By David Fleet
Ortonville-Julia Child was an American spy. Kirk Douglas was on a sub-chaser. Jonathan Winters was an anti-aircraft gunner on the U.S.S. Wisconsin in the Battle of Okinawa.
These are just a few of the iconic names in entertainment history who took time away from their career and served their country.
At 7 p.m., Aug. 9, at the Brandon Township Library, 304 South St., the Ortonville Historical Society will host Michigan historians Al and David Eicher who will share their findings of unique stories in “Hollywood Went to War.”
Al Eicher said the Hollywood research for the program came after working on Michigan veteran stories over several years.
“We were working on the Senior Men’s Club of Birmingham 60th Anniversary history,” said Eicher. “Some of the 160 men in that club served in the military and we went to the national archives to find names of the cities and countries where they served. While doing so, we found many pictures of celebrities in their uniforms while they served in the military. ”
From that research the Eichers reported on 93 celebrities, both men and women, who did their time for our country.
“Most of the men served in the Army Air Corp,” he said. “The Navy was the second most chosen service. As part of our research we found out what aircraft they were flying and if they were in the Navy, the ships they were on. The stories varied from spending time in combat, in the air or even spying for the United States.”
Beatrice Arthur, also known as “Maude” and a star of “The Golden Girls” who died last year at age 86, enlisted in early-1943 when she was 21 and served in the Marines. Glenn Miller, an American big band musician, composer in the swing era, served in the Army Air Forces and was reported missing in action Dec. 15, 1944.
“While some served in the USO and War Bond Rallies, such as Lucille Ball, Katharine Hepburn and Judy Garland, many others were in actual battles,” he said.
For example Art Carney was wounded during the D-Day landing at Normandy on June 4, 1944. Carney was a part of a machine gun squad. He was hit in the leg by mortar shrapnel and sent home—where he walked with a limp the rest of his life. Similarly, Jimmy Stewart piloted the B-24 Liberator and flew 20 combat missions over Germany at the controls of a B-17 bomber.
“One of the biggest challenges was finding pictures of the celebrities in their uniforms,” he said. “We’ll discuss where the celebrities went and some of their experiences.”
The event is free.