Memorial Day

Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood & More Stars Who Served in the Military (PHOTOS)

From Clint Eastwood to Henry Fonda to Jimi Hendrix, see stars who served their country as United States military servicemen.

Getty Images (top left); AP Photo (2)

Getty Images (top left); AP Photo (2)

Stars who Served in the Military

A look at some of the celebrities who have served their country away from the big screen and bright lights. From Clint Eastwood to Henry Fonda to Jimi Hendrix, see stars who did stints as United States military servicemen.

Robyn Beck, AFP / Getty Images

Clint Eastwood

Academy Award–winning director Clint Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and held an unconventional job. Eastwood served as a swimming instructor and lifeguard, working weekends as a bouncer. Although he didn’t serve on the frontlines, his aquatic skills saved his life. Hitching a ride home to visit his family on a Navy plane, he was forced to swim more than a mile through rough tides when the torpedo bomber he was flying in developed engine trouble and had to make a water landing near San Francisco.

Staff Sgt. Jim Goodwin, US Marine Corps / AP Photo

Chuck Norris

Norris joined the Air Force after high school, and was introduced to martial arts while stationed in Korea. Becoming the first Westerner to be awarded an eighth-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do, he held the world middleweight karate champion title for six years, and has since founded 32 martial-arts schools.

Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

Bob Barker

The former The Price Is Right game-show host enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II. He donated $2 million to a charity that helps injured military vets and their families. He also has a soft side for animals, donating $2.5 million to PETA to open a new Los Angeles location. He recently responded to a disturbing video of men in uniform cutting off the legs of a live goat for “training.” “It is clear from this video that dismembering and then trying to mend live goats in these crude procedures is worlds apart from treating an injured human on the battlefield ... I hope you will give this issue serious consideration and take steps to replace the armed forces’ use of animals for trauma training with 21st-century simulation technology.”

Nathan G. Bevier, USAF / Getty Images

Drew Carey

The Drew Carey Show star, ex-host of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and current host of The Price Is Right served in the Marine Corps for six years, from 1980–86. According to the comedian, he adopted his infamous horn-rimmed glasses and crew cut during his service. “While in the Marine Reserves, I was looking for a way to make some more money, and it was suggested that I try using my jokes,” he said.

Erik Kabik, Retna / Corbis

Hugh Hefner

Long before he was the original Mr. Playboy, the adult-entertainment czar was a writer for a military newspaper in the Army for two years. It was after his honorable discharge from the service in 1946 that Hefner began toying with the idea of publishing a men’s magazine.

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Jimi Hendrix

In 1961 a run-in with the law forced soon-to-be legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix to decide between two years in prison and joining the Army. After he enlisted, his rebellious tendencies took hold, and he often was penalized for sleeping on duty. According to reports, he was a “habitual offender” on midnight bed checks. Although Hendrix signed up for three years of service, his captain had had enough after one—and made the case for the future guitar icon to be honorably discharged.

AP Photo

Elvis Presley

Elvis was already a singing sensation when he was drafted into the Army in 1958. Because he was constantly taking heat from concerned parents, religious leaders, and teachers, people saw his draft as a way to remove him from the public eye—the perfect situation. And although he was offered the chance to serve his time as a performer for troops, Presley chose to be a regular solider. After his service ended in 1960, Presley had a new appreciation among the older generation, thanks to his military work.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

Bill Cosby

Comedian Bill Cosby enlisted in the Navy in 1956 and served aboard ships before working in naval hospitals. But he wasn’t just a fighter and a comedian—he also ran track. Cosby won awards for running on the Navy track team, but nevertheless experienced racial discrimination. He was forced to eat in the kitchens of restaurants where the track team stopped while on the road. He was honorably discharged after four years of service.

Peter Kramer / AP Photo

Pat Sajak

In hopes of avoiding a draft to Vietnam, Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak enlisted in the Army in 1968. But his plan didn’t pan out, and he was sent to work as a finance clerk in Long Binh, Vietnam. Finance wasn’t his strong suit, however, and he was looking for a change in careers. Luckily, he had connections with an old radio employee who had been elected to congress and was set up with a new job as an Army DJ. He told The New York Times, “If you said your name, you were supposed to say your rank—specialist fifth class, which kind of ruins your patter. So on the radio I would just not say my name at all. I went for a year on radio without ever identifying myself.”

AP Photo

Jimmy Stewart

The famed It’s a Wonderful Life star had to convince military recruiters that he wasn’t underweight. After failing to meet the weight requirements the first time around, Jimmy Stewart hired a noted muscle man to help him pack on the pounds. Even so, he was rejected for a second time. He persuaded the Army to run the test yet another time. They did, and he passed. Stewart not only was an Academy Award–winning actor but an accomplished military man, rising to the rank of brigadier general in 1959. 

AP Photo

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda wanted to defend his country as much as he didn’t want to be a fraud. In 1942 Fonda enlisted in the Navy to fight in World War II, saying, "I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio." He served for three years, and was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation and a Bronze Star.