Clark Gable made his name in Hollywood for portraying Rhett Butler in the iconic classic film, Gone With The Wind. At the time he was likely one of the most famous people in the world. But possibly more impressive is the legacy that he left during his service during WW2.
A confluence of events in the early 1940s took Gable from being a Hollywood superstar to true World War 2 warrior.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor bringing the U.S. into a war they had previously distanced themselves from. To say that Americans were pissed off is an understatement, the attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation into action. Less than a month later, Gable's wife Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash.
Gable was 40-years-old at the time of his wife's death, which was a bit older than your average man enlisting into the fight, but as a man with nothing to lose he wrote to President Roosevelt asking him how he could help his country.
Roosevelt told him to stay put helping to secure war bonds, but that wasn't good enough for Gable. He defied orders and enlisted into the air force.
Gable was trained as a photographer and aerial gunner. This was a not a ceremonial prospect either. He wasn't at the back of the pack watching from afar. He flew in missions where he could have easily been maimed or killed. He earned the respect of the men he served with.
There are even rumors that Nazi Hermann Goring was offering a huge cash reward for anyone who could capture Gable.
People often thought that Gable joined the war because he wanted to die over the grief he was experiencing after losing his wife. That doesn't seem to be the case. A number of vets who served with Gable describe him as a sturdy man who took his responsibilities seriously.
Gable's military awards were the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. He also qualified for and received aerial gunner wings.