Actors who fought during wartime

Discussions on WW2 and pre-WW2 related movies, games, military art and other fiction.
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Brian Ross
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Post by Brian Ross » 11 Dec 2006 00:56

Further on Kenneth Williams, from The Times, Saturday 16th April, 1988:
http://www.kennethwilliams.org.uk/ wrote: During the war, and at the age of 18, he joined the Army and was assigned to make maps for the Royal Engineers. It was while in the Army, feeling "very small and inferior", that he discovered his gift for making people laugh. But people kept telling him to get his knees brown. "Get your knees brown!" they'd say.
He was transferred to Combined Services Entertainment, touring Malaya and Burma, and fetching up at the
Victoria Theatre, Singapore. He and Stanley Baxter were put on as a double act.
By now, he was discovering that, if he got up on the stage, he could make them shut up and look. He believed that his impressions of women were quite good, until the colonel said, "You're and embarrassment", and Williams went into the wings, and wept. He was told that it would be better in Kuala Lumpur, but it never was.
from the The Telegraph, Saturday 16th April, 1988:
http://www.kennethwilliams.org.uk/ wrote: During the 1939-45 war he served in the Royal Engineers survey section in Bombay and at the end of the hostilities was posted to the map reproduction section as Kurunegala, Ceylon.
In 1946 he managed to obtain a posting to Combined Services Entertainments based at Singapore, only to fail the audition. His effeminate patter act - "Are you one of Wingate's men?" "No, I'm one of Colgate's girls! - was ill-received and resulted in a "RTU" (Returned to Unit).
He persuaded them to let him stay and produce posters, however, on one occasion when an actor failed to turn up, he found himself on stage.
Soon he was appearing with his great friend and mentor Satnley Baxter in the sort of revues which were guyed so lovingly in Privates on Parade - written by another CSE alumnus, Peter Nichols.
One of Williams's routines out East went: "My granny's got a nose like a Malayan peninsula, with a wart at Singapore." He also specialised in impersonations of Nellie Wallace.
Demobbed witht he rank of Sergeant

Frankie Howerd of "Up Pompei" fame, has two interesting and contrasting biographical quotes:
http://www.frankiehowerd.com/1940s.htm wrote: 5 months after the War started Frankie was called up, but spent the first 2 years doing exactly what his initials stated - F.A. - and he was posted to Shoeburyness in Essex. After Dunkirk a call came for volunteers to cheer up the demoralized troops with camp concerts. Frankie was instantly taken on by the Entertainment's Officer and at the first concert was introduced as "Gunner Frankie Howerd" - the name change from Frank (to his mates) stuck. Later in the War at one concert party he was with his piano accompanist , Mrs. Vera Roper. He was about to start a song and there was silence from the Vera. She has been musing about her meat coupons, looking at the ration book atop the piano, and was in a daydream. Frankie covered up the silence with "That's all I need, a deaf accompanist!". He look back and she was still in a reverie and he added "Poor dear, she's past it" which raised the roof. Another element of the act was added.
http://www.carryonline.com/ wrote: When in the Army during the Second World War, he failed the auditions for both ENSA and Stars in Battledress. Undaunted, he practiced his routines in the canteen and the barracks, overcoming his stammer and perfecting the bumbling humility for which he later became so famous.

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 11 Dec 2006 02:37

More information on Audie Murphy who was briefly mentioned earlier in the thread:

AUDIE MURPHY
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001559

In 27 months of combat action Audie Murphy became the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II.

He received the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for valor, along with 32 additional medals awarded for bravery and service.

Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Murphy - then just 17 years old - tried to enlist in the military, but the services rejected him because he had not yet reached the required 18 years of age. Shortly after his 18th birthday in June 1942, Murphy was finally accepted into the United States Army, after first being turned down by the Marines and the paratroopers for being underweight and of slight build. He was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas, for basic training. During a session of close order drill, he passed out. His company commander then tried to have him transferred to a cook and bakers' school because of his baby-faced youthfulness and apparent physical weaknesses, but Murphy insisted on becoming a combat soldier. His wish was granted; after 13 weeks of basic training, he was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland for advanced infantry training.

Due to his fragile physical appearance, Murphy still had to "fight the system" to get overseas and into combat. His persistence paid off, and in early 1943 he was shipped out to Casablanca, Morocco (North Africa) as a replacement in Company B, 1st Battalion, U.S. 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Murphy saw no action in Africa, but instead participated in extensive training maneuvers along with the rest of the 3rd Division. His combat initiation finally came when he took part in the liberation of Sicily in July 1943. Shortly after arriving there, he experienced his first encounter with death by killing two Italian officers as they tried to escape on horseback. Murphy contracted malaria while in Sicily, and this illness put him in the hospital several times during his Army years. After Sicily was secured from the Germans, the 3rd Division invaded the Italian mainland, landing near Salerno in September 1943. Murphy distinguished himself in combat on many occasions while in Italy, fighting at the Volturno River, at the Anzio beachhead, and in the cold, wet, desolate Italian mountains. While in Italy, his instinctive skills as a combat infantryman began to earn him promotions, increased responsibilities, and decorations for valor.

Following its participation in the Italian campaign, the 3rd Division invaded Southern France on August 15, 1944. Shortly thereafter, Murphy's best friend, Lattie Tipton, was killed while approaching some German troops feigning surrender. Murphy went into a rage, and single-handedly wiped out the German machine gun crew which had just killed his friend. He then used the German machine gun to destroy several other nearby enemy positions. For this act he received the Distinguished Service Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor).

Just weeks later, he received Silver Stars for two more heroic actions. Murphy, by now a staff sergeant and holding the position of Platoon Sergeant, was eventually awarded a battlefield commission to second lieutenant, which elevated him to the Platoon Leader position. He was wounded in the hip by a sniper's ricocheting bullet 12 days after the promotion to 2nd lieutenant. Audie spent some ten weeks recuperating. Within days of returning to his unit he became the company commander (still wearing bandages, January 25, 1945) and suffered yet another set of wounds from a mortar round (which killed two others near to Audie).

The very next day (day time high temperature was at 14 degrees with 24 inches of snow on the ground) the battle at Holtzwihr began with Audie's unit at a strength of 19 out of 128. Audie sent all of his soldiers to the rear while he took pot-shots at the Germans until out of ammunition. Murphy proceeded to use a burning, disabled tank destroyer's .50 caliber machine gun to cut into the German infantry at a distance, including one full squad of German infantry that had crawled in a ditch to within 100 feet of Audie's position. His almost private battle continued for slightly more than an hour. His focus on the battle before him stopped only when his telephone line to the artillery fire direction center was cut by either U.S. or German artillery. As his remaining men came forward, he quickly organized them to conduct the counter attack, which proved very successful. Audie Murphy's actions earned him the Medal of Honor near Holzwihr, France, on January 26, 1945.

Audie Murphy was credited with killing more than 240 German soldiers during World War II, plus wounding and capturing many others. By the end of the war, he was a legend within the 3rd Infantry Division as a result of his heroism and battlefield leadership. His principal U.S. decorations included the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Star Medals, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals with Valor device, and three Purple Hearts (for the three wounds he received in combat). Murphy participated in many official campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany, as denoted by his European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver battle star (denoting five campaigns), four bronze battle stars, plus a bronze arrowhead representing his two amphibious assault landings at Sicily and southern France. The French government awarded Murphy its highest award, the Legion of Honor (Grade of Chevalier). He also received two Croix de Guerre from France and one from Belgium. In addition, Murphy was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge (a complete list of his awards and decorations appears later in this article). Murphy spent 29 months overseas and just under two years in combat with the 3rd Infantry Division, all before he turned 21 years of age.

In early June 1945, one month after Germany's surrender, Murphy returned from Europe to a hero's welcome in his home state of Texas, where he was showered with parades, banquets, and speeches. Murphy was discharged from active duty with the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant in September 1945.

After the Korean War broke out in June 1950, Murphy joined the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard. However, that division was not called up for combat duty, and Murphy remained in the United States during all his National Guard service. By the time he left the Guard in 1966, he had attained the rank of major.

Medal of Honor citation

The official U.S. Army citation for Audie Murphy's Medal of Honor reads:

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.
Place and date: Near Holtzwihr France, 26 January, 1945.
Entered service at: Dallas, Texas. Birth: Hunt County, near Kingston, Texas, G.O. No. 65, 9 August 1944.
Citation: Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective.
Image

Audie Murphy was indeed a living legend.

Best regards.

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Fallschirmjäger
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Lucky them

Post by Fallschirmjäger » 12 Dec 2006 03:23

I thought maybe he would have got into a divison going to korea some how if he could,like how old was he then,and maybe becuase he had a family and kids?,the nth koreans and chinese are lucky he did not then come to korea to fight them.

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edward_n_kelly
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Post by edward_n_kelly » 12 Dec 2006 06:13

From Wikipedia article on Audie Murphy

After the Korean War broke out in June 1950, Murphy joined the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas National Guard. However, that division was not called up for combat duty, and Murphy remained in the United States during all his National Guard service. By the time he left the Guard in 1966, he had attained the rank of major.
and

Murphy suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his return from the war. He was plagued by insomnia, bouts of depression, and nightmares related to his countless bloody battles. His first wife, Wanda Hendrix (1949-51), often talked of his struggle with this condition, even claiming that he had at one time held her at gunpoint.
It appears he may not have been in a fit state to have gone to Korea or, if he had, may have potentially have been more of a danger to his own side than to the enemy.

Edward

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 12 Dec 2006 06:30

If I remember correctly one actor wrote that Murphy had "killer eyes" and carried a loaded gun on his film sets.The crews treated him with kidgloves.

I guess he had his own inner demons from the war.

His grave is the second most visited at Arlington,after JFK.

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 12 Dec 2006 14:10

FERDY MAYNE
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0562807

The German actor Ferdy Mayne came to Great Britain before World War II to avoid persecution by the Nazis as he was Jewish.

During the war he became a double-agent for MI5 and helped to break the Kent/Wolhoff spy ring. Tyler Kent and Anna Wolhoff were an American and Soviet pair who were imprisoned for copying secret war documents and planning to send them to the Germans. Both were given heavy prison sentences. Because of his role in the affair Ferdy Mayne's cover was blown and he was no longer able to be used as a field agent, instead turning his attentions to the stage where his acting career began.

Best regards.

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Post by Fallschirmjäger » 13 Dec 2006 04:01

Thanks edward_n_kelly,for that info.

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Douglas Jr.
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Post by Douglas Jr. » 14 Dec 2006 02:34

Hi,

Interesting topic indeed. Here is another contribution:

BRIAN KEITH
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001417/bio
http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll

During the war years, Keith served in the Marines, winning a Navy (??) Air Medal; after cessation of hostilities, he began his acting career in earnest.

Douglas.

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 14 Dec 2006 02:34

RAYMOND BURR
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000994

Served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Took part at the Battle of Okinawa, he was shot in the stomach and sent home to recover from his injuries.


MARTIN BALSAM
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000842

Served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 17 Dec 2006 23:11

WARREN MITCHELL
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0593803

and

RICHARD BURTON
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000009

Both men were Royal Air Force cadets together at Oxford in 1944, where they became friends and completed their navigator's training just as the war was ending.

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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 22 Dec 2006 04:05

ROD STEIGER
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001768

He ran away from home at the age of 16 to join the United States Navy during World War II, where he saw combat on destroyers in the Pacific.

PETER SELLERS

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000634

During World War II, he was an airman in the Royal Air Force, rising to corporal by the end of the war and serving in Italy and North Africa. During this time in the armed forces he met and became friends with Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine and Spike Milligan. All four men would later work together as "The Goons".

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Post by Larry Thorne » 25 Dec 2006 23:00

Roger Moore - Military Intelligence (required National Service, 2nd Lt.)

Wow. I didn't knew this before;)... Surely good experience for him (if you think his known role as James Bond;)).

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Fallschirmjäger
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Post by Fallschirmjäger » 26 Dec 2006 07:52

Was he in any wars though,korea,not WW2 though right?.

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edward_n_kelly
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Post by edward_n_kelly » 28 Dec 2006 00:44

NO - immediate post WW2 and was out of the Army post National Service before Korea started IIRC. Transferred to entertainment at first opportunity.

Michael Caine was an infantryman in Korea - 1st Bn The Royal Fusiliers.

For those from OZ - have another look at Peter Cundall presenter of Gardening Australia. Ex-Para (at end of war - no combat jumps), posted as guard on Italian/Yugoslav border and was invegiled across by a [femme-fatale[/i] and imprsioned for several months as a spy. Took discharge and came to Australia as a "specialist" (he just said he was to the recruiting sergeant of the Oz Army in UK - did not have any qualifications of any kind!), arrived on the troopship to be marched down one gang plank and up another destined for Korea (that is his description....). He was there as an infantryman for a year. Discharged after a while, drifted, became a gardener, stood for the Communist Party of Australia as a federal candidate (perhaps more than once) and eventually became the inspiration for the television show he now runs (for the last 7-8 years). Marvelous speaker .....

Edward

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Brian Ross
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Post by Brian Ross » 28 Dec 2006 06:31

He also served as a Para in Palestine at the end of the Mandate IIRC.

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