100+ Celebrities Who Served in the Military
James Stewart initially enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps before the United States entered World War II. While in training, he took college courses with the goal of obtaining a commission, which he received after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He went through basic flight training and was trained in several different types of aircraft before being transferred to England as the commander of a B-24 bomber squadron. Stewart had flown 20 combat missions by the end of war, and after his active service was complete, he stayed in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. In July 1959, he was promoted to brigadier general.
“All in all, despite my problems, I liked my time in the Marines,” Steve McQueen once said. After a rough early life, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1947. But McQueen was inclined toward disobedience, to put it mildly, and he was demoted seven times. After a weekend pass turned into a two-week “vacation” of his own making, he was arrested, which earned him some time in the brig. During that period, he decided to reform himself. Later, McQueen was training in the Arctic when the ship he was on hit a sandbank. Several tanks and their crews were thrown into the water and many drowned, but McQueen was able to rescue five men.
Before “Wheel of Fortune,” Pat Sajak worked as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio — and he sometimes felt bad for how easy he had it. “I used to feel a bit guilty about my relatively soft duty,” he said. “After all, I was billeted (lodged) in a hotel, and there were plenty of nice restaurants around. But I always felt a little better when I met guys who came into town from the field and thanked us for bringing them a little bit of home.”
Long before Bill Cosby played Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, the funny-yet-firm TV dad, and even longer before his April 2018 conviction for sexual assault, he was a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman. From 1956 through 1960, Cosby served aboard ships and at the Bethesda Naval hospital where he worked with Korean War casualties. He was honorably discharged, and in 2011 he was given the title of honorary chief petty officer. The Navy has since revoked the title, citing the allegations that led to Cosby’s court troubles and stating that they conflict with the Navy’s core values.
During his career in the U.S. Navy, Bob Barker flew eight different airplanes. He originally enlisted and then stayed at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri to complete the two years of college he needed to qualify to become a naval aviation cadet. Reporting for duty in June 1943, he was commissioned as an ensign and trained at eight different wartime locations over 18 months.
Funny man, actor, director, writer — let’s just say the whole package, Carl Reiner is best known for his show where he was the producer, writer, and actor of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” During the 1940s, the draft had all-hands-on-deck policy, and Reiner was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943 where he rose to the rank of corporal.
Johnny Cash enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1950 and completed his training at Air Force bases in San Antonio, Texas. Cash was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Security Service in Germany as a Morse-code operator when he put together his first band. He served four years and was honorably discharged. Cash’s four daughters were born of his marriage to his first wife, Vivian, a native San Antonian who he met while in Air Force training.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)
Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, served in the military during World War II. He volunteered for the U.S. Army, leaving behind his budding career as a children’s author and illustrator. When the war hit, Geisel felt pulled to put his projects for younger readers on the back shelf and work on political cartoons instead. He created satirical cartoons aimed at Adolf Hitler and American isolationists such as Charles Lindbergh who was trying to keep the U.S. out of war. Geisel stated, “While Paris was being occupied by the clanking tanks of the Nazis, and I was listening on my radio, I found that I could no longer keep my mind on drawing pictures of ‘Horton the Elephant.’ I found myself drawing pictures of ‘Lindbergh the Ostrich.’”