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Celebrity Veterans

Before you knew them as actors, musicians, politicians and important personalities, these brave men and women served their respective countries in both times of war and times of peace. This page serves as nothing more than a way to honor that legacy of commitment and service.

1930s  l  1940s  l  1950s  l  1960s  l  1970s l  1980s  l  1990s  l  2000s  l  Home


Johnny Carson, US Navy 1943-1946

Johnny Carson (Entertainer)
(John William Carson)
b. 23 Oct 1925 – d. 23 Jan 2005
US Navy, 1943-1946 
(World War II) 

Admitted to the U.S. Navy's V-12 officer training program in 1943 and commissioned as an ensign in 1945, Johnny Carson reported for duty aboard the USS Pennsylvania on Aug. 14, just two days after the battleship had been hit by a kamikaze. As the new ensign on board, Carson was detailed to supervise the recovery of the bodies of sailors killed in the attack. He left the service in 1946.


Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Israeli Army, 1945-1948

Sharpshooter/Sniper Dr. Ruth Westheimer, 1940sDr. Ruth Westeimer (Counselor)
(Karola Ruth Siegel)
b. 4 Jun 1928 – d.
Israeli Army, Haganah,

In January 1939 Ruth was sent to Switzerland by her mother and grandmother after her father was taken by the Nazis. By 1941, both her parents were presumed dead and Westheimer was left on her own. At 17 she emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine, and dedicated to the building of a Jewish homeland, joined Haganah, an underground Jewish military organization. Despite her diminutive height (4’7”), she served as a sniper and a sharpshooter. Says Dr. Ruth of that interval:

When I was in my routine training for the Israeli army as a teenager, they discovered completely by chance that I was a lethal sniper. I could hit the target smack in the center further away than anyone could believe. Not just that, even though I was tiny and not even much of an athlete, I was incredibly accurate throwing hand grenades too. Even today I can load a Sten automatic rifle in a single minute, blindfolded.

My legs were almost ripped off on my 20th birthday in 1948 in Jerusalem from cannon ball shrapnel which exploded in the residence where I was living. Three others were killed instantly and many more were wounded. The metal pierced both my legs, and there was blood everywhere. A cannon ball from Jordan had smashed through the window. I was thrown 20 feet. The strangest thing was that all I could think about was whether there might be some blood on the brand-new shoes I had just gotten for my birthday, and amazingly there wasn't even a drop on them, which was all I cared about in some kind of strange denial.

Her service was cut short when Westheimer was seriously wounded in that attack on her birthday during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Her recovery was lengthy taking her several months to regain the ability to walk.



Hollywood Canteen - a place to write home about.

Judy Garland at the Hollywood CanteenThe Hollywood Canteen operated at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, California between October 3, 1942 and November 22, 1945 (Thanksgiving Day) as a club offering food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen, usually on their way overseas. Even though the majority of visitors were U.S servicemen, the Canteen was open to servicemen of allied countries as well as women in all branches of service. The serviceman's ticket for admission was his uniform and everything at the Canteen was free of charge.


The driving forces behind its creation were Bette Davis and John Garfield, along with composer Jules Stein, President of Music Corporation of America. Bette Davis served as its president and devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to the project . The various guilds and unions of the entertainment industry donated the labor and money for the building renovations. The Canteen was operated and staffed completely by volunteers from the entertainment industry. By the time the Canteen opened its doors, over 3000 stars, players, directors, producers, grips, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, technicians, wardrobe attendants, hair stylists, agents, stand-ins, publicists, secretaries, and allied craftsmen of radio and screen had registered as volunteers. Source Source

John Garfield Takes the stage with troopsBette greeting soldiers at the Canteen


Here's a short newsreel featuring footage from the Hollywood Canteen in its' heydey. Chock full of stars including Bette Davis, John Garfield, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Benny, Diana Durbin and more.



Mel Blanc, Claudette Colbert, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby


Leon Uris, US Marines 1942-1946

On patrol in the Negerev Desert during research for his book, ExodusLeon Uris (writer)
(Leon Marcus Uris)
b. 1924 – d. 2003
US Marines 1942-1946
(Field Radio Operator, Guadalcanal, Tarawa) 

During his senior year of high school in 1942, Leon dropped out of school to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was that of field radio operator. Following a period stationed in New Zealand, Uris served in combat on Guadalcanal and Tarawa as a radio operator, all experiences that would play a key role in his subsequent career. Later on, he became sick with malaria and was transferred back to the United States, to serve out the remainder of the war. Leon was finally discharged in 1946.

Drawing on his experiences in Guadalcanal and Tarawa he began a prolific career as a writer covering topics inspired by war and it’s atrocities. His first work, Battle Cry, a novel depicting the toughness and courage of U.S. Marines in the Pacific. He then went to write the movie, which was extremely popular with the American public. In 1955, Uris wrote The Angry Hills, dealing with the British campaign in Greece during World War II and based on the diary of an uncle of his who had been a member of the Palestine Brigade.

In 1956 Uris covered the Arab-Israeli fighting as a war correspondent. Two years later appeared Exodus, published by Doubleday & Company. The idea for the book evolved out of a conversation with the author and Malcolm Stuart, his agent.
Exodus, a novel chronicling Palestine from the 19th century through it’s transition into the state of Israel post WWII,  became an international publishing phenomenon, the biggest bestseller in the United States since Gone with the Wind.

He wrote three more novels based on his wartime experiences: 

  • Mila 18, about a Warsaw wartime ghetto
  • Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin which reveals the detailed work by British and American intelligence services in planning for the occupation and pacification of post WWII Germany.
  • QBVII about a Polish doctor in a German concentration camp.



Shaggy, US Marines, 1988-1992/3

Shaggy  (Musician)
(Orville Richard Burrell )
b. 22 Oct. 1968 – d.    
US Marines, 1988-1992
Operation Desert Storm 

In 1988 Shaggy joined the US Marine Corps. Stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he continued to pursue music in his free time, and often made the drive back to New York for recording sessions. During his service he was a Field Artillery Cannon Crewman in the 10th Marines during Operation Desert Storm. It was while leading marching cadences that he exercised and further developed his vocal talents.


Burgess Meredith, US Army Air Force, 1942-1945

Behind the scenes on an unknown movie set.Burgess Meredith (Actor)
(Oliver Burgess Meredith)
b.  16 Nov 1907 – d. 9 Sep 1997
US Army Air Force 1942-1945
(World War II) 

Already an established actor, on 27 Feb 1942, Burgess put his career on hold during and joined the United States Army Air Corps, where he eventually reached the rank of Captain. He transferred to the Office of War Information and was involved in making films for GIs. He was discharged in 1945 to work on the movie The Story of G.I. Joe, in which he starred as the popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle.

During his service, in 1943, Meredith starred in the military short film, Rear Gunner. A rousing recruitment film for the Army Air Corps where a young rural enlistee is initially disappointed with his job as an air mechanic, but his great marksmanship skills make him an ideal tail gunner . (Warner Brothers, 4/10/43 - 20 min.)

Watch the complete video, along with co-star Ronald Reagan, below: 



Tom Selleck, US National Guard 1967-1973

Tom Selleck
(Thomas William Selleck)
b. 29 Jan 1945 – d.
US National Guard 1967-1973, Served in Infantry, Honorary First Lieutenant 2002

Selleck served in the 160th Infantry of the California Army National Guard and was activated at the breakout of the Watts Riots. While a member of the Guard, Selleck attended the California Military Academy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Later, he appeared on recruitment posters for the California National Guard and the California Military Academy.

Throughout his career, Selleck continued his allegiance to the California National Guard and the military community, volunteering countless hours for public service announcements documenting National Guard contributions to the Nation, encouraging civilian employer support, and promoting recruitment and retention. In 2008, as the Spokesperson for the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund, he announced the campaign to build an educational center near the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.




Bill Cosby - US Navy 1956-1960

Sailor Bill Cosby's Basketball PortraitBill Cosby (Actor)
(William Henry Cosby Jr.)
b. 12 July 1937 - d. - 
US Navy 1956-1960 

Bill enlisted in the Navy in 1956 where his high IQ scores earned him training as a physical therapist, followed by assignment to the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Maryland. There he worked as a corpsman, helping to rehabilitate mostly Korean War veterans, a duty that he liked and at which he excelled. He was also sent briefly on board ship, from Newfoundland to Guantanamo Bay. Finally he was assigned to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.

He also ran track on the Navy's team, as well as played basketball and football, and completed his high-school diploma. It was in the Navy that he came to accept the fact of his above-average intelligence and concluded that not to do something with it would be a "mental sin." He was honorably discharged after four years of service in 1960. On the strength of his naval experience, in 1961 Cosby won a scholarship to Temple University, Philadelphia. He later received an M.A and Ed.D. (Education) at the University of Massachusetts.