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100 actors who served in the military

  • 100 actors who served in the military
    1/ Shutterstock

    100 actors who served in the military

    Actors have tried to give audiences a taste of the realities of war and military service from the earliest days of the motion picture industry. But if called upon to portray a member of the Armed Forces on screen, many actors could draw from their own life experience. Some of history's biggest stars served their countries in times of war and peace. Some experienced combat, while others were stationed in friendly countries or at home.

    From comedians and action stars to dramatic actors and television icons, here's a look at the stars who moved on from careers as servicemen to lives of fame. All branches of the military, including the Coast Guard, are represented on the list along with some actors from foreign countries. Most of the actors who served will be remembered not for their service in a foreign theater overseas, but for their films that filled seats in movie theaters back home.

    Read on to learn about 100 actors who served in the military. 

    RELATED: Most popular war movies of all time

  • Clint Eastwood
    2/ Pixabay

    Clint Eastwood

    You know him from movies like "Dirty Harry," "Unforgiven," and "The Bridges of Madison County." But did you know actor and director extraordinaire Clint Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War? Eastwood lucked out and was assigned to a job as a swimming instructor at a base in California during the deadly conflict.

  • Chuck Norris
    3/ Action 1 Film Partners

    Chuck Norris

    Martial arts legend and star of the big and small screens Chuck Norris is known for TV series like "Walker, Texas Ranger" and movies like the "Missing in Action" franchise. He was introduced to martial arts while serving in Korea with the Air Force and went on to become the first Westerner ever to be awarded an eighth-degree black belt in Korean fighting style taekwondo.

  • Mr. T
    4/ Steven J. Cannell Prods.

    Mr. T

    Mr. T will forever be remembered for portraying on-screen tough guys in movies like "Rocky III" and TV series like "The A-Team." After being expelled from high school, the man born Laurence Tureaud served in the Army as a military policeman. He was selected among 6,000 trainees for promotion to squad leader.

  • Tom Selleck
    5/ Getty Images

    Tom Selleck

    After being served draft papers during the Vietnam War, "Magnum P.I." actor Tom Selleck joined the California National Guard and served from 1967 to 1973. He later became the face of recruiting posters for the Guard.

  • Steve McQueen
    6/ Kate Gabriellle // Flickr

    Steve McQueen

    Steve McQueen of "Bullitt" and "The Great Escape" fame was also a Marine. He got off to a rocky start in the Corps, making trouble and spending time in the brig, where he was punished with rations of bread and water. But after heroically rescuing several men during a disastrous training exercise in the Arctic, he was given the honor of guarding President Harry Truman's yacht.

  • Paul Newman
    7/ Pixabay

    Paul Newman

    With films like "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money" on his resume, the late Paul Newman is one of Hollywood's most celebrated actors. Although he joined the Navy's V-12 program in the hopes of becoming a pilot, his color blindness kept him out of the cockpit. He served on torpedo bombers and on the USS Bunker Hill in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and left the service a decorated veteran.

  • Bob Hope
    8/ NBC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Bob Hope

    Few entertainers achieved greater success across more types of entertainment media than Bob Hope, the man NPR calls "the most popular entertainer of the 20th century." But the film actor, TV star, stage performer, and comedian is probably best known for the decades he spent entertaining troops stationed overseas. Hope never actually served himself, but his long list of contributions and seemingly endless USO tours led Congress to enact H.J. Res. 75, which named Bob Hope an honorary veteran "for his lifetime of accomplishments and service on behalf of our men and women in uniform."

  • Jack Palance
    9/ Insomnia Cured here // Flickr

    Jack Palance

    The late Jack Palance frequently played tough guys on the big screen in movies like "City Slickers," and he lived up to the Hollywood image in real life. A Palance was a boxer who later served in the Air Force as a bomber pilot and went on to Stanford on the G.I. Bill.

  • Charles Bronson
    10/ Pixabay

    Charles Bronson

    The world knows Charles Bronson as an unshakeable vigilante from the "Death Wish" series. But before the legendary macho man went on the attack on the big screen, he was on the attack in the skies over Europe. The first-generation American enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1943 and served as an aircraft gunner and Superfortress crewman. He flew dozens of missions and earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in action.

  • Kris Kristofferson
    11/ Magna Artists // Wikimedia Commons

    Kris Kristofferson

    Kris Kristofferson is an Oscar nominee, former Golden Gloves boxer, and military man from a military family. Also an accomplished academic and musician, Kristofferson joined the Army in 1960, became a helicopter pilot, and achieved the rank of captain.

  • Robert Stack
    12/ ABC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Robert Stack

    From "Airplane" to "The Untouchables," Robert Stack played memorable roles on both the big and small screens. He's also a World War II veteran who rose to the rank of lieutenant during his service in the Navy between 1942 and 1945.

  • Buster Keaton
    13/ Pixabay

    Buster Keaton

    One of the most important pioneering actors in early Hollywood, Buster Keaton's career spanned nearly half a century with credits dating from 1917 to 1966. He was drafted into the 40th Infantry Division in 1917 and served in World War I.

  • Morgan Freeman
    14/ Reamronaldreagan // Wikimedia Commons

    Morgan Freeman

    With the possible exception of James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman arguably has the most famous voice in Hollywood. The Oscar winner is a brilliant actor and narrator who counts acclaimed films like "The Shawshank Redemption," "Driving Miss Daisy," and "Glory" among his critical and commercial successes. He joined the Air Force in 1955 with dreams of being a pilot, but when he got a taste of it in training, he realized he didn't have the stomach for combat flight and pursued less dangerous work in film.

  • Adam Driver
    15/ Dick Thomas Johnson // Wikimedia Commons

    Adam Driver

    Before he played Kylo Ren in the most recent "Star Wars" series, Adam Driver acted in "Lincoln." Prior becoming a known name in Hollywood, the actor was a Marine. Like so many young people of his generation, Driver was swept up in patriotic fervor in the wake of 9/11. He was medically discharged after being injured in an unrelated accident.

  • Harvey Keitel
    16/ David Shankbone // Wikimedia Commons

    Harvey Keitel

    From "Taxi Driver" and "Pulp Fiction" to "Reservoir Dogs" and "Thelma and Louise," Harvey Keitel has been playing tough, intense characters on screen for decades, dating all the way back to "Hogan's Heroes" in the 1960s. After being kicked out of high school at age 15, Brooklyn-born Keitel joined the Marines and served in Lebanon as part of an anti-communism force cobbled together by President Dwight Eisenhower. 

  • Drew Carey
    17/ Cyan bannister // Wikimedia Commons

    Drew Carey

    Drew Carey had a long career as a comedian before becoming an actor in the early 1990s. He reportedly called on the discipline he learned in the military to develop the work ethic required to succeed in show business. The Cleveland native served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1980–1986.

  • Pat Sajak
    18/ smata2 // Flickr

    Pat Sajak

    The phrase "Good morning, Vietnam!" was shouted by American radio DJs to the delight of servicemen throughout the war that made the on-air slogan famous. Among those DJs was longtime "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak, who joined the Army as a clerk typist with the rank of Spc. 5th class before his talents were recognized and he was ordered to entertain.

  • Richard Pryor
    19/ GAC // Wikimedia Commons

    Richard Pryor

    Richard Pryor is regarded as one of the most important and controversial stand-up comedians in history, and his talents translated to a career in Hollywood that included films like "Superman III" and "Brewster's Millions." But before he was a famous and groundbreaking showman, Pryor spent two years in the Army from 1958 to 1960.

     

  • George Carlin
    20/ ABC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    George Carlin

    In 1954, prior to becoming a legendary stand-up comedian, 17-year-old George Carlin joined the Air Force for the start of what would be a rocky military career. The notorious nonconformist was court-martialed three times before receiving a general discharge in 1957.

  • Humphrey Bogart
    21/ Wikimedia Commons

    Humphrey Bogart

    Born on Christmas Day in 1899, Humphrey Bogart grew up to be one of the most revered actors in history. He served in World War I after joining the Navy, earning an honorable discharge—and a scar he carried for the rest of his life.

  • Dennis Franz
    22/ Sergei 5of7 // Flickr

    Dennis Franz

    Dennis Franz scored small-screen gold with the role of Andy Sipowicz on the TV series "NYPD Blue." As a young man, Franz enlisted in the Army after college and experienced intense combat in Vietnam, where he served with the 82nd Airborne.

  • Gene Wilder
    23/ Warner Brothers // Wikimedia Commons

    Gene Wilder

    The late Gene Wilder had a long and accomplished career in show business, but he's best known for his role in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Before he was famous, however, Wilder was drafted into the Army in 1956. He served as a medic at a U.S. Army hospital in the United States.

  • Mel Brooks
    24/ Towpilot // Wikimedia Commons

    Mel Brooks

    Mel Brooks is known worldwide for groundbreaking, irreverent, racially charged, and enduring comedies like "Spaceballs" and "Blazing Saddles," but his comedy career was preceded by combat service. Brooks grew up poor in New York City's Brooklyn borough and enlisted in the Army right out of high school. His high intelligence got him assigned to a specialized unit; he was sent to the front in Europe and fought in heavy combat, including the Battle of the Bulge.

  • Tony Curtis
    25/ United Pictures Corp. // Wikimedia Commons

    Tony Curtis

    Upon his death in 2010, "Some Like it Hot" actor Tony Curtis was buried with full military honors. The Navy sailor served in a submarine force in the Pacific theater during World War II. He took his experiences back to civilian life, starring in many films about war and the military throughout his career.

  • Jack Lemmon
    26/ Wire photo // Wikimedia Commons

    Jack Lemmon

    Hollywood icon Jack Lemmon has Hollywood credits dating from the 1940s to 2000. He dazzled audiences across generations with films like "The Apartment" and "Grumpy Old Men." Earlier, he served as a communications officer in the Naval Reserve in 1945.

  • Ice-T
    27/ vic_sf49 // Wikimedia Commons

    Ice-T

    From "Law & Order: SVU" to "New Jack City," pioneering West Coast rapper Ice-T joined the Army right out of high school as a means to support his daughter and girlfriend. He served in Hawaii as part of the 25th Infantry Division.

  • James Earl Jones
    28/ Stuart Crawford // Wikimedia Commons

    James Earl Jones

    From "Star Wars" to "Field of Dreams," James Earl Jones is among the most recognizable actors in the world. As a young man, Jones entered the Army during the Korean War, but he remained in America supporting cold-weather training in Colorado. He attended Ranger School and was discharged as a first lieutenant.

  • Kirk Douglas
    29/ Wikimedia Commons

    Kirk Douglas

    Born in 1916, Kirk Douglas is one of the last living actors of his generation and the patriarch of one of Hollywood's most iconic show business families. He's also a World War II veteran who served from 1942 to 1945 in the vaunted Submarine Chasers unit, leaving the service with a rank of lieutenant junior grade.

  • Leonard Nimoy
    30/ CBS Television

    Leonard Nimoy

    Since Leonard Nimoy's service records were destroyed in a fire, no one knows for sure exactly when he entered the service. What is known is that the "Star Trek" actor enlisted in the Army Reserves in the early 1950s, was in charge of a platoon, and was discharged in 1955 with the rank of sergeant.

  • Charlton Heston
    31/ MGM // Wikimedia Commons

    Charlton Heston

    The late Charlton Heston was an Oscar winner and the star of epic films like "Ben-Hur." The longtime leading man was also a World War II veteran who flew several dangerous missions in the Eastern Front as part of the 77th Bombardment Squadron of the Eleventh Air Force.

  • Don Knotts
    32/ Rogers and Cowan // Wikimedia Commons

    Don Knotts

    Although he has credits dating from the early 1950s to 2011, Don Knotts is best known for his memorable roles in "Three's Company" and "The Andy Griffith Show." He was discharged from the Army with the rank of technician fifth grade after serving his country in the 6817th Special Services Battalion from 1943-46.

  • James Garner
    33/ Warner Bros. Television // Wikimedia Commons

    James Garner

    Decorated Korean War combat veteran James Garner received two Purple Hearts after being discharged in 1952. "The Notebook" actor served in the Army, the Merchant Marines, and the Oklahoma National Guard.

  • Don Rickles
    34/ Joseph Scandore // Wikimedia Commons

    Don Rickles

    Don Rickles died at the age of 90 in 2017, and the famously caustic comedian and actor continued to work almost right up until the end. With titles like "Kelly's Heroes" and "Casino" on his resume, Rickles started his career as a no-holds-barred comedian who hobnobbed with the likes of Frank Sinatra in the 1950s. During World War II, Rickles served in the Navy and saw combat in the Philippines. 

  • Art Carney
    35/ News Service // Wikimedia Commons

    Art Carney

    Although he has more than 100 acting credits to his name, Art Carney is most famous for his role supporting Jackie Gleason in the pioneering television program "The Honeymooners." Carney was drafted as an infantryman right out of high school and served in World War II. He served in Normandy, was badly injured by a mortar round and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

  • Buddy Hackett
    36/ NBC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Buddy Hackett

    Like so many men of his generation, "It's a Mad, Mad World" actor Buddy Hackett joined the service right out of high school to fight in World War II. Starting in 1942, he served as part of an anti-aircraft unit for three years until the war's end.

  • Jeff Bridges
    37/ Tomdog // Wikimedia Commons

    Jeff Bridges

    Oscar winner Jeff Bridges comes from a Coast Guard family—his father and his brother Beau, a fellow actor, also served. Bridges joined the Coast Guard Reserves and served at sea under what were often grueling conditions.

  • Jesse Ventura
    38/ Twentieth Century Fox

    Jesse Ventura

    With memorable roles in "Predator" and "The Running Man," Jesse Ventura rose to the top of the entertainment food chain—but he did the same as a pro wrestler (fans knew him as "The Body"), a politician (governor of Minnesota) and as a military man. He served in the Navy's Underwater Demolition Team, whose units were broken apart and attached to elite SEAL teams after Vietnam.

  • Robert Duvall
    39/ Getty Images

    Robert Duvall

    "Colors," "The Godfather," "The Natural," and "Falling Down" are just a few of the classics on Robert Duvall's resume. But the Academy Award-winning actor also comes from a long military family lineage that can be traced to Robert E. Lee. Duvall served in the Army during the Korean War. He didn't see action, but he began acting during that time, and the media frequently conflated his on-stage performances with actual wartime combat.

  • Mickey Rooney
    40/ Wikimedia Commons

    Mickey Rooney

    After receiving his education at the Pacific Military Academy, Mickey Rooney served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. He went on to become one of the most enduring and prolific actors in history, with a whopping 336 credits spanning more than 90 years from 1926 to 2017.

  • Roy Scheider
    41/ Lukasz Figura // Wikimedia Commons

    Roy Scheider

    Roy Scheider played Chief Martin Brody in "Jaws," one of the most iconic roles in movie history. A former boxer, Scheider served as an air-traffic controller in the U.S. Air Force.

  • Gene Hackman
    42/ Chicago Daily News // Wikimedia Commons

    Gene Hackman

    Gene Hackman dropped out of high school and lied about his age to join the Marines at the age of 16 and in 1947, he was sent to serve as a radio operator in China. A two-time Oscar winner, Hackman is one of the most prolific and enduring actors in Hollywood, with starring and supporting roles in classics like "The French Connection," "Hoosiers," and "Unforgiven."

  • Oliver Stone
    43/ Gage Skidmore // Flickr

    Oliver Stone

    Oliver Stone racked up nearly 20 acting credits over the course of his career, but he's best known as the director of Academy Award-winning movies like "Platoon" and "Born on the Fourth of July." While behind the camera during the filming of those war classics, he drew on his real-life experiences. Oliver Stone received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam after enlisting in the Army in 1967.  

  • Lee Marvin
    44/ Pixabay

    Lee Marvin

    Known for playing no-nonsense, stone-faced, tough-guy characters in movies like "The Dirty Dozen," Lee Marvin portrayed cowboys, vigilantes, and military men on the screen. He had first-hand experience with the latter in real life. Marvin, who died in 1987, served in the Marines during World War II.

     

  • Johnny Carson
    45/ NBC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Johnny Carson

    Far more than just an actor and comedian, longtime "The Tonight Show" host Johnny Carson was a show business icon who changed the way entertainment was delivered to the masses. He was also a Navy veteran who served during World War II shortly after graduating from high school.

  • Bob Barker
    46/ Wikimedia Commons

    Bob Barker

    Although he'll forever be known as the standard bearer host of "The Price is Right," Bob Barker proved his comedic acting chops with an unforgettable role as himself in Adam Sandler's "Happy Gilmore." Barker left college to train as a fighter pilot for the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1943, but World War II ended before he received an active duty assignment.

  • Sammy Davis Jr.
    47/ Jay Bernstein PR // Wikimedia Commons

    Sammy Davis Jr.

    Rat Pack icon Sammy Davis Jr. starred in films like "Sergeants 3" and "Oceans 11" as part of a legendary show business career that spanned genres and generations. That career was interrupted, however, in 1943 when he was drafted into the Army during World War II.

  • Vincent Pastore
    48/ Will // Wikimedia Commons

    Vincent Pastore

    Vincent Pastore will forever hold the distinction of playing one of the most memorable roles in the history of mafia dramas. Pastore, who served in the Navy from 1964–'67, was cast as Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, a reluctant mob rat in HBO's "The Sopranos."

  • James Stewart
    49/ Wikimedia Commons

    James Stewart

    Born in 1908, Jimmy Stewart appeared in more than 80 movies over his long and storied career, but none more famous or beloved than "It's a Wonderful Life." The 1946 Christmas classic was Stewart's first film after leaving the U.S. Army Air Corp. Stewart halted his career to join the service in 1941, eventually reaching the rank of colonel by the end of the conflict.

  • Jamie Farr
    50/ CBS Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Jamie Farr

    The TV series "M*A*S*H" revolved around an Army hospital surgical unit whose members dealt with tragedy through laughter during the Korean War. Among the actors was an actual Korean War veteran, Jamie Farr, who received valuable training for his future Hollywood career while on duty. While in the service, he was tasked with making training films, writing scripts, and even touring with famed entertainer Red Skelton.

  • Alan Alda
    51/ CBS Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Alan Alda

    Jamie Farr was not the only Korean War veteran to star in "M*A*S*H." Co-star Alan Alda, who won five Emmys and was nominated for 20 more for his role as Hawkeye, served as a gunnery officer in the Army Reserve.

  • Mike Farrell
    52/ CBS Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Mike Farrell

    Mike Farrell is yet another veteran of the show "M*A*S*H" who was also a military veteran. Farrell, who played Capt. B.J. Hunnicutt, served in the Army for two years around the time of the Korean War.

  • Ernest Borgnine
    53/ ABC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    Ernest Borgnine

    Academy Award-winner and longtime leading man Ernest Borgnine made his Broadway debut in 1949 before heading to Hollywood. After graduating from high school, he joined the Navy in 1935 and served for 10 years.

  • Harry Belafonte
    54/ Kate Gabrielle // Flickr

    Harry Belafonte

    The son of Caribbean immigrants, Harry Belafonte is one of the most recognizable singers, actors, and civil rights activists in history. Before he ever studied drama, however, Belafonte dropped out of high school to enlist in the Navy in 1944.

  • Bob Newhart
    55/ Alan Light // Wikimedia Commons

    Bob Newhart

    Satirical comedic actor Bob Newhart appeared in movies like "Elf," "Horrible Bosses," and "Legally Blonde 2," but his name is on his most famous works, which were all on television. He was the namesake actor on sitcoms "The Bob Newhart Show," "Newhart," and "Bob." After graduating from college, Newhart was drafted to fight in the Korean War, where he saw combat during his Army service from 1952–'54.

     

  • Benny Hill
    56/ Dramatic Features

    Benny Hill

    Upon his death in 1992, the Telegraph referred to Benny Hill as "the world's most popular comedian." The paper backed up that bold claim with the fact that Hill's shows were broadcast into 100 countries, a feat even Charlie Chaplin never matched. The mind behind "The Benny Hill Show" served in the British Army as a driver-mechanic before his talent earned him a role as a military entertainer.

  • Carl Reiner
    57/ Leow's Inc. // Wikimedia Commons

    Carl Reiner

    The father of Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner produced, wrote, created, and occasionally appeared in "The Dick Van Dyke Show." During World War II he served as a radio operator before studying to serve as a French translator. He then served as a teletype operator before joining a military entertainment unit.

  • Fred Willard
    58/ Bridget Laudien // Wikimedia Commons

    Fred Willard

    Although he's probably most famous for his role in "Best in Show," renowned character actor Fred Willard also appeared in 50 sketches on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." He entered the Kentucky Military Institute in 1949 and served as a sergeant in Company A.

  • Sherman Hemsley
    59/ Getty Images

    Sherman Hemsley

    Philadelphia native Sherman Hemsley dropped out of high school to join the Air Force and served for four years. His true career, however, would be on television. He played the role of the iconic sitcom character George Jefferson, who appeared not just on "The Jeffersons," but also on "ER," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "House of Payne," and "All in the Family."

  • Jerry Mathers
    60/ ABC Television

    Jerry Mathers

    Few child stars were as big as Jerry Mathers, who will be forever remembered in television history as the titular character on "Leave it to Beaver." Mathers played Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver from 1957–1963 after appearing in commercials from the age of two. After attending college, he joined the Air Force National Guard.

  • Henry Fonda
    61/ U.S. Navy // Wikimedia Commons

    Henry Fonda

    Hollywood legend Henry Fonda is best known for "The Grapes of Wrath" and "On Golden Pond," the latter of which he starred in alongside his daughter, Jane Fonda. He performed on stage and in films as early as the 1920s, but halted his career in the 1940s to join the Navy during World War II. For his service, he earned a Presidential Citation Award and a Bronze Star.

  • Charles Durning
    62/ CBS Television

    Charles Durning

    Charles Durning was a multi-genre talent who scored multiple Academy Award nominations for movies like "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and "To Be or Not to Be," as well as a Tony win for his role in the play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He served in the Army during World War II and was among the first soldiers to make it ashore on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day. But that wasn't the only horror he survived. He also saw action at the Battle of the Bulge, was captured, and managed to escape a massacre of American soldiers in Belgium.

  • Harvey Korman
    63/ Crossbow Prods.

    Harvey Korman

    The son of immigrants, Golden Globe-winner Harvey Korman is most famous for his role in classic Mel Brooks comedies like "Blazing Saddles" and "History of the World: Part I." He also displayed his small-screen talent on programs like "The Carol Burnett Show." During World War II, he left college to serve in the Navy.

  • Laurence Olivier
    64/ Kate Gabrielle // Flickr

    Laurence Olivier

    One of the most distinguished talents in movie history, British actor Laurence Olivier was known for dazzling theater audiences in several of Shakespeare's plays before earning a spot on Hollywood's A-List with big-screen roles in movies like "Wuthering Heights" and "Marathon Man." At age 40 he became the youngest actor ever to be knighted when King George honored him with the title, and he remains among the only actors to be buried in Westminster Abbey's vaunted Poet's Corner. He's also a war hero. In 1940, Olivier worked as a British agent in America trying to drum up support from the then-neutral United States before returning to Britain to join the Fleet Air Arm.

  • Peter Boyle
    65/ Alan Light // Wikimedia Commons

    Peter Boyle

    Although he's best known as the crotchety father in "Everybody Loves Raymond," Peter Boyle amassed nearly 100 acting credits dating back to the mid-1960s. After abandoning life as a Christian Brothers monk, Boyle joined the Navy but was discharged after a nervous breakdown.

  • William Daniels
    66/ ABC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    William Daniels

    Brooklyn-born William Daniels enjoyed a career that spanned Broadway, the big screen and television, earning two Emmys along the way for his role in "St. Elsewhere." Although he was drafted at the age of 18 in 1945 to serve in Italy during World War II, Daniels landed a pretty cushy gig. He was a disc jockey for an Army radio station.

  • David Niven
    67/ Kate Gabrielle // Flickr

    David Niven

    Academy Award-winning actor David Niven starred in movies like "Around the World in 80 Days," "Wuthering Heights," and "The Guns of the Navarone," but he'll be best-remembered for his dapper and elegant lead role in "The Pink Panther." Before his acting career took off, Niven joined the British Army, earning the rank of second lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry before being discharged and moving to Hollywood. When World War II broke out, he became among the only British actors in Hollywood to return home and join the fight when he re-enlisted in the British Army.

  • Sid Caesar
    68/ Wikimedia Commons

    Sid Caesar

    Sid Caesar was a pioneering comedian and actor who is best known for his role in the "Grease" film musicals and as the creator of the Emmy Award-winning variety show "Your Show of Shows." When World War II broke out, he joined the Coast Guard but was stationed at home in Brooklyn, N.Y., to perform at military shows.

  • Robert Mitchum
    69/ Getty Images

    Robert Mitchum

    Robert Mitchum was one of the 20th century's most renowned on-screen tough guys, although he fit the bill in real life, as well. As a young man, the future A-Lister was a laborer, vagrant, and professional boxer. He was drafted during World War II and served for about six months under service No. 39 744 068.

  • Cesar Romero
    70/ U.S. Coast Guard // Wikimedia Commons

    Cesar Romero

    Cuban-America Cesar Romero—a.k.a. the Latin from Manhattan—enjoyed a 30-year career that spanned from the 1930s to the 1960s and included success on stage, in films, and on TV. When World War II broke out, his career was interrupted when he enlisted in the Coast Guard, where he served for three years.  

  • Michael Caine
    71/ Kate Gabrielle // Flickr

    Michael Caine

    Two-time Oscar winner Michael Caine starred in the "Batman" franchise, as well as comedies like "Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels" and dramas like "The Cider House Rules" and "Hannah and her Sisters." He's also a veteran of the military. The South London native was a member of the Queen’s Royal Regiment and the Royal Fusiliers, spending time during his military years in Germany and Korea.

  • Clark Gable
    72/ Wikimedia Commons

    Clark Gable

    Clark Gable of "Gone With the Wind" fame was arguably the most celebrated leading man to dominate the screen during Hollywood's golden age. After his wife died in a plane crash in 1942, Academy Award winner promptly abandoned his career and enlisted in the Army Air Force at the age of 41. Not only did he make propaganda films for the Army, but he saw action as a tail gunner during five missions over Germany.

  • Moses Gunn
    73/ Wikimedia Commons

    Moses Gunn

    Emmy nominee Moses Gunn has more than 70 credits to his name, including classics like "Shaft" and "Firestarter." Before his career took off, however, the St. Louis native served three years in the Army starting in 1954.

  • Robert Loggia
    74/ Wikimedia Commons

    Robert Loggia

    Although he died in 2015, Oscar nominee Robert Loggia earned 235 acting credits dating from 1951–2019, including memorable roles in big-screen blockbusters like "Big" and "Scarface," as well as in acclaimed TV series like "The Sopranos." He's also a veteran of the United States Army.

  • Telly Savalas
    75/ CBS Television

    Telly Savalas

    The son of Greek immigrants, Telly Savalas shined shoes and sold newspapers before joining the Army to serve in World War II, which he survived, albeit with a Purple Heart. As an actor, Savalas played several different sinister villains before landing the part that made him famous: no-nonsense New York City detective "Kojak."

  • Jonathan Winters
    76/ Wikimedia Commons

    Jonathan Winters

    Talk show host Jack Paar once called the portly and groundbreaking comedian Jonathan Winters "pound for pound, the funniest man alive." Winters parlayed his talent into a long television career, which included a run on his own show, "The Jonathan Winters Show." During World War II, Winters joined the Marines at just 17 years old and served for two years in the South Pacific.

  • Audie Murphy
    77/ U.S. Army // Wikimedia Commons

    Audie Murphy

    Before he died in 1971, Audie Murphy amassed an impressive list of credits, including "Ride a Crooked Trail" and "To Hell and Back." He is most famous, however, for his career as a soldier, which resulted in him being featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1945. Murphy joined the Army a few days after his 18th birthday and would emerge from World War II three years later as the most decorated soldier of the entire conflict. Murphy was injured three times, killed 240 German soldiers, and was eventually awarded 33 awards and medals, including three Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Medal of Honor.

  • Ed Asner
    78/ Wikimedia Commons

    Ed Asner

    Ed Asner got his big break on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and he became such an industry mainstay that he served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985. Asner served in the Army Signal Corps in the early 1950s.

  • Rod Steiger
    79/ Getty Images

    Rod Steiger

    Known for roles in "On the Waterfront," "Dr. Zhivago," and "In the Heat of the Night," Rod Steiger amassed nearly 150 credits between 1950 and 2002. At the age of 16, the future Academy Award winner dropped out of school to join the Navy. During World War II, he saw combat on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific.

  • Robert Montgomery
    80/ Harris & Ewing // Wikimedia Commons

    Robert Montgomery

    Robert Montgomery's resume includes 64 acting credits, but he also directed six movies and produced three others. The "Night Must Fall" actor had already spent 16 years with MGM and served as president of the Screen Actors Guild when World War II broke out. He paused his career to join the Navy and saw action in the European and Pacific theaters.

  • Sterling Hayden
    81/ Affiliated Magazines // Wikimedia Commons

    Sterling Hayden

    Known for his roles in "Dr. Strangelove" and as a crooked police captain in "The Godfather," Sterling Hayden’s acting credits date back to 1941. Before he was an actor, Hayden was a sea voyager and captain, sailing around the world as a teenager and earning his first command at the age of 22. At the start of World War II, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marines and transferred to the CIA's precursor agency, the Office of Strategic Services, eventually earning the Silver Star for valor.

  • Brian Dennehy
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    Brian Dennehy

    Known for his roles in "Cocoon" and "First Blood," Brian Dennehy continues to rack up credits more than 40 years after his debut in an episode of "Kojak" in 1977. After graduating from Yale, Dennehy joined the Marines, the organization which he credits for much of his future success.

  • Neville Brand
    83/ Pixabay

    Neville Brand

    Neville Brand earned 139 credits over more than 35 years between 1949 and 1985, including "Stalag 17" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!" Originally, he planned on a career as a military man. After joining the Army in 1939, however, Brand caught the acting bug while making training films for the government.

  • Jack Warden
    84/ Wikimedia Commons

    Jack Warden

    Two-time Oscar nominee Jack Warden began his show business career in 1950. His 164 credits include "12 Angry Men," "The Replacements," "While You Were Sleeping," and "Heaven Can Wait." Expelled from high school for fighting, Warden worked as both a boxer and a bouncer in his youth. He joined the Navy in 1938, serving for three years on the Yangtze River Patrol before joining the Merchant Marine in 1941.

  • Ted Knight
    85/ CBS Television

    Ted Knight

    Ted Knight languished in obscurity for two decades before he struck Hollywood gold with the role of Ted Baxter in the 1970s sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Knight landed his own TV series and is also famous for memorable roles in "Caddyshack," "The Love Boat," and "Too Close For Comfort." During World War II, he dropped out of high school and joined the Army, where he would become a decorated member of A Company, 296th combat engineer battalion.

  • Bob Crane
    86/ Maury Foldare // Wikimedia Commons

    Bob Crane

    Two-time Emmy nominee Bob Crane is best known for his role as Col. Hogan on "Hogan's Heroes," although he continued working right up to his death in 1978. He served in the Connecticut National Guard starting in 1948 and was discharged in 1950.

  • Spencer Tracy
    87/ MGM // Wikimedia Commons

    Spencer Tracy

    Among only a few World War I veterans to make the list is Spencer Tracy, who served in the Navy. He spent most of the war in Virginia, and went on to star in some of history's most treasured classics, including "Inherit the Wind," Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and "Judgment at Nuremberg."

  • Harry Dean Stanton
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    Harry Dean Stanton

    Harry Dean Stanton's death in 2017 concluded one of the most prolific careers in Hollywood history. His more than 200 credits include "The Green Mile," "Alien," "Cool Hand Luke," Big Love," and "Gunsmoke." He served in the Navy during World War II, working as a cook on a ship during the Battle of Okinawa.

  • Rock Hudson
    89/ Kate Gabrielle // Flickr

    Rock Hudson

    Handsome heartthrob Rock Hudson's resume includes "Giant" with Elizabeth Taylor and "Pillow Talk" with Doris Day. In 1944, Hudson joined the Navy and served in the Philippines.

  • Fred Gwynne
    90/ thekirbster // Flickr

    Fred Gwynne

    A veteran of the stage and screen, Fred Gwynne is remembered as Herman Munster from TV's "The Munsters" as well as the short-tempered stickler judge from "My Cousin Vinny." During World War II, Gwynn enlisted in the Navy and served on a sub chaser.

  • John Amos
    91/ U.S. National Archives // Wikimedia Commons

    John Amos

    Emmy nominee John Amos has played some of the most iconic characters ever to appear on both the big and small screens, including Kunta Kinte in "Roots," James Evans Sr. in "Good Times," and Cleo McDowell in "Coming to America." A veteran of the New Jersey National Guard, Amos is the Honorary Master Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard.

  • Burt Young
    92/ Silvio Pozatto // Wikimedia Commons

    Burt Young

    Oscar nominee Burt Young has earned more than 160 acting credits, including 10 projects currently in the works or slated for release. He's best known for his role as cantankerous brother-in-law Paulie in the "Rocky" franchise. Young served in the Marines from 1957 to 1959.

  • R. Lee Ermey
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    R. Lee Ermey

    It may be surprising to learn that some actors are military veterans. Others, not so much. Gruff and authoritative, R. Lee Ermey is the human embodiment of Marine Corps machismo, which he put on full display as a hard-nosed drill instructor in "Full Metal Jacket." Before injuries forced him to retire, Ermey served for 11 years as a Marine, earning the rank of staff sergeant and the honorary title of gunnery sergeant after spending 14 months in Vietnam and completing two tours in Okinawa, Japan.

  • George C. Scott
    94/ Wikimedia Commons

    George C. Scott

    George C. Scott had a 40-year show business career, the pinnacle of which was his Oscar-winning portrayal of the namesake American general in the movie "Patton." In real life, Scott joined the Marines in 1945 shortly before the end of World War II. He served for four years, often as a guard at Arlington National Cemetery.

  • Ernie Hudson
    95/ Gage Skidmore // Wikimedia Commons

    Ernie Hudson

    The "Ghostbusters" franchise made Ernie Hudson famous, but the Michigan native is by no means a one-trick pony. Hudson has accumulated an impressive 236 acting credits since 1976, including four projects currently in the works. Although he joined the Marines after high school, he was medically discharged after just a few months due to asthma.

     

  • Wilford Brimley
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    Wilford Brimley

    From "Cocoon" and "The Natural" to "The Firm" and "Absence of Malice," Wilford Brimley's folksy but serious demeanor has earned him a resume filled with critical and commercial success—not to mention a recurring role as the instantly recognizable Quaker Oats man. Once a bodyguard for Howard Hughes, Brimley enlisted in the Marines during the Korean War and was stationed for three years in the Aleutian Islands.

  • James Avery
    97/ Brencoombs // Wikimedia Commons

    James Avery

    James Avery's acting career spanned nearly 40 years and includes nearly 180 credits, but he was best known as stern-but-lovable patriarch Uncle Philip Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." After graduating from high school, Avery joined the Navy and served in Vietnam during the height of the war from 1968 to 1969.

     

  • Richard Kline
    98/ Getty Images

    Richard Kline

    Although his resume includes hit shows like "ER," "Blue Bloods," NYPD Blue," and "That '70s Show," Richard Kline is best known for playing one of the most memorable characters in sitcom history: Larry Dallas from "Three's Company." Kline was struck by lightning while serving in Vietnam.

  • James Whitmore
    99/ Pixabay

    James Whitmore

    Born in 1921, James Whitmore had acting credits dating from the 1940s to the late 2000s. Among the most memorable was that of institutionalized inmate Brooks Hatlen in "The Shawshank Redemption." Whitmore served in the Marines in World War II and used the G.I. Bill to attend the American Theatre Wing after he was honorably discharged.

  • Jason Robards
    100/ Wikimedia Commons

    Jason Robards

    Although his career spanned from 1947 to 2000, two-time Oscar winner Jason Robards is most famous for his role as a bold and integrity-driven newspaper publisher in "All the President's Men." During World War II, he experienced combat as a radioman in the Navy.

  • Elvis Presley
    101/ MGM // Wikimedia Commons

    Elvis Presley

    A little more than 60 years ago, history's most famous veteran joined the Army. Elvis Aaron Presley was offered the opportunity to fulfill his service by entertaining troops, playing concerts, and serving as a recruiting model, but the King (actually a sergeant) famously chose instead to serve as a common soldier. His trademark pompadour haircut was shaved, and he was placed into an armored division in 1958 at the very height of his career.

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