Hollywood Stars and Sports Heroes: Uncle Sam Wants You!

No — Jimmy Stewart is not acting here.  He flew bombers in World War II and rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Air Force

W.J. Astore

Back in 2013, I wrote an article on U.S. wars and the absence of movie and sports stars in the ranks of those who serve.  Hollywood and sports leagues such as the NFL and MLB celebrate the military today, but that celebration does not extend to service and sacrifice.  Indeed, the main service is lip service: basically, cheap words to the effect that we celebrities “support” the troops.  It’s not exactly the kind of service we associate with the Greatest Generation of World War II, is it?

Yet the absence of Hollywood celebrities and sports “heroes” in the ranks may be indicative of another, much more serious, issue.  Maybe America’s wars simply aren’t vital to them — or to us?  And if they’re not vital, why are they still in progress?  Why can’t we end them?

Here is what I wrote in 2013:

The tradition of the citizen-soldier is still alive in this country — just look at our National Guard units. But the burden of military service is obviously not equally shared, with the affluent and famous tucked away safely at home. How many people remember that Jimmy Stewart, legendary Hollywood actor, flew dangerous combat missions in the skies over Europe during World War II? Stewart didn’t flaunt his combat service; in fact, playing against type, he stayed home as the unhallowed George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, a movie that celebrated the heroism of the ordinary citizen. In the movie, Stewart’s quiet, home-based heroism, his powerful sense of fairness and decency, is even allowed to overshadow that of his younger brother, who returns from war with the Medal of Honor.

There’s an interesting lesson there. In World War II, celebrities often risked life and limb in real military service, then after the war played against type to celebrate the virtues of a homespun heroism. Today’s celebrities avoid military service altogether but play tough in action films where they pose as “heroes.”

Other than Pat Tillman, who gave up a promising NFL football career to join the military after 9/11, I can’t think of a single celebrity who answered the call to arms as a citizen-soldier.

Then again, that call was never issued. After 9/11, President George W. Bush famously told us to keep calm and carry on — carrying on shopping and patronizing Disney, that is. He did so because he already had a large standing professional military he could call on, drawn primarily from the middling orders of society. This “all volunteer military” is often described (especially in advertisements by defense contractors) as a collection of “warfighters” and “warriors.” In the field, they are supplemented by privatized militaries provided by companies like Academi (formerly Blackwater/Xe), Triple Canopy, and DynCorp International. In a word, mercenaries. These bring with them a corporate, for-profit, mindset to America’s wars.

If we as a country are going to keep fighting wars, we need a military drawn from the people. All the people. As a start, we need to draft young men (and women) from Hollywood, from the stage and screen. And we need to draft America’s sports stars (I shouldn’t think this would be an issue, since there are so many patriotic displays in favor of the troops at NFL stadiums and MLB parks).

Jimmy Stewart served in combat. So too did Ted Williams. So too did so many of their Hollywood and sporting generation.

Until today’s stars of stage and screen and sports join with the same sense of urgency as their counterparts of “The Greatest Generation,” I’ll remain deeply skeptical of all those Hollywood and sporting world patriotic displays of troop support.

If this whole line of argument sounds crazy to you, I have a modest suggestion. Rather a plea. If our celebrities who profit the most from America are unwilling to defend it the way Stewart and Williams did, perhaps that’s not just a sign of societal rot. Perhaps it’s a sign that our wars are simply not vital to us. And if that’s the case, shouldn’t we end them? Now?

11 thoughts on “Hollywood Stars and Sports Heroes: Uncle Sam Wants You!

  1. The reality is that only a small percentage of the population is willing to serve in the military and those that do serve are sent on multiple deployments. One answer is to reinstate the draft. However the lesson learned from Vietnam by the military and politicians is that the draft will result in greater awareness and accountability from the public about our involvement in foreign interventions.

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  2. Good article, with one exception: it’s not “social rot”- it’s political rot. Americans & Europeans citizens today are beside themselves of what to do about “immigrant’s”, well, better said, “refugees”! People like H Clinton*, Blair*, etc. have destroyed their homelands. They’re unlivable today; our Pentagon proud of destroying Yemen’s water & sewage systems. Europe’s not far behind; destroying Libya, the (once) richest country in Africa. (* Probably stole Gadhafi’s enormous gold reserves!)
    It’s now, after 17 years, turning into a historic tragedy. Riding freight train tops & blow-up boats to escape American/EU/NATO shows their desperation.
    If we could defeat the horror of WW2 foes, this group should be easy.
    Steal these thieves money back! Put then on the street – for – WAR CRIMES!


  3. For decades during and after my 28-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard I argued vehemently against a reinstatement of the draft. I mostly argued against those Veterans who see the draft as a cure for society’s ills and advocate for everyone to serve. I always argued that everyone serving is an impossibility with nearly 8 million kids both males and females turning 18 every year no military could absorb that degree of volunteers or draftees. Hell, I was surprised to learn that just 9 percent of the U.S. population at the time or about 12.2 million Americans wore the uniform in WWII. I thought it would be much higher. So, if everyone who turns 18 in the U.S. were drafted every year, we would induct 2/3 of the total number of Americans who served in uniform during WWII each year. That’s just not going to work.

    Today, I’ve changed my opinion. We need to reinstate the draft and a draft that allows deferments for only the medically unfit, certifiable conscientious objectors and no one else. We need to do this to level the playing field by returning our Armed Forces to military services that are primarily staffed by citizen soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airpersons in wartime. When a President’s, a Senator’s, a Congressman’s, or a silicone valley tycoon’s or other business magnate’s children are forced to serve and risk life and limb like the middle and working class kids who populate our Armed Forces today, will our legislators and political leaders see warfighting as what it is – something to be avoided and engaged in only as a last resort. As long as we continue to celebrate the warrior ethos of today’s All Volunteer Force and the upper classes are permitted to avoid the risks of military service our wars of choice will continue endlessly.

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  4. Of course war does not benefit the people publically endorsing it – it benefits those who PROFIT from it, and those people are rarely heard from. I should know, I used to be one such person, pouring my derision over machinists who made parts for jet engines and Tomahawk cruise missiles. Given that I sell wargaming miniatures online, one could argue that I STILL profit from it. The Military Industrial Complex did not make war profitable, it was CREATED because war is profitable, a fact which big companies operating in industrialised nations figured out as early as 1870, possibly even earlier.

    I do not believe that reinstating the draft would work, even if there was the slightest chance that such a law would ever be passed. The people who profit from war are extremely wealthy, and can have as many children as they want. Furthermore, these people have minds of metal – they do not care about anything other than maintaining their hold on society. Their children’s lives mean nothing to them. These are the people who would shoot their sons in the back and cripple them in order to keep them from getting drafted. They keep their daughters out of medicine (nurses could be drafted back in the day) and marry them off as young as possible to achieve the same thing. They have surrendered their humanity in the name of profit and power – they have become slaves to the very machinations that they themselves built in order to enslave the entire world. You will never get through to these people. The best you can do is wait for them to die, and hope that their children are too stupid to continue such a horrifying legacy. Thankfully, that is exactly what is happening today, since the public is not as easily fooled as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, we have a long way to go.

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  5. I assume everyone knows that Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater (now renamed a couple of times and only one of several guns for hire companies as mentioned above) is eager to have as much combat turned over to private enterprise (his employees) as possible. He would field a rough, tough group of pros eager for action regardless of the reason, that would be ready to deploy anywhere, anytime. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect fit for endless war? Then profit will be a motive everywhere the military is engaged from weapons and hardware through services like laundry/housekeeping/meals etc. to the guys who shoot. Mr. and Mrs. Citizen can then truly forget about what’s going on.

    I kick myself for ever believing that Vietnam was a painful national learning experience that would restrain the desire for empire.

    BTW: Doesn’t Jimmy Stewart look fit and trim? I notice that in every picture I see of Americans in the 40’s and 50’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Jimmy does look fit and trim. Americans in the 40s and 50s ate better food and generally worked more physical jobs, I think. And there was less junk food. Now we’re chained to desks and computers and bombarded with ads for cheap, high-calorie, food.

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  6. As far as I know, no book was ever written on the draft during the Vietnam War. If there was it is covered with dust somewhere in the bowels of a library.

    Somehow, the healthy, young professional athletes during the Vietnam War were never drafted. A friend of mine who was in the National Guard during the Vietnam Era told me you had to have an “in” or “sponsor” to enter the guard, other wise you were on a waiting list.

    One family that deserves mention is the Kennedy’s. Joe Kennedy and Jack Kennedy could probably have found a safe haven as cook, clerk or bottle washer had they exercised that option. It is impossible to imagine any families of the 1% today having a close family member humping a ruck sack on the front lines somewhere. Most likely today the 1% close family member would be in a three piece suit heading up some mercenary outfit.

    As I have written here before the Defense Establishment saw the extreme danger a draft caused to the political system. Not only was the draft protested, the entire Militant Imperialism of US Foreign Policy was protested by millions and elected politicians were feeling the heat. The Defense Establishment had to find a way to disconnect the politicians and the volunteer force was just the ticket.


  7. I think the only good thing we can say about the horrors of war today is – ‘GREAT’ Britain is finished. I’ve said for years there’s only 4 terrorist countries in the world: US, UK, France, Israel.
    Today we’re down to 3.
    This fraud of ‘Russian Novichok’ poisoning has reached it’s final end of “diplomacy”: Putin found 2 drug addicts in Britain & poisoned them!
    Who in their right mind can believe that?
    The problem is NATO! No European wants to pay for it! YEAH! Like working slobs in US. Can you blame them? Health Services* reduced & pensions taxed to PAY for Nato? Won’t happen: It was a great idea during the cold war, but worthless today. (* Americans don’t even GET those benefits!)
    That’s what I think is REALLY goin’ on: how to make money on farce?
    Good job Thresa May & Boris Johnson! Everything I hate about your thoughts – you did to yourselves!

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  8. Something I just read in a book about ancient Rome…early in its history, only property owners could be in the army. As the number of small farmers dropped, the land being taking over by the wealthy, the army was unable to come up with enough manpower and the property requirement was dropped.

    We no longer have the manpower problem for combat troops but we do need a huge support system for the ones we do need. The kind of war the US wages now is incredibly safe (for us) compared to the conflicts of massed armies known up through the 20th century. Truth to tell our high tech allows us to kill from the sky without any danger to pilots on the scene, none to drone pilots. Take some fire, call in air support, end of the skirmish, the enemy and civilians who happen to live in the area. It’s a pretty clean way to fight from our perspective, making war look pretty darn good and a great thing for investors.

    War still is, as always, a power game, but the limitation now is money and in case everyone hasn’t noticed, Uncle Sam has no problem at all with unlimited debt.

    An end to the American empire project will come with the collapse of the dollar. Our military over-extension demands financial over-extension and yet Congress, always looking to save money on food stamps and deny relief for student debt, says nothing about the 4/5ths of a trillion dollars annually for the Pentagon.

    For now, the world scrambles to buy up US debt and that makes Uncle Sam feel like he can do whatever he wants in distant lands. That won’t go on forever. Credit is not endlessly expandable. Ancient civilizations forgave debt at regular intervals. Kings could order it. Now it’s different, people say, but the problem is the same. The only difference is the scale of debt is astronomical and Wall Street has great power to fight debt forgiveness (credit issuance being its life-blood) so the correction will probably come through financial collapse, occurring on an otherwise ordinary day. Even the mighty Pentagon will be humbled. But for now, let’s have a new stealth bomber!

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  9. You know, I have been pondering about the Uncle Sam wants you. As a draftee into the US Army, I was sent across the Pacific Ocean to stop Communism as a combat infantryman.

    I look at my 15 year old grandson and I cannot think of one reason he should join the military to defend America today. There is always the old horse manure reason of Bush the Younger – defending your right to shop until you drop in some mall or today order a product through some mail order conglomerate.

    This long article from the Guardian exemplifies to me my lack of interest in defending America:
    Vladimir Putin’s former chief of staff has a secret investment in an American energy company hailed by Donald Trump as creating jobs for American workers.

    Alexander Voloshin – who served as Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff before working for Putin between 2000 and 2003 – has an undisclosed stake in American Ethane, a Houston-based firm that recently signed a multibillion dollar export deal with China.

    Voloshin is part of a consortium of Russian investors in American Ethane that at one point included the oligarch and billionaire Roman Abramovich.

    In November 2017, Trump presided over a series of trade agreements with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. One of the biggest was a $26bn (£20bn) deal to supply liquid ethane to China, struck between privately owned American Ethane and a large Chinese conglomerate.

    Despite swapping government for business, Voloshin remains an influential figure in Russian politics. His western contacts include bankers, scholars, reporters, and the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who advises the Trump White House on Russia.

    The Russians decided to pivot from shale to ethane, a gas byproduct generated by fracking. >> Side Bar Fracking a favorite of the fossil fuel industry.

    Research by Dossier also reveals Voloshin’s remarkable network of contacts in the west. Kissinger has met regularly with Voloshin, including twice in Moscow in 2013 and 2016, and once in 2014 in New York, typically for lunch.

    Thomas Graham – a former adviser to George W Bush, and a senior Kissinger aide – accompanies Kissinger on these trips. Kissinger has urged Trump to pragmatically reset relations with Putin.

    The Houston firm’s 20-year deal will involve ethane gas being delivered from a terminal on the Texas Gulf coast to a new ethylene plant in China to be built by the Nanshan Group. The gas will be delivered via specially built ships. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/10/former-putin-adviser-has-secret-investment-in-us-energy-firm-praised-by-trump
    Henry Kissinger should have been in prison after all destruction he orchestrated in Vietnam. The hypocrisy scale is in the Red Zone as just today President Agent Orange said: The US president had accused Berlin of being a “a captive of the Russians” because of its dependence on energy supplies.

    So maybe I am over the top about “defending America”, but I sure as hell will not fight or encourage anyone to fight for the corrupt scum that counts on our “Warriors” to defend the right of making a profit.

    Vince Lombardi, coach of the Packers once said Winning isn’t everything – It’s the only Thing. In the case of the 1% and in particular of our President Agent Orange – Money in my pocket isn’t the only thing – It is everything!!!!


    1. In reverse, a funny story told years ago, was a Ford designer: “The ’57 Ford was perhaps the most beautiful car we’d produced in decades, maybe ever. But by mid summer we had to learn to hate it; the ’58’s were soon coming out!”.
      Is that what’s going on today, in the world? Russia as hated, then loved. Few know even the Soviets sold energy to Europe: it gave them foreign currency, in exchange for local cheap energy. When USSR broke up, prices & flow remained the same – good for all.
      That all ended with US fracking; of questionable water & earthquake safety, and…..long term productivity. So we must hate Russia again!
      Agent Orange is here now, lecturing Europe how they must spend more on NATO to “defend” themselves – Against their most important energy supplier! Then…make a “deal” with Putin, over what I haven’t a clue. This is all turning into dangerous farce, but I’m sure the level heads of Lavrov/Putin will stand firm & fair.
      I mentioned above I believe ‘GREAT’ Britain is finished, leaving only 3 terrorist countries on earth. Interestingly, they hated France, (then sided in brutality with them!) US, where they burned down Washington, and Israel, which they stole to please rich British Zionists. Time to leave the world stage; too many mistakes. Their recent mistakes are too blasphemous to mention; another time.
      But hey! The British Football Team is doing great in ‘RUSSIA’! Should be so embarrassing to the elites who wanted them banned, but they’re so arrogant don’t “get it”. But the PEOPLE of UK sure do! They’re government is full of liars & incompetents.

      As for the tragedy of Vietnam, they & USSR had a better health & pension system than US. Today, Russia Federation still has a great free health system….but their pensions were stolen in large part by Kissinger’s, etc. from the West. But they blew them – and Putin won’t let them steal anymore from Orthodox, Christian “Love thy neighbor” Mother Russia….yes, there is hope.


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