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Celebrities Who Served In The Military



In the days before celebrities rose to fame on the internet, most of them had steady journeys to stardom, some of which included services in the military. This was especially common amongst “The Greatest Generation,” who were celebrities born from 1928-1945. But younger stars have enlisted too!
From movie stars to music greats, many entertainers of past generations had military tenures. Not only does this show their versatility and selflessness for serving their country, but it proved they were willing to work their way through any ranks. Read ahead to learn more about Hollywood’s greatest veterans.

Drew Carey

Carey has been all over the place on TV, but he is best known for his time on Whose Line is it Anyway?, and more recently, The Price is Right. Back in 1980, Carey was a member of the Marine Corps, and the crew cut and thick glasses from his time actually became his signature look. In fact, Carey began his stand-up career in the army, and all of his fellow soldiers and comrades loved it.

Clint Eastwood

Eastwood’s military career started back in the 1950s when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Fortunately, Eastwood didn’t get sent to serve in the Korean War. Instead, he was assigned to Fort Ord. During the war, he ended up as a military lifeguard. A man also stationed at the fort was the one who gave him the connections that would launch his acting career.

Bea Arthur

During her lifetime, Bea fervently denied that she had served in the military, but many still suspected that she had been enlisted. On her deathbed, she finally revealed that she had served in the Marine Corps for 30 months. In fact, she was one of the first to belong to the Women’s Reserve. During her time, her jobs ranged from being a typist to a truck driver.

James Doohan

Although he died in 2005, James Doohan is still very much remembered, particularly for his role in Star Trek as Scotty. Back when he was 19, Doohan decided to join the Canadian Armed Forces, and he witnessed combat during World War II. He was even on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Doohan suffered several bullet wounds, at one point losing one of his fingers. In one lucky instance, a bullet grazed by a pack of cigarettes in his pocket and missed his body, just barely.


Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known as Ice-T, is now a famous musician and actor. His past though, is mostly kept under wraps. He joined the military straight out of high school and stayed for four years. After that, he decided to try his hand at music. Needless to say, that line of work turned out well for him. His career also includes appearances on Law & Order: SVU, among many others.

Don Knotts

A rumor circulated about Don Knotts being a drill sergeant, but sadly, there is no truth to these rumors. Back in 1943, Knotts was drafted into the United States Army, but he never saw any combat. In fact, he was assigned to the South Pacific. His Job? Army entertainer. This may have been the best job for Knotts, and we can be sure that there were many laughs from the soldiers, thanks to him.

Bob Ross

The smiling painter actually was a bit tougher than most people would think. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Armed Forces, and over his 20 year career, he ended up being a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He spent a significant amount of time stationed in Alaska, and he later would say that this helped to inspire some of his serene artwork.

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton was a small man from Kansas, and it was clear that he would always be an entertainer. He did get drafted into the United States Army, but even the Army couldn’t contain his slapstick humor. During his time, he was said to have dressed up as an officer, and he proudly strutted around the base. One night, he snuck off to go see his girlfriend, and he was never caught!

Morgan Freeman

Back in 1955, Morgan Freeman had no plans for acting, and he had just enlisted in the Armed Forces. In fact, he rejected a scholarship to join the military. After four years, he was promoted to Airman 1st Class, and he soon left the military to start acting. Finally, in 1964, he made his movie screen debut, and the acting world was never the same.

Ted Williams

Ted Williams never went to college, but he quickly became a professional baseball player. He signed his first professional contract when he was just 17 years old. During his Hall of Fame career, Williams took time to become a United States Marine. He narrowly escaped Vietnam when he was able to crash land his damaged aircraft. Thankfully, he made it out alive and was able to return to baseball.

Don Rickles

After many years in the entertainment industry, it’s safe to say that Rickles was a great comedian and actor. During World War II, he served in the Navy, and although he wanted to be an entertainer in the service, he didn’t get his wish. Nevertheless, he definitely helped lift the morale of his fellow crew members.

MC Hammer

Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, began his career in the United States Navy. He has always been proud of his service, and only after that time did he begin to produce music. Since his leap into the musical world, he has gained fortune and fame. He is now a memorable icon in American music history.

Jimmy Stewart

The legendary actor flew over 400 hours as a pilot, but he initially tried to join the army. Sadly, he was underweight and didn’t make the cut. He later bulked up and joined the Air Corps. In 1944, he started to fly combat missions, and he really enjoyed the test of flying. Ultimately, he was promoted to Brigadier General in 1959; a position that many wouldn’t assume of the soft-spoken actor.

Mel Brooks

Despite wanting to pursue a degree in psychology, Brooks was drafted into the army. He was assigned to the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion, and eventually became a corporal. Mel directly combatted Hitler during his time in service. He defused a lot of landmines, and frankly, he’s lucky to have made it out alive. Defusing landmines was one of the most hazardous jobs at the time.

Charles Bronson

Bronson may have the most distinguished military career on this list. After enlisting in 1943, he worked as an army gunner, and finally, an aircraft gunner. A couple years later, he became part of the crew for a B-29 Flying Fortress, and his team was sent to Guam. Bronson flew 25 missions, and earned a Purple Heart for being wounded in action.

Jimi Hendrix

The legendary musician not only contributed to the culture, he also contributed to his country. He was forced into the army through the draft, and it turned out that he was a pretty bad soldier. Hendrix was known for napping and playing hooky. Fortunately, he found his niche after the army, and carved out his place in American music history.

Hugh Hefner

Hugh was a soldier during WWII and after graduating school, he became an infantry clerk. When he went through basic training, he won some prestigious honors. His main accomplishment was earning a badge for sharpshooting with the M1. During his stay, he contributed cartoons to the army newspapers at Camp Adair and Camp Pickett.

Elvis Presley

Elvis was drafted in 1958, and served for two years. He was offered a spot in the Special Services, where he could entertain the troops. Surprisingly, Elvis turned down the position, and became a standard soldier instead. While serving in West Germany, he met Priscilla Beaulieu, who would later become his wife. Sadly, this was also the time in his life when he developed an addiction to drugs.

Michael Caine

Before he was a famous actor, Sir Michael Caine served during the Korean War as a rifle infantryman in the British Army. His battle-hardened days has given him a very no-nonsense view of the world he has spoken favorably of the military ever since, even stating that he believes every person should have to serve at least six months.

Sean Connery

At just the age of 16 a young Sean Connery enlisted in the Royal Navy. He could only serve for three years, however, as he had to be discharged due to a stomach ulcer. Perhaps it was his military training that prepared him for his Bond years!

Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston is best known for his work in Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, and Planet of the Apes, but long before he became a cinema icon he served during WWII in the Air Forces. For two years he served as an aerial gunner and a radio operator in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, eventually attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Chuck Norris

Apparently Chuck Norris has pretty much been a badass his entire life, because he’s had extensive experience with the military since 1958 when he was an Air Policeman. In fact, it was in the military that had got the name Chuck. It was also during this time that he learned Tang Soo Do, jettisoning his career in martial arts.

Leonard Nimoy

Not much is known concerning Leonard Nimoy’s time in the Army Reserves given the fact that the records were destroyed in a fire in 1973, but he did enlist in the early ‘50s, in which he served for 18 months. By the time he was discharged in 1955, he had earned the rank of Sergeant. Perhaps it was this time in the Army that prepared to play such a stoic role in Star Trek!

Steve McQueen

McQueen didn’t necessarily join the military out of a sense of duty, but rather because he simply had nowhere else to go after years of holding dead end jobs. Soon after joining the Marines in 1947, he was promoted to Private First Class but found himself being demoted and then promoted seven different times. After going awol for two weeks, he was apprehended and held in the brig for 41 days.

Mr. T

Before he was M. T, Laurence Tureaud served during the mid-’70s in the Army’s Military Police Corps. Soon after joining, he was awarded “Top Trainee of the Cycle” out of 6,000 troops and promoted to Squad Leader. He got into some serious trouble when his platoon sergeant ordered him to cut down trees by hand. After three and a half hours, he had felled 70 trees! The platoon sergeant was frustrated that he had never specified exactly how many trees his Squad Leader should cut down.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash started out as a high school dropout in 1950 and joined the Air Force just as the Korean War was dawning. The majority of his four years enlisted was spent in Germany. Due to his impeccable sense of rhythm and timing, Cash mastered Morse code and became an intercept operator with the USAF Security Service.

Johnny Carson

You might not assume it based off of his funnyman persona, but the famous television host was a Navy-enlisted military man in 1943. He had hopes to become a pilot, but was instead transferred to Columbia University to become a midshipman. It was during this time that he cultivated his love for magic tricks, performing them for his fellow shipmates.

Montel Williams

Montel served what would be considered a lifetime career from 1974 – ‘96. He’s also credited as the first black person in the Marine Corp. to complete schooling at both the Academy Prep School and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. During his distinguished career, he earned many various medals and ended his career as a lieutenant.

Bill Cosby

Despite the recent revelations concerning the once-legendary comedian’s reputation, he was still everyone’s favorite funnyman at the time and a Navy Man in 1956. During his four years of service, he was stationed in five different bases and helped Korean War veterans through physical therapy.

Humphrey Bogart

Bogart’s Navy career began in 1918 just as the first World War was closing, and his first task involved transporting American troops home from Europe. In fact, it’s believed that his lip scar was received during his time on active duty when a piece of shrapnel struck his chin after his ship was attacked.

George Carlin

Carlin was a high school dropout and enlisted in the Air Force to pay for broadcasting school. Stationed in Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana, he was trained as a radar technician. Though he never actually served overseas, he was still a staunch supporter from home.

Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman was actually a home runaway at the age of 16 and lied about his age to enlist in the Marines. He was a radio operator in China, Japan, and Hawaii before he ended up completing his high school education and being discharged in 1951.

Pat Sajak

You remember Robin Williams’ movie Good Morning Vietnam? Well before he was the host of Wheel of Fortune, Pat Sajak took over the Vietnam morning radio slot from Adrian Cronauer — who Robin Williams played in the movie.

Willie Nelson

The country singer legend served in the Air Force fresh out of high school, but his service didn’t last very long. He was honorably discharged after only nine months due to increasing back issues. But I’d say he did rather well for himself, considering!

Owen Wilson

As would be expected, Owen’s troublemaker nature got him expelled from school in the 10th grade, so he was forced to attend the New Mexico Military Institute to finish his schooling. Rather than pursue a military career following college, he decided to pursue his now-famous acting career.


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