When you think about 'the troops' we're willing to bet you don't think of millionaire celebrities. But the fact of the matter is that more famous faces than you'd ever realize have served in the military before. As it turns out, they're often much more than just a pretty face!
Of course, when you think of the USA in particular, you're probably thinking about wars where the draft was implemented. While there's certainly some fighters from World War II and Vietnam featured on the list, there are also a number of fairly modern celebs you definitely wouldn't expect to see.
Wondering if you will see them in a new light? We definitely changed our minds! It's pretty amazing to suddenly feel a whole lot of respect for a famous person you never really took any notice of before. So, without any further delays, here are your top 50 celebrity vets...
1. Elvis Presley
Only Elvis Presley could manage to look so suave in his military uniform. Drafted from March 1958 to March 1960, Presley was one of the biggest stars in the entire world when he was drafted. Far from shying away from responsibility, Presley actually requested to be a regular soldier. This was despite the fact that he was offered a Special Services role where he would entertain the troops instead of participating in normal duties. It also included better housing, but Presley wouldn't have any of it.
As you can imagine, this won him the respect of not just his fellow soldiers, but the whole nation. Presley's two years with the military in Germany ended up leading him to his wife, Priscilla. Unfortunately, it was also what led him to a substance abuse problem that would eventually cause his death in 1977.
2. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman has starred in so many movies that it's incredibly hard to imagine him on any other career path. However, there was once a time when acting wasn't this Oscar winner's passion. Obsessed with planes as a kid, Freeman dreamed of enlisting in the United States Air Force. He made the dream a reality in 1955, and even turned down a scholarship to Jackson State University in the process. Now that's dedication if ever we've seen it.
Freeman advanced in the Air Force for almost four years and rose to the rank of Airman 1st Class - a great achievement for such few years. Eventually, this Hollywood favorite left his post in order to pursue his other passion; acting. To this day, Freeman is still starring in blockbuster movies and captivating audiences with his very distinctive voice.
3. Jimi Hendrix
We just know you don't think 'rule follower' when Jimi Hendrix comes up in conversation. This guy was wild and did things his own way. However, despite his reputation, Hendrix did complete a short stint in the United States military as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division. He enlisted in 1961, but by 1962 he realized it probably wasn't his ideal career and decided to focus on music instead. He was granted an honorable discharge.
Hendrix went on to become one of the best guitarists in history, so it was most definitely the right idea to ditch his military career. We're pretty sure that most of you will agree with us! His life was tragically cut short at the young age of 27, but he certainly managed to fit a lot into his extraordinary time on earth.
4. Bill Cosby
Before his career-defining role on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby had a completely different life. Between 1956 and 1960 he actually served in the United States Navy - a far cry from the comedy world he ended up inhabiting. He was trained as a hospital corpsman and predominantly worked with casualties from the Korean War. Who would have thought?
Cosby was honorably discharged in 1960, from which point he went to college and began forging a career as a comedian and actor. A well respected and much-loved figure for decades, Cosby's reputation came crashing down around him after numerous women came forward with allegations of sexual abuse. He was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to three to ten years in prison. According to sources, Cosby's legal team plans to appeal the sentence.
5. Johnny Carson
Is there TV host more famous and loved than Johnny Carson? We're struggling to come up with any other names! He spent 30 years as the host of The Tonight Show between 1962 and 1992, but what most people don't know is that he enlisted in the United States Navy in 1943, during World War II. Though he hoped to train as a navy pilot, he ended up being trained as a midshipman.
Carson experienced what some might call a lucky escape. He was en route to the USS Pennsylvania, the battleship he was assigned to, when it was torpedoed. He reported for duty on the last day of the war (after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had taken place). Unfortunately, Carson still witnessed the horror of mass death when he had to supervise the removal of 20 bodies from the USS Pennsylvania.
6. Mr. T
Now here's an entry on the list that doesn't surprise us! Laurence Tureaud, who we all know as Mr. T, enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Military Police Corps all the way back in the 70s. He was well respected during his time with the army and was even promoted to squad leader in 1975.
After being granted an honorable discharge, Tureaud didn't immediately turn to acting. He first unsuccessfully tried out for the NFL's Green Bay Packers and then got a job as a bouncer. This is where he created 'Mr. T' and built a reputation that led him to become a bodyguard to celebrities including Muhammad Ali and Diana Ross. It was a chance meeting in 1980 with actor, Sylvester Stallone that saw Mr. T become a celebrity himself.
7. Mel Brooks
Best known as the co-creator of hit comedy television series, Get Smart, Mel Brooks has enjoyed a long and fruitful career within the entertainment industry. With the number of acting and directing credits under his belt, it's pure wonder he managed to fit in any other type of job. And this was no normal job. During World War II, Brooks had one of the most dangerous roles imaginable.
After being drafted into the army in 1944, Brooks was trained in military engineering. He then went on to serve in the United States Army as a corporal in the 78th Infantry Division. His role as part of the Engineer Combat Battalion was to defuse land mines. We don't know about you guys, but we think that had to be one of the scariest jobs in the army!
8. John Coltrane
We bet you didn't know that one of the greatest jazz saxophonists of all time enlisted during World War II. John Coltrane signed up for the United States Navy (he was desperately trying to avoid the US Army draft) on 6 August 1945 - the same day that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. By the time he finished his training and arrived in Pearl Harbor, navy activity was already being massively scaled back.
What nobody knew was that Coltrane would refine his talent as a musician while serving as an apprentice seaman. He entertained other troops in the Melody Masters, the Navy base's swing band. In fact, it was in Hawaii alongside other Navy musicians that Coltrane made his very first recordings. When he was discharged and had returned home to Philadelphia he began playing saxophone professionally.
9. Clint Eastwood
When it comes to Clint Eastwood's achievements, it's a hard task knowing where to start. Whether it was Dirty Harry, Million Dollar Baby, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Gran Torino, or one of the countless other films he has starred in, everybody has their favorite Eastwood movie. What most people don't associate Eastwood with is his military career.
In 1951, he was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War. But unlike some of the other Korean War vets on this list, Eastwood didn't end up fighting in it. Instead, he was a lifeguard in Northern California for his entire service. There was some drama, though. On a bomber he was travelling on, fuel ran out and he and the pilot had to swim to safety with a raft after it crashed near Point Reyes.
10. Johnny Cash
Here we have another perceived bad boy who spent a period of their life following all the rules. One of the most famous musicians in the world, Johnny Cash wasn't always so well known. Before he hit the big time, Cash was just a regular guy enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1950. As far as military roles go, Cash had a pretty cool job in Germany as a Morse Code operator.
After more than three years of service, where he spent most of his time intercepting Soviet Union communications, Cash was granted an honorable discharge. He went on to become one of the bestselling artists of all time, with 90 million album sales worldwide. Like John Coltrane, Cash developed his musical talent further while serving in the military, creating his first band, The Landsberg Barbarians.
Did anybody else pick Shaggy as someone who served in the United States Marine Corps? We definitely didn't see this one coming. After enlisting in 1988, Shaggy served in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. We've got to say, we're pretty impressed with this chilled-out singer's past life. He even rose to the rank of lance corporal. He did end up being reduced in rank twice, but it might have been because he was too busy perfecting his singing voice. That's what we like to think, anyway!
Shaggy didn't spend too much time in the Marine Corps - by the early 90s he was already dropping reggae and dancehall hits. He really made it big when Boombastic was released in 1995 and achieved mainstream success. He never had to consider a military career again.
One thing we can say about Ice-T is that he has led a very interesting life. Not only is he a successful rapper and song writer, he's also a well-respected actor. But there's another career he has left firmly in the past: his military one. Ice-T, then known by his birth name, Tracy Marrow, joined the United States Army in 1977, shortly after his daughter was born. He served for just over two years in the 25th Infantry Division.
Unlike most of the other military people on this list, Ice-T's Army career wasn't exactly perfect. He was involved in the theft of a rug with a group of fellow soldiers and was also absent without leave while awaiting the trial. He eventually discovered that he could receive an honorable discharge because he was a single father, so he went for it.
13. Sammy Davis Jr.
What couldn't Sammy Davis Jr. do? He was a comedian, actor, singer, and dancer, and he did all of them well. He also served in the United States Army, which was an eye-opening experience for the performer. Davis served during World War II in an integrated entertainment Special Services unit, where he earned the respect of his fellow soldiers. Though the spotlight helped Davis to avoid racism within the military, it didn't shield him completely, which is something he discussed openly throughout his life.
Davis described how his ability to entertain assisted him; "my talent was the weapon, the power, the way for me to fight. It was the one way I might hope to affect a man's thinking." After he was discharged from the Army, Davis went on to become a huge star within the entertainment industry.
14. Steve McQueen
A few words spring to mind when we think of Steve McQueen: talented, suave, Hollywood icon, and ultra-cool, to name a few. We definitely didn't think up any military-related words, yet McQueen did in fact spend quite a bit of time in the United States Marine Corps. He first joined the Marine Corps back in 1947 and served in an armored unit. However, he was known as a bit of a rebel and was demoted from private first class to private multiple times throughout his military career.
Somewhere along the line (maybe after being thrown into military prison for 41 days), McQueen got his act together and decided it was time to start following the rules. He ended up saving the lives of five other Marines in the Arctic and was also assigned to the honor guard.
15. Ernest Hemingway
Ever poetic, author Ernest Hemmingway stayed true to form when he responded to a Red Cross recruitment drive during World War I. He became an ambulance driver on the Italian Front and was thrust into the horrors of war almost immediately. On his first day, an explosion in a factory saw him pulling dead bodies from the rubble. He was also wounded badly from mortar fire, but acted with courage, helping Italian soldiers escape. For this he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery.
Hemmingway spent six months in a Milan hospital recovering from his shrapnel wounds. He even managed to fall in love with a Red Cross nurse during this time. Of course, this being Ernest Hemmingway, he ended up writing about his experiences during and immediately after the war in several of his books.
16. MC Hammer
If the only thing you know about MC Hammer is his smash hit, 'U Can't Touch This', you're not alone. We had no idea the singer of this one hit wonder had such a colorful career. Born Stanley Kirk Burrell, MC Hammer got the nickname 'MC' for being a Master of Ceremonies when he was on the road performing. He managed to hold onto the moniker during his time with the United States Navy, too.
MC Hammer signed up for the Navy after a brief stint in college. He feared he would be tempted into a bad lifestyle in his home town of Oakland, California, and looked to the military to keep him on the right path. He served as an Aviation Storekeeper 3rd Class for around three years before leaving to pursue a career in the music industry.
17. Paul Newman
Actor, director, producer, race car driver. Paul Newman was a man who wore various career hats in his time. Though it's not mentioned very often, he also had experience as a military man in his earlier years. Newman enrolled in a Yale University course to train as a Navy pilot, however, after his colorblindness was discovered, it was no longer an option for him.
What he ended up doing wasn't too far off from his pilot dreams. Newman trained as a radioman and rear gunner and qualified in torpedo bombers. As Aviation Radioman 3rd Class, Newman traveled to Hawaii and trained combat pilots. A chance ear infection was the source of a lucky escape for Newman. His plane was grounded while members of his squadron flew back to their aircraft carrier, where they were subsequently victims of a kamikaze attack.
18. Richard Pryor
Before he made a career out of making people laugh, Richard Pryor spend a couple of years in the United States Army. He served from 1958 to 1960 (coincidentally, he was also stationed in Germany for the exact same time period as Elvis Presley), but didn't manage to spend much time actually working. Most of Pryor's time in the Army was spent behind bars in an army prison.
The crime? It was pretty serious! After racial provocation by a white soldier, Pryor and a group of other black soldiers beat and stabbed him. The white soldier was not killed, but as you can probably imagine, he was very seriously injured. The incident didn't stop Pryor from launching an incredibly successful career as an entertainer, but there was certainly a black spot left on his record.
19. James Earl Jones
An actor on both the stage and the big screen, James Earl Jones is best known for the parts where he can't physically be seen. His distinctive voice has led him to iconic roles, such as Mufasa from Disney's The Lion King. But most famous of all is his role voicing Darth Vader in the Star Wars film series. We bet you're replaying that iconic line in your head right now!
Jones took an interest in a military career early on in his life. While the Korean War was gearing up, he was ready to serve as a second lieutenant. But in the meantime, he was working as stage crew at a local theater. The war came to an end before Jones was called to serve, but he ended up attending Ranger School instead and earning his Ranger Tab.
20. Montel Williams
We know Montel Williams as the charismatic host of The Montel Williams Show, but he's also pretty well known for serving in the United States Marine Corps, as well as the United States Navy. Unlike some of the other celebrities on this list, Williams served his country for many years and built an entire military career.
After graduating high school in 1974, Williams enlisted in the Marine Corps and remained there until he was honorably discharged in 1976. From here, he became a midshipman in the Navy and remained there for 13 years. Williams achieved so much throughout his 15-year military career: he worked for naval intelligence, became a public speaker, and rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. He also used his gift as a speaker to counsel the wives and families of servicemen.
21. Jesse Ventura
Wow. Jesse Ventura has had so many lives, we don't know if we can count them all. Actor, author, politician, wrestler, and general media personality, it seems like there's nothing he hasn't excelled in. In addition to serving as the 38th Governor of Minnesota, Ventura also served a fairly decent stint in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. We're pretty sure this guy is a real-life superhero!
Ventura was part of one of the coolest-sounding divisions of the Navy while he was in Vietnam: The Underwater Demolition Team. Fortunately, he was never involved in active combat, but his time with the military certainly shaped a lot of who he is as a person. After six years of service, Ventura left the Navy for a wrestling career, which led him to his next job as bodyguard for The Rolling Stones.
22. Kirk Douglas
Born in 1916, Kirk Douglas is more than 100 years old and still kicking! As the head of an acting and entertainment family, it's hard to imagine Douglas in any other industry, but he has led a past life as a military man. He was born in the middle of World War I and would end up serving in World War II within the United States Navy.
Douglas enlisted in the Navy in 1941, just as the USA entered the war. He worked aboard USS PC-1137 as a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. Though he was dedicated to the cause, Douglas was discharged for medical reasons in 1944, three years after he enlisted. As we all know, Douglas didn't fail when it came to his next career. He even had children that would become almost as famous as him.
23. Drew Carey
Take a look at that photo! It's certainly not the Drew Carey we have grown to know and love via our television screens. Before he was making us laugh as a comedian, actor, and TV personality, Carey was working a much more serious role. After struggling in university, Carey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and ended up serving for a full six years as corporal. If we never saw the photo we definitely wouldn't believe it!
Things didn't go too well for Carey immediately after his military career came to an end. He worked jobs that weren't right for him, including being a bank teller in Las Vegas and working as a waiter at Denny's. He eventually found his feet in the comedy world and started making people laugh with his standup routines.
24. Bea Arthur
What a woman! Bea Arthur was clearly a career multi-tasker because we had no idea she spent time in the military. Best known as Dorothy from The Golden Girls sitcom, Arthur was also a compelling stage actress and an animal rights activist. Born in 1922, Arthur was just the right age to serve when World War II came around. She enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve and worked as a truck driver and a typist.
She rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant and was honorably discharged in 1944. After her discharge, Arthur floundered for some time, not quite knowing where her place was in the world. She studied and gained qualifications as a medical technician, but it just wasn't right for her. It wasn't until 1947 that she enrolled in drama school in New York City.
25. Sean Connery
Well, well, well, if it isn't James Bond! Or one of the many versions of him, at least. After watching him on the big screen as sophisticated spy, Agent 007, it's not hard to imagine Sean Connery knowing his way around a gun in real life. After working as a milkman in his youth, Connery became a member of the British Royal Navy. It was during this time that he acquired his two tattoos: one honoring his parents, the other honoring his home country, Scotland.
Connery was discharged from the Navy on medical grounds. As it turned out, he was suffering from a hereditary illness, a duodenal ulcer, which affected most of the men in his family. After being discharged, Connery worked a series of odd jobs, including lorry driver, laborer, lifeguard, and artist's model.
26. Michael Caine
When you've appeared in more than one hundred films, it's hard for people to associate you with anything else. That's definitely the case for Michael Caine, a legendary British actor who has also done some other pretty legendary things. In addition to winning Golden Globes and Academy Awards, Caine served in the British Army in the Royal Fusiliers regiment from 1952 to 1954.
Caine's experience in the Army was a life-changing one. He was on active service during the Korean War and returned with an extreme distaste for communism (Caine went there with some sympathies as he was born into a poor family). But that wasn't his only experience. Caine says he had a moment during service where he knew he was going to die. He has since vowed to appreciate every moment of his life.
27. Henry Fonda
Born all the way back in 1905, Henry Fonda was an Academy Award winning actor. You may also know him as father to equally famous actress, Jane Fonda. Though he started out as a humble Broadway actor, Fonda ended up starring in numerous blockbuster movies, such as The Grapes of Wrath, 12 Angry Men, Once Upon a Time in the West, and On Golden Pond (for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor).
Fonda enlisted in the United States Navy, saying "I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio." He began his three years of service as a Quartermaster 3rd Class and was discharged as a Lieutenant Junior Grade. A dedicated soldier, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, which some might argue is even better than an Academy Award.
28. Willie Nelson
What would country music be without Willie Nelson? We can't even imagine a world where he wasn't creating some of the most loved songs of the genre. Nelson got started early, writing his first song at seven years old and joining his first band at ten years old. He was a boy who knew what he wanted, that's one thing we know for sure! Unlike some of the other celebrities on this list, Nelson was on his path to stardom before he even became an adult.
That isn't to say that there weren't some interruptions on his way to fame, though. Nelson definitely took his fair share of odd jobs, including phone operator, tree trimmer, and pawn shop worker. Another one for his resume is a two-year stint in the United States Air Force from 1950 to 1952.
29. Gene Wilder
Is it possible to look at Gene Wilder and not think of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? We can't seem to manage it! This actor wasn't a one hit wonder, though. Wilder also starred in Bonnie and Clyde, The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and many, many more. Before he became the famous actor we all adored, Wilder was in a completely different line of work.
Drafted into the United States Army in 1956, Wilder worked within the medical corps serving as a paramedic. He was discharged two years later and followed the same path of odd jobs as many other famous people on this list. After working as a fencing instructor and limousine driver, Wilder eventually found his calling as an actor. Initially starting on stage, it wasn't long until Wilder was starring in blockbuster productions.
30. Zulay Henao
This Colombian American actress is so glamorous it's hard to picture her anywhere but the red carpet. A fairly recent talent, you might recognize Zulay Henao from films such as Fighting, Takers, Hostel: Part II, The Single Moms Club, and True Memoirs of an International Assassin. If you haven't seen any of those, it's highly likely you've still seen Henao looking absolutely stunning in basically every photo taken of her.
When she graduated from high school, Henao was at a bit of a loss when it came to her career. She decided to enlist in the United States Army, where she spent three years serving her country. We're not sure if Henao's time in the Army paved the way for her acting career, but it certainly seems that way. After being discharged she enrolled in The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts almost immediately.
31. Fred Durst
Hands up if you remember the explicit tunes of Limp Bizkit from the 90s and early 00s. Lead singer and ex-tattoo artist, Fred Durst was famous for his trademark red hat and some pretty descriptive lyrics. Just like Willie Nelson earlier in the list, Durst knew early on in life what his core interests were. From the age of 12 years old he was rapping, skating, and beatboxing, as though he was destined to become the lead singer of Limp Bizkit.
There were a few obstacles in the way before Durst made it to the top of the nu metal scene in the 90s. For one, he joined the United States Navy. However, he only served for two years before leaving to become a tattoo artist. It was in this job that he thought up the idea for a really cool band.
32. Charles Bronson
The late Charles Bronson was definitely the type of actor who put his life skills to good use on any movie set. He seemed to always be playing a police officer or literally any other type of character requiring a gun. As it turns out, Bronson is a highly trained gunner, which he learnt while serving in the military during World War II.
Bronson enlisted in the United State Army Air Forces back in 1943 and served in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. He also served as an aerial gunner in the 61st Bombardment Squadron. After completing 25 missions against the Japanese home islands, we're not surprised that Bronson looks like such a hot shot holding a gun on the big screen. He also received one of the military's ultimate honors, a Purple Heart.
33. Robin Quivers
We love having another daring woman on the list. Best known as co-host of The Howard Stern Show, Robin Quivers is an American media personality, actress and author. However, Quivers led a completely different life in the United States Air Force. And we don't mean a stint - she served her country for a whopping 15 years. Originally trained as a nurse, Quivers realized she could use her skills in the military, which is when she decided to enlist.
She joined the Air Force in 1975 as a second lieutenant and was promoted to first lieutenant after only a few months. Three years after enlisting, she held the rank of captain. Though she was discharged not long afterwards, Quivers was a member of the United States Air Force Reserve until 1990. During that time, she furthered her career as a radio personality.
34. Darva Conger
This interesting lady has certainly led an eventful life. Daughter to actress, Susan Harrison, Darva Conger decided not to follow her mother's footsteps into the spotlight. Instead, she trained to become an emergency department nurse and she eventually took these skill with her to the United States Air Force. She was stationed at Air Force bases across the country, including Utah and St. Louis.
After completing her service, Conger continued to be a nurse. However, everything changed for her when she entered reality television show, 'Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?' She ended up winning the show, marrying millionaire Rick Rockwell, and taking home some high-value prizes. Conger ended up annulling the marriage almost immediately after the honeymoon, where she said the marriage was not consummated. She also stated that they slept in separate bedrooms on the trip.
35. Arnold Schwarzenegger
We'd be willing to bet that nobody is surprised to see Arnold Schwarzenegger on this list. Of course Arnie has served in the military! Schwarzenegger became a member of the Austrian Army in 1965 and completed his mandatory one year of service there. At the time, Austria required all men aged 18 years old to serve for one year, however, this has now been reduced to six months. Austria is one of few European countries to continue the tradition of compulsory service.
Dedicated to his blossoming bodybuilding career, Schwarzenegger wasn't going to let a little Army service stand in his way. He won the Junior Mr. Europe contest during his year of service and was absent without leave from training sessions. For this, he spent one week in military prison. It doesn't surprise us that Arnie was a bit of a rebel.
36. Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone is one of the most successful and respected directors in Hollywood. He has won multiple Academy Awards, directed numerous blockbuster films, and written some of the most famous scripts in movie history. But so many creative people draw on very real experiences to bring us the art we love so much. Stone is definitely one such person.
A Vietnam veteran, Stone enlisted in the United States Army in 1967 and specifically requested combat duty. During his service, he was wounded twice in battle and was awarded a large number of medals and honors, including a Purple Heart. Stone used his wartime experience to write and direct the 1986 anti-war film, Platoon, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Sound, and Best Film Editing. Stone also won the award for Best Director.
37. Marvin Gaye
Before he released the runaway hit, Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye was busy with other things. At just 17 years old, he dropped out of high school and joined the United States Air Force as a basic airman. Having the soul of a musician doesn't really match up too well with a military career - Gaye absolutely hated his job and went to great lengths to escape it. He went as far as faking a mental illness to get out of his service. It worked, and he was issued a general discharge.
Gaye went from someone who couldn't follow orders in the Air Force to one of the greatest influencers on the Motown scene in the 60s. He worked with Diana Ross, he won Grammys, he was a huge success. The happiness didn't quite last and he was fatally shot by his own father in 1984.
38. Mickey Rooney
Born in 1920, Mickey Rooney was on the film scene for decades. Throughout his long career as an actor, comedian, and radio personality, Rooney appeared in more than 300 movies. But it wasn't all fun and laughter for this funny man. In 1944, Rooney began his service with the United States Army and entertained troops in World War II combat zones. For this, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
Rooney served for almost two years and returned to normal life shortly after the war came to an end. It was around this time that his career took a nosedive. Rooney had entered the army as a young man who could still play teenagers on the big screen, but he emerged as an adult man who was too short to play the typical leading man. Luckily for us, he figured it out in the end!
39. Humphrey Bogart
Now here is one truly classic Hollywood icon. Born in 1899, Humphrey Bogart wasn't always the suave ladies' man he portrayed on screen. With no real job prospects on the horizon for him, he enlisted in the United States Army in 1918. World War I was coming to a close when Bogart began his service. His main role was as a sailor bringing US troops home from Europe.
He spoke fondly about his time in the Navy. He made special reference to good looking French women and how exciting it was as an 18-year-old. Bogart stuck with the nautical theme after his Navy service finished and ended up getting a job with the Coast Guard Reserve. It wasn't long until Bogart's friend got him an office job at World Films, and the rest is history!
40. Robert Duvall
This Academy Award winning actor has achieved so much over his decades-long career. It feels like Robert Duvall has been around forever. He has starred in To Kill a Mockingbird, The Twilight Zone, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now, and so much more. But a lot of people don't realize that Duvall also squeezed in a military career back in his younger years.
Duvall served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1954 and stayed for almost exactly a year. The Korean War had just come to an end and by the end of his service he held the rank of private first class. Duvall explored his love for acting before he left the military and he knew it was what he wanted to do when he got out of there.
41. Gene Hackman
This list is just full of Hollywood legends, and Gene Hackman is no exception. Who would have thought that so many famous actors had served in the military? In Hackman's case, his experience seemed like it was straight out of a movie. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps when he was just 16 years old, after lying about his age to get in. If that doesn't prove his acting skills, we don't know what does!
Hackman was stationed in China and was a field radio operator for more than four years. He was eventually reassigned to Hawaii and Japan, but was discharged not long after, in 1951. Post-Marine Corps, Hackman knew he wanted to be an actor, but like so many others before him, he spent some time doing odd jobs until he caught his break.
42. Kurt Vonnegut
If you've read any of Kurt Vonnegut's novels, you're probably already aware that he served in the military. His books are full of words about war, and we don't blame him. Vonnegut did not complete an uneventful stint as a soldier. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1943 and was sent to Europe shortly after to fight in World War II. While fighting in the Battle of the Bulge on the Western Front, Vonnegut was captured by the Germans.
The author was held in Dresden as a prisoner when the allies bombed the city in February 1945. He managed to survive by hiding out in a meat locker in a slaughterhouse. If you're wondering how he ended up in a slaughterhouse, it was because he was being imprisoned there. The Germans definitely knew how to make things as terrifying as possible.
43. Harry Belafonte
Known throughout his career as the 'King of Calypso', there's seemingly no job that this singer, actor, and activist hasn't tried. If you're not quite picturing who Harry Belafonte is, let us help you out. He's the singer of The Banana Boat Song, famous for its "day-o" lyric. There is another side to Belafonte's work history, though. Just after finishing high school, he signed up for the Navy and ended up serving during World War II.
The famous American-Jamaican singer didn't come away from war without any serious life lessons. He often spoke about how his service during World War II taught him to never take life for granted. He made a promise to himself to live every moment to the fullest, and based on his long life and successful career, we're willing to bet he definitely kept that promise!
44. James Stewart
For James Stewart, his military career is not simply a side note. Though he was a wildly famous actor, he also managed to be a pilot within the United States Air Force in not just World War II, but the Vietnam War, too. If there's one thing Stewart was, it was dedicated. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1940 but failed to make the cut because he was underweight. Most men would have shrugged their shoulders and moved on, but not Stewart. He sought out trainers to help him gain weight.
Somehow, Stewart was maintaining his career as an actor while also serving his country. When the Vietnam War came around, Stewart didn't abandon his duties. He was a high-profile actor at the time and didn't participate to the level that he did in World War II, but he was still present.
45. Jeff Bridges
It's basically impossible to not like Jeff Bridges. He's in all the best movies and just seems like the coolest guy in Hollywood. If you don't know him as 'The Dude' in The Big Lebowski, you'll definitely know him from other blockbusters, such as Crazy Heart (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2010), Tron, The Last Picture Show, True Grit, and many more. Bridges is also a talented musician and has released three studio albums.
Before he turned to the arts, Bridges had a completely unrelated career within the military. At the age of 18 he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and ended up spending seven years serving his country. Bridges has reflected on the time positively and often says he learnt a lot of important life skills while serving.
46. Gal Gadot
Best known as Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot has had her fair share of combat training. Gadot is originally from Israel, which enforces mandatory service on all citizens, both men and women. Gadot had a rather unusual role in the Israeli Army - she was a fitness instructor and helped keep all of her fellow soldiers in shape (though you would kind of assume that the army would have had fitness covered without requiring additional help).
Her experience in the fitness industry, combined with her good looks, led Gadot to the modeling world when she finished her service. This then led to acting. Before she knew it, she was starring in one of the biggest superhero movies of the decade. Gadot says she's grateful for her time in the Israeli Army, as it prepared her for a life in show business.
47. Hugh Hefner
With a long career as the ultimate Playboy, we never would have guessed Hugh Hefner had served in the military. When he finished high school, he served in the United States Army during World War II, between 1944 and 1946. Not a soldier on the frontline, Hefner was doing what he did best: writing. The Army newspaper needed people and Hefner was the man for the job.
We're not sure if his time writing for the Army inspired him, but Hefner's career only went up from there. He became a copywriter for Esquire magazine and subsequently quit when they wouldn't give him a $5 raise. It was then that he decided to launch Playboy, which was basically the opposite career to the one his mother had hoped for. Coming from a religious family, she had hoped Hefner would become a missionary.
48. Tom Selleck
Almost everyone is familiar with Tom Selleck and his trademark luscious moustache. Whether you preferred him in the Magnum P.I. television series, the classic comedy film, Three Men and A Baby, or as Monica's boyfriend, Richard, in Friends, you're bound to be familiar with his work. As a former board member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Selleck is no stranger to guns, so it's perhaps no surprise that he once had a military career.
From 1967 to 1973, Selleck served in the California National Guard after being drafted during the Vietnam War. We know what you're thinking, and the answer is yes, he did have to shave off his moustache for the role. We never would have guessed it was him in the photo! When his service came to an end, Selleck's career as an actor really started kicking off.
49. Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris is famous for being totally badass. Unlike some of the other celebrities on this list, Norris's military career was a huge part of his life and eventual success in Hollywood. In 1958 he enlisted in the United States Air Force as an Air Policeman and was stationed in South Korea. Though he was born Carlos Ray Norris, it was during his time in South Korea that he was given the nickname 'Chuck' which he ended up sticking with for life.
The nickname wasn't all that Norris got out of South Korea. It was there that he began his training in Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art similar to karate. His service with the Air Force came to an end in 1962, but his love of martial arts certainly didn't. He took part in competitions for several years before pursuing a career in acting.
50. Nate Dogg
Most of us know him as one of the founders of the West Coast hip-hop and rap scene, but Nate Dogg, born Nathaniel Dwayne Hale, had a very different life before he hit the charts. At the age of just 17 years old, Hale dropped out of high school and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He ended up being stationed in Okinawa, Japan, in the division that supplied ammunition to the Pacific.
Hale served as an ammunition specialist for three years before he was honorably discharged in 1989. When asked about why he joined the Marines, Hale always said he did it because he wanted to see if he was a man. When his service ended he teamed up with cousin Snoop Dogg and best friend Warren G to form the rap trio '213'.
Trending On BuzzFuse: