Clark Gable enlisted at age 43 after losing wife Carole Lombard to the war effort, but some stars, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Stewart, were already in the service when the U.S. entered World War II. Others, like Gene Hackman and Harvey Keitel, did their service before becoming famous. (And both left home early to join up.)
Please join us in paying tribute to these famous veterans, who weren't just acting when they portrayed men in uniform.
He enrolled at age 18 after being expelled from prep school and was, according to naval records, a model sailor who spent most of his months after World War I ended ferrying troops back from Europe. Bogart supposedly got his trademark scar from a shrapnel wound while at sea, leading to his characteristic lisp.
Military roles: 'Sahara' (1943), 'Action in the North Atlantic' (1943)
Ronald Reagan: Captain, U.S. Army
Reagan enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve during peacetime (1937) and was already a Second Lieutenant when war broke out. He reported for active duty in 1942. His nearsightedness prevented him from serving overseas, however, and he spent the war doing armed forces PR in Culver City, California.
Military roles: 'This is the Army' (1943), 'Hellcats of the Navy' (1957)
Jimmy Stewart: Brigadier General, U.S. Army
Having enlisted before Pearl Harbor, Stewart was the first major American movie star to don a uniform in World War II. An avid pilot, Stewart already had his pilot's license and hours of pre-war flying experience. After he began flying combat missions, he was quickly promoted to Major and then Colonel, eventually becoming a Brigadier General after the war in the Reserves.
Military roles: 'The Glenn Miller Story' (1954), 'Strategic Air Command' (1955)
Clark Gable: Major, U.S. Army Air Corps
Enlisted after the tragic death of wife Carole Lombard in 1942. Spent most of the war in the U.K. making recruiting films on "special assignment." He did fly some combat missions, however, and earned a few medals. Adolf Hitler was a fan, sort of: He offered a price on Gable's head if anyone captured him, unharmed.
Military roles: 'Hell Divers' (1931), 'Run Silent Run Deep' (1958)
Henry Fonda: Quartermaster, U.S. Navy
Enlisted at the peak of his career in 1942, declaring, "I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio." Served for three years on the destroyer USS Satterlee and was later commissioned as a Lt. Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence and was awarded a Presidential Citation and the Bronze Star.
Military roles: 'Midway' (1976), 'In Harm's Way' (1965), 'The Longest Day' (1962)
Paul Newman: Radioman/Gunner, U.S. Navy
Enrolled in a Navy program, hoping to become a pilot, but was ineligible due to color-blindness. He instead became a radioman and gunner, stationed to torpedo bombers in Hawaii in 1944. He was on the USS Bunker Hill during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific theater.
Military roles: 'The Rack' (1956), 'Until They Sail' (1957), 'Fat Man and Little Boy' (1989)
Kirk Douglas: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
In his autobiography 'The Ragman's Son,' Douglas related that he applied for the Air Force, but failed their psychological test. He was able to join the Navy despite less-than-perfect eyesight, and became a Communications Officer in antisubmarine warfare. He received a medical discharge for war injuries in 1944.
Military roles: 'Paths of Glory' (1957), 'Seven Days in May' (1964), 'In Harm's Way' (1965)
George C. Scott: Guard/Instructor, U.S. Marines
Scott served the USMC from 1945 until 1949, and was assigned to the 8th and I Barracks in Washington, D.C, where he served as a guard at Arlington National Cemetery (a duty that drove him to drink, he said years later). He also taught English literature at the Marine Corps Institute.
Military roles: 'Dr. Strangelove' (1964), 'Patton' (1970), 'Taps' (1981)
Gene Hackman: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps
Military roles: 'Behind Enemy Lines' (2001), 'Crimson Tide' (1995), 'The Package' (1989), 'Bat 21' (1988)
In 1946 at 16 (he lied about his age), the future 'Unforgiven' star left home to join the Marines, where he reportedly served four-and-a-half years as a field radio operator. According to eDrive, Hackman's stint included assignments in China, Japan and Hawaii. His first showbiz gig was as a DJ on the Armed Forces Network.
Steve McQueen: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps
Joined up in 1947 and was quickly promoted to Private First Class, but -- much in keeping with his future tough-guy film image -- was demoted seven times due to insubordination. He also spent 41 days in the brig for going AWOL to be with his girlfriend. He eventually shaped up, saving the lives of five other Marines, and was honorably discharged in 1950.
Military roles: 'Hell Is for Heroes' (1962), 'The Great Escape' (1963), 'The Sand Pebbles' (1966)
Clint Eastwood: Swimming Instructor, U.S. Army
Drafted in 1950, during the Korean War. He was stationed at Fort Ord in California, where, thanks to his lifeguard training, he served as a swimming instructor. He saw the most action on leave: In 1951, a bomber he was in crashed in the ocean near Point Reyes. He and the pilot swam three miles to shore, a more-than-adequate prep for his role in 'Escape From Alcatraz.'
Military roles: 'Heartbreak Ridge' (1986), 'Kelly's Heroes' (1970), 'Where Eagles Dare' (1968)
James Earl Jones: First Lieutenant, U.S. Army
During college, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps and became a cadet in the Pershing Rifles Drill Team. Although the Korean War was underway, Jones wasn't activated until 1953. He says he was "washed out" of Ranger training and was instead sent to establish a cold weather training unit in Colorado.
Military roles: 'Clear and Present Danger' (1994), 'Gardens of Stone' (1987)
Harvey Keitel: U.S. Marine Corps
Like Gene Hackman, he left home at age 16 to join the Marines, ending up in Lebanon with Operation Blue Bat in 1958. In this 2003 interview, he said, "For me the Marine Corps was a spiritual journey. It's not about war. Our duty is to protect those who do not have the means to protect themselves."
Military roles: 'The Duellists' (1977), ' U-571' (2000), 'Fail Safe' (2000)
Elvis Presley: Private, U.S. Army
In 1958, Presley received his draft notice, but was granted a deferment to finish the film 'King Creole.' His induction was a media event, but he wanted to be treated like any other soldier and donated his Army pay to charity. He received basic training at Ford Hood, then joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. The hits kept coming during his two-year hiatus, thanks to the wealth of recordings he'd made pre-service.
Military role: 'G.I. Blues' (1960)
Dennis Franz: Airborne Division, U.S. Army
After graduating from college in 1968, Franz was drafted and immediately enlisted in officer's school. He served 11 months with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in Vietnam. "It was the loneliest, most depressing, frustrating time," he said in a 1995 interview. "It was life-altering. I came back a much different person than when I left, much more serious. I left my youth over there."
Military role: 'The Package' (1989)
Rob Riggle: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
This former 'Daily Show' correspondent, also seen in 'The Hangover' and 'The Other Guys,' has served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, earning over 19 medals and ribbons for heroism in combat. He is also a Public Affairs Officer with the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
Military role: President of the Navy on 'NTSF:SD:SUV' (TV series)
See also: Lee Marvin, Actors We Miss (The 'Dirty Dozen' star, an ex-Marine, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.)