Famous Veteran: Clark Gable

Clark Gable wearing a suit.

"The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in himself against odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or his mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence. He's got to have some inner standards worth fighting for, or there won't be any way to bring him into conflict. And he must be ready to choose death before dishonor without making too much song and dance about it. That's all there is to it."

Unlike many famous veterans, Clark Gable's career was well underway by the time he enlisted in the military. He grew up in Ohio and showed an interest in acting early in life. He enjoyed early success on stage and in silent films, and later went on to work for MGM Studios. As he gained momentum, he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for "It Happened One Night" and a nomination for "Mutiny on the Bounty" and "Gone With the Wind," arguably his most famous role as Rhett Butler.

In 1942, Gable's third wife died in an airplane crash. He was emotionally and physically devastated, and joined the Army Air Forces. Although he was beyond the draft age at the time the U.S. entered World War II, he enlisted as a private in the Army Air Forces on Aug. 12, 1942, at Los Angeles.

He attended the Officer Candidate School at Miami Beach, Florida, and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28. He then attended aerial gunnery school, and in February 1943, on personal orders from Gen. Hap Arnold, he went to England to make a motion picture about aerial gunners in action.

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He was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook and, although neither ordered nor expected to do so, flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s to obtain the combat film footage he believed was required for producing the movie, titled "Combat America."

Gable returned to the U.S. in October 1943 and was relieved from active duty as a major on June 12, 1944, at his own request, since he was overage for combat. Because his motion picture production schedule made it impossible for him to fulfill his AAF Reserve officer duties, he resigned his commission on Sept. 26, 1947.

After leaving the military, Gable jumped back into acting and retained his star status. His last film was "The Misfits" which he believed featured his finest performance. At the age of 59, he died on Nov. 16, 1960, from coronary thrombosis.

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