Actors who fought during wartime

Discussions on WW2 and pre-WW2 related movies, games, military art and other fiction.
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Annelie
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Post by Annelie » 01 Dec 2006 13:12


Wehrmann
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Post by Wehrmann » 01 Dec 2006 15:46

Hardy Krüger was a member of Waffen-SS Division "Nibelungen".
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardy_Kr%C3%BCger

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Landsturm
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Post by Landsturm » 01 Dec 2006 22:18

Leslie Howard served in the 20th Hussars (despite having never ridden a horse before), right? Invalided out after the Somme in 1916? Any more information about his war service?

How about Arnold Ridley?

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Brian Ross
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Post by Brian Ross » 02 Dec 2006 02:16

Bernard Cribbens - National Service - Parachute Regiment

Sid James (of Carry On fame) - served in the South African Army

Charles Laughton - "Served in First World War. In spite of having Public School education and Officer Training (in Stonyhurst College's OTC), he chose to join the Army as a private in 1917. He served with the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Regiment, and later with 7th Bn. Northamptonshire Regiment in the Western Front. Shortly before the armistice he became a casualty due to mustard gas." - from IMDB

Patrick MacNee - Royal Navy1942-44

Jon Pertwee - of Dr.Who fame - Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in naval intelligence during the Second World War. He was a crew member of HMS Hood and was transferred off the ship shortly before it was sunk, losing all but three men

Jimmy Edwards - RAF - Distinguished Flying Cross. His Dakota was shot down at Arnhem in 1944, resulting in injuries requiring plastic surgery — he disguised it with the huge handlebar moustache that later became his trademark. He was a member of the Guinea Pig Club

Ian Carmichael - Highland Light Infantry - Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Mentioned in Despatches

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Sewer King
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Post by Sewer King » 02 Dec 2006 07:01

Peter H wrote:The Lone Ranger, Lee Powell ... Sgt. Lee Powell lived through some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War. But then, on the same day that the Tinian battle ended, he died of acute poisoning. Newspapers at the time assumed he had been killed in action, but Sergeant Powell's USMC files report not only the alcohol poisoning, but some sort of "misconduct", the nature of which was "undetermined". Hypothetically, it must have had something to do with cutting loose a bit too much after having survived the hellish battles in which he was involved, perhaps by celebrating with vast quantites of methyl alcohol. Even small amounts of this highly toxic substance can kill; it can only be hoped that the courageous and successful warrior at least got to have one last good party with his buddies.

But the United States' erstwhile masked man carried the mystery to his grave ...
This jarred me, because that very incident came up in my research of Japanese biological warfare (BW). The leading English-language book on that subject is the late Sheldon Harris' book Factories of Death (revised edition, New York: Routledge, 2002). From page 226:

"On one occasion, American cupidity led to a mistaken belief that Japan had engaged in BW [against them in the Marianas campaign]. Shortly after recapturing Guam and Saipan, several marines and naval personnel died from what rumors called "poisoned sake" or "poisoned beer". It was assumed the retreating Japanese left the "poisoned" alcohol for Americans to consume and to be be killed from its effects. Instead of a subtle form of BW, later autopsies provided a more prosaic solution to the sudden eruption of alcohol-based deaths. Drums of methyl alcohol (wood alcohol) left by the Japanese were brewed into drinks by American personnel and native Chamorros. The inevitable result was death due to methyl alcohol poisoning, not BW. As the chief medical examiner in the region dryly observed: "In every case in which details were obtainable both on Guam and on Saipan, it appeared that the poisoning was due to the common mistake of assuming that anything which was labeled alcohol or which smelled like alcohol was drinkable."

If Powell had died this way, a known actor of some popularity, that would seem likely to have been censored by the mores of the time. Similarly, Ira Hayes of Iwo Jima flag-raising fame died of choking on vomit, rather than freezing to death as is commonly told. But that was in the 1950s, soon after the Iwo Jima Memorial had been dedicated, at a time when such awkward things were not as widely reported as now. So it was for Powell I expect.
Brian Ross wrote:Jon Pertwee - of Dr.Who fame - Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in naval intelligence during the Second World War. He was a crew member of HMS Hood and was transferred off the ship shortly before it was sunk, losing all but three men.
This too struck me, because I became a Doctor Who fan relatively recently -- for both the old and new series. A documentary I once saw described the near-instant loss of the Hood as a national shock for Britain like the fall of Singapore, or Pearl Harbor for the Americans.

I looked up this HMS Hood Association crew list to see Pertwee listed halfway down. My wife is a Doctor Who fan who "converted" me, but she is seldom a military history student. So I explained what the destruction of the Hood had meant in various contexts. Incidentally Pertwee passed away just four days short of the 55th anniversary of Hood's loss.

Many well-known actors served bravely in combat, in famous battles. But few have been linked to agonizing, single incidents in the war like that of Pertwee (almost) on board the Hood -- or Charles Durning surviving the Malmedy Massacre.

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Dan W.
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Post by Dan W. » 02 Dec 2006 07:17

Peter H wrote:The Lone Ranger,Lee Powell:

http://www.b-westerns.com/trio6a.htm
Sgt. Lee Powell lived through some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War. But then, on the same day that the Tinian battle ended, he died of acute poisoning. Newspapers at the time assumed he had been killed in action, but Sergeant Powell's USMC files report not only the alcohol poisoning, but some sort of "misconduct", the nature of which was "undetermined". Hypothetically, it must have had something to do with cutting loose a bit too much after having survived the hellish battles in which he was involved, perhaps by celebrating with vast quantites of methyl alcohol. Even small amounts of this highly toxic substance can kill; it can only be hoped that the courageous and successful warrior at least got to have one last good party with his buddies.

But the United States's erstwhile masked man carried the mystery to his grave. He was buried in the Marine Cemetery on Tinian and later, at the request of his father, moved to the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Sergeant Powell, age thirty-five when he died, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with two stars, and the Victory Medal World War II. The latter two awards were sent to his widow in September, 1948."
Fascinating, thank you for that. I recently visited Punchbowl and never even knew he was buried there, or the circumstances surrounding his death.

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Dan W.
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Post by Dan W. » 02 Dec 2006 07:27

Sewer King wrote:
Many well-known actors served bravely in combat, in famous battles. But few have been linked to agonizing, single incidents in the war like that of Pertwee (almost) on board the Hood -- or Charles Durning surviving the Malmedy Massacre.
Charles Durning not only achieved a level of acting fame and accomplishment equal to anyone on that list but also was most closely associated with perhaps the most well known event, as well as the most tragic event, as any American actor would encounter in WWII.

Regards

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Brian Ross
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Post by Brian Ross » 02 Dec 2006 10:26

Charles 'Bud' Tingwell - RAAF - flew mainly PRU ops over Mediterrean, European and SWP theatres.

Speaking of actors who survived horrific experiences, downunder we have Slim de Grey who appeared in perhaps one of the most moving and intriguing TV series made here entitled "Changi", which was about the expeirence of the POWs in Singapore. He was a survivor of Changi and the Burma-Siam railway. He plays one of the main characters "today" and the main story is told in "flashback" to 1942-45. He said the experience was "difficult".

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 02 Dec 2006 15:04

Leslie Nielsen-RCAF
Leon Askin(General Burckhalter in Hogan's Heroes)--US Army
Toshiro Mifune--Japanese Army Air Force,ground controller
Lee Van Cleef--US Navy
Brian Keith--USMC,air gunner

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 02 Dec 2006 16:30

SPENCER TRACY
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000075

Enlisted in the USNavy at the start of World War I. He was still at Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia at the end of the war without having seen any active service.


ANTHONY QUAYLE
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0703033

British army major during World War II.

He joined the Special Operations Executive and served as a liaison officer with the partisans in Albania (reportedly, his service with the SOE seriously affected him, and he never felt comfortable talking about it). He was the aide to the Governor of Gibraltar at the time of the air crash of General Władysław Sikorski's aircraft on July 4, 1943.

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Sewer King
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Post by Sewer King » 02 Dec 2006 18:00

Dan W. wrote:I recently visited Punchbowl and never even knew he was buried there, or the circumstances surrounding [Powell's] death.
Harris' book Factories of Death gives the reference to the methanol-related deaths as a Current Intelligence report disproving Japanese biological warfare in the Marianas. Addressed to Commanding General, Headquarters US Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, 29 Sep 44; from National Archives Records Group 112, entry 295A, Box 11, 47.

I am not sure how likely this source would be to name Powell or anyone else in connection with this, but it seems possible.

I have been to Hawaii as a boy, but not to the Punchbowl. For some reason it surprises me to think that the Marines buried at Iwo Jima were all transferred there when that island was returned to Japan in 1968.
Dan W. wrote:Charles Durning not only achieved a level of acting fame and accomplishment equal to anyone on that list but also was most closely associated with perhaps the most well known event, as well as the most tragic event, as any American actor would encounter in WWII.
A protrait of the man then and now:
Image

On top of all that he is a good dancer, which you see best in the film True Confessions.

The late actor Brad Dexter (The Magnificent Seven; The Asphalt Jungle; None but the Brave) served in the Army Air Forces in WW2 and was best known for his supporting roles. As a matter of acting craft, he felt they were more interesting and more could be made of them. Durning has something of the same, besides his long versatility in many genres of TV and film -- as far apart as drama, horror, children's, song-and-dance, cartoons, documentaries. He seems to have played few military roles, mostly as Navy officers.

There is an overall modesty in all the wartime veteran actors, combat or not, in all countries. Durning is one of the best examples although in his case it was due as much to the horrors he saw. Just by contrast, it says many things about modern political irritability in the US over who did or did not serve in combat.
Brian Ross wrote:Speaking of actors who survived horrific experiences, downunder we have Slim de Grey who appeared in perhaps one of the most moving and intriguing TV series made here entitled "Changi", which was about the expeirence of the POWs in Singapore. He was a survivor of Changi and the Burma-Siam railway. He plays one of the main characters "today" and the main story is told in "flashback" to 1942-45. He said the experience was "difficult".
Thanks, I was just about to ask about Australian actor veterans. The place name Changi conjures ups something like Andersonville for American Civil War students. Who knows about the horrible affliction called "Changi Balls"?

Generally the PoW experience in WW2 seems to be held closer in the Australian popular memory than it does in the American. There you can have a TV series such as Changi. But in the US there is only one film, about the rescue of PoW survivors at Cabanatuan, The Great Raid.

My father was a Filipino guerrilla in the other raid at Los Banos and he always felt this difference in popular history. He gave me (Australian) Gavin Daws' book Prisoners of the Japanese as an example. Film is just the most obvious measure of such attitudes, though not the only one.
Potsdamerplatz wrote:ANTHONY QUAYLE, British army major during World War II.

He joined the Special Operations Executive and served as a liaison officer with the partisans in Albania (reportedly, his service with the SOE seriously affected him, and he never felt comfortable talking about it)
Interesting, considering his SOE-type role with Greek partisans in The Guns of Navarone.(1960).
Wehrmann wrote:Hardy Krüger was a member of Waffen-SS Division "Nibelungen
38. SS-Division "Nibelungen" was formed from SS officer cadets, and never exceeded regimental size I think. Although that late in the war, isn't it true that being taken into the Waffen-SS was almost like joining any other service? He could have been attached to the division rather than being one of the cadets?

---------------------------------------

Christopher Lee served with the RAF in the Mediterranean as a cipher officer after being grounded as a pilot for vision problems. Before that he had volunteered for Finland's Winter War but saw no action. Like Quayle, Lee was apparently connected with Special Operations Executive later in WW2, although it might have been in a support role.

Lee is a stepcousin to James Bond author Ian Fleming and would have been one of the movie series' first villains in Dr. No. In his recent role as the corrupt wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings, he was also the only cast member who knew J.R.R. Tolkien personally. Incidentally, like actor Leslie Howard, Tolkien also served in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He was a subaltern and based his beloved character Sam Gamgee on the "other ranks" he knew.there.

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 02 Dec 2006 18:38

JACK HAWKINS
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0370144

In 1940 volunteered to serve with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He spent most of his military career arranging entertainment for the British forces in India.


HANNES MESSEMER
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0582019

German actor who played the camp commandant in "The Great Escape"

He served in the German army on the Eastern Front and was captured by the Russians, spending the rest of the war as a prisoner-of-war.

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 02 Dec 2006 18:50

DAVID NIVEN
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000057

During World War II, Niven served in the British army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the British Commandos. He took part in the Normandy landings. He acted in two films during the war, both of strong propaganda value: "The First of the Few" (1942) and "The Way Ahead" (1944).

During his war service, his batman was Private Peter Ustinov.

Despite the public interest in what celebrities did during the war, Niven remained politely, but firmly, close-mouthed about the subject. After Great Britain declared war in 1939, he was one of the first actors to join the army. Although Niven had a reputation for telling good old stories over and over again, he was generally silent about his war experience. He said once: "I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war."

On his return to Hollywood after the war, he was made a Legionnaire of the Legion of Merit, the highest American order that can be earned by a foreigner. This was presented to Lt. Col. David Niven by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 03 Dec 2006 01:44

More on Tyrone Power's service here:

http://www.militarymuseum.org/Tower.html


Peter Ustinov's father and uncle both flew for Germany in WW1:
Peter Ustinov had a somewhat unusual family background. His German-speaking father, Jona von Ustinow (known as 'Klop'), was born, brought up and educated at Jaffa in Turkish Palestine, then served as a German fighter pilot during the 1914-18 war before coming to England as representative of the German Press Association, later serving as press attache at the German Embassy in London. 'Klop' became a secret agent for British military intelligence at his Embassy during the 1930s, then walked out, deciding to settle permanently in England..... His uncle Peter von Ustinow (after whom he is named) was another German pilot who was shot down and killed in Belgium in 1917.....Ustinov grandfather Baron Platon Grigorievich Ustinov was a protestant landowner and army officer who was exiled from the Russian Empire for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Orthodox Church, settling in Italy, Germany, and Palestine, and taking German nationality and the name 'von Ustinow'.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 03 Dec 2006 01:50

Louis Hayward:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0371775/bio
For his photographic services with the Marines during the filming of the Battle of Tarawa, Hayward won a Bronze Star for his courage under fire.
Captain Hayward(top row second from left) and his Marine photo,camera crew Tarawa.

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