Famous Veteran: Gene Roddenberry
"The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them."
Gene Roddenberry is most famous for creating the renowned "Star Trek" franchise – it began with a three-season run in the sixties and has thrived to this day. His crowning achievement in science fiction is known for being filled with philosophical questions, cultural progressiveness, and musings on the possibilities of technology. One of the keys to "Star Trek's" success is the fact that almost every aspect of the show is grounded one way or another in real-world concepts. Starfleet, the organization unifying humanity and aliens in the exploration of the galaxy, is one such concept and was undoubtedly influenced by Roddenberry's time as a pilot during World War II.
Born in Texas, Roddenberry grew up respecting his father's profession as a police officer. Although he scored a high grade on a college entrance examination, he decided to go to a junior college and earn an associate's degree in police science. Once he was finished, the 20 year old Roddenberry enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. In 1942, he graduated as a second lieutenant, class G.
After Pearl Harbor, Roddenberry was sent to the Pacific Theater where he flew with the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bombardment Group of the Thirteenth Air Force. He personally piloted a B-17E Flying Fortress named the "Yankee Doddle." After 89 combat missions and at the rank of captain, Roddenberry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal before being honorably discharged in 1945. Following the war, he was known to meet up with other veterans at the California Monterey Peninsula Airport.
When Roddenberry's service ended, he spent four years as a civilian pilot for Pan American World Airways but became an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department in 1949. He reached the rank of Sergeant and wrote speeches for Chief William H. Parker who, supposedly, the character Mr. Spock was based on. In 1956, Roddenberry left the force to pursue his career in writing.
Work as a freelance writer marked Roddenberry's beginning in the entertainment industry. Eventually, he was able to produce his first television show, "The Lieutenant," which followed characters in the United States Marine Corps. In 1966, after two nearly-failed pitches, "Star Trek" aired for the first time. While not a critical success in its first iteration, Roddenberry's creation has continued to influence people for generations.