8 Famous People You Won’t Believe Are WWII Veterans

The people on this list led inspired lives that made them well-known public figures. Many were involved in the film industry, becoming famous for their art in front of and behind the screen. However, their later careers in the spotlight weren’t the only things these icons had in common. As it turns out, they were also military veterans, who had served their time during WWII.

8. Mel Brooks


With widely-acclaimed work as a writer-director under his belt, Mel Brooks hardly needs an introduction. His uproarious comedies like, “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” and “Spaceballs” made his name virtually appear in flashing lights wherever you saw it.

But along with his genius in the film industry, he was also rather adept at defusing German mines.

Brooks first enlisted in the army when he was just 17. Serving in the 1104th Engineer Combat Battalion, he was part of an elite unit that took on sniper fire and constant shelling to help build bridges, reopen blocked roads and deactivate landmines before the advancing Allied forces had to deal with them.

This fact just makes his work in 1968’s “The Producers,” including the famous song “springtime for Hitler,” all the more relevant.


  • Brian Nicklas

    Who wrote this? Army Air Forces, not Armed Air Forces. And the 445th BG was part of the USAAF 8th Air Force based in England, it was not an English unit.

    • Dan Baron

      You are correct. I had an Uncle that was a B-17 tail gunner. He filled in for a sick gunner and was shot down over Germany. Wounded but alive he spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp. My Dad taught aircraft mechanics in the USAAF.

      • paulaschlumbrecht

        Actually it was first the Army Air Corps.

        • Gene Starwind

          Early on, yes, but in 1943, it was renamed the US Army Air Force.

  • ddh

    People who join the Army are soldiers, and people who join the Navy are sailors. Soldiers never serve in naval gun crews.

    People who served in the French resistance were not in the French military, no matter how brave they were, and were not veterans.

    • Dan Baron

      You are correct. The only time soldiers were aboard ship was to be transported. The Marines use Navy Corpsman for medical personnel so there were sailors in combat. On of the Flag raisers was a Navy Corpsman.

    • Gene Starwind

      That’s not true at all. Marines routinely served in gun crews, especially AA guns. Some Soldiers did serve on gun crews on merchant ships that had been fitted with guns.

      • ddh

        Bull. Marines are not soldiers–they are Marines. They are never called “soldiers” by anyone who knows anything about the armed forces. It is also evident that you have never known a Marine, or you would have been straightened out in no uncertain terms.

      • ddh

        My comment was provoked by this article’s gross inaccuracies describing military service. For example,

        “A 16-year-old New Yorker looking for a purpose, Bruce signed up for the US army just as WWII began to break out. He spent a lot of time as a shell passer during his time on the U.S.S. Brooklyn, which also saw action as a fire support vessel in North Africa, not to mention during the Allied invasions of Sicily and Anzio, Italy.”

        Lenny Bruce enlisted in the US Navy and was a sailor. He did not join the US Army and was never a soldier. US Army troops did not work on gun crews on Navy ships.

  • Henry Thibault

    James Stewart retired from the Air Force in 1968 as a BRIGADIER GENERAL, having flown combat missions even in VIETNAM. He received TWO awards of the DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS for actions in combat; also the French CROIX DE GUERRE. He received FOUR awards of the AIR MEDAL. If you made so many errors and omissions regarding this most distinguished and well-known of celebrity WW2 vets, one wonders what messes you made of your tales about the others.

  • Jim Austin

    James Stewart reportedly retired a brigadier general in the California Air National Guard.

  • Chris Cloud

    There were a lot of other movie stars that left their film career to serve. I’m surprised they didn’t
    mention David Niven. He was a Lt. Colonel with the British commandos and was in charge A Squadron of the “Phantom Signals Unit,” a behind enemy lines unit.

  • Matt Jones

    Kinda dumb to Not realize most men between 17 and 45 from 1939 to 45 who were British or French fought in WWII. Germany invaded France and also had a thing called “the Blitz”
    Lee Marvin was a Marine sniper in the Pacific.

  • Marcus Hernandez

    ummm no Audie Murphy?

    • Gene Starwind

      People you did NOT know were in the military?

  • Thunder_Kiss_1965

    Bob Dole fought with the 10th Mountain Division during WWII and was severely wounded.

  • 7861

    Jimmy Stewart remained in the USAF Reserves and attained the rank of Brigadier General. He also flew a couple B52 bombing missions into North Vietnam, as (unsure of what they specifically called it) part of a fact finding project for the Air Force at the time. James Stewart is, as well as many actors and actresses of his generation, were patriots.

  • Gene Starwind

    Ernest Borgnine was a Navy Chief Petty Officer before becoming an actor.
    James Doohan (Scotty in Star Trek) was wounded in action on D-Day.
    Clark Gable was a Navigator on bombers.

    • ddh

      Clark Gable was never a navigator. He enlisted and was trained as a gunner before he received his commission. As an officer, he made films for which he flew a handful of combat missions.

  • USAF_PlaneGuy

    Correction, Jimmy Stewart was a Brigadier General