John McCaslin

Hollywood is missing in action when it comes to fighting for America in recent conflicts, not the least being the war against terrorism.

We hereby challenge readers to name one modern American celebrity, apart from the late football star Pat Tillman, who served or fought for his or her country in the past 15 years.

"Even Hollywood . . . sent its best to wars prior to Vietnam," University of Dayton professor Larry Schweikart reminds us in his new book, "America's Victories," writing that professional actors were as "thoroughly represented" in the fighting military during World War II as any other group.

In fact, we read an amazing list of Hollywood men who tossed aside lucrative scripts for their country. Topping the list, albeit technically too old to serve, was Clark Gable, who enlisted as a private and ended up flying B-17s over Europe. Jimmy Stewart started as a "buck private peeling potatoes," the author notes.

Stewart's radioman was Walter Matthau, awarded six campaign stars. Charles Bronson was a tailgunner on B-29s; Gene Autry flew C-47s; Robert Conrad flew F4Us; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry flew C-46s; Robert Altman flew B-24s; and Jack Palance crash-landed his B-17. (Let's see Tom Cruise try that when not leaping off Oprah Winfrey's sofa.)

The list of Hollywood's brave soldiers, sailors and Marines (several of whom died or were injured in battle) is extensive, among them: Humphrey Bogart (a World War I vet, he tried enlisting in World War II, but was too old), Jason Robards (Pearl Harbor), Henry Fonda (the South Pacific), George C. Scott (Europe), Glenn Ford (France), Brian Keith (Rabaul), Ernest Borgnine (where else, the South Pacific), Eddie Albert (Tarawa), and Navy buddies Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Kirk Douglas, Shecky Greene, Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Bob Barker, Jackie Cooper, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Cliff Robertson, Rod Steiger, Dennis Weaver and Robert Stack.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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