Gold Star Families: Performers who lost loved ones in military conflict

In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to highlight the loved ones of performers who died in conflict — from World War I through Vietnam. The term “gold star” references families who have lost a loved one in military conflict.

World War I

Edward Gabriel Lester

Edward Gabriel Lester, biological father of Katherine DeMille

Edward Gabriel Lester served as a lieutenant in the 102nd Battalion, CEF during World War I and died at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 during World War I. Katherine was adopted at age 8 by Constance Adams DeMille and producer and director Cecil B. DeMille after the death of both parents.

World War II

Don E. Brown

Captain Don E. Brown, son of Joe E. Brown

Captain Don. E. Brown joined the Army’s Infantry reserve in January 1939 and was commissioned to a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps July 11, 1941. He was killed when his twin-engine bomber crashed in the desert near Palm Springs on Oct. 8, 1942. Brown was alone on the flight and the plane was on fire when it landed. He crawled out of the plane and died shortly after, according to an Oct. 9, 1942 article.

Robert Westfield Beedle

Robert Westfield Beedle, brother of William Holden

Engisn Robert Westfield Beedle was killed in action on Jan. 4, 1944. He was on the USS Bunker Hill, part of a carrier-based squadron of the Hellcats escorting dive bombers on the raid on the mission, Strike III – Kavieng. Beedle was one of 18 Hellcats.

The Hellcats were attacked by half a dozen Zeros (a type of Japanese plane). Beedle’s plane was hit as he turned to intercept a pair of Japanese planes that concentrated on him.

“His Hellcat swept upward in a lazy loop, pulled out just above the water, flew level for a few seconds, then plunged into the whitecaps. His guns were still blasting,” said Beedle’s section leader, according to William Holden’s biography “Golden Boy.”

Norman Neale William, father of Aron Kincaid

Norman Neale Williams was a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps and died during World War II. Future actor Aron Kincaid was a toddler (born Norman Neale Williams II), according to Kincaid’s 2011 obituary. There is little information on Kincaid’s father.

Bradley Bernad Clark

Bradley Barnard Clark, brother of Dick Clark

2nd Lt. Bradley Barnard Clark, older brother of Dick Clark, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on Feb. 21, 1943. In Europe, he was a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot who flew with the 371st Fighter Group’s 406th Fighter Squadron. He was part of a group that conducted operations to support the Allied ground action during the Battle of the Bulge.

Clark was one of nine in a strafing mission, and his plane was hit by a German near Koblenz, Germany. It is assumed he was wounded and his plane damaged. Near the village of Omelmont, France, on his return flight, the following happened according to the American Air Museum:

“Seeing the church of the village of Omelmont, about 5 km NW from the base, he made two passes around it, but his plane hit the corner of a village house, then an electricity pole and a tree. He was ejected from the plane and his body was found near his crashed plane in a nearby field.”

Clark was killed in action on Dec. 23, 1944. The American Air Museum details Dick Clark’s memories of his brother. Dick Clark was 15 when his brother died.

Sir Robert Peel and Beatrice Lillie in 1938.

Sir Robert Peel, 6th Baronet, son of Beatrice Lillie

Sir Robert Peel, 6th Baronet, served in the Royal Navy. He was was killed in action in April 1942 at age 21 aboard the HMS Tenedos (H04) in Colombo Harbour, Ceylon.

Marguerite Guigette Carroll, sister of Madeleine Carroll

Marguerite Guigette Carroll was killed on Oct. 7, 1940, in a German air raid in London.

“My younger sister learned how to be a very excellent typist but was killed at her typewriter by a direct hit from a German bomb in London’s Blitz,” Carroll said in a 1949 Rotary Club speech. “It seems to me that had the generation previous to hers been more interested in encouraging good neighborliness between countries, there is a chance my sister might be alive today.”

Before her death, Marguerite (or “Gigs” to her friends), wrote to her sister in Hollywood, “How pleasant it must be over where you are. No war and no air raids, just warm sun … Cross your fingers for me,” according to an Oct. 9, 1940, article.

Vietnam

Walt Gelien

Walt Gelien, brother of Tab Hunter

Chief Petty Officer Walt Gelien enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a Chief Hospital Corpsman. Gelien was killed in action on Oct. 28, 1965, during the Vietnam War in Quang Nam. He was married and had seven children. Gelien was sleeping on a helicopter when the airstrip was attacked and his helicopter was blown up.

Gloria and James Stewart with Ronald Walsh McLean

Ronald Walsh McLean, stepson of James Stewart  

1LT Ronald Walsh McLean enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and entered the service via Reserve Military. He was killed on June 8, 1969, when he was trapped in an ambush. One of the men in his battalion, Joe Sheriff, didn’t know McLean was related to Jimmy Stewart.

“We all expected to die on the hill,” said Bob Lake of Aitkin, Minn., who at 19 had been the assistant patrol leader. “We were in no man’s land, unknowingly dropped into a [1,200-member] enemy battalion, and [helicopter extraction from] the hilltop was the only way out.”

Lake later wrote to James and Gloria Stewart in 1985, who responded to Lake saying he was the only Marine who wrote the couple.

Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn, son of Errol Flynn and Lili Damita

Sean Flynn, son of Errol Flynn and Lili Damita, was a photojournalist in Vietnam and Cambodia. He traveled with special forces covering the conflict; parachuting into combat zones with U.S. troops. In 1970, Flynn was on assignment for Time magazine and traveled to Cambodia with photojournalist Dana Stone. Flynn and Stone traveled via motorcycle, leaving Phnom Penh, on their way to a press conference in Saigon. Stone and Flynn were never heard from again, and it is assumed that they were captured by the Viet Cong.

Their remains were never recovered, and Damita searched for her son until her death in 1994.

Unfortunately I was unable to find any one from the Korean War. Please share if anyone was forgotten, and I will update the article.

Thank you for reading! What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.