When it comes to World War II and Hollywood, few figures spring to mind like John Wayne. John Wayne starred in numerous World War II films. And his image helped define the way global audiences saw the war. These films included 1942’s Flying Tigers and 1949’s Sands of Iwo Jima. Few other figures made as noticeable of an impression on screen as war heroes of the era. However, unlike many of his Hollywood contemporaries, John Wayne never actually served in the war. This fact hurt the actor’s reputation quite a bit. And also led to him experiencing many regrets later in his life. Join Facts Verse as we attempt to uncover the real reason John Wayne didn’t serve in World War II.
When World War II came around, John Wayne was a father of four that was struggling to make a name for himself in Hollywood. After years of working as a background thug and stuntman in numerous Westerns. John had finally secured a starring role in the 1939 feature Stagecoach, directed by the legendary John Ford. Ford had envisioning a starring role for John Wayne ever since seeing the latter perform on the football team at the University of Southern California. Though John Wayne an unknown actor at the time. Ford had finally built up enough clout by 1939 that he was able to convince the studio to give Wayne a chance.
John Wayne was able to eschew the draft due to the fact that he had four children. And also under the pretense that he seeking to capitalize on the notoriety that going to come from his appearance in Stagecoach. At the time, the actor had expressed that he was planning on signing up for the war later. However, he never made good on this promise. By the time the war reached United States soil in December of 1941. It hard to ignore the fact that John seemed more concerned about Hollywood fame than making good on the image that he had made for himself as a patriotic American in his numerous war films.
Unlike John Wayne, John Ford went on to serve in World War II after the release of Stagecoach. John Ford was a commander in the United States Navy while John Wayne was still safe at home in America. Wayne eventually had over a dozen war films under his belt. Lending the star the false reputation that he was somehow a hero that had served on the front lines. This fact caused a rift between the two Johns, with Ford saying that Wayne needed to step up to the plate and put his money where his mouth was. Ford saw Wayne as a hypocrite for stealing World War II glory in films yet refusing to serve for his country. Over time, many other would-be Wayne fans would follow suit.
Although John Wayne’s refusal to serve was taking a toll on his reputation. He ironically only saw his pay increase the longer he remained in Hollywood. Since so many other stars had gone overseas to serve. John was one of the few remaining stars available for Hollywood features. This void part of the reason that John hired on to star in so many World War II features, as the topic understandably popular at the time.
World War II features needed to made, but all of the true heroes were too busy serving in the war to actually star in them. John Wayne was there to play the role of a hero, but only because he wasn’t one in real life. While audiences may have been more appreciative of the role that John Wayne served in the public consciousness. True war heroes understandably became jealous of it. Join Facts Verse as we attempt to uncover the real reason John Wayne didn’t serve in World War II.
While John remained in Hollywood, many other stars went overseas to fight. Such stars included Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart. All of these actors managed to successfully perform their duties to their country and step right back into their Hollywood careers as soon as they done. However, John Wayne always claimed that he was afraid that his popularity would wane if he went overseas. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
John Wayne was certainly feeling the pressure to enlist from most of his male peers. But the actor continued to eschew his duty to his country by offering up one excuse after another. Many Hollywood historians have come to speculate that John’s draft dodging had less to do with his worries about his career. And more to do with a passionate love affair that he engaged in with actress Marle Dietrich. The two had starred alongside each other in the 1940 feature Seven Sinners. Afterwards, they had maintained a wild romance that lasted much of the duration of World War II. If John’s excuses for not wanting to serve in the war didn’t always add up. Not wanting to lose out on his love affair with Marle remains one of the more plausible reasons.
Still, there are some that claim that John had made more of an effort to serve in World War II than is readily apparent. From the perspective of most of his Hollywood contemporaries. Including John Ford, John Wayne appeared to be a hypocrite who only interested in playing a patriot when the role happened to suit him. However, there is some evidence that Wayne at least made a cursory effort to be deployed at some point later in the war. This evidence came in the form of letters that apparently written by Wayne, one of which written to Ford himself. Join Facts Verse as we attempt to uncover the real reason John Wayne didn’t serve in World War II.
One of the most prominent letters used to defend John Wayne against accusations. That he was a total draft dodger is a letter that the actor had written to John Ford in May of 1942. The letter contains Wayne apparently begging for Ford to find him a place in the war. Though it is unclear if Ford ever responded. Ford likely saw the attempt as Wayne pathetically attempting to make up for time spent dodging his duties. At that point, Ford had likely lost all respect for the former star. The letter includes John Wayne assuring his former pal that he wasn’t drunk while writing.
There is another piece of evidence that is often used to defend John Wayne. And that was an application that John had submitted to the OSS, or Office of Strategic Services. The OSS was a wartime intelligence agency that was operating during World War II. And it was the precursor for the CIA. Not only had John submitted an application. But he had actually been approved to be part of a unit specializing in wartime photography. However, the letter telling John that he had been accepted never made it into his hands.
By the time that the letter was sent out accepting John into the OSS. John had separated from the mother of his four children. The letter ended up going to the mother after John had already packed his bags and left. And many speculate that she never made an attempt to pass the letter on to him. Because she didn’t want him to die in service and leave the four children behind with nothing. The possibility that John’s wife never gave him the letter is used to suggest that John likely tried his best to serve his time in the war. However, the fact that John never even bothered to take it upon himself to check back in with the OSS on the status of his application after not hearing back calls this conclusion into question.
By 1943, John finally publicly admitted that he had little intention of persevering in his efforts to serve in World War II. According to the actor, there was little for him to do at that point. John claimed that he could serve the public better by continuing to perform his role in Hollywood. Providing the people with a steady escape from the realities of war. However, it seems more likely that John had simply run out of more convincing lies. The war was eventually over, and John’s career in Hollywood continued. However, his tenuous status amongst the public as a potential draft dodger loomed over the star for the rest of his days.
Into the 1950s, John began overcompensating for his lack of service in World War II by becoming hyperbolically patriotic. When the Red Scare took over Hollywood, John was on the front lines for the American way. Helping hunt down the Communist menace in the industry. During the decade, John appeared in many films, such as Blood Alley and Big Jim McLain, that helped paint Communists in a negative light.
When the Vietnam War began making headlines in the 1960s. John could heard and seen publicly making fun of draft dodgers and protestors. On one occasion, John even made a remark saying that he’d like to line them all up and shoot them in a row. Given that there’s a strong case to be made that John himself a draft dodger, these views seem ironic. Understandably, increasingly more people were beginning to come to agree with John Ford’s take that John Wayne was a hypocrite, and not at all the real deal. Join Facts Verse as we attempt to uncover the real reason John Wayne didn’t serve in World War II.
In 1968, John Wayne starred in and codirected the Vietnam War feature The Green Berets. The film viewed the Vietnamese as animalistic villains, and John Wayne as the All-American hero. Though audiences were quick to eat the feature up, having grown up with John Wayne in similar roles, critics could no longer bare the hypocrisy.
Whether John Wayne was a draft dodger or not, he still performed in numerous iconic roles that brought joy to many lives. Comment down below to share what your favorite John Wayne film is. Or if you think that John really made an honest effort to serve in World War II. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!