Col. Maggie Raye: A One Woman USO

martha rayeDuring world wars and conflicts, celebrity USO shows travel to military bases and overseas to raise morale for the men and women fighting for freedom.

One film star who is the most associated with entertaining troops is Bob Hope, who entertained during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Hope would bring celebrities with him such as Ann-Margret or Connie Stevens to bring the familiarity of home to them in a foreign land.

But there is one star who isn’t mentioned as much for her morale raising service as Hope: Martha Raye.

Nicknamed Colonel Maggie by soldiers, Raye was so revered by veterans that she received special permission to be buried with the U.S. Army Special Forces cemetery on Fort Bragg Army base in North Carolina.

Martha Raye's headstone at Fort Bragg. I visited Raye's grave in December. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Martha Raye’s headstone at Fort Bragg. I visited Raye’s grave in December. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

World War II
Her patriotic endeavors began when she traveled overseas during World War II on Oct. 31, 1942. Raye traveled with actresses Carole Landis, Kay Francis and dancer Mitzi Mayfair to entertain troops in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and North Africa. The adventures of the four actresses was later written as a book by Carole Landis called “Four Jills in a Jeep” and was made into a musical film by 20th Century Fox.

Raye, known for her large mouth and jazzy songs, was the comic relief of the group. Landis was the sex appeal and Francis brought class and glamour.

While in England, the actresses only had one show canceled. When they arrived at a base, they learned half of the squadron’s bombardiers were lost that day. They ate with the men and helped toast to those who had died, according to “Take It from the Big Mouth: The Life of Martha Raye” by Jean Maddern Pitrone.

Martha Raye performing in Africa in 1943.

Martha Raye performing in Africa in 1943.

While traveling to North Africa in a B-17, two German planes began to attack. After the firing stopped, the actresses learned their tail gunner was killed, according to Pitrone.

When Landis, Francis and Mayfair returned to the states, Raye stayed behind to continue entertaining the troops. She helped carry wounded men, worked with medics, and traveled by jeep to the front lines; performing four shows. Each show was at least an hour and a half long, Pitrone wrote.

Conditions were rugged in Africa: Raye came down with yellow fever and lost 22 pounds, and then was in a trench for three days with 200 soldiers while Germans bombed the area, according to Pitrone.

“It was chummy,” Raye said in a May 15, 1943, United Press newspaper article, “Martha Raye Now a Captain.”

Raye returned home with a rank of honorary captain in March 1943 after four and a half months overseas.

Martha Raye with soldiers in Africa.

Martha Raye with soldiers in Africa.

“Their only complaint was that they didn’t get enough letters from home. That’s what they want most,” Raye told the newspapers, encouraging families to write, according to the United Press.

Her plan was to travel to the South Pacific, but doctors told her that she needed rest after her bought with yellow fever. Instead, she planned a six week American military base tour, which ended on the second day when she collapsed from fatigue. In 1944, she discovered she was unable to go on any USO tours, because she was pregnant, Pitrone said.

Korea and Vietnam
Raye traveled to Korea in the summer of 1952 to entertain troops, but it only lasted a few weeks due to illness.

Martha Raye in Vietnam in her signature Green Beret and combat boots.

Martha Raye in Vietnam in her signature Green Beret and combat boots.

She was most active during Vietnam; traveling overseas eight times from 1965 to 1972 for six month to a year per tour. She was in Vietnam so often that a blind soldier recognized her by her perfume.

“She spent more time in Vietnam than the average soldier. She virtually gave up her career, family and everything,” said Mildred Fortin, quoted in a July 6, 1993, Daily Gazette article, “Area veterans take on mission to honor Martha Raye.” Fortin was a Vietnam veteran and co-founder of Medals for Martha Raye, an organization that wanted Raye to receive the Medal of Freedom, the highest military recognition a civilian can receive.

Raye would go into risky areas for the soldiers, leaving the larger, safe bases and travel into the jungle to perform for as few as 25 soldiers, according to her 1994 obituary. In 1967, she was the first woman in the Green Berets with five qualified jumps, according to an Aug. 1, 1979, article by Vernon Scott.

“She came, regardless of danger,” said retired Master Sgt. Tom Squire in her obituary. “She talked, drank, told jokes, played cards. A lot of times when the regular Army didn’t know what was going on or understand, she would just go.”

In each base, she posted her home address and phone number, encouraging the soldiers to stay in touch. And when she would return home, she sent their letters to their family, called wives, and would tell reporters how the soldiers were discouraged and disillusioned by the lack of support they were receiving from Americans, according to Pitrone’s book.

“I think the way they’re being treated by a minority of idiots back home is just disgraceful,” Raye said in an Aug. 27, 1970, article before she went on her sixth tour. “What I do isn’t for sympathy or pity. It’s just trying to help in a small way. Our servicemen give so much and ask for so little.”

Martha Raye with soldiers in Vietnam.

Martha Raye with soldiers in Vietnam.

Along with singing and entertaining, Raye would help as a nurse. Raye told people she was became a registered nurse in 1936 and worked at a hospital while also acting at Paramount. However, it seems she never was a registered nurse but was once a nurses’ aid.

The soldiers thought so highly over her, they once threw her a birthday party. Fortin said Raye was the mother that the boys were missing- sister, girlfriend or nurse.

“We had no idea who would be coming to Ham Long on Christmas morning (1971),” said Army Col. John B. Haseman. “You can imagine our surprise and delight when this wonderful lady, clad in her trademark jungle fatigues and Green Beret jumped out of the helicopter… I will never forget what she did for us, and I know there are thousands of other soldiers who can tell you a similar story.”

During Vietnam, the Army made her an honorary member of the Green Berets’ Special Forces and she was given an honorary rank of Army Lt. Col. The Marines made her a full Colonel. In 1969, she was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work with the military, and in 1993, she was recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Even long after World War II or Vietnam, military personnel would check in with Raye. One World War II veteran who was with her in North Africa wrote into Ann Landers in 1991 asking if she was okay after seeing her in a wheelchair on TV.

“I was privileged to be Martha’s Jeep driver during the North African Campaign when she entertained the troops of the 2nd Armored Division,” he wrote. “She tripped while performing and hurt her ankle but refused to get it checked out by a doctor until she put on a show for 20,000 soldiers.”

At her Fort Bragg funeral in October 1994, the Honor Guard from the 7th Special Forces Group Airborne served as pallbearers, the 82nd Airborne Division band performed and 300 soldiers and civilians were there to honor her.

“She was Florence Nightingale and Dear Abby,” said Bob Hope. “And she was the only singer who could be heard over the artillery fire.”

Closer view of Raye's grave at Fort Bragg (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Closer view of Raye’s grave at Fort Bragg (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

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Hollywood Veterans in Arlington National Cemetery: Audie Murphy

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Audie Murphy with the Medal of Honor.

Audie Murphy with the Medal of Honor.

After World War II, many men returned home from being a hero overseas to not having a difficult time finding work in the United States. Some, who didn’t know what else to do, turned to acting.

For example, after 10 years in the Navy, Ernest Borgnine’s mother suggested he become an actor because he was always “making a damn fool of his self in front of people anyways.”

Audie Murphy, the United States’s most-decorated soldier during World War II, was no exception. Unfortunately, his film career was not as stellar as Borgnine, Tony Curtis or James Arness who performed after fighting overseas.

It was another Hollywood actor and a World War I veteran, James Cagney, who saw Murphy on the cover of the July 16, 1945, LIFE magazine. Cagney was impressed by Murphy’s good looks and invited him to Hollywood, according to the Arlington National Cemetery’s biography on Murphy.

Audie Murphy on the cover of LIFE magazine.

Audie Murphy on the cover of LIFE magazine.

But the road to war hero and film stardom started when he sought to leave the life he had in Texas. Born to poor sharecroppers, his father left the family of 10, his mother died when Murphy was 16 and his brothers and sisters were being sent to orphanages or relatives. At age 17 in 1942, Murphy lied about his age to join the Marines, but they said he was too short and he was unable to join he paratroopers, according to Arlington National Cemetery.

Murphy first saw combat in 1943 while he was with the 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa, preparing to invade Sicily. His unit then trained for the southern France invasion, Operation Anvil-Dragoon, where his division had 4,500 casualties, according to Arlington National Cemetery.

The unit was in combat for a total of 543 days, about 150–Murphy served 390 of that– more than any other and Murphy was one of the few to survive. The unit had 1,100 officers and 21,000 enlisted men. Of that, 175 officers and 3,300 enlisted men were killed, said Hank Auld in an Oct.2, 1955, article, former commander of the 15th Regiment.

The act of heroism Murphy, now a lieutenant, is most known for occurred on Jan 26, 1945, near Holtzwihr in France. The Allies were up against six German Panzer tanks and 250 soldiers. Murphy got on an abandoned tank and fired on the advancing Germans; firing for approximately an hour. He was injured in the leg but continued on and killed 50 soldiers. It is said Murphy killed more than 200 Nazis during World War II. This was one of three injuries Murphy sustained, he had two in his legs and one in his hip.

“I expected to see the whole damn tank destroyer blow up under him any minute,” veteran Pfc. Anthony Abramski was quoted in a New York Times article. “For an hour he held off the enemy force single-handed, fighting against impossible odds. It was the greatest display of gut and courage I have ever seen.”

Murphy awarded for valor in 1945. Original caption: 1945-Europe: ANOTHER MEDAL FOR MOST DECORATED AMERICAN SOLDIER. General Alexander Patch of the U.S. 7th Army decorates Lt. Audie Murphy of Farmersville, Texas with the Medal of Honor.. Lt. Murphy is the most decorated American soldier, holder of every decoration for bravery save the legion of merit. He rose from the rank of private to become a company commander in 30 months of combat duty with the veteran third division.

Murphy awarded for valor in 1945.
Original caption: 1945-Europe: ANOTHER MEDAL FOR MOST DECORATED AMERICAN SOLDIER. General Alexander Patch of the U.S. 7th Army decorates Lt. Audie Murphy of Farmersville, Texas with the Medal of Honor.. Lt. Murphy is the most decorated American soldier, holder of every decoration for bravery save the legion of merit. He rose from the rank of private to become a company commander in 30 months of combat duty with the veteran third division.

Murphy was recognized with the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor, for this act. Along with the Medal of Honor, he was the highest decorated soldier during World War II with 28 medals, including recognition from France and Belgium. Other honors include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star and several Purple Hearts. In 2013, Murphy posthumously received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, after his sister Nadine Murphy Lokey campaigned for him to be recognized.

Despite his heroism, Murphy was very shy. He didn’t smoke and he didn’t drink, according to the June 2,1971, article “Reporter recalls conversation with Audie Murphy,” written by Associated Press reporter William Barnard, recalling when he met Murphy in 1945.

“They talk about bravery. Well, I’ll tell you what bravery really is,” Murphy told Barnard in 1945. “Bravery is just determination to do a job that you know has to be done. If you throw in discomforts and lack of sleep and anger, it is easier to be brave. Just wanting to be back in a country like this can make a man brave. I have seen many a doughfoot do many a brave thing because he wanted to get the war over with in a hurry. Many a guy who wanted to come home worse than anything else in the world will stay over here forever. They are the fellows I want the honors to go to, not me.”

When he returned home to Texas, officials chartered a plane to fly him to Dallas and a parade was held in his honor in Farmersville. However, Murphy changed all of the plans to ride with Barnard to see his family.

Murphy wanted to go to West Point but his injuries prevented him from passing the physical, according to a Jan. 1, 1967, Los Angeles Times article, “Excitement’s Gone for Murphy.”

Audie Murphy in "To Hell and Back" (1955), the dramatization of Murphy's memoirs.

Audie Murphy in “To Hell and Back” (1955), the dramatization of Murphy’s memoirs.

In 1945, Murphy at 20 years old and went to Hollywood by Cagney’s suggestion. He also stayed in the military after the war by joining the Texas Army National Guard.

“It beats picking cotton, but that’s about all,” Murphy said about acting in 1967.

Cagney was organizing his own production company. Murphy was nervous and distraught when Cagney met him, and Cagney invited him to stay at his home and rest in Coldwater Canyon in Beverly Hills, according to “Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950” by Kevin Starr.

His war experiences plagued Murphy with nightmares, an upset stomach, headaches and he could only sleep with a pistol under his pillow. He eventually turned to sleeping pills to avoid the nightmares, according to Starr’s book.

Murphy later become one of the first veterans to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a 2013 Los Angeles Times article. The PTSD was the cause of his divorce from actress Wanda Hendrix, who he was married to from 1949 to 1950.

To help his acting, Murphy studied to lose his Texas accent, took dancing lessons and learned how to fence at the Actors Lab to prepare for acting. However, Cagney’s production company failed by 1947, and Murphy was staying at the health club on La Cienega Boulevard with other veterans, according to Starr’s book.

World War II veteran, actor Audie Murphy's grave in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

World War II veteran, actor Audie Murphy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Murphy’s first film was a small role in the western “Beyond Glory” (1948). Most of his film were westerns and many are sadly forgettable. His most famous film roles are “The Red Badge of Courage” (1951) and “To Hell and Back” (1955), where Murphy played himself in the film adapted from his 1949 memoirs.

After making 40 films from 1948 to 1969, Murphy left Hollywood. Murphy never felt he was much of an actor.

“I’ve made 40 pictures. I made the same western every time, but just with different horses,” Murphy is quoted in the Jan. 1, 1967, Los Angeles times article.

Murphy was just 47 and a father of two sons when he died in 1971. His plane crashed while flying in Virginia. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His grave is one of the most visited, along with President John F. Kennedy’s, according to the Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1967 Murphy was asked how people survive a war.

“I don’t think they ever do,” he said.

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Hollywood Veterans in Arlington National Cemetery: Lee Marvin

Last weekend, I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Note: Johnny Carson once said Marvin fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima with Bob Keeshan, who played Capt. Kangaroo. This is incorrect. Marvin was in the Battle of Saipan and Keeshan did not see combat.

Portrait of Lee Marvin

Actor Lee Marvin in the 1960s.

Actor Lee Marvin, known for his premature silver hair, frequently played gruff and tough characters throughout his acting career that began in 1950 and ended in 1986. Off screen, he was known for crazy, reckless shenanigans but was a “team player” and worked to get the best from his co-stars on set. This could be due to his military background.

Like many post-war stars including Tony Curtis, Clint Eastwood and Ernest Borgnine, Marvin served in World War II.

“The war really had an effect on me,” Marvin said many years after the war, quoted in the book “Lee Marvin: Point Blank” by Dwayne Epstein.

In August 1942, Marvin, 18, enlisted in the Marines in New York. He trained at Parris Island in South Carolina and a base at New River, NC. His father, Lamont Marvin, who decorated in World War I, taught his sons how to handle a gun. Lamont, 51, also enlisted with his son. Lee’s father helped set up anti-aircraft gun emplacements in England, according to “Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines” by James E. Wise and Anne Collier Rehill.

Lee Marvin during World War II (Photo submitted to LIFE magazine, 1968)

Lee Marvin during World War II (Photo submitted to LIFE magazine, 1968)

Marvin went to Quartermaster School in North Carolina and was promoted to corporal, then was ordered to Service Company, Marine Barracks at Camp Elliot in San Diego, CA. But he was demoted to private after Marvin, known for being a troublemaker, caused some issues. Also due to his behavior, Marvin was on mess duty for a month, according to the Wise and Rehill book.

But in January 1944, Marvin was done with his mess duties and was shipped to the Marshall Islands. He was with D Company, 4th Tank Battallion (Scout-Snipers), Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Division, according to the Wise and Rehill book. Marvin was part of the 22d Marines, which would survey the area before the attack, specifically Kwajalein. Once the United States Marines had taken Eniwetok and Kwajalein, Marvin was sent to Hawaii for training and then he was sent to Saipan in June 1944, according to the Wise and Rehill book.

After witnessing various horrific acts during the war, Marvin was quoted in Epstein’s book saying, “This insanity, this raving inhumanity- it was then I suddenly knew: This is what war does to a man, what war means.”

In the invasion of Saipan, Marvin was one of six out of 247 men in his unit who wasn’t killed, according to a Sept. 27, 1968, LIFE magazine article.

“We went in on Yellow Beach Two. The first day…we clawed forward and hit the basic scrub of the beach…They (the Japanese) had us nicely pinpointed on a checker-board. They didn’t miss,” Marvin is quoted in the Wise and Rehill book. “The artillery got very bad, and all the bombing was coming down very heavy…We lost quite a few that night.”

Marvin was wounded in June 1944 at age 21 in Saipan’s “Death Valley.” He was blown off his stretcher and was on the beach during a counter attack, watching his fellow Marines die.

“I was on Saipan and got hit,” Marvin wrote a letter to his father “Pop” on July 3, 1944, quoted in Epstein’s book. “Not too bad but bad enough to hamper me if I stayed. I was hit in my left buttocks just below the belt line. You may think it’s funny to get hit in the can like that but at the time I was very lucky that is all I got. I was pinned down and could not move an inch and then a sniper started on me. His first shot hit my foot and his second just about three inches in front of my nose. It was a matter of time, as I knew I would get hit sooner or later. If I got up and ran, I would not be writing this letter so I just kept down.”

Marvin during World War II (Photo courtesy of LIFE, 1968)

Marvin during World War II (Photo courtesy of LIFE, 1968)

He was treated for 13 months in naval hospitals for a severed sciatic nerve and was awarded the Purple Heart in a hospital on Guadalcanal. He was nearly permanently paralyzed by his injury, according to Wise and Rehill’s book.

Marvin wanted to get back into combat but his injury kept him in the hospital preventing that. Not being able to return made him feel angry, frustrated and guilty, according Epstein’s book.

“It (the war) ruined him,” Marvin’s father is quoted in Epstein’s book. “He came home from that half dead, totally broken. He was never the same.”

Marvin was unable to reenlist due to his disability status that came with his injury.

Lee Marvin's grave at Arlington National Cemetery, located just below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Lee Marvin’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, located just below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Marvin worked odd jobs until he got into acting in New York. He was in off-Broadway plays from 1948 to 1950 until he started in television and films in 1950.

In 1968, Marvin returned to the Pacific for “Hell in the Pacific,” co-starring Toshirô Mifune, about an American pilot during World War II who is on a deserted uninhabited Pacific island with a Japanese Naval captain. During the war, Mifune was a Japanese officer.

“They (the islands) were all beautiful then, when you went in. That was a strange thing about it,” Marvin is quoted in LIFE magazine. “I remember what it looked like when we came in past the reef. The place had been bombed and shelled for weeks and the floor of the ocean was covered with brass casings that hadn’t deteriorated yet. Then the smell hit you- death and fire. You’d give a panic look to your buddy. ‘How did we get here?’”

Marvin wondered if returning to the island would return “old gung-ho feelings,” but he said he felt nothing; maybe if it had been three years after the war but not 23.

Marvin died in 1987 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Marvin rests in section 7A, just below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This area is for distinguished veterans, which include World War II fighter pilot, Col. Pappy Boyington, boxer Joe Lewis and ABC reporter Frank Reynolds.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Hollywood Military Wives in Arlington National Cemetery

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Spouses and minor children of veterans are able to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A few actresses are buried with their military husbands including Priscilla Lane, Constance Bennett and Phyllis Kirk.

Eligibility includes a widow or widower of an eligible member, including the widow(er) of a member of the Armed Forces who was lost or buried at sea or was determined missing in action. A surviving spouse who has re-married and whose remarriage is void, terminated by death, or dissolved by annulment or divorce by a court with basic authority to render such decrees regains eligibility for burial in Arlington National Cemetery unless it is determined that the decree of annulment or divorce was secured through fraud or collusion, according to Arlington National Cemetery’s guidelines.

Widows or widowers of service members who are interred in Arlington National Cemetery as part of a group burial may be interred in the same cemetery but not in the same grave.

Priscilla Lane and Joseph A. Howard

Actress Priscilla Lane in the late-1930s.

Actress Priscilla Lane in the late-1930s.

Actress Priscilla Lane, famous for her roles in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the “Four Daughters” trilogy and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Saboteur,” met Army Air Force Lt. Joseph A. Howard in 1942. They were married in May 1942, and Lane took a suspension from Warner Brothers so she could travel with Howard from base to base until he was shipped overseas to fight in World War II.

“At Warner’s it is said she requested the time off. But nothing has been said about her permanent retirement,” gossip columnist Louella Parsons wrote in an Oct. 2, 1942 column.

Lane turned down several movie offers and said marriage was a 24 hour job.

“Priscilla has had plenty of offers to return to the movies but so far has passed them up. “Marriage is a 24 hour job,” she says,” quoted in an Oct. 24, 1943, column by Inga Arvad.

Priscilla Lane, her husband Joseph Howard and their children in 1958.

Priscilla Lane, her husband Joseph Howard and their children in 1958.

Lane did not return to films until 1947 for the Eddie Bracken film “Fun on a Weekend” (1947).

“War veterans aren’t the only ones returning to movie sets,” said a June 13,1946, article by Bob Thomas. “At least one war wife is coming back too—Priscilla Lane. Three and a half years ago, Priscilla…disappeared from the Hollywood scene after making ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’”

Lane was quoted in the article saying she found other things were more important after the war started.

After the war, the Howards moved to Van Nuys, CA, in 1946 where Joseph worked as a contractor, according to “The Women of Warner Brothers” by Daniel Bubbeo.

They later moved to lake front property in Massachusetts. Rumors got out that Lane was retiring from show business, which she denied.

“I love show business, but my first duty is to a wonderful husband and my two lovely children,” she said.

Howard and Lane had four children together: Joseph (1945), Hannah (1950), Judith (1953) and James (1955).

She still did some commercials and had a morning show in Boston called “The Priscilla Lane Show” where she interviewed guests and screened old films.

Also in her retirement, she was active with her garden, volunteered in hospitals, was a Girl Scout troop leader and directed school plays. Her son Joe said she was similar to her characters on screen; high spirited and always in the mood for a joke, according to Bubbeo’s book.

Joseph Howard died in 1976 and Priscilla Lane died in 1995. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Joseph Howard died in 1976 and Priscilla Lane died in 1995. Both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

The Howards moved to New Hampshire in 1972 to the Howard family farm in Deer, NH. On May 8, 1976, Howard passed away at the age of 61 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

“I’m still trying to pull myself together,” Lane said about her husband’s death a year later in a 1977 interview in the Boston Herald American.

Lane was diagnosed in 1994 with lung cancer and refused radiation or chemotherapy, according to Bubbeo’s book. She passed away in 1995 and was buried with her husband in Arlington.

Constance Bennett and Brig. Gen. John Theron Coulter

 To get to Bennett and Coulter’s grave we hiked up a steep hill…realizing there was a road once we got to the top. This was the most difficult to find of all the graves we visited.

Actress Constance Bennett at the height of her career in the 1930s.

Actress Constance Bennett at the height of her career in the 1930s.

Actress Constance Bennett, sister of Joan Bennett and most famous in the 1930s, met John Theron Coulter in 1941 when he was an Army Air Corp colonel. Originally from Mississippi, Coulter’s love of flying took him to Officer’s Candidate School and he was then stationed in Riverside, CA. When World War II broke out, his commanding officer asked if he wanted to stay in the United States or go overseas. His wife Martha was in the hospital recovering from a wreck so he stayed in the United States with her, according to “The Bennetts: An Acting Family” by Brian Kellow.

In the United States, Coulter served as the technical advisor on military pictures at Warner Brothers Studios; teaching combat tips to actors such as Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, according to Kellow’s book.

Bennett and Coulter met at a Warner Brothers party that he was at with his wife Martha. He soon divorced Martha for Bennett. However, in April 1941, Constance married actor Gilbert Roland, but once Roland was drafted after Pearl Harbor, her relationship with Coulter continued. The two married in 1946, two days after her divorce with Roland was finalized. This was Bennett’s fifth marriage.

Constance Bennett and John Theron Coulter on their 1946 wedding day.

Constance Bennett and John Theron Coulter on their 1946 wedding day.

In 1948, Coulter, now a general, joined the Berlin Airlift Task Force in December 1948, as group commander of the 60th Troop Carrier Group. He became Wing Commander of the 60th Troop Carrier Wing and commander of the Royal Air Force Station, at Fassberg, Germany. When the wing and base were deactivated after the airlift, Coulter was named assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters, USAFE.

Morale was low on the Fassberg, Germany base and Bennett helped cheer people with her high spirits and kept the RAF wives entertained. She also attracted her Hollywood friends to come and entertain, according to “The Berlin Airlift” by Ann and John Tusa. Bennett would also work with the other wives distrusting coffee and cakes at Fassberg, according to “The Candy Bombers” by Wolfgang J. Huschke. Bennett also often greeted the pilots and ate with mechanics in the mess hall, according to “Daring Young Men” by Richard Reeves.

While stationed in Germany, Bennett also produced the play “John Loves Mary” for occupying forces starring father and daughter actors, Gene and June Lockhart.

Constance Bennett and John Coulter's grave at Arlington National Cemetery (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

Constance Bennett and John Coulter’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica P)

The Coulters moved to Washington, DC in 1952, where Bennett also produced plays in the area and occasionally had singing engagement. The couple lived on Northwest Thirtieth Street in Georgetown, according to a June 1953 Associated Press article.

In 1958, Coulter was named the commander of the 85th Air Division and the couple moved to Richard-Gebaur Air Force Base in Missouri, he was commander of the 20th Air Division. They also moved to Colorado, Paris and New Jersey.

Bennett died in 1965 of a cerebral brain hemorrhage. She was buried in Arlington National Cemetery due to her husband’s military involvement. After Bennett’s death, he married actress Virginia Pine in 1972. Coulter died in  1995 and is buried with Bennett in Arlington.

Phyllis Kirk and Warren Bush

Though I did not visit Kirk’s grave, I still wanted to note she was buried in Arlington.

Actress Phyllis Kirk in the early-1950s.

Actress Phyllis Kirk in the early-1950s.

Phyllis Kirk starred in 1950s films such as “Two Weeks with Love” and “House of Wax.” Towards the end of her Hollywood career, Kirk married CBS news producers Warren Bush in 1966. Bush was in the Army Air Force during World War II. Bush passed away in 1991 at age 65. Kirk died in 2006 and both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Oct. 2017 editor’s note: Maureen O’Hara (who passed away Oct. 2015) is also now buried in Arlington National Cemetery U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles F. Blair Jr.

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Hollywood Veterans in Arlington National Cemetery: Jackie Cooper

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Jackie Cooper as a child star in the 1930s.

Jackie Cooper as a child star in the 1930s.

Known for his constant tears that rolled down chubby cheeks, Jackie Cooper was one of the top child actors of the 1930s.

But life changed for Cooper when he joined the Navy during World War II.

“I had gone into the Navy as a youth, and I came out as a man,” Cooper wrote in his 1981 autobiography, “Please Don’t Shoot My Dog.”

Cooper served in the Navy during World War II; going into the service in 1943 and was discharged in 1946.

“I think the only time I really regretted being recognizable was during the war,” he wrote.“It was tough on celebrities then. The officers wanted to show everybody they didn’t play favorites, so they were twice as hard as us. The men wanted to show us they were as good as we were, so they would go out of their way to pick fights, to prove they were our equals or betters….And yet for the duration, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.”

Cooper went to Notre Dame in 1943 to 1944 for military training, but left after a scandal of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A teenager got drunk in a group he was with, but Cooper was found innocent, according to his autobiography.

Jackie Cooper playing the drums during World War 2 with Claude Thornhill's band.

Jackie Cooper playing the drums during World War 2 with Claude Thornhill’s band.

Bandleader Claude Thornhill was overseas originally in a Navy band started by Artie Shaw. When the band broke up, Thornhill asked Vice-Admiral Calhoun if he could form another band that played a remote bases in the South Pacific. The band was called Thornhill’s Raiders. Cooper, who was a drummer outside of his acting career, had played with Thornhill previously in 1942, and he called Cooper asking to join the band, according to Cooper’s autobiography.

In 1944, Cooper was promoted to seaman third class and was performing at the Aiea Naval Hospital in Oahu. Starting in January 1945, the band performed for eight months over 28 islands across the Pacific via Navy Air Transport, according to his autobiography.

Singer Dennis Day was also in the band. Friction between Day and Thornhill caused Thornhill to leave and morale for the band went downhill.

 

Jackie Cooper when he was discharged in 1946.  Original caption: Joyously waving his discharge paper, movie actor Jackie Cooper prepares to depart for Hollywood after leaving Navy separation center at Terminal Island, Long Beach. Cooper served 26 months and was discharged with rank of Musician, 3rd class.

Jackie Cooper when he was discharged in 1946.
Original caption: Joyously waving his discharge paper, movie actor Jackie Cooper prepares to depart for Hollywood after leaving Navy separation center at Terminal Island, Long Beach. Cooper served 26 months and was discharged with rank of Musician, 3rd class.

“The war was just out there, and you could see what it did,” Cooper wrote. “You knew that the public was being fed pap (we saw the newspaper reports on Tarawa that 1,500 had been killed, and we had no trouble counting 5,500 graves), and you knew the war would last 10 years more, and you wondered if you were helping much by playing music. Yet, you also saw what happened to so many good guys—dead, dying, blinded, horribly mutilated…We (the band) often talked about it. Were we doing enough? Generally, we had to admit we weren’t.”

Cooper saw action once on Ulithi. The harbor had more than 5,550 ships of U.S. Navy carriers, gunboats and supply vessels and the Japanese Air Forces attacked. The Japanese had very little left to fight with, and one Kamikaze attempted to crash into a ship went right into the water, he wrote.

“Then one of the enemy crashed his plane into the fantail of the carrier USS Randolph; all the ammo aboard its aircraft blew up, and hundreds of sailors were killed,” Cooper wrote. “The day after, we went aboard what was left of the hangar deck of the Randolph and there were ankle-deep puddles of blood. From that moment on I recognized how artificial war movies are.”

Cooper was on the island New Caledonia when the war ended, and then went on a goodwill tour of New Zealand. Cooper was discharged in January 1946.

After returning from the war, Cooper returned to Hollywood but eventually turned to directing rather than acting.

Jackie Cooper's grave in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Jackie Cooper’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

He joined the Navy again as a Naval Reserve in 1961 and remained remaining in the reserves until 1982. His rejoining started with Naval Reserve recruitment advertisements until the Navy urged him to join. Cooper was a lieutenant commander and was promoted to captain in 1973. During his time in the Navy, Cooper made training films and promotions, but declined promoting the Vietnam War, because he disagreed. In 1970, Cooper became an honorary Naval Aviator, an honor also bestowed to actor Bob Hope.

Upon Cooper’s retirement in 1982, he was decorated with the Legion of Merit by Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. Other than James Stewart, no performer in his industry has achieved a higher uniformed rank in the US military, according to the U.S. Navy.

Cooper passed away in 2011 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

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Hollywood Veterans in Arlington National Cemetery: Dashiell Hammett

Last weekend, filmmaker Brandon Brown and I set out to find six celebrities buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The venture took four hours and more than five miles of walking. To put that into perspective, we were hunting for six graves out of more than 400,000 people buried in the 26 square mile cemetery with roughly an 8 mile trail running through it. This week, I am highlighting these people who either served in the military or were married to military personnel. 

Author Dashiell Hammett's grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

Author Dashiell Hammett’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. (Comet Over Hollywood/Jessica Pickens)

The man who invented Nick and Nora Charles in the 1934 book “The Thin Man,” is a United States Army veteran of World War I and II.

Author Samuel Dashiell Hammett, one of the most influential authors of hard-boiled detective novels, is famous for writing “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Thin Man” and “The Glass Key.”

He also wrote the screen plays for “Watch On the Rhine” (1943), “After the Thin Man” (1936), “The Glass Key” (1942) and “Shadow of the Thin Man” (1941)

But before his detective novel days, Hammett was a soldier.

Enlisting in the Army in 1918, Hammett was a sergeant in the Motor Ambulance Corp. While serving, he contracted tuberculosis; a disease that affected him for the rest of his life, according to the PBS American Masters series.

However, Hammett never got overseas during World War I. Frequent hospitals visits due to the flu and tuberculosis kept him stateside before he was discharged in May 1919, according to “Gentlemen Volunteers: The Story of the American Ambulance Drivers” in the Great War by Arlen J. Hansen.

Staff of the Adak Newspaper that Hammett edited. (Photo Courtesy of Anchorage Museum)

Staff of the Adak Newspaper that Hammett edited. (Photo Courtesy of Anchorage Museum)

But in World War II, Hammett’s military duties were more active. Hammett,48, picked up his military career in 1941, at the height of his fame. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army as a private and was honorably discharged as a sergeant three year later.

Hammett fought against the Japanese in Battle of Attu, islands located off of Alaska, which was part of the Aleutian Islands Campaign. This is the only World War II battle fought on incorporated United States territory. The battle lasted more than two weeks of hand-to-hand combat in arctic conditions.

Hammett during World War II.

Hammett during World War II.

“Modern armies had never fought before in any field that was like the Aleutians,” Hammett was quoted in “The Capture of Attu: A World War II Battle as Told by the Men who Fought There,” by Robert J. Mitchell, Sewell Tappan Tyng and Nelson L. Drummond. “We could borrow no knowledge from the past. We would have to learn as we went along, how to live and fight and win this land; the least known part of our America.”

Hammett also edited a post newspaper while serving on the Alaskan base, according to a 2009 article from the Alaska Dispatch News.

In between his service in the World Wars, Hammett established himself writing detective novels, creating detective character Sam Spade. Many of his novels were turned into popular Hollywood films, most notably “The Thin Man,” which became a series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, and “The Maltese Falcon,” starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor and marking the screen debut of Sydney Greenstreet.

Hammett passed away in New York in 1961 but was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.

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Actress takes break from screen for war effort

Publicity photo of Madeleine Carroll from the 1930s.

Publicity photo of Madeleine Carroll from the 1930s.

She went from being one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood at $250,000 a year to working for the Red Cross at $125 a month.

After starring in two Alfred Hitchcock films and the star studded “Prisoner of Zenda” (1937), English actress Madeleine Carroll left films for six years.

Carroll said she had a new career: helping win the war.

Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in the United States, Carroll’s sister 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.”

But before her sister was killed, Carroll turned over her French chateau for children removed from Paris and other French cities. She also started holding benefits in Hollywood to send money to Europe, according to a Jan. 21, 1940, article in the Pittsburgh Press.

In 1942, Carroll married newcomer actor Sterling Hayden. Hayden felt his place was fighting in the war and after two roles in Hollywood he enlisted in the Marines.

Madeleine Carroll training at the American University in Washington for service in the Red Cross in 1943.

Madeleine Carroll training at the American University in Washington for service in the Red Cross in 1943.

“I’m the proudest woman in the world because my husband will be a buck private in the Marines,” Carroll was quoted in an Oct. 23, 1942, article in the Milwaukee Journal, “Madeleine Carroll Shelves film career for duration” by Sheliah Graham.  “I want to participate in the best of my ability to winning the war. We both feel that glamour has no place during this difficult period.”

Carroll and Hayden even changed their names, because they felt their star status could be detrimental to their new wartime careers. The two became Sterling and Madeleine Hamilton, according to a June 1943 article in the St. Petersburg Times, “Two Film Stars Change Their Names.”

Carroll’s first job in war work was in the newly formed US Seaman’s Service in New York as the director of entertainment, which was like the USO for Merchant Marines.

“I chose this work because while a great deal is done for the boys in the Army and the Navy, people are inclined to forget the boys not in uniform who risk and lose their lives on the ships taking food and supplies to the allied soldiers,” Carroll was quoted in the 1942 Milwaukee Journal article. “We want to raise enough money to open clubs and recuperation centers in all the big cities and American ports…we want to take care of the merchant seaman who are maimed, or otherwise ill, after the war as well as during.”

After spending 18 months with the US Seaman’s Service, Carroll worked over seas with the Red Cross.

She worked with the American Red Cross at the 61st station Army hospital in Foggia, Italy, where she hoped to be assigned as a staff aid in an evacuation hospital.

“I’m grateful to be in the Red Cross, because none of the girls stare or act like I’m a celebrity,” Carroll said in a March 20, 1944, Associated Press brief in the St. Petersburg Times.

Madeleine Carroll looking after war orphans in her French Chateau

Madeleine Carroll looking after war orphans in her French Chateau

Along with working in the hospital, Carroll worked on the hospital train for four months taking wounded men to ships that took them home, according to a May 9, 1945, Milwaukee Journal article.

Each train carried 300 to 400 men with three bunks on each side holding a wounded man. Carroll estimated working with 25,000 military men, the article described.

She recalled a time when a man with a leg injury helped on the train by shining a lantern on a man in a lower bunk with a chest injury so bad that his ribs were exposed, according to the 1945 article.

Carroll was not trained as a nurse, but tried to keep the men’s morale up with cookies, music or comforting them.

madeleine3“I never have known a man too wounded to eat a cookie,” she said.

“How nice it is to be served by Princess Flavia,” one soldier said, reaching his arm out to her, referencing her role in “Prisoner of Zenda.”

After V-E Day, Carroll helped unwed mothers in France, according to a Nov. 14, 1945, Milwaukee Journal article, “Madeleine Carroll caring for war babies born in France out of wedlock.”

Carroll received letters from girls worried about bringing up a baby on their own with an unknown father. She met girls with babies at her door step in France.

At the time the article was published, Carroll helped 40 mothers. Carroll helped with hospital bills, background checks on potential parents and adopting out the children, according to the article.

In each article written between 1942 and 1946, Carroll was credited as “the former actress” or “retired star.”

Several times she was quoted as saying she was incredibly happy and never wanted to return to films.

Hayden and Carroll divorced in 1946, and they both eventually returned to Hollywood, both making their first film back in 1947.

While Hayden’s career took off in the 1950s, with films like “Asphalt Jungle,” Carroll made three more films and made four television appearances. She retired from acting in 1955 and lived the remainder of her life out of the public eye.

Even while helping with the war effort, whenever a soldier would ask her “Are you really Madeleine Carroll,” she replied “Don’t let them kid you.”

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The forgotten Hollywood war hero: Wayne Morris

Warner Brothers star, Wayne Morris in he 1930s

Warner Brothers star, Wayne Morris in he 1930s

He can be seen playing alongside Bette Davis as a boxer in “Kid Galahad” (1937) or a cadet running amok at the Virginia Military Institute in “Brother Rat.”

Wayne Morris may not be a name you’re familiar with but you have most likely seen the husky, affable blond in Warner Brothers 1930s and 1940s films.

But you may not be familiar with Morris’ war time record.
We frequently hear about Hollywood actors such as James Stewart, Clark Gable and Mickey Rooney who enlisted and were decorated for their bravery during World War II.

However, Morris is rarely recognized for his service and was one of World War II’s first flying aces.

His interest in flying started in Hollywood.

While filming “Flying Angles” (1940) with Jane Wyman and Dennis Morgan, Morris learned how to fly a plane.

Morris in 1944 in his plane "Meatball." The decals show how many Japanese planes he shot down.

Morris in 1944 in his plane “Meatball.” The decals show how many Japanese planes he shot down.

Once World War II began, Morris joined the Naval Reserve and became a Naval flier in 1942 on the U.S.S. Essex. He put his career on hold to fight. The same year he was married to Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke.

“Every time they showed a picture aboard the Essex, I was scared to death it would be one of mine,” Morris said. “That’s something I could never have lived down.”

Morris flew 57 missions-while some actors only flew 20 or less- and made seven kills, which qualified him as an ace.  He also helped sink five enemy ships.

He originally was told he was too big to fly fighter planes until he went to his uncle-in-law, Cdr. David McCampbell who wrote him a letter, allowing him to fly the VF-15, according to “McCampbell’s Heroes: the Story of the U.S. Navy’s Most Celebrated Carrier Fighter of the Pacific”, Edwin P. Hoyt.

Three of his planes were so badly damaged by enemy fire that they were deemed unfit to fly and were dumped in the ocean, according to IMDB.

“As to what a fellow thinks when he’s scared, I guess it’s the same with anyone. You get fleeting glimpses in your mind of your home, your wife, the baby you want to see,” Morris said. “You see so clearly all the mistakes you made. You want another chance to correct those mistakes. You wonder how you could have attached so much importance to ridiculous, meaningless things in your life. But before you get to thinking too much, you’re off into action and everything else is forgotten.”

For his duty, Morris was honored with four Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals.

When he returned to Hollywood after four year at war, his once promising career floundered and Warner Brothers did not allow him to act for a year.

Jack Warner welcoming actors home from the war in 1945 including Wayne Morris, Ronald Reagan, Army Air Forces; Jack Warner; Gig Young, Coast Guard; and Harry Lewis, Army.

Jack Warner welcoming actors home from the war in 1945 including Wayne Morris, Ronald Reagan, Army Air Forces; Jack Warner; Gig Young, Coast Guard; and Harry Lewis, Army.

Morris’s most notable post-war films include “The Voice of the Turtle,” “John Loves Mary” and “Paths of Glory.” His career ended with several B-westerns.

At the age of 45, Morris passed away in 1959 from a massive heart attack.

But his service to his country was not forgotten. Morris is buried in Arlington Cemetery and was given full military honors at his funeral.

Morris with his wife Patricia and daughter Pamela in 1946.

Morris with his wife Patricia and daughter Pamela in 1946.

Though I am thankful for all men and women who serve our country, I wanted to recognize Wayne Morris.

For years I saw Wayne Morris in films and knew nothing about him except that I liked him. He is one of those character actors that can make a movie special.

Morris seemed like a regular guy. Before he started out in Hollywood, he played football at Los Angeles Junior College and worked as a forest ranger.

After I researched him and discovered his war record, I wanted to honor his service and his work in films.

Thank you to Wayne Morris and men and women in the military for serving our country.

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Elkin goes to war and Hollywood

Fred Norman, 19, in 1943 when he enlisted.

I met one of the last Americans to see Churchill, Stalin and Truman together and who also has met several Hollywood stars.

            On Wednesday, I was excited about the interview and wore a skirt and turtleneck rather than my usual outfit of jeans.  I wanted to show respect to this particular interviewee.

            It was already a crazy morning after driving 20 minutes to a wreck and I was running a little late for our 10 a.m. appointment.

            I pulled up to a beautiful ranch style home, I later found out he and his wife built it in 1954, and was greeted at the door by 88-year-old Fred Norman before I even rang the doorbell.

            I’d seen younger photos of him and he looked basically the same-still wearing his hair in the 1940s wave style and a few pounds heavier.

            “Hello!!” he happily said inviting me inside. We sat down and started to talk about his war years.

            Norman was in the 3rd Army, sixth division (or Super Six) that fought under General George S. Patton. Under Patton he fought in the Siege of Bastogne to relieve the U.S. 101st Airborne Division who was surrounded by the German in the Battle of the Bulge (this is shown in the 1948 film “Battleground”).

            Norman was with the American, French and British forces who went into Berlin, Germany after the Russians.  He was also there with hundreds of other soldiers and tanks that lined the Autobahn as Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin rode into Berlin for the Potsdam Conference that determined Nazi Germany’s punishment.

            “Churchill had his daughter Sarah with him and Stalin was in the biggest limousine I’ve ever seen,” Norman said.  “Truman road up in a convertible and I slipped out of rank and snuck into the forest to take a picture. I’m probably one of the last people living to see those three together. I was 21 at the time and it was 66 years ago so there can’t be many of us left.”

            Born and raised in Elkin, N.C., Norman was 19-years-old and a student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when he was drafted into the Army. He was sent to California for basic training before going overseas to England.

            After the war, Norman married his sweetheart since the fourth grade, Nan ‘Hon’ Johnson. She passed away in 2007.

Fred Norman and his division in front of their tank in Bastogne. I said he was like Van Johnson in "Battleground." He got bashful and said "I don't know about that"

“When I got out of the Army I said, ‘Nan we aren’t having any long engagement, we’ve been engaged since the fourth grade,’” Norman laughed.  “Hon and I were married for 62 years and we had a great life. Someone may go but the memories never leave.”

            Towards the end of the interview I asked if he saw any movie stars or went to the Hollywood Canteen while he was in California for training.

            “I saw a bunch of stars when I went to Hollywood, but I don’t think you’d know anything about them,” he said.

            I quickly said I was actually a big movie fan. Mr. Norman smiled real big and we talked an extra 30 minutes about people he had seen at the Canteen and during the 1940s and 1950s.

            “I remember seeing Joan Blondell at the Hollywood Canteen-she was real famous at the time. That was a really great thing they did for us,” Norman said. “I also saw Frank Sinatra, he was mine and Hon’s number one.”

            Norman and a friend used to travel to New York City to see the Lucky Strike Radio Hour and listen to Frank Sinatra sing.

            “The girls just went crazy for him. I asked my friend ‘What has he got that we haven’t got?’ Every time he would move the girls would go crazy,” Norman said. “He was sitting on a stool and knelt down to adjust his loafer and the girls went ape. They did the show again two hours later for California audiences and I’ll be doggoned if those girls waited another two hours to listen to Frank again!”

            Norman also saw big band leader Kay Kyser several times since they both went to UNC Chapel Hill, but at different times.

Fred Norman and a friend at the Hollywood Canteen in 1944.

While overseas he saw Marlene Dietrich perform.

            “See what the boys in the backroom will have,” he sang thinking about the famous song Dietrich sang. “World War 2 was so different. Everyone was so dedicated. I don’t believe anyone would do that now.”

            In Berlin, Norman saw one of the most modern theaters he had ever seen. It had 12 doors that lead to every row of seats and an elevator stage.

            “The elevator stage rose up and there was Mickey Rooney,” he said. “I didn’t know how small that rascal was! He came out and said, ‘I know you are all going to tell me to get off my knees, but this is as tall as I get.’ He gave quite a show.”

            Norman met many incredible actors that we have lost today, but most importantly I’m thankful for what he did for our country. He fought under one of the greatest generals our country will ever see, and is the sweetest man I have ever met.

            For a long time, Norman didn’t talk about his war experiences.

            “I didn’t talk about the war for many years after I got home. Nobody did, I didn’t even talk to daddy about it,” he said. “It wasn’t until Tom Brokaw came out and said we needed to tell our stories that I did. I don’t mind telling some of the anecdotes, but there are a lot of things I saw that I just don’t want to talk about.”

            I’m proud that I was able to talk to him, and that I consider this man a friend.

            Thank you Fred Norman, and all the other veteran’s who have served our country.

To read more about Norman’s war experiences, you can read my article on the Elkin Tribune website.

Fred Norman today showing off his Nazi helmet and flag he captured during WW2.

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