Clint Eastwood

10 Surprising Celebrities Who Were Veterans Before They Hit Hollywood.

There are many celebrities in the military that you may never knew served in the military prior to having a career in show busines:

1. Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is one of the most famous actors alive today, starring in such classics as Unforgiven, Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can, Hang ‘Em High, The Outlaw Jose Wales, and Escape from Alcatraz. Aftergraduate high school, Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. Eastwood was sent to F. Ord in California for basic training and earned a job as a swimming instructor. As such, Eastwood remains at Ft. Ord during his entire service in the military.

2. Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was an American country music singer who was one of the best-selling music artists of all-time, selling more than 90 million records worldwide. During his career, he released 55 studio albums and produced many iconic hits including “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” and “Man in Black.” While Cash had a successful music career, many do not know that he was a military veteran.

Cash enlisted in the United States Air Force on July 7, 1950, and completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and his technical training at Brooke Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Cash was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile for the U.S. Air Force Security Service in Germany. While there, Cash was a Morse Code operator, tasked with intercepting Soviet Army transmissions.

3. Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman is one of the most famous actors of this generation, starring in such films as Million Dollar Baby, Street Smart, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, and Invictus. Prior to becoming the famous actor we all know and love, Freeman was a member of the military.

After he graduated high school in 1955, Freeman turned down a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, opting to join the Air Force, where he was a radar technician. Freeman left the Air Force in 1959.

4. Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is an iconic musician, singer, songwriter, author, poet, actor, and activist. His success as a musician has made him one of the most famous country music artists in the world. Prior to beginning a career in music, Nelson had a brief stint in the military. After graduating high school in 1950, Nelson joined the Air Force, but only served nine months. Nelson was discharged from the military because of back problems.

5. Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris is an American martial artist and actor most known for starring in a number action films including Way of the Dragon, Good Guys Wear Black, and The Delta Force trilogy. Norris also starred in the hit television series “Walker, Texas Ranger” from 1993-2001.

Prior to his career in Hollywood, Norris was a member of the military. Norris joined the United States Air Force as an Air Policeman in 1958 and was sent to Osan Air Base in South Korea. While in South Korea, he began his training in the martial art of Tang Soo Do. Norris eventually returned to the U.S. and continued to serve as an Air Policeman at March Air Force Base in California until he was discharged in August 1962.
6. Adam Driver

Adam Driver is an American actor most known for his performance in the HBO show “Girls,” which earned him three Primetime Emmy Award nominations, and for his performance in the Star Wars films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Prior to his career in acting, Driver served in the military. Driver joined shortly after the September 11th attacks and served in the United States Marines Corps.

Driver was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as an 81mm mortar man. Driver served for 20 months with no deployments and was medically discharged after he broke his sternum while mountain biking.

7. Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson was an American comedian and talk show host, best-known for his 30 years as host of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” During his tenure hosting, Carson received six Emmy Awards, the Television Academy’s 1980 Governor’s Award, and a 1985 Peabody Award. While Carson is best known for his iconic presence on television, he also had a career in the military.

Carson joined the United States Navy on June 8, 1943, and received his V-12 Navy College Training Program officer training at Columbia University and Millsaps College. Carson was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific and served as a communications officer in charge of decoding encrypted messages. Carson took advantage of the educational opportunities offered by the Navy and attended the University of Nebraska where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio and Speech.

8. Bea Arthur


Bea Arthur, whose real name was Bernice Frankel, was an American actress who achieved fame with the character Maude Findlay in the 1970s sitcoms “All in the Family” and “Maude.” Arthur also achieved success in the sitcom “The Golden Girls” for which she won an Emmy Award. Prior to her career in show business, Arthur did her civic duty and served in the United States Military.

During World War II, Arthur worked as a truck driver and a typist in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, receiving an Honorable Discharge in September 1945.

9. Mickey Rooney

Mickey Rooney, born Joseph Yule Jr., was an American actor who appeared in more than 300 films and was one of the last surviving stars of the silent film era. Rooney was a top box-office draw from 1939-1941 and one of the highest paid actors of the era. In June 1944, Rooney was inducted into the U.S. Army where he served more than 21 months entertaining U.S. troops at home and in Europe.

His entertaining for the troops earned him a Bronze Star Medal as well as several other awards. After returning from war, Rooney’s career declined. Despite being only 5’2″, he looked too old to play the role of a teenager.

10. Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner was an American businessman who was most-known as the publisher of Playboy magazine, a controversial publication featuring nude women. While Hefner’s career was defined by Playboy, as a young man, he was a member of the U.S. military.

Hefner served in the U.S. Army from 1944-1945 as a writer for a military newspaper. While Hefner’s time in the military was brief, it reportedly shaped his career immensely. Many believe that Hefner’s Playboy magazine helped spawn a social revolution, partly because of his own time in uniform which was a “one-man counteroffensive against buttoned-up social movements in postwar America.” One author of a Hefner biography noted that “without that time in the military to sit behind a desk and spend time working on creative things, his life would’ve been different.”

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