Star Trek fans know the iconic line, “Beam me up, Scotty,” all too well. In the original 1960s TV series and seven subsequent movies, Canadian actor James Doohan portrayed Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, aka “Scotty.” Before becoming an integral crew member aboard the starship Enterprise, Doohan served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was injured on June 6, 1944, while storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
The ‘Star Trek’ actor inspired a generation
Born in 1920 to Irish immigrants, James Doohan spent his early childhood living with his family in Vancouver. After high school, at 19, he enlisted in the Canadian military. After serving his country and fighting in World War II, the future Star Trek actor returned to Canada and began taking acting classes and working in radio.
According to All Things Interesting, by 1953, Doohan was landing bit parts in popular American TV series such as Bewitched, Twilight Zone, and Bonanza. In 1966, he “auditioned for a new NBC science-fiction series that would change his life — and the life of sci-fi fans — forever.”
Cast as the problem-solving engineer aboard a futuristic spaceship, Doohan — along with the other actors in the original series — inspired a generation of inventors and scientists.
Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator, was a man before his time, introducing space-aged gadgets that seemed impossible but came to fruition decades later. Star Trek changed the way people looked at the world, with ideas such as spacecraft propulsion and theoretical physics on display for viewers to dissect.
Forever a part of pop culture, Doohan died on July 20, 2005, due to complications from pneumonia. He was 85. According to All Things Interesting, “In a final tribute to his lasting influence on a generation of engineers, his ashes were sent into space in a private memorial rocket.”
James Doohan was a World War II hero
In 1944, James Doohan was one of 14,000 Canadian soldiers who landed in Normandy, France, on D-Day.
“Doohan was a commissioned lieutenant with the 14th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and was tasked with invading an area of Normandy code-named Juno Beach,” Snopes reports.
The Star Trek actor led his division unscathed across a beach filled with anti-tank mines. While trying to get to higher ground, Doohan killed two German snipers, saving the lives of those in his regime.
Later that night, while returning to his command post, Doohan was shot eight times. Four bullets hit his left knee and a fifth hit struck his chest. Fortunately, he had a silver cigarette case in his breast pocket that his brother had given him for good luck. The case deflected the bullet, and the young soldier survived the battle. In 1998, The New York Times reported that Doohan said, “I still have that cigarette case today.”
James Doohan lost his middle finger to friendly fire
The three remaining bullets shot off the middle finger on Doohan’s right hand. “It was not a German sniper. He had been shot by a nervous, trigger-happy Canadian sentry,” Snopes reports.
Later, when Doohan became an actor, he attempted to hide his missing finger, and sometimes a hand double filled in for close-up scenes. In the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles,” viewers got a quick glimpse of his injury.
“Doohan made a full recovery and even went back into the military before attending drama school and pivoting to acting,” BuzzFeed reports. His peers called him the “craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” because he flew a plane between two telephone poles “just to prove he could.”