These are the stories of the men who had achieved fame in Hollywood and served in the military during WWII.
8 months after the tragic death of his wife Carole Lombard (Click Here to read The Death of Carole Lombard: A Hollywood Patriot) Clark Gable enlisted in the Army Air Corps on August 12, 1942.
He enlisted as a private and was sent to the Officers’ Candidate School at Miami Beach, Florida, and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28. He twas then sent to aerial gunnery school and in February 1943, on orders from Gen. Hap Arnold, Gable went to England to make a documentary about aerial gunners in action, called Combat America (1945).
Gable was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group, and volunteered to fly operational missions over Europe in B-17s to obtain the combat film footage he believed was required for producing the movie.
During his 4th mission Gable came closest to death. While behind the top turret gunner, he was almost hit with a 20mm shell that had come through the flight deck. He flew 5 mission in all.
When he returned to the United States he was promoted to the rank of major. Gable left active duty in 1944 to transfer to the Reserves. His discharge papers were signed by Ronald Reagan, who was a captain.
Stewart was the first major star to enlist in the military (Army) and he did so prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Stewart had tried to enlist in November 1940 but was rejected for being underweight. Jimmy packed on some pounds and was accepted in February 1941.
Already an experienced pilot, Stewart served in the Air Corps and was given a commission as a second lieutenant on January 1, 1942.
The Army used Stewart’s celebrity in radio appearances and in the 1942 documentary Winning Your Wings. The film was nominated for an Oscar and led to the recruitment of 150,000 new troops into the Air Corps.
After spending over a year at Kirtland Army Airfield in Albuquerque, New Mexico he volunteered for combat missions in Europe and was sent to England in November 1943 and flew a B-24 Liberator in several combat missions.
On January 7, 1944, after a mission in Ludwigshafen, Germany Stewart was promoted to major. Stewart was promoted to full colonel on March 29, 1945, becoming one of the first Americans to ever rise from private to colonel in only four years.
In June 1945, Stewart was the presiding officer of the court martial of a pilot and navigator who accidentally bombed Zurich, Switzerland. Later that year he returned to the United States and was 1 of the 12 founders of the United States Air Force Association in October of the year.
During WWII Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions as deputy commander of the 2nd Bombardment Wing, and the French Croix de Guerre with palm and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
He continued to serve in the Air Force Reserves from 1947 to 1968 and retired at age 60 with the rank of brigadier general.
Robert “Wheezer” Hutchens
Hutchens, famous for starring in the Our Gang shorts as Wheezer enlisted in the Army after he graduated high school in 1943.
He enrolled in the Aviation Cadet Program with the goal of becoming a pilot.
Hutchens was tragically killed in a mid-air collision on May 17, 1945, while trying to land a North American AT-6D-NT Texan, at Merced Army Air Field. He was set to graduate from flight school the following week.
Reagan enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1937 and was called to active duty in April of 1942.
His first assignment on active duty was at Fort Mason, California, as a liaison officer of the Port and Transportation Office. On May 15, 1942, he was assigned to AAF Public Relations and subsequently to the 18th AAF Base Unit (Motion Picture Unit) at Culver City, California.
On January 14, 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant and was sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit of This Is the Army at Burbank, California. He returned to the 18th AAF Base Unit. After completing this duty Reagan was promoted to captain on July 22, 1943.
In January 1944, Reagan was ordered to travel to New York City to participate in the opening of the Sixth War Loan Drive, which campaigned for the purchase of war bonds.
By the end of the war, his unit had produced nearly 400 training films for the Air Force. He left active duty on December 9, 1945, as an Army captain.
On October 12, 1942, Romero enlisted in the United States Coast Guard as an apprentice seaman and was assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations. He served aboard the USS Cavalier in November 1943 and saw action during the invasions of Tinian and Saipan.
Fonda joined the Navy on August 22, 1942. He was 37 years old.
After basic training, Fonda went to Quartermaster School. He graduated in the top 10 of his class of 200. He was briefly assigned to the destroyer USS Satterlee as quartermaster third class. After this, Fonda underwent the application process to become an officer. Due to his advanced age, Fonda was commissioned at the rank of lieutenant, junior grade, instead of ensign.
Fonda assisted in the planning and execution of air operations for the Marianas, Western Carolines, and Iwo Jima campaigns. For his involvement in the planning of these missions, Fonda was awarded a Bronze Star. Although Fonda left active duty in November 1945, he remained a reserve officer until 1948.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Fairbanks’ Naval Service began shortly prior to the entry of the United States into World War II, when he was appointed lieutenant in the US Naval Reserve on 17 April 1941. Later that year President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him a special envoy to South America.
Fairbanks served on the cruiser USS Wichita during the disastrous Convoy PQ 17 operation.
Fairbanks was subsequently transferred to Virginia Beach where he came under the command of Admiral H. Kent Hewitt. Fairbanks convinced Hewitt and Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations of the advantages of a military deception unit. King then issued a secret letter on March 5, 1943, charging the Vice Chief of Naval Operations with the recruitment of 180 officers and 300 enlisted men for the Beach Jumper program.
The Beach Jumpers’ mission was to simulate amphibious landings with a very limited force. Operating dozens of kilometers from the actual landing beaches and utilizing their deception equipment, the Beach Jumpers would act as decoys to lure the enemy into believing that they were the primary landing party.
The United States Navy Beach Jumpers performed their first mission Operation Husky, which was the invasion of Sicily. For the remainder of the war, the Beach Jumpers conducted their dangerous, shallow-water missions throughout the Mediterranean region.
For his part in planning the diversion-deception operations Fairbanks was awarded the United States Navy’s Legion of Merit with bronze V, the Italian War Cross for Military Valor, the French Légion d’honneur and the Croix de Guerre with Palm, and the British Distinguished Service Cross.
Fairbanks was also awarded the Silver Star for valor displayed while serving on PT boats in Northern Africa in 1942.
Additional assignments for Fairbanks included an assignment to Lord Mountbatten’s Commando staff in the UK and time aboard the USS Wichita.
Fairbanks stayed in the US Naval Reserve after the war and ultimately retired as a captain in 1954.
Famous for starring in Chaplin’s The Kid (and later as Uncle Fester on The Addams Family), Coogan enlisted in the Army in March 1941. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor Coogan volunteered for glider pilot duty in the Army Air Corps since he had flying experience. Upon graduation from Advanced Glider School, he volunteered for hazardous duty with the 1st Air Commando Group.
In December 1943, the 1st Air Commando Group was sent to India. While there, Coogan successfully flew British troops, the Chindits, under the cover of night, to a small jungle clearing 100 miles (160 km) behind Japanese lines in the Burma Campaign.
If You Liked This Article Then Check Out –
The California Homes of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard – Click Here
To read about the home of Jimmy Stewart and his famous neighbors (including Lucille Ball and Jack Benny) – Click Here
To learn about Pickfair, the home of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford – Click Here