John Wayne, World War II and the Draft

Excellent article on Big Hollywood clearing up a persistant piece of mythology about the Duke:

by Dan Gagliasso
John Wayne has been on people’s minds lately. Dick Cavett recently wrote a nostalgic New York Times piece about his lone meeting with Hollywood’s “Duke.” He also told of the meeting on the Dennis Miller Show. Meanwhile, liberal author Gary Wills, presumably an expert because of his 1992 book John Wayne’s America; the Politics of Celebrity, was on another radio show loudly exhorting Wayne as a draft dodger during World War II. Oh, the hypocrisy of it all, Wills went on with glee that America’s biggest media patriot had shirked service during one of the nation’s most trying times. Perhaps Cavett and Wills were both reacting to last years Harris Poll where amazingly Wayne was still ranked third amongst America’s favorite male film stars. Wayne is the only deceased actor on the list and the only one to have appeared in the top ten every year since the poll was started in 1994, despite the fact that he died in 1979.


Oh, I forgot to add Wayne was a Catholic convert.:wink:

There was a controversy? He was married in his mid 30s. The “selective” service would not have considered him until mid 1944 when the army ran out of infantrymen after D-Day:shrug:

That was an incredibly interesting article. America was certainly a different place back then in regards to what duty meant. I remember seeing a documentary that men rushed to sign up before they could even be drafted for fear they would be seen as cowards for waiting for the draft card. Another documentary told about the social stigma that was sometimes attached to men that the military rejected for health and physical reasons. Even though it was through no fault of their own they were ashamed that while everybody they knew, both older and younger, was in the service they were stuck back home. While conscientious objectors, for both religious an political reasons, were allowed to do alternative forms of service, either in the medics or something like the Civilian Public Service program. According to this website:

out of the 34.5 million men registered for the draft during WWII less than 73,000 claimed the conscientious objector status (that’s only 2%). Of those 73,000, 25,000 went into the military in non-combatant roles and another 27,000 failed the physical exams and were listed as non-exempt. Another 12,000 did alternative service, which still in some cases aided in the military effort and only 6,000 refused both options, choosing jail instead.

I think in WWII-era America the concept of a draft dodger was unheard of and practically non-existent. Trying to label John Wayne as one is attempting to engage in the worst form of history around – revisionism.


Read these series of articles from Big Hollywood on the making of John Ford’s ‘They Were Expendable’.

He endured much for being on the homefront during that war. He took second billing to Robert Mongomery, whom he had an incredible amount of respect for. He also endured much abuse from John Ford. But he was part of a generation that believed in things like duty, and honor.
TWE is probably Ford’s masterpiece IMHO. It still brings a tear to the eye.

Anybody reading this thread would do themselves well to read the link in JustaServant’s post.


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