When the United States enter into World War 2 there was an overwhelming support for the War effort from all sectors of society. This included Hollywood. Established stars rushed to sign up for military service. Stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Eddie Albert, Tyrone Powers, and James Stewart.
As the majority of the male leads left to serve overseas, Wayne saw his blossoming stardom at risk. He put off enlisting. However, Wayne was exempt from service due to his age, family status, and classified 3-A (Family deferment).Wayne's secretary did make inquiries on Wayne's behalf with military officials on but Wayne never followed up on them. Wayne did repeatedly write to John Ford, asking to be placed in his unit but Wayne continually postponed joining until after the next film.
The correspondence between Wayne and Herbert J. Yates (the head of the Republic Studios) indicated Yates threatened Wayne. Yates said if he (Wayne) walked away, he would file a lawsuit for breach of contract. Whether Yates meant it or not was never revealed. Wayne never did test it.
In May, 1944, Wayne was reclassified as 1-A (age eligible). The studio intervened with a 2-A deferment (for support of national health, safety, or interest). Wayne stayed 2-A until the war ended. Wayne never did illegally dodge the draft but he never took affirmative action in enlisting.
In 1943-1944, Wayne toured the South Pacific theater of the war for three months. He toured U.S. bases and hospitals as will as done some intelligence work for OSS commander William J. Donovan. Donovan thought Wayne's celebrity status might be a good cover for assessing of the poor relation between General MacArthur and the OSS Pacific Network. Donovan gave Wayne a plague and commendation for his short service with the OSS but Wayne dismissed it as meaningless.
These facts influenced the direction Wayne's life later took. Wayne's failure to serve in the military during World War 2 was the most painful experience in his life. There were other stars, who for various reasons, didn't enlist. Wayne became the focus of particular scorn from both himself and portions of the public. Wile there are some people that hold Wayne in contempt for the paradox between his early actions and his later attitudes, Wayne's widow suggests his rampant patriotism didn't come from hypocrisy but guilt. Pilar Wayne wrote, "He would become a 'superpatriot' for the rest of his life to atone for staying home."
I put this section here for people who came from the tribute page I have up on my main website, "Midnight Angel's Place". Home will take you back to the tribute page of John Wayne on my main website. The other links will take you to the other segments about John Wayne.
Winds Of The Wasteland-This is a movie John Wayne starred in.