John Wayne was an American film actor who was known as “the Duke.”
Best known for his Western films, he projected masculinity and manhood that made him an enduring icon. Early years John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa, as Marion Morrison, on May 26, 1907.
However, his legacy is disputed and recently more and more people question the true masculinity John showed on and off screen.
One thing in particular made people furious: John Wayne didn’t serve in World War 2.
But today we have the answer why, and it may come as a surprise…
John Wayne, born Marion Mitchell Morrison, was not serving in WW2 alongside 16 million Americans.
Many of his Hollywood buddies, including Clark Gable, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart went to fight without hesitation, but not the masculine duke.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the 34-year-old actor was on the rise of becoming the John Wayne we now know, after starring in John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939).
Stagecoach being a huge success, send Wayne to the stars. His place in Hollywood became rooted and grew by the year. His career took off, and according to some sources, he was just afraid to lose it all.
John Wayne filled up his bank account in 1940’s, but his marriage collapsed with Josephine Alicia Saenz, making it hard to support four kids.
However, another theory by author Marc Eliot suggests otherwise. In his book “American Titan: Searching for John Wayne,” Eliot claims that Wayne was in a romantic relationship with Marlene Dietrich and was afraid of losing her if he went to fight alongside his fellow Americans.
“When she came into Wayne’s life, she juicily sucked every last drop of resistance, loyalty, morality, and guilt out of him,” Eliot penned down.
In 1943, John filed a 3-A draft deferment.
3-A Hardship Deferment is classified as deferred from military service because service would cause hardship upon his family. Making him sole provider for his family, they granted him release from duty.
But John himself didn’t request it himself. Instead, Republic Studio President Herbert Yates did it on his behalf.
According to some speculations, Yates lost his golden chicken, Gene Autry, who voluntarily joined the Army Air Corps and became a pilot, and didn’t want to lose a second one. He even threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he left them dry.
Wrote to John Ford
According to John’s friends, he made half-effort to join the war, but it never happened. The Duke wrote to the famous Irish director John Ford, and requested to join in Ford’s military unit.
In 1942 he penned: “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?”
Throughout the war, Ford would berate Wayne “to get into it”. The director was furious that he was getting rich while people sacrificed their lives for their country.
Many critics called Wayne’s application a “half-hearted effort”, but he did receive a positive response and was offered a position at the Field Photographic Unit. The letter ended up with Josephine, Wayne’s wife, and she never told him about it.
Hollywood, Wayne and the government agreed that it was best for everyone for Wayne to stay put. The famous actor was given a special 2-A status and deferred in “support of national interest.”
During the war Wayne starred in 13 movies, and told his friends that the best thing he did was make movies to support the troops.
One time in Australia, Wayne walked on stage and received boos from the audience.
“Duke largely could not get an officer’s commission to enter the military because he had an old injury, which would have kept anyone from being eligible, and also had four children. Also, the powers that be saw the immense contribution Duke could make on the screen to help national morale. His overall roles involved our exposure to what we were fighting abroad, and he also went on many trips drumming up support. He gets a bad rap for not being in the fight as others were, but let no one make that mistake. He was the real deal, no matter where he showed up,” film scholar James Denniston said in an attempt to put things in perspective.
Two decades after his death, BBC documentary called The Unquiet American exposed why Wayne didn’t serve in WW2.
In the movie, they said that Wayne had number of trivial excuses. A good one was that the actor didn’t have a typewriter to fill out the forms.
“It was a purely careerist move. [Wayne] manipulated it so he didn’t have to sign up and could fill the vacuum left by the other Hollywood stars who did,” producer of the documentary James Kent told The Independent in 1997.“Later he found himself a flag-waver and arch Commie-baiter with no military record.”
According to the book John Wayne: American, his post-war patriotism sprang from guilt and his decision to avoid the war would haunt him for the rest of his life.
“He would become a ‘superpatriot’ for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home,” his widow, Pilar Wayne, wrote.
John Wayne continues to divide the opinion of the American people. Some choose to avoid his political views and see him as a great actor, while others don’t think anything much of him as an actor. They think Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicolson, Dustin Hoffman among many others are way better than him. However, the fact that he didn’t fight the war still bothers many.
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