Born Clinton Eastwood, Jr. in San Francisco on May 31, he was the older of two children whose family traveled across Northern California during the Great Depression. He took up competitive swimming and basketball during high school. After graduation, he worked as a lumberjack and fire fighter in Oregon, and a steelworker in Seattle.
Drafted into the Army during the war in Korea, Eastwood was sent to Ft. Ord in California for basic training. He lucked into a job as a swimming instructor and remained at Ft. Ord. He worked nights and weekends as a bouncer at the NCO club.
On a trip home to Seattle to visit his parents and girlfriend, Eastwood caught a ride aboard a Navy plane at Moffett Field. On the ride back aboard a Navy torpedo bomber, the plane developed engine trouble and was forced to make a water landing off San Francisco. Eastwood was forced to swim over a mile through the tide to shore.
It was while on duty at Ft. Ord that Eastwood met fellow soldiers and actors Martin Milner ("Route 66"), David Janssen ("The Fugitive"), and Richard Long ("The Big Valley").
After his discharge in 1953, Eastwood attended L.A. City College and studied drama under the GI Bill. He landed a $75-a-week contract with Universal Studios, and played bit parts in "Francis the Talking Mule" and "Revenge of the Creature." International fame followed from his "spaghetti" westerns, Dirty Harry movies, and his Oscars for "The Unforgiven."