Debunking The Myth of John Wayne-As-Celluloid War Hero

[Ed. note: When I was really little, one of my generation older siblings took me to Lime Rock Racetrack - a big deal with many drivers then, including Paul Newman and I believe at least one of the Smothers Brothers drove there - where my brother Bob worked as a pit mechanic. Got to meet John Wayne there one day as I had many big celebrities then. At four, I'm told I was not too diplomatic which, once I was returned home to my mother, who when she heard that I had been less than servile to Mr. Wayne, made certain the only hair left on my head was that which did not fall out with harsh tugs. You'd think I'd learn.]

TruthDig helps debunk the myth of John "The Duke" Wayne who, even for his time, seems to have been something of a racist, rah-rah America type offscreen as well as on who rooted for war but did not fight. This from a man whose real first name is "Miriam" or "Marion" or something.

Wayne’s motion picture persona is associated with cowboys and soldiers. In fact, he was neither.

Wayne was full of contradictions. Although the star of countless Westerns such as John Ford’s 1939 “Stagecoach” and 1953’s “Hondo” owned a ranch, the Duke “didn’t particularly like horses and preferred suits and tuxedos to chaps, jeans and boots,” according to his son, Michael Wayne. The prototypical cowpoke also favored the sea over the prairie.

While many of his contemporaries, including Henry Fonda, Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan, served in the armed forces during World War II, the lead in such wartime sagas as 1945’s “They Were Expendable,” 1948’s “Fort Apache” and 1968’s “The Green Berets” did not. Wayne was not only missing in action during the 1940s’ liberation of the Philippines and Europe, he wasn’t a cavalry officer, a Vietnam commando or a Leatherneck—flying or otherwise—for he was never in the military.

According to Gary Wills’ book “John Wayne’s America,” the man who portrayed the archetypal, battle-hardened Marine, Sgt. Stryker, in 1949’s “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” actually avoided the draft during WWII. Wills contends that the Duke did not reply to letters from the Selective Service system, and applied for deferments. Apparently, Wayne—who had sought stardom during years of B-pictures following Raoul Walsh’s 1930 frontier drama “The Big Trail”—got his big break during the struggle against fascism when many Hollywood action heroes like Tyrone Power enlisted and shipped out overseas.

With much of the competition away in the Pacific and European theaters, Wayne was able to storm movie theaters to solidify his stardom. While Jimmy Stewart and his fellow celebrity servicemen were real action heroes, Wayne was a “Lights! Cameras! Action!” hero who merely played the part in the safety of Tinseltown’s home front and back lot.
So Duke dodged military service, just like Dick Cheney and George Bush. What a (yawn) surprise.