Hollywood’s real war heroes

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

By Frank Roberts

John Wayne and Ray Milland co-starred in “Reap the Wild Wind.” They didn’t get along, with Wayne putting down the manliness of his Welsh co-star.

But there was nothing to question. Milland was a member of the Household Cavalry of the British Army. He was a professional marksman, horse rider and airplane pilot.

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Wayne, on the other hand, according to documents, worked hard to stay a civilian. He thought he could make up for it by making appearances at USO shows in the South Pacific and Australia — his version of military service — but he was greeted with a lot of booing from the enlisted men who had served in hard combat.

The soldiers viewed Wayne, Crosby, Hope and Jolson as Hollywood entertainers looking for some good public relations.

On the other hand, Henry Fonda enlisted in the Navy when he was 37. Jimmy Stewart tried to enlist when he was 33, but he was underweight, so he went on a special diet, reached the minimum weight, and proudly flew dozens of missions over Germany.

Gene Autry joined the Army Air Corps (giving Roy Rogers the opportunity to jump in as cowboy king). Tyrone Power went into the Marines, and Robert Montgomery joined the Army, along with Clark Gable. Ronald Reagan signed up, but his poor eyesight kept him from going overseas.

Not surprisingly, Mickey Rooney joined the Army as an enlisted man, like yours truly. We were both lowly.

* * * *

Not so lowly is the largest tree on the planet, located in Sequoia National Park. “The General Sherman” has a rather astonishing circumference of 103 feet at its base. Dogs love it.

Superman — Christopher Reeve, that is — began his showbiz career as a rock band guitarist with a group called The Remants.

Finally, this: Did you hear about the microwave television set? You can watch a one-hour show in six minutes.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at froberts73@embarqmail.com.