When being a professional boxer didn’t work for Motown label’s Berry Gordy, he joined the military and participated in the Korean War.
He first opened a record shop after the war, and with his money from his discharge pay, decided to make his own records, which eventually morphed into Motown.
Before Jimmy Carter became president, he was on track to join the US Navy’s nuclear submarine program.
Had his father not died at the time, Carter, a lieutenant, and having served as a Luton junior grade on a submarine, would have gone places. Instead, he retired to work on his parent’s peanut farm.
Former President Gerald Ford was active in the navy reserve until 1963, before moving into politics. He was a navy pre-flight instructor, assigned to teach elementary navigation skills to new recruits.
He also taught first aid for survival, gunnery, and military cadence drills. He almost died aboard the USS Monterey, when his ship almost tipped over during a typhoon.
George Reeves’ gained popularity as Superman in "The Adventures of Superman." Despite the stardom, Reeves decided to put his acting career on hold to join the US Army during WWII.
However, the army put him on acting duties. He joined in a special theatrical unit that produced several training films on the dangers of venereal diseases.
Rob Riggle's initial plan was to become a naval aviator, so he joined the service in 1990.
Even when his acting career took off, he actually became a member of the United States Marine Corps reserve and did a tour of duty to Iraq in 2007. However, his tour was purely to entertain troops as part of the USO.
Jack Lemmon was a famous American actor. But before that, he was also a sailor for a brief period.
During WW2 he had enlisted in the navy and worked as a communications officer on an aircraft carrier. He never saw combat though, and his service was very brief.
By the time he was 20 years old, Audie Murphy had held all the combat awards for valor the army could give at the time. He’d served nine campaigns in WW2.
The US Army had to hold him back during the Korean War, using his image to boost their recruitment service. He retired with the rank of major.
Baseball player Roberto Clemente played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972. During those times, he secretly served in the military while his team was training in Puerto Rico.
He joined the Marines' reserves as an infantryman back in the ’50s without their knowledge. In 1964, he left the military to prepare for the World Series.
American comedy actor Harvey Korman originally signed up to be a United States navy reserve seaman at the end of WWII, hoping to defend his country.
However, he was only able to serve between 1945 and 1946. He then decided to study drama in Chicago, which started his career in the entertainment industry.
Harvey Keitel was once quoted as saying, “for me, the Marine Corps was a spiritual journey.” In 1956, he left university to join the marines.
He then served in Lebanon where he was awarded a medal for being a fire team leader. After the war, he flew back to the US and became an actor.
Harry Dean Stanton
When WWII broke out, Harry Dean Stanton immediately took the chance to sign up for the navy. He served in the battle of Okinawa, aboard a landing ship, as a galley cook.
After the war, he went on to pursue other opportunities in journalism, then went on to radio, before he finally made the decision to stick to acting.
James Garner intentionally dropped out of school and lied about his age so he could serve during WWII.
After the war, he went back to school and dropped out again, this time to join the Oklahoma National Guard. He was drafted to serve in the Korean War, where he was awarded two Purple Hearts.
Sammy Davis Jr.
When the Second World War started, Sammy Davis Jr. was drafted. His superiors thought he could serve better at entertaining the weary troops, than on the battlefield.
He was later given a position in the Rat Pack, a group led by Frank Sinatra himself.
Laurence Tureaud, better known professionally as Mr. T, became a military policeman back in the seventies.
Punishment for a minor misdeed inadvertently got him a promotion to squad leader. He was the “Top Trainee of the Cycle,” in 1975.
Hugh Hefner enlisted in the military in 1944, right after finishing high school. He became an infantry clerk and contributed many of his artworks to US Army newspapers, which helped boost the morale of the soldiers.
His cartoons perhaps laid the foundation for his ideas in creating the Playboy magazines. He got discharged from the army in 1946.
Limp Bizkit lead singer, Fred Durst, couldn’t find a job after graduating from high school and decided to enlist in the navy, where he spent two years of his life.
After his discharge, he found a job as a tattoo artist, started a band in 1995, and the rest is nu-metal history.
Humphrey Bogart was enlisted in the navy during the First World War. One time, he was struck by a prisoner in the mouth, while he was assigned to the military police.
The injury scarred his mouth, leaving him with a subtle lisp. That and his raspy voice gave him his famous gangster image.
Mel Brooks worked to diffuse many land mines in the Battle of the Bulge as a corporal for the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion.
He often laughs at the position he was put in, saying, “I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate the most in the world are combat and engineering.”
16 years old Gene Hackman, not knowing what he really wanted out of life, joined the US marines. There he realized that he wasn't fond of authority.
He worked in Shanghai as a radio operator and was eventually transferred to Hawaii. During his service he was demoted three times, continually having problems with simply following instructions.
Most of Ernest Hemingway's writing was influenced by his experiences during WWI, where he served as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, in Italy.
He was wounded by an Austrian mortar fire barely a week into active duty. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery during WWII.
Johnny Carson enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an apprentice seaman and was enrolled in the V-5 program. He hoped to become a navy pilot but was instead sent for midshipman training at Columbia University.
He became a member of the crew on the USS Pennsylvania. Always entertaining, he performed tricks for his classmates to keep spirits high.
Prior to his time in show business, Montel Williams spent 22 years serving in the US Marine Corps.
He earned his degree in general engineering with a minor in international security while he was at Annapolis. He even studied Mandarin Chinese, perhaps as the foresight to the sleeping giant’s future rise in power.
British actor Michael Caine was drafted as a British army soldier during the Korean War, which deeply impacted him.
He believes that every man should serve in the military for at least six months to get a taste of the lesson he learned. Caine was medically discharged after contracting malaria.
Shaggy started in music early. However, it wasn’t enough to keep him afloat so he joined the USMC in 1989.
He served as part of the 10th marine Regiment right in time for the eruption of the Gulf War. He was deployed in Kuwait, where his experiences helped him sober up and clean up his act.
Robin Quivers from "The Howard Stern Show" used to be a USAF captain. She remained a member of the US Air Force reserve until 1990.
After taking her first job in radio as a newscaster in Pennsylvania, she decided to return to Baltimore, just in time to join "The Howard Stern Show."
Sidney Poitier lied about his age so he could get into the service. He eventually became a medical attendant in a mental hospital. Once in, his next challenge was to find a way to get out.
He faked insanity, but the threat of shock treatment was too much. After weeks of consulting with a psychiatrist, he was eventually discharged.
All of Gene Wilder's achievements started when he was drafted to serve in the US Army as a paramedic in a psychiatric hospital during the late 50s.
He decided to lighten his spirits by taking acting classes. One of his major breaks in acting came as he later partnered with Mel Brooks in "Blazing Saddles."
When WWII broke out, Laurence Olivier became a fighter pilot, opting to join the Royal air force, albeit restricted with other obligations.
As a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, he served for two years but, much to his dismay, he never got to experience going into battle before the war ended.
Kurt Vonnegut served in the army during WWII as an infantry battalion scout. He was reportedly taken in as a prisoner of war and was lucky to survive the firebombing of Dresden, Germany in a blanket mission by the Allied Forces.
If you haven’t yet ventured into the bizarre universe that is "Slaughterhouse 5," we definitely recommend it.
Kris Kristofferson was pressured into joining the army and marrying his high school girlfriend as a young man.
In 1960, Kris enlisted in the military, in accordance with his family’s wishes, and became a helicopter pilot after successfully completing Ranger School. When he ultimately decided to leave the service, his family resented his decision and disowned him for it.
Best known for “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien was a war veteran and served with the British Expeditionary Force during World War I as Second Lieutenant in the 11th Battalion.
He was sent home after he contracted a chronic fever from lice that infested him.
Gene Kelly was drafted into the US Army air force in 1942, where he unintentionally rose to the position of corporal.
The Dick Van Dyke Show was only one of his many accomplishments at the time, but what a legend he has become in the entertainment business.
In 1917, actively participating in vaudeville, Buster Keaton was drafted into the 40th Infantry Division.
Not to be deterred from his practice while he was serving his time, he still managed to perform a bunch of vaudeville acts like the “Snake Dance,” where he charms a rope of sausages before a large crowd of fellow servicemen.
Before he became famous, a then-unknown Carlin was undertaking service with the USAF. Carlin received a total of three court-martials during his service as a radar technician in Barksdale, which resulted in his general discharge.
He was also working as a disc jockey while in the force, which jump-started his later career in the entertainment industry.
When Jimi Hendrix got arrested for attempting to steal a car, he had to choose between going to jail or joining the army. He picked the latter.
Stationed in Fort Campbell Kentucky with the 101st Airborne Division, he completed his paratrooper training and awarded a Screaming Eagles Patch. In 1962, Jimi Hendrix was discharged after injuring his ankle.
When Jesse Ventura was just about to make a name for himself in wrestling and in Hollywood, he was part of the US Navy Underwater Demolition Team during the Vietnam War.
He did not experience any actual combat in the navy. Often referred to as a Navy Seal, Ventura never actually got to finish his training with the unit.
From 1943 to 1945, Tony Curtis served in the submarine force during WWII. He was ranked 3rd class signalman and served in the Pacific Theatre.
He witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo from the signal bridge of his vessel. Upon his death, Curtis received honors from the flag and firing detail of the Local US Air force.
In 1967, Oliver Stone joined the US Army. Wanting to participate in combat himself, he made a special request and was wounded in action twice during the Vietnam War.
He was awarded a Bronze Star with a “V” device, and a Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster. His experiences in battle elevated Platoon to cinematic heights.
In 1944, successful actor Mickey Rooney was drafted by the army, assigned mostly to entertain the troops on stage and on the radio during WWII.
He earned himself a Bronze Star for his performances as well as a World War II Victory Medal, and a medal for good conduct in appreciation of his military service.
Izzy Demsky gave himself the name Kirk Douglas in 1941, right before he joined the navy, and shortly after the US entered WWII.
He served as a communication and gunnery officer in anti-submarine warfare. He was medically discharged after suffering injuries following the dropping of an accidental depth charge in 1944.
John Glenn was the first US astronaut to orbit the earth. Before that, he served as a backup pilot for Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom.
He joined the Project Mercury Astronaut Training in 1959 and served both in the marines and NASA. He then pursued a political career and won a senatorial seat out of Ohio.
Pat Tillman had selflessly turned a blind eye to the millions of dollars his football contract awarded to fight terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11.
He served his time in tours to Iraq and Afghanistan but was sadly killed by friendly fire. He was awarded the Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his bravery.
Arnold Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian army before he became a popular weightlifter, actor, and eventual governor of California.
Austrian law mandates that, at the age of 18, all Austrian males should serve at least a year in the army. During his time there he managed to bag the Mr. Europe Contest while actively serving.
Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio served in the military during the Second World War, but despite him being drafted, he was never part of all the real action that held the world in shock.
Instead, he was assigned as an athletics instructor in bases around America, thousands of miles away from the enemy.
From 1958 to 1960, Elvis Presley served in the US Army, deciding to enlist at a time when his career was already starting to pick up.
Joining the army helped to remove heat from the public’s sentiments towards his provocative style. Even though he was given an option to join in special services, enrolled as a normal soldier.
Comedian Don Rickles served in the navy from 1944 through to his honorable discharge in 1946 after WWII.
He sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to Papua New Guinea as a seaman first class aboard the USS Cyrene. He sailed where trouble loomed, including the Philippines, where he complained about the tropics being “so hot and humid, the crew rotted.”
During the Second World War, Henry Fonda enlisted in the US Navy as a seaman and got the first assignment in air combat intelligence.
In his military career, he received a Bronze Star and a Presidential Citation. And before his discharge in 1945, he was awarded the rank of lieutenant.
Long-time news anchor Dan Rather liked to brag about his military service to his colleagues.
Rather said that he joined the marines twice, but records reveal that he joined the US Army reserve during the Korean War and signed up with the marines after he finished college. No record exists of him making it to basic training.
Chris Kyle is one of the deadliest snipers in American Military history. Kyle served a total of four tours of duty with the Navy Seals.
For his bravery, he earned two silver stars and 5 Bronze Stars for Valor. He was shot twice in action and survived 6 IEDs. Wow!
Prince Andrew, brother of King Charles III, is almost all about the military. He was trained to fly the Lynx helicopter and got deployed in the Mediterranean.
He later became a helicopter warfare officer and served on HMS Edinburgh until 1989. He was appointed senior pilot of 815 Naval Air Squadron in 1995. He ended his military career in 2001.
Before stardom struck his acting career, Charles Bronson served as an aircraft gunner in the US Army air forces in 1943.
He flew 25 different missions in B-29 bombers, and he was even wounded in action, which earned him the Purple Heart award. In 1945, he was discharged from the army and started pursuing his acting ambitions.
Ted Williams interrupted his baseball career to join the US Marine Corps during World War II.
After completing his initial military service, he returned to baseball only to return to action from 1952 to 1953 as an aviator for the marine Combat unit during the Korean War. He batted 342 with 38 home runs in 1946 after returning home.
Robert Duvall actually comes from a military family. His father was a famous admiral and he is a descendant of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
After college, he decided to enlist in the US Army. He was a private first class for two years during the Korean War, and he liked to practice his acting while in the service.
Newman joined the US Navy through college training in Yale V-12, but his aspirations were a no-go. He was diagnosed as being color blind, and his dreams of taking flight abruptly crashed.
Instead, he became a rear-seat radioman and a gunner for the torpedo bombers. He was discharged in 1946 and decorated with military honors.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
When World War I broke out, Fitzgerald dropped out of Princeton and joined the military, where he waited to be shipped out from Fort Leavenworth.
He worked on his stories while waiting for word from command. However, in 1918, the armistice was signed just before he was about to be shipped out.
Coltrane had enlisted in the U.S. Navy one day after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. In late 1945, he was shipped to Pearl Harbor as an apprentice seaman.
He joined the base swing band and became one of few servicemen in the Navy who served as musicians without having a musicians’ rating.
Carey served his time in the US Marine Corps, where he spent six years as a corporal. He still supports the troops by touring overseas with the USO like a true patriot.
He admits that, had he not gotten a big break in his comedic career, he’d probably still be in the armed forces up to this day.
Harry Belafonte courageously enlisted in 1944 to fight in World War II, but to his disappointment, he never received the order from higher command to report overseas.
Belafonte later studied acting at the New School’s dramatic workshop paying for classes as a club singer.
Clint Eastwood is machismo epitomized. So no one will be surprised to learn he served in the US Army after being drafted straight from high school, during the Korean War.
But his military experience was limited as a lifeguard; not exactly the role you’d expect apropos his image.
Slapstick comedian Benny Hill was known as one of the funniest showmen ever. Did you know that before he became a famous jokester, he served in the military?
Hill was an electrical and mechanical engineer for the British army. He was one of those who arrived in Normandy during WWII on September 1, 1944.
Willie Nelson is a prominent figure in the American music industry. He served in the US Air Force straight out of high school but was discharged after nine months due to a bad back.
His experiences, however, did leave him with a sense of social responsibility. He became an activist, promoting biofuels and the legalization of marijuana.
JD Salinger always found ways to write on the side, even after he was drafted by the US Army during WWII.
Most of his books somehow touch his experiences as a Sergeant where he overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges, such as the storming of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and the uncovering of the ghastly concentration camps.
Morgan Freeman is known for his character roles and distinct voice. In 1955, Freeman enlisted because he loved war films and the idea of becoming a fighter pilot.
He even turned down a drama scholarship for it. He eventually became a radar technician, which he gratefully accepted after realizing how dreadful it would be to fly a plane.
Ed McMahon had actually served in the military for 25 years prior to taking on his "Tonight Show" role. He enlisted in 1941 and became a flight instructor.
He fought in World War II and the Korean War. He retired with the rank of colonel in 1966.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel)
Dr. Seuss enlisted in the US Army voluntarily, leaving behind his career as a children’s book writer and illustrator.
He did politically-charged cartoons aimed at Hitler and American Isolationists, who tried to keep the US out of the war. As he puts it, he couldn't concentrate on his own work knowing the struggles of others during the war.
Johnny Cash was primarily known for his unique country music. We bet you didn’t know he served time in the military.
It gets even crazier when you learn that he also became a spy! In 1950, when enlisted in the US Air Force, he was a Morse Code Interceptor. His job was to intercept Russian military radio transmissions.
Carl Reiner is known to us as the producer, writer, and actor of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and has been awarded nine Emmys and a Grammy.
Reiner was drafted into the US Army air force back in 1943, under an all-hands-on-deck policy. He performed his tasks diligently and was promoted to the rank of corporal.
"The Price Is Right" game show host used to be a US Navy pilot and a very good one at that. Over a period of 18 months, he was trained at eight different wartime locations, excelling nicely.
He is one of those celebrities who has actually seen some real action and found he was a natural at it.
Before Pat Sajak hosted "Wheel of Fortune," he was an armed forces radio DJ, though he was secretly hoping for more action.
Sajak said he used to feel guilty about his relatively soft duty. What helped him feel better was when other soldiers from the field thanked him for bringing them a little bit of home.
Among Steve McQueen's most popular films were "Bullit," and "The Cincinnati Kid."
He was actually in the marines by age 17 in 1947. In his own words, he enlisted because he “felt bored with hanging around.” He went AWOL and got 30 days in the Brig with a $90 fine.
Before actor James Stewart discovered Hollywood, Stewart enlisted before the US entered World War II as a US Army Air Corps Soldier.
As a fighter pilot, he flew a total of 20 combat missions by the end of the war and kept participating thereafter as a member of the US Air Force Reserve.
Hollywood legend Charlton Heston enlisted in the army air force in 1942, starting off as a radio operator.
He made his way as an aerial gunner on a B-25 Mitchell, but never got combat experience, being assigned in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, which disappointed him as he was eager to contribute to the war effort during WWII.
Alan Alda joined the US Army reserve straight from Fordham University and served for six months in Korea as a gunnery officer just after the Korean War.
Thanks to his direct experiences there, he was able to fully embody the famous Captain Hawkeye Pierce — a medic stationed overseas in the Korean War.
Before Tony Bennett took to the civil stage, he sang for the military. In 1944, Bennett was drafted into the US Army and served in the “Blood and Fire” Division in France and Germany.
He was demoted for insubordination and consequently transferred to special services, which gave him more time to study music and develop his love of singing.
Disney served in the US Military during the two world wars. At first, he helped his country as a Red Cross driver, and later created propaganda cartoons and instructional videos.
It was a foretaste of his lifelong career. They even named a special unit after him: the “Walt Disney Training Films Unit.”
Sean Connery will forever be remembered as one of the best James Bonds in the history of the franchise. But he's had previous training.
At 16 years old, Connery served in the Royal navy. This is where he learned battle skills. He was eventually discharged due to health issues but luckily found a new career in the spotlight.
Before Chuck Norris popularized the roundhouse kick, he served in the military as part of the security police.
He joined the United States air force, which is where he first became interested in self-defense and earned his first black belts. He was untouchable, as it were, on the big screen and in real life.
A Hollywood Veteran, Tom Selleck rose to fame as Magnum, P.I. in the late 1980s.
Tom Selleck served in the California National Guard during the Vietnam war, and he was always rather proud of his service. Even after being discharged, he agreed to appear on California National Guard recruiting posters.