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James Doohan, Royal Canadian Army (1938-1945)

James Doohan
b. 30 Mar, 1920 – d. 20 Jul 2005
Royal Canadian Army, 1938-1945
(World War II, Lieutenant 18th Field Artillery Regiment)

Star Trek’s loveable engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, AKA James Doohan, attended high school at the Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School (SCITS) in Ontario, Canada where he excelled in mathematics and science. His proficiency in these areas prompted him to join the 102nd Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps in 1938.

When Canada entered World War II, Doonan was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 13th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in the Royal Canadian Army. Doohan headed to England for additional training where he didn’t get to put it to real use until 1944. His first combat mission was a biggie, the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach (the Canadian one) on D-Day.

"The sea was rough," he recalled. "We were more afraid of drowning than of the Germans."

Shooting two snipers, Doohan led his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines, where they took defensive positions for the night. Crossing between command posts at 11:30 that night, Doohan was hit by six rounds of friendly fire courtesy of a Bren gun and an overzealous Canadian gunman. He took four shots in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger.  His right middle finger had to be amputated, something he kept hidden during his career as an actor. Miraculously, the bullet to his chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case, a gift from his brother he kept in his breast pocket. He would later give up smoking, but unlike almost every other ex-smoker, he could say that smoking actually saved his life once. 

It took a while, but Doohan recovered from his injuries and received his new orders. He trained as a pilot graduating from Air Observation Pilot Course 40, and flew Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft for 666 (AOP) Squadron, RCAF, in support of 1st Army Group Royal Canadian Artillery. All three Canadian (AOP) RCAF Squadrons were manned by Artillery Officer-pilots and accompanied by non-commissioned RCA and RCAF personnel serving as observers.

Although never actually a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Doohan was once labelled the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force." As the story goes Doohan was boasting of his piloting prowess and in the late spring of 1945, he dared to slalom a plane between mountainside telegraph poles to prove it could be done. The stunt, performed in a Mark IV Auster on the Salisbury Plain north of RAF Andover, earned him a serious reprimand. 

Perhaps his experience as a pilot allowed him to better connect to fans in his out-of-this-world role on Star Trek. Regardless, he inspired a new generation of engineers and was given an honorary degree in Engineering by the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1966. Apparently half of the students polled cited him as the inspiration for entering the field.


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