The Unknown Warriors

Famous Fighters - USA

Here's some details about what some of the most famous Americans of the 20th Century did during WWII.

 

President JF Kennedy (1917 - 1963) - One of the most popular U.S Presidents of all time, tragically shot dead in November 1963. He was a decorated war hero after commanding motor torpedo boats in the South Pacific. In 1943 on a night patrol in the Solomon Islands his boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. For actions that followed he was awarded the Navy & Marine Corp medal. His citation read. "For extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War Theater on August 1–2, 1943. Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore. His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

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President Lyndon Johnson (1908 - 1973) - Texas born president who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was a President during the Vietnam war. During the war he was a commissioned officer in the Naval Reserve. He was part of a 3 man team sent by President Roosevelt to assess America's military situation in the South Pacific and was aboard a B-26 Marauder that was amongst planes attacked by Japanese fighter planes. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

President Richard Nixon (1913 - 1994) In office between 1969 and 1974, a period most remenbered for the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal, which led to his resignation. During WWII he signed up to the Navy in 1942 and became Officer in Charge of the Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal in the Solomons and received a citation of commendation for his efforts.

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President Gerald Ford (1913 - 2006) President of the USA between 1974 and 1977 and survived two assasination attempts, during WWII he served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Monterey as assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and anti-aircraft battery officer from the ships launch in June 1943 until December 1944. The ship was part of the Third and Fifth Fleets that fought the Japanese in the Pacific. As well as attacks from the Japanese the ship was caught up in a Typhoon and President Ford came close to being swept overboard. Over 800 Americans in the fleet lost their lives, and 3 destroyers were sunk during the storm. The Monterey caught fire, but did not sink. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

President Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004) - The 40th President of the United States of America that was in power during the final years of the Cold War and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and communism. President Reagan had joined the Army reserve in 1937. After Pearl Harbour he was called up, but due to poor eyesight was put on limited service, and remained in America seconded to the Army Air Force public relations and the First Motion Film Unit and was promoted to captain.

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President George H.W Bush - President during the Gulf War and father of President George W Bush. He became a qualified US pilot aged 19 and was assigned to a torpedo squadron that flew from carrier USS San Jacinto, He flew 58 combat operations, one of which his plane was hit by anti aircraft fire. The burning plane managed to drop it's bombs on the targets before the crew bailed out. President Bush was rescued from an inflatable dinghy in the sea. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

The Andrews Sisters - Laverne (1911 - 1967) Maxene (1916 - 1995) and Patty (1918 - 2013) A close harmony 'boogie woogy' singing group made up of three sisters that sold in excess of 75 million records. They toured extensively American bases in the USA, North Africa and Italy during the war singing to troops to boost morale.

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Lex Barker (1919 - 1973) - Actor who played Tarzan of the Apes five times. He enlisted into the army 10 months before Pearl Harbour and rose to the rank of Major. He was wounded in the head and leg during the invasion of Sicily.

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Tony Bennett Anthony Dominick Benedetto (1926 - ) - American singer who has sold over 50 million records worldwide, won 17 Grammy Awards and 2 Emmys. His best known song being 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco'. He was called up as an 18 year old, near the end of the war and served in the front line infantry and crossed the Rhine into Germany in March 1945. He described it as a 'front row seat in Hell' as they faced desperate German soldiers fighting to the death from house to house. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Werner von Braun (1912 - 1977) - Head of the NASA mission to the moon in 1969. During WWII he was in charge of developing Germany's rocket programme including the V1 and V2. At the end of the war he was taken to America with many of his colleagues who also worked on developing America's space programme. He was naturalised as a U.S citizen in 1955. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Charles Bronson Charles Dennis Buchinsky (1921 - 1981) - Dilm actor that starred in films such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen. He flew in the USAAF on a B-29 Superfortress, based on Guam. He received a Purple Heart for wounds from active service. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Johnny Carson (1925 - 2005) - Presented the Tonight Show for 30 years. Awarded 6 Emmy's and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He joined the Navy in June 1943 and was aboard USS Pennsylvania on route to the Pacific combat zone when the Atom bombs were dropped on Japan. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Walter Cronkite (1916 - 2009) - One of the most famous news anchormen of post war America, reporting on many momentous events such as the moon landings, and the killing of JFK and Martin Luther King. As a young reporter during WWII he was selected to fly on a bombing mission over Germany in a B-17 Flying Fortress and landed in a glider during Operation Market Garden with the 101st Airborne Division, going on to report at the Battle of the Bulge and the Nuremberg war crimes trials. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Bette Davis (1908 - 1989) - Ten times Oscar nominated (won two) actress that starred in movies foe decades. She raised $2 million in War Bonds to assist the war effort, She performed alongside Hattie McDaniel to entertain black troops and also set up a service club called 'The Hollywood Canteen' which offered free entertainment for soldiers, sailors and airmen.

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Joe DiMaggio (1914 - 1999) - New York Yankees baseball player that was on the team that won nine World Series Championships. He joined the USAAF in 1943 and served two years a physical training instructor. His Italian parents were considered 'enemy aliens' and could only travel within 5 miles of their home during the war without a permit. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Clark Gable (1901 - 1960) - Clark Gable was hugely famous after playing Rhett Butler in the 1939 movie Gone With the Wind, but this did not stop him from serving his country when war began. He joined the air force and was sent to England, and flew on B-17 bombing raids as a gunner / observer. On one mission his plane was attacked by fighters, one crew member was killed, two more injured and flak went through Gable's shoe then narrowly missed his head. Shortly before enlisting his wife, the actress Carole Lombard, was killed after the plane she was on crashed near Las Vegas, she had just completed a tour selling War Bonds.

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Charlton Heston (1923 - 2008) - Hollywood actor that starred in over 100 movies including Ben Hur and Julius Caesar. In 1944 he joined the US  Army Air Force and served two years as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-25 Mitchell.

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Burt Lancaster (1913 - 1994) - Nominated for an Oscar four times and won best Actor Oscar in 1960. Served in General Mark Clark's Fifth Army in Italy from 1943–1945.  VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Tom Landry (1924 - 2000) - One of the most successful NFL coaches in history. He was coach for the Dallas Cowboys for 29 years. He joined the air force after his brother was killed on a flight en route to Britain. As a co-pilot of a B-17 between Nomber '44 and April '45 he flew on 30 combat operations, on one occasion his plane crash landed in Belguim after running out of fuel.

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Dean Martin Dino Paul Crocetti (1917 - 1995) A singer and member of the 'Rat Pack' he was drafted into the Army in 1944 and spent a year at a base in Ohio before being medically discharged. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

Hatty McDaniel (1895 - 1952) Won an Oscar in 1939 for playing the role of Mammy in Gone With the Wind. During the war she was chairman of the "Negro Division" of the Hollywood Victory Committee, providing entertainment for soldiers stationed at military bases. She made personal appearances at military hospitals and attended war bond rallies to raise money for the war effort.

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Marilyn Monroe Norma Jeane Mortenson (1926 - 1962) - One of the most recognisable women of the the 20th century. Before her acting and modelling career took off, during WWII as a young wife of a merchant marine sailor she worked at Radioplane Munitions Factory, spraying airplane parts with fire retardant and inspecting parachutes. She caught the eye of the YANK, the Army weekly magazine photographer who was working a feature on munitions girls, and here she is at work HERE

Paul Newman (1925 - 2008) - Oscar winning actor who also raised over $300 million for charity by selling salad dressing. He served in the Pacific and flew from aircraft carriers as a turret gunner in an Avenger torpedo bomber.

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J.D Salinger (1919 - 2010) - Author of the international bestseller 'The Catcher in the Rye' who shunned the limelight. He served in the infantry after being drafted, and was at Utah Beach on D-Day and continued fighting at the Battle of the Bulge as well as the Huertgen Forest campaign. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

James Stewart (1908 - 1997) - Already a famous movie actor before the war began he joined the air force and in the space of 4 years rose from a private to colonel, one of the few Americans to do so. From a base in England he flew many on many combat missions over Germany in B-24 Bomber squadrons. He was awarded 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Croix de Guerre. After the war he returned to acting, and during his career was nominated for five Oscars, won one and also received a lifetime achievement award. VIEW YOUTUBE CLIP

 

View what Famous Brits did during the war HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unknown Warriors, a collection of letters from British, Australian and New Zealander WWII veterans, with their war time memories and what they thought of their countries in their old age is available in the USA via bookshops, Barnes & Noble etc. Also on Amazon.com. 530 pages. The printed version is $26.68 HERE and the Kindle version is $4.29 HERE