Anyone Can Be A Soldier
(January 22, 2008)
We hear a lot of media hype today about
"heroes", and almost without notice wartime analogies and terms
have slipped into sports writing and news broadcasts.
Tinseltown's movies display hype-casting and false visions of
war and use actors who have never worn a military uniform except
out of the wardrobe department. Quarterbacks, goalies, and
pitchers are said to be "soldiering through" their pain, coaches
are referred to as "field generals" who strategize ways to bring
their "troops" to victory. And Tom Hanks really looks the part
of a tough soldier in Searching for Private Ryan.|
In Hollywood all it takes is the right costume
and a good script-and sometimes, even those basics are not required.
Jack L. Key
Many of Hollywood and the sports world's
finest have taken on the role of soldiers in film or TV stories,
but only a few have actually served in the U.S. military.
Whether they were called to duty in past military drafts or
volunteered for one of the services, those who served didn't
always return unscathed and left the service with the physical
and emotional scars of battle. Some didn't return at all. Most
recently, Arizona Cardinals football safety Pat Tillman of the
U.S. Army's rangers, killed in action in Afghanistan.|
A number of Hollywood's greatest stars served in both World Wars
and Korea. Humphrey Bogart, Audie Murphy, Lee Marvin, James
Arness, Gene Autry, Clark Gable and James Stewart were noted for
their service. Most of America's Astronauts up through the
present were also members of the military.
Bogart-Bogie, as he was known-joined the U.S. Navy in May, 1918
during WWI and was assigned as a coxwain on the USS Leviathan
(SP-1326). There are several stories as to how Bogart acquired
the scarred and partially paralyzed upper lip that later
accounted for his characteristic lisp and tight-set mouth, but
whatever happened most likely took place while he was serving on
the Leviathan. He was escorting a prisoner who tried to escape
by hitting Bogart in the mouth. But Bogie, whose upper lip was
almost torn off and bleeding profusely, chased down the prisoner
and only after he was locked up did Bogart get medical attention
for what would become his trademark look.
Audie Murphy was the son of poor Texas sharecroppers but will be
remembered as the most decorated soldier of World War II. He
received 33 awards and decorations, including the Medal of
Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given.
Beginning service as a private, he received a battlefield
commission as a lieutenant. He fought in nine major campaigns in
Europe, was wounded three times and became a legend in the 3rd
Infantry Division. After being invited to Hollywood by the
legendary James Cagney, Murphy starred in 26 films in 15 years.
He suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome, insomnia and
depression from his war experiences and was killed in a plane
crash near Roanoke, VA in 1971. Audie Murphy was buried in
Arlington National Cemetery near the Tomb of the Unknowns with
full military honors.
Lee Marvin was known for playing tough military men in his movie
career, and he probably pulled from his actual military
experiences while filming some of his more memorable roles.
After problems in high school, Marvin joined the Marine Corps
during World War II as a private. During the invasion of Saipan
in 1944, he was one of only nine survivors in his unit.
Seriously wounded when a bullet severed his sciatic nerve, he
was awarded the Purple Heart and shipped home. After working as
a plumber's assistant, he finally made his big-screen debut with
an unaccredited part in USS Teakettle, which starred Charles
Bronson and Eddie Albert, both of whom, like Marvin, served in
the U.S. military. After achieving major star status and the
Academy Award for Cat Balleu, Marvin died of a heart attack and
is also buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
James Arness-of Gunsmoke fame-led his unit at the landings at
Anzio, Italy in World War II. He was 6 feet seven inches tall
and the brother of fellow actor Peter Graves who later also
served in the U.S. Air Force. Arness was seriously wounded in
action, and was decorated with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
After the war, John Wayne spotted him for Gunsmoke, a role Wayne
had turned down. Incidentally, John Wayne, perhaps the screen's
leading war movie hero, never served in the military, having
been rejected for physical reasons. James Arness played Marshall
Matt Dillon on TV's Gunsmoke for 20 years.
Other notables of screen legend who served their country in
military service were James Stewart, a general in the Air Force
during Korea and the Cold War, Gene Autry, America's "Singing
Cowboy", and Clark Gable, perhaps the screen's biggest legend
and star of Gone With The Wind. Both Autry and Gable served in
World War II
Maybe it's time we chucked today's make-believe "heroes" of
Hollywood and sports and let our children admire some real ones
again-those who have earned honor and dignity for bravery and
courage in the service of America, instead of those who just
Washington, D.C. provides us with quite enough make believe,
Jack L. Key
Jack L. Key, Ph.D. is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a retired healthcare professional. He is the author of several books and frequently writes features articles and commentary for the Internet and Prints media.
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