a legendary American performer and cultural icon. In addition to personifying the idealized American values of his time, John Wayne represented the strong, reserved cowboy or soldier. However, there are those who contest his legacy, and in recent years, more and more people have questioned the macho persona John Wayne cultivated both on and off the screen.
Even at the height of John Wayne’s fame, the fact that he opted not to fight in World War II infuriated many people. Today, we have the explanation for why, and it might surprise you.
More than 16 million Americans served in the US military during World War II, but John Wayne, real name Marion Mitchell Morrison, was not among them.
Hollywood was no different from the rest of society in feeling obligated to support the war effort. Many of his coworkers didn’t hesitate to do their part – Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart went to fight – so why did “The Duke” never enlist? When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the actor had just begun to establish himself in Hollywood, but was John Wayne really a draft evader, as many have claimed? Although the 34-year-old Wayne was hardly a household name, his self-esteem was growing as a result of his performance in John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939).
Wayne became an A-lister thanks to the box office smash Stagecoach. With every passing year, his reputation in Hollywood improved. In light of this, World War II occurred at a very unfortunate time. Being drafted or enlisting could have effectively ended his career, which was just beginning to take off.
Some sources claim Wayne’s only concern was losing his job. The 1940s saw “The Duke” begin to amass significant wealth, which was crucial given that his marriage to Josephine Alicia Saenz had failed and that he still had four children to support. Marc Eliot, a writer, put forth a different explanation for Wayne’s absence from the conflict in 2014. Eliot asserts in his book “American Titan: Searching for John Wayne” that Wayne was having an affair with Marlene Dietrich. Wayne made the decision to forgo joining the military and engaging in combat out of concern for his relationship with Dietrich.
Upon entering Wayne’s life, she “juicily sucked every last drop of resistance, loyalty, morality, and guilt out of him,” according to Eliot.
Wayne applied for an exemption from the 3-A draft in 1943. He was given permission to postpone his military service because he was the only supporter of a large family. We shouldn’t necessarily assign Wayne the full blame, though. In actuality, Republic Studio President Herbert Yates filed the deferment request on his behalf; he didn’t do it himself. Gene Autry, who voluntarily enlisted in the Army Air Corps and attained pilot status, was Yates’ prized possession who had already been lost. Wayne, his second source of income, wearing the uniform and vanishes was something he didn’t want to see.
The president of the Republic Studio was prepared to go to great lengths, even threatening Wayne with legal action, in order to keep his only A-list actor under contract. According to Wayne’s friends, he intended to enlist after he made a few more movies, but that plan was never carried out. The Duke frequently wrote to the renowned and highly respected Irish director John Ford to inquire about joining Ford’s military unit. In 1942, Wayne wrote to Ford, saying, “Have you any suggestions on how I should get in? Can you get me assigned to your outfit, and if you could, would you want me?”.
Ford produced several documentaries for the Navy Department while working at the Office of Strategic Services. Additionally, he was on Omaha Beach on D-Day with his camera and directed the propaganda movie December 7th: The Movie (1943). Ford would chastise Wayne to “get into it” throughout the entire war. While other men gave their lives for their country on the shores of Europe and the South Pacific, the actor was allegedly getting rich, the director whined. Although Wayne’s application was criticized for being “half-hearted,” he did get a positive response and was given the job at the Field Photographic Unit. But Wayne’s wife Josephine received the letter.
Her husband was never informed of it.
The famous actor was given a special 2-A status and deferred in “support of national interest,” so it appears that Hollywood, Wayne, and the government all agreed on what was best for everyone in the end. “Wayne, who starred in thirteen movies during the war, said to friends that the best thing he could do was to make movies to support the troops.
Acting out other people’s actions on the big screen, according to some, was the closest Wayne ever came to being in World War II. Fair enough, he did go to the U. S. bases and hospitals in the South Pacific during a tour for entertainment in 1943 and 1944. It was difficult for the well-known actor to win over combat veterans who had suffered scarring, despite his best efforts to raise the morale of the troops.
Wayne once entered the stage in Australia to a chorus of boos from the crowd. Duke was largely unable to obtain an officer’s commission in order to join the military because he had four children and an old injury that would have disqualified anyone from serving. Additionally, Duke’s enormous potential to boost morale on screen was recognized by those in positions of power. His overall responsibilities included letting us know about the battles we were fighting abroad, and he frequently traveled to rally support. He gets a bad rap for not getting involved in the melee like some others did, but let no one make that error. He was the real deal, wherever he showed up,” James Denniston, a film scholar, said in an effort to put things in perspective.
Author William Manchester shared a compelling account from his time serving in the Pacific in a New York Times Magazine article. When Manchester had the chance to see John Wayne, the legendary American actor and cultural icon, he had already been wounded and evacuated. “After I was evacuated from Okinawa, I had the great pleasure of witnessing Wayne being humiliated firsthand at the Aiea Heights Naval Hospital in Hawaii… Every evening, Navy corpsmen would carry litters down the hospital theater so the men could watch a movie. They surprised us one evening. Before the movie began, the curtains parted and John Wayne emerged, carrying two pistols, wearing a cowboy outfit that included a 10-gallon hat, bandana, checkered shirt, chaps, boots, and spurs. He waved a hand over his face, grinned, “Hi, guys,” and was met with dead silence. Then someone started to jeer. All of a sudden, everyone started to jeer. We had grown to despise fake machismo, and this man represented it, so we weren’t going to listen to him. He kept trying to speak up, but we drowned him out. Eventually, he gave up and left,” he said.
Wayne didn’t serve in the military during World War II, which was revealed in new detail by a BBC documentary titled The Unquiet American two decades after his passing. The filmmakers claimed that Wayne had several ridiculous justifications. The actor, for instance, claimed he lacked a typewriter to complete the necessary forms. “It was purely a career move. James Kent, the producer of The Unquiet American, said in 1997, “[Wayne] manipulated it so he didn’t have to sign up and could fill the void left by the other Hollywood stars who did.
Later, he discovered himself a flag-waver and outspoken Commie-baiter without any prior military experience. “.
According to the book John Wayne: American, John Wayne’s decision to not enlist would haunt him for the rest of his life. His guilt led to his post-war patriotism. Wayne was branded a draft evader by many. His widow, Pilar Wayne, wrote that he would spend the rest of his life as a “superpatriot,” making up for staying home.
In 1979, stomach cancer claimed John Wayne’s life. Wayne received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Jimmy Carter posthumously one year after his passing. His World War II-related deeds played a significant role in the recent tarnishing of his reputation as an American titan. A notorious Playboy interview from 1971 didn’t exactly help.
John Wayne still drives a wedge between Americans today. Many people who watched his films as children consider him to be one of the best actors of all time and don’t want his acting to be associated with his political beliefs.
Some people don’t think he was a particularly noteworthy actor; they place him nowhere near Gregory Peck, Jack Nicolson, Dustin Hoffman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the like. Many people are still miffed that he opted not to participate in the war. Your opinions on John Wayne are welcome.