John Wayne Did Not Serve In WWII — And His Career Was Helped As A Result

Sep 11, 2021 by apost team

When it comes to Hollywood royalty, it does not get much better than John Wayne. For over three decades, Wayne starred in countless blockbuster films. Best known for his Westerns, Wayne had starring roles in “True Grit,” “Stagecoach,” “The High and the Mighty” and countless other gems of the silver screen. 

While Wayne’s acting career is now a modern legend, his children also made names for themselves in the entertainment industry. During his life, Wayne had seven children. Wayne’s marriage with his first wife, Josephine, produced four kids: Michael, Mary, Patrick and Melinda. Wayne had another three kids with his third wife, Pilar. Their names are Alissa, John Ethan and Marisa. In addition to sharing remarkably similar physical attributes, all three of Wayne’s sons shared their father’s love of film.

Filmmaking and family were Wayne’s highest priorities, and both of these reasons were credited for keeping the actor from serving in the military. During WWII, Wayne stayed at home with his family and continued working in the entertainment industry while many other performers left for military service. There is even reason to believe that Wayne’s career benefitted from his decision not to serve.

However, there is some dispute over the fact that it was Wayne’s choice not to join the military or if he was kept out through the workings of a major film executive. Wayne could have also been denied entry due to a physical ailment no one knew about. Keep reading to learn more about how Wayne’s sons followed in his footsteps and what really stopped Wayne from serving in WWII.

John Wayne (circa 1950), (John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

Michael, Wayne’s oldest child, was born in 1934 and came of age at the height of his father’s career. While his old man might have loved being in front of the camera, Michael relished working behind it. With his strong work ethic, Michael advanced from production assistant to producer, even helping his father with some of his later films. Tragically, Michael died in 2003 at 68 years old.

Born in 1939, Patrick Wayne started his acting career at the tender age of 11. Like his father, Patrick made a name for himself by starring in Westerns. Throughout his decades-spanning career, Patrick appeared in 40 productions, 11 of which he co-starred alongside his legendary father. Patrick also became known to television audiences as the host of two game shows: “The Monte Carlo Show” and “Tic-Tac-Dough.”

John Ethan, who prefers to go by just Ethan, was born in 1962 and appeared in numerous TV shows and films in the ‘80s and ‘90s as both an actor and a stuntman. Since stepping away from the camera, Ethan now devotes himself entirely to protecting his father’s legacy as head of John Wayne Enterprises and the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

Overall, Wayne’s family is proof positive of the influence that parents have over their children. Michael, Patrick and Ethan Wayne saw their father’s devotion to his craft and followed in his footsteps by pursuing careers in the entertainment industry. 

It is said that it was because Wayne had four children at the time of WWII he chose to stay home and work to support his family. He was at first given 3-A status, “deferred for (family) dependency reasons.” His status would change later, but this was his status at the onset of the war.

John Wayne, Pilar Palette (circa 1955), (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Another reason why Wayne decided not to enlist was because of his career as an actor. Other Hollywood stars, such as Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable, already had established careers when they left to join the military. Because he was just starting out, Wayne wasn’t sure he would have a job waiting for him when he got back, so that’s why he may have stayed. 

In 1944, thanks to intervention from a film studio, Wayne received a new draft status: a 2-A classification. This means “deferred in support of (the) national … interest.” This was due to Wayne’s contributions to Hollywood and the fact that most of his movies exemplified American ideals, like in the many Westerns and War films he starred in, for example. 

It is believed that because so many other actors left the country to serve, Wayne was able to land more leading roles, and, therefore, his career was boosted. This led to Wayne being called a draft dodger — and other unsavory names. 

Film scholar James Denniston, who is cited in True West Magazine, attributes Wayne’s lack of military service to a different issue:

“(Wayne) largely could not get an officer’s commission to enter the military because he had an old injury, which would have kept anyone from being eligible, and also had four children. Also, the powers that be saw the immense contribution (Wayne) could make on the screen to help national morale. His overall roles involved our exposure to what we were fighting abroad, and he also went on many trips drumming up support. He gets a bad rap for not being in the fight as others were, but let no one make that mistake. He was the real deal, no matter where he showed up.”

John Wayne (circa 1960), (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

What do you think of John Wayne’s decision not to enlist? Are you a fan of his work? Let us know, and be sure to send this on to your loved ones.

Please scroll below for more stories