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Famous Celebrities Who Served in the Military

Renowned television host Johnny Carson once proudly donned a sailor’s cap. Source: Hollywood Reporter.

Some of the entertainment industry’s greatest stars were veterans.  What follows is a partial list of those who served.


  • Johnny Carson: The television host for 30 years of The Tonight Show, he earned a commission and served as a communications officer. He received six Emmy Awards.
  • Humphrey Bogart:  Enlisting in 1918, his ship ferried soldiers back from Europe. He later starred in films like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and The
    African Queen
    , for which he received an Oscar.
  • Ernest Borgnine:  Serving from 1935 to 1945, he became a film and television actor for more than sixty years.  He earned an Academy Award in 1955, and he later became the voice of Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants.


  • Elvis Presley: Drafted into the Army after he had become a singing sensation, he served from 1955 to 1960.  After that, he recorded eighteen number one hits, won three Grammy awards, and starred in a number of movies.
  • Tom Selleck: The son of an Army veteran, he served in the infantry from 1967 to 1973.  He soon became an accomplished television actor and film producer. In 2008 he served as the spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
  • Audie Murphy: One of the most decorated soldiers in World War II, he had a 21-year career in acting.  The movie To Hell and Back was his biggest hit and the highest grossing motion picture until 1975.


Tom Selleck joined the Army at just 22 years old, in the midst of his acting breakthrough. Source: People.


  • James Stewart: Stewart enlisted in 1940 and flew in World War II and Vietnam. Named the third greatest male screen legend in cinema history, he starred in many films considered classics. He was nominated for five Academy awards and won one for It’s a Wonderful Life.
  • Charles Bronson: During World War II, he was a tail gunner who flew over 25 combat missions.   After the war, he starred in film and television classics like The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen and The Battle of the Bulge.  He was nominated for several Emmy awards and won a Golden Globe Award in 1972.
  • Johnny Cash: The famous Man in Black songwriter and singer enlisted in 1950 and served as a Morse code operator until 1953.  He won 13 Grammy awards and is enshrined in the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.


  • Steve McQueen: Joining in 1947, he saved the lives of five other Marines during an expedition to the Arctic.  After leaving the Corps in 1952, he became a box-office draw with movies like The Thomas Crown Affair, The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven.  He received an Oscar nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles.
  • Bea Arthur: One of the stars of the TV sitcoms Golden Girls, All in the Family, and Maude, she served from 1943 to 1946 as a truck-driver and typist. She won several Emmys and a handful of Golden Globe nominations.
  • Adam Driver: One of the youngest celebrities listed here, he enlisted after 9/11.  Medically discharged in 2003, he began his career with movies like J. Edgar, Lincoln and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and on television with Girls on HBO.
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Actor and veteran Lloyd Bridges poses in between his two famous sons, Jeff and Beau. Source: The Columbus Telegram.


  • Lloyd, Jeff and Beau Bridges: After their service, Lloyd (Dad) earned two Emmy nominations; Jeff (oldest son) received seven Academy Award nominations; and Beau (youngest), won three Emmys, two Golden Globes, and one Grammy Award for their movie and television work.
  • Buddy Ebsen: An actor and singer, remembered as Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies and as Barnaby Jones on the Barnaby Jones television shows, he served from 1941 to 1946 on the USS Pocatello, a weather station.
  • Cesar Romero: The original Joker on the 1960s television show Batman, Romero enlisted in 1941 and served in the Pacific until 1946. He achieved fame as a singer, dancer and radio announcer.


The list of veterans who made it big in Hollywood is long, and it shows that many who served became stars in more than one way.

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