Vintage | Entertainment

10 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were World War II Veterans

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Although many entertainers have portrayed men and women in uniform on screen, they don't usually come to mind when we think of real-life servicemen. But, there's actually a surprising number of famous names who answered the call to war and enlisted in the army to fight for our country.

Some did their time before pursuing a career in Hollywood, while others took a break from the limelight to become soldiers. From a beloved 80s sitcom star to a record-breaking tennis player, here are 10 celebrities who served in the army during the second World War:

1. Alice Marble

Between 1936 and 1940, Alice Marble was the top female player in America with 18 Grand Slam Championships. The Wimbledon champion was the first woman to use the serve-and-volley style of play, but believe it or not her life off the court was much more interesting.


The tennis star was secretly married to an intelligence officer, and shortly after his death, the government recruited her for a spy mission in Switzerland during World War II. During her stint as an operative, she was shot in the back, but she recovered. The details about her secret life was revealed to the world after her death in 1990.

2. Mel Brooks

The famous funny guy is best known for his work on classic films like Young Frankenstein and Space Balls, but did you know that he served in the U.S Army during the second World War?

Los Angeles Times

Brooks is an alumnus of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and joined the army at the age of 17. He served as corporal in an engineer combat battalion whose job included defusing land mines. The goofy actor fought in the famous Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944.

3. Bea Arthur

Years before she brought on the laughs as the sarcastic Maude Findlay on Golden Girls, Bea Arthur was a member of the U.S Marine Corps for over two years.


The late actress enlisted as Bernice Frankel in February 1943 at the age of 21 and spent 30 months as a typist and a truck driver for the Marines Corps. According to reports, her personality appraisal sheets described her as "argumentative," "over aggressive," and "officious—but probably a good worker—if she has her own way!"

4. James Stewart

James "Jimmy" Stewart's on-screen portrayal of strong American middle-class men in times of crisis has earned him plenty of accolades including multiple Academy Awards. But, those weren't the only awards he earned in his lifetime. Before his death, Stewart became the highest-ranking actor in military history.

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Stewart joined the Air Corps in 1942 and flew planes for at least 20 combat missions over the dangerous German skies with a B-17 bomber. His bravery as a pilot in the World War II and Vietnam War earned him six battle stars, the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters and the Croix de Guerre with Palm, a coveted French decoration.

The It's a Wonderful Life actor eventually became a Brigadier General in the U.S Air Force Reserve before retiring in 1968.


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