10 Famous Actors Who Served in World War Two

World War Two galvanised the public like no other war before or since. Some countries, especially the United States, used celebrities to garner support for the war. Some actors even left the comfort of Hollywood to participate in active combat.

Here is a list of 10 stars of the silver screen who participated in the Second World War.

1. David Niven

Though living in Hollywood when the war broke out, David Niven travelled home to Britain to re-join the army he had served in during the 1930s. Besides making films for the war effort, Niven took part in the Invasion of Normandy. He eventually advanced to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

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David Niven in 1948

2. Mel Brooks

Legendary comedian and actor Mel Brooks joined the US Army towards the end of the war at the tender age of 17. He served as part of an engineer combat battalion, diffusing land mines ahead of troop advances.

3. Jimmy Stewart

Already a movie star, James Stewart joined the US Air Force in 1941, first participating in recruitment drives, including radio appearances and propaganda films. He later flew and commanded many bombing missions over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. After the war, Stewart remained in the Air Force Reserve, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier general.

4. Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch and grew up under the moniker Izzy Demsky, officially changed his name just before joining the US Navy in 1941. He served as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare and received a medical discharge due to war injuries in 1944.

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Adolphe Menjou (left) & Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory

5. Jason Robards

After graduating from high school in 1940, Jason Robards joined the US Navy, serving as a radioman 3rd class aboard the USS Northampton in 1941, which was sunk by Japanese torpedoes while Robards was aboard. He later served aboard the USS Nashville during the invasion of Mindoro in the Philippines.

6. Clark Gable

After the death of his wife Carole Lombard, who became the first American female war-related casualty of the conflict when her plane crashed en route home from a tour promoting the sale of war bonds, Clark Gable enlisted in the US Army Air Forces. Though he enlisted at the advanced age of 43, after working on a recruiting film, Gable was stationed in England and flew 5 combat missions as an observer-gunner.

7. Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn’s British father was a Nazi sympathiser who became estranged from her family prior to the outbreak of the war. Contrastingly, Hepburn spent the war years in occupied Holland, during which her uncle was executed for sabotage against the Nazi occupation and her half brother sent to a German labour camp. She helped the Dutch Resistance by giving secret dance performances in order to raise money as well as by delivering messages and packages.

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Audrey Hepburn in 1954. Photo by Bud Fraker

 8. Paul Newman

Paul Newman joined the US Navy after completing high school in 1943 and served as a radio operator and turret gunner on aircraft carriers in the Pacific theatre. He also trained replacement combat pilots and air crewmen.

9. Sir Alec Guinness

Alec Guinness joined the Royal Navy in 1939 and commanded a landing craft in the 1943 invasion of Italy. He later supplied arms to Yugoslavian Partisan fighters.

10. Josephine Baker

An American by birth, Josephine Baker was a star in France rather than Hollywood. She was also a naturalised French citizen who was active in the French Resistance. Besides entertaining troops, Baker sheltered refugees and delivered secret messages including military intelligence. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre for her dangerous work as a spy for the Resistance.

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Josephine Baker in 1949. Photo by Carl Van Vechten

Graham is an editor and contributor at Made From History. A London-based writer originally from Washington, DC, he holds a master's degree in Cultural History from Malmö University in Sweden. Graham also contributes environmental news articles to asiancorrespondent.com and latincorrespondent.com.