The Armed Forces are full of men and women who serve each and every day and night so that we can be safe and continue living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Here are 20 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were in the Military. From comedians and actors to artsy and sing-song celebs, you may be surprised at who is on this list. Some of these famous people were drafted, while others decided to enlist. They have served in the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and more. World War II, Korea, and other battles and wars were witnessed by these celebs.
It is always a bit strange to think of famous people having a different life from their one of stardom. Elvis being a soldier? Well, he could have been an entertainer for the troops but he declined. Even the funnyman Drew Carey served in the United States Armed Forces! No wonder he feels so great about saluting the military in those special episodes of The Price is Right. Anyway, we hope that you enjoy reading about these celebrities and the ways in which they have contributed to the wonderful country of the United States of America. Oh, and one Canadian, just because Canada is cool.
20 Drew Carey
Drew Carey has been all over the place. He was on his own sitcom as well as the improv show Whose Line is it Anyway? And now he is hosting The Price is Right, the iconic daytime-television game show that was long hosted by Bob Barker. Well, Carey also did time with the United States Armed Forces and served with the Marine Corps Reserves from 1980 to 1986. This is when his crewcut and thick glasses really took off to later become his signature look. While in the Marine Corps, Carey started acting as a stand-up comedian. People loved it, and he became the funnyman of the 1990s. Being funny gave him a way to get money while serving in the military. Carey still tours with the USO.
19 Clint Eastwood
So maybe that’s why The Gorillaz released a song about Clint Eastwood having “sunshine in a bag”…well, whatever the case, it turns out that Clint Eastwood did serve some time in the United States Army. He was drafted back in the 1950s during the war in Korea, although he was not assigned to a station in Asia. Eastwood made his way to California and was assigned to Fort Ord, where he was an Army lifeguard. We didn’t even know that job existed. After all, if you’re in the United States military, then you like hell better know how to swim!
18 Bea Arthur
While it was suspected that Bea Arthur had served in the United States Armed Forces, she diligently denied it during her lifetime. It was not until she was on her deathbed that it was finally revealed that she had served in the military, doing 30 months in the Marine Corps. She was one of the first members to belong to the Women’s Reserve and she worked with them as a typist and truck driver. Arthur passed away at the age of 86 and was most famous for her roles in Maude and The Golden Girls. She enlisted in the military in 1943 at the age of 21 because enlistments for women had just opened. She wanted to get into ground aviation, but alas, she did not.
17 Dr. Ruth
The petite Dr. Ruth Westheimer is definitely a senior citizen now, but she knows more than just sex. While she can give some straight-up good advice for the bedroom, she also experienced a lot of other action. She and her family had to flee from the Nazis (the Westheimer family was living in Frankfurt, Germany.) She was sent to a Swiss school where she was treated with disdain for being a Jew. She then moved to Israel and later, Palestine. It was there that she trained to be a sniper. She became a Zionist, joined a clandestine Jewish movement group, and was even wounded in a bombing outside her village.
16 James Doohan
James Doohan was an actor in film and in television. He died in 2005, but he was most popular for starring in Star Trek in the cinematic sphere, playing the role of Scotty the engineer. When he was 19 years old, he decided to enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces and he witness combat during the second World War. He was also there to fight during D-Day at Normandy. Doohan was hit with several shots while leading some of his fellow soldiers. He lost a finger and would have lost his life if he didn’t have a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. Who knew those cancer sticks would actually end up saving someone’s life?
15 Ice T
Yep, Ice T was a pretty tough dude even in real life. And with the real name that he’s sporting, perhaps that is a very good thing indeed! Born Tracy Lauren Marrow, Ice T is now famous as a musician and actor appearing in movies and the long-running tv drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Yet before all of that, Ice T enlisted in the Army straight out of high school. He was a soldier for four years and left in 1983 to do his music stuff. We all know what happened after that. A nice tidbit of unknown history about the musician!
14 Don Knotts
Now, there is an urban legend floating around that Don Knotts was a hardcore drill sergeant. But alas, that is not true. Even so, there is a glimmer of truth in the whole thing. Knotts was drafted into the United States Army back in 1943, although he never saw or participated in any combat. With his entertaining skills, Knotts was assigned to be an Army entertainer for the troops that were stationed throughout the Pacific. Well, it is quite a far cry from the whole rough and tough drill sergeant thing, but it is still pretty cool. And we at least need to recognize his contributions to the good ol’ U S of A.
13 Bob Ross
He was known for paining happy trees and clouds, but Bob Ross was not always so calm and serene. Or at least he wasn’t always surrounded by so many picturesque landscapes and happy-go-lucky subject matter. Ross was actually a drill sergeant. Yes, a drill sergeant, "a go do this," "go do that," and "stop smiling" drill sergeant. He spent 20 years doing that in the United States Air Force. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Armed Forces and was stationed in Alaska where he was promoted to Master Sergeant. He later said that many of his paintings in his serene art show were inspired from his time in Alaska.
12 Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton may have had a tough-sounding name, but he was small in stature and his real name was Joseph Frank Keaton. He was from a humble home in Kansas and was pretty much entertaining straight out of his mother’s womb. He did however, get drafted into the United States Armed Forces, serving in the 40th Infantry Division. This was nearly a century ago. Even so, the military couldn’t keep Keaton from being his slapstick self. He was said to have even dressed up in officers’ clothing and strutted around. He even played hooky with his girlfriend one night without even getting caught! Pretty impressive, huh?
11 Morgan Freeman
Way back in 1955, Morgan Freeman was not thinking about doing voiceover work for documentaries or playing God. He was enlisting in the Armed Forces of the United States. He was actually presented with a nice scholarship to college (Jackson State University), but he rejected it to serve in the military. He was promoted to Airman 1st Class after serving for four years and then he left the military to get into acting. In 1964 he first graced the silver screen and well, we all know how his career turned out. Documentaries are only the half of it! He has also won awards for his acting and voice acting work.
10 Ted Williams
Ted Williams never went to college and he had sports on the brain. Yet that does not mean that he wasn’t a man that earned respect and worked hard, especially for his own country. Williams signed on to play pro baseball when he was just 17 years old. He had a stellar rookie career and was known for his decent batting average. He also took some time off to serve in the United States Armed Forces as a Marine reservist. He made a narrow escape in Korea while piloting an F9F Panther jet. Flying in a damaged aircraft, Williams was still too high in the sky to eject himself, so he had to attempt to land the deteriorating jet. He did and he was able to return to baseball.
9 Don Rickles
Don Rickles is now 89 years old, but he was quite an accomplished comedian and actor back in the day. He was most frequently making appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Late Show with David Letterman. During World War II, Rickles served in the United States Navy (from 1944 to 1946.) He achieved the rank of Seaman first class. Rickles enlisted in the military right out of high school at the age of 18. He wanted to be an entertainer in the Special Services unit, and although he did not have his wish, it was all good. He was honorably discharged and surely he was able to crack a few jokes to his fellow sailors.
8 MC Hammer
Forget the parachute pants and “Can’t Touch This.” MC Hammer (also known as Stanley Kirk Burrell) served in the United States Navy. And he was darn proud of it, too! He was college age and belonged to the aviation united as a Storekeeper 3rd Class, which he did for three years. Much like Ice T, he pursed his music as a full-time career after his work in the United States Armed Forces was over. That is when the world saw and heard his full musical prowess. Nowadays he is pretty much retired and is just doing his own thing without being hounded by the paparazzi.
7 Jimmy Stewart
Before he was an actor (and shied away from following in his father’s footsteps in the hardware store business), Jimmy Stewart flew for more than 400 total hours while working as a pilot. During World War II, Stewart was sucked into the United States Armed Forces thanks to the draft. However, he was found to be underweight and was thrown out. So, he bulked up, enlisted in the Army and joined the Air Corps. He stayed at Moffett Field in California and trained there for nearly one year. In 1944, he started flying in combat missions and really putting his love of flying to the ultimate test. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1959.
6 Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks was the child of two Jews from Europe. He was drafted into the Army, although he did want to pursue a psychology degree. Brooks was assigned to the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion as a corporal. He also worked as a combat engineer in the 78th Infantry Division. He worked at diffusing land mines, a very dangerous task. And the Battle of the Bulge? Mel Brooks was there. He was a funny guy, and used his directing chops in The Producers to allude to his disdain for Hitler. And did you know that Mel Brooks’ real name was Melvin Kaminsky?
5 Charles Bronson
The old-time actor once did his time in the military, working as an Army gunner which World War II was taking place. He first enlisted in the United States Armed Forces in 1943. He was part of the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron as an aircraft gunner. He then joined the Superfortress crew two years later, was sent to Guam, and flew in a B-29 bomber plane. Bronson completed 25 missions and was even honored with a Purple Heart (for being wounded in action.) In 1946 he left the Army. Bronson utilized the GI bill much to his advantage. He went to school, studied acting, and then went on to star in various film roles.
4 Jimi Hendrix
He was known for being a boss on the guitar, but Jimi Hendrix also contributed to his country by serving in the Armed Forces. While he did not willingly go into the Army, Hendrix went ahead with it anyway. Actually, it was either that, or spend a couple of years in jail for car theft. Whoops! In 1961, Hendrix enlisted and he got into the 101st Airbourne Division. He was stationed in Fort Campbell. The man just wanted to play some rock and roll though, and he was quite a rebellious soldier! He was known for napping on the job, needing positive reinforcement, and playing hooky.
3 Hugh Hefner
So before he was getting action in the Playboy mansion he was seeing action in the United States military. Hugh Hefner was a soldier during World War II (he enlisted in the Army after graduating high school.) He became an infantry clerk, went through basic training, and even received some honors. He won a badge for his sharpshooting skills on the M1 and graduated from “Killer College”. He also let his journalistic roots show by contributing cartoons to the Army newspapers at Camp Adair and Camp Pickett. He even continued making art after he was sent home from the Army in 1946. Did you know that he actually has a very high IQ?
2 Tony Bennett
Even though Tony Bennett is old now, he was fit and ready for action back in the day. He was drafted into the Army in 1944 while the terrors of World War II were going on. He underwent basic training and was then assigned to the Blood and Fire Division. That would be the 63rd Infantry Division. He did not stay in the United States (Bennett is from New York City) but he went to Europe, mainly France and Germany. An interesting tidbit: Bennett was chowing down with a friend in Europe who also happened to be black. A military officer showed disdain and suggested Bennett’s friend eat elsewhere. Bennett fired back and was demoted from corporal to private.
1 Elvis Presley
While he is most known for swiveling his hips and curling his lips, Elvis Presley also served in the United States Army. He was drafted in 1958 and served until 1960. He was actually offered a spot in the Special Services to entertain the troops, and why not? Elvis was an extremely entertaining and attractive fella, but he turned it down and served as a soldier instead. Way to go Elvis for not letting your fame and fortune grant you special treatment! While serving in West Germany, Presley met Priscilla Beaulieu, who would become his wife. This is also when he was introduced to drugs like stimulants and developed an addiction to them.