-Traditional Classic Family award for 'The Golden Girls'

Actress Bea Arthur accepts The Quintessential Non-Traditional Classic Family award for ‘The Golden Girls’ during the TV Land Awards 2003 | Kevin Winter/ Getty Images

  • The actress joined the Marines when it wasn’t as common for women.

The Golden Girls star served in the Marines Corps during 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 wrote in a letter 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 in the service.

10. Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman arrives at the premiere of 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

Gene Hackman arrives at the premiere of “The Royal Tenenbaums,” in Los Angeles| Lucy Nicholson /AFP/Getty Images

  • Hackman admitted that he was not a good Marine.

The Oscar winner talked about 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,” he said.

The actor has been known to be difficult and he admitted he was the same back then. “I have trouble with direction because I have trouble with authority. I was not a good Marine. I was — I made Corporal once and was promptly busted. And I just have always had trouble with authority.”

Next: This television star served during the Vietnam War.

11. Tom Selleck

Actor Tom Selleck| Vince Bucci/Getty Images

  • The actor 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, I’m proud of it,” Tom Selleck said according to Military.com “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 fellow actor and veteran worked with Tom Selleck.

12. Isaiah Washington

Actor/producer Isaiah Washington arrives to the Outfest Fusion LGBT People of Color Film Fetival Opening Night Screening of 'Blackbird'

Isaiah Washington | Alberto E. Rodriguez/ Getty Images

  • Tom Selleck invited the actor to stay on his show.

The actor served in the Air Force for four years and really bonded with Tom Selleck over that when he appeared on Blue Bloods.

He 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 said according to 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 chopped down this many trees as a punishment.

13. Mr. T

Mr. T with his mohawk and big chain looking serious

Mr. T. | Brad Barket/Getty Images

  • 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.”

14. Jimi Hendrix

Rock guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix | Evening Standard/Getty Images

  • 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.

Next: This producer joked about his job in the service.

15. Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks speaks at the 36th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

Mel Brooks | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

  • Brooks reportedly had a tough job but he can joke about it.

The Oscar winner was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was a combat engineer and had to defuse landmines, according to Military.com. “I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering,” Mel Brooks said according to US Army Corps of Engineers.

Follow Nicole Weaver on Twitter @nikkibernice.

Read more: 15 Actors Who Always Play the Villain

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