John McCaslin

The Beltway Beat's "Hollywood in the military" items of recent days are continuing to gain national exposure, including from veteran broadcaster Paul Harvey over the ABC Radio network this week.

Suffice it to say, Harvey, like other readers of this column, isn't impressed with Hollywood's lack of military service post-World War II. (A belated congratulations to Harvey, while we have the opportunity, for having recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush.)

That said, we have received an intriguing letter from Robert Arnold of Sonoma, Calif., who writes: "My grandfather was General (Henry Harley) 'Hap' Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Force during World War II. He was a prewar friend of Mr. (Clark) Gable's as well.

"After the war started for us in December 1941, Mr. Gable and his agent showed up in Washington and asked to join the war effort. Just prior, the press had made a big story out of one of (Franklin D. Roosevelt's) sons being directly commissioned as a lieutenant colonel, and Mr. Gable's agent demanded the same special treatment for his client, Mr. Gable being a 'star.'

"This attitude and desire for special treatment set Hap off, and he asked them to leave. That night, Mr. Gable called Hap at home and apologized, and then asked to do whatever he could to help the war effort in any way possible. Hap advised him to enlist in the Army as a private and go from there. Mr. Gable did, and later was commissioned an officer (lieutenant) and went on to volunteer to fly many missions over Europe as a gunner while making a training film for the Air Force.

"Finally, Hap and his staff realized that Mr. Gable was worth more as a motivator and spokesman and returned him to the (United States), where he did tours for a bit before leaving the service. Mr. Gable said often that he wanted to fight and not be a publicity fixture. A real man, Mr. Gable.

"In later years, his agent would grumble that his client was not treated well. However, when Hap died in 1950 and was given a massive state funeral in Washington, Mr. Gable sent flowers anonymously. However, Hap's staff managed to confirm who they came from (documented in my files). Again, a class act. They don't make 'em anymore like Gable, (Jimmy) Stewart and the rest of that generation of Hollywood folks."


"I saw the Tomb of the Unknown Yuppie." - Lily Tomlin, on what she accomplished while visiting the Washington, D.C., suburb of North Bethesda, Md., where she headlined the 2006 Spring Gala Saturday night at the Music Center at Strathmore.


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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