was john wayne a draft dodger
General Military Questions

John Wayne Military Service: Did He Really Dodge the Draft?

What is the deal with John Wayne and his military service?

There are conflicting reports about why the legendary Hollywood actor did not serve in the military.

Consequently, it makes the question of whether John Wayne really did dodge the military draft all the more intriguing.

Learn more about John Wayne and what really happened regarding his military service, below.

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John Wayne Military Service

did john wayne service in the military
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John Wayne, known by many as the “Duke,” is one of the most famous Hollywood actors of all time.

For many, the Duke embodied what defines an American man and patriot.

Nevertheless, the true story of John Wayne is far more complicated than what is depicted on the big screen.

In fact, despite having the persona of being a true patriot and starring in multiple war movies, the reality is that John Wayne never served in the Armed Forces.

And, to make matters even more confusing, the reason why the actor avoided service remains clouded in mystery.

Be that as it may, there are many explanations regarding why John Wayne avoided military service.

There are some theories that are more credible than others.

Unfortunately, no one will ever know the full truth because the question of being a draft dodge was a subject the Duke preferred to avoid.

Still, here is a greater understanding as to why John Wayne was not interested in joining the military:


John Wayne was not the movie star we know him as today when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.

At the time, Wayne was 34 years old, married, and struggling to support 4 children.

However, the Duke was starting to enjoy success thanks to a breakout performance in Stagecoach (1939).

While other Hollywood heavyweights like Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, and Henry Fonda had already enlisted in the military, Wayne opted to stay behind.

Wayne argued that being drafted and serving in World War II would have a severe impact on his rising movie career.

He was reportedly concerned that his age would play a factor after returning from the war and seriously jeopardize future movie roles.

Thus, John Wayne sought draft deferment.

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John Wayne Military Draft Deferment

was john wayne in the military
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The United States entered WWII following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

For this reason, many young men entered service either voluntarily or through the military draft (Selective Service System).

There were many celebrities and star athletes at the time who were eager to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces to protect the country.

However, John Wayne was just beginning to appreciate his career as an A-list movie star.

As a result, the Duke argued that he was too old for the Armed Forces and that he could serve the nation better by performing in patriotic movies.

Eventually, John Wayne was relieved from military service because of his family status.

The Hollywood actor was granted 3-A hardship status, which meant his duty would “cause hardship upon his family.”

During the war, the Duke starred in numerous WWII movies and westerns, including Flying Tigers (1942) and The Fighting Seabees (1944).

Despite that, John Wayne was not initially viewed as a true patriot considering his decision to avoid serving in World War II.

In fact, some veterans showered the Duke with boos when he attended USO events that took place during WWII.

Second Draft Deferment

The latter years of World War II provoked the need for more men in uniform.

Consequently, military brass decided to change John Wayne’s military status to 1-A, designating the actor much more likely to serve.

At the time, Wayne was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and reportedly did not balk at the idea of serving the nation.

Nonetheless, the film studio that represented Wayne was not interested in having him leave and ditch the profitable movie roles.

Thus, the military switched Wayne’s draft status to 2-A, which essentially granted the movie star another deferment.

Wayne once again argued that he could support wartime propaganda and the morale of the troops better by continuing to produce movies.

Be that as it may, the decision forever haunted the legendary actor and altered the course of the rest of his life.

John Wayne Military Patriotism

The Duke made every effort both during and after the war to right his image.

John Wayne starred in multiple films set in World War II, including They Were Expendable (1945), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), and The Longest Day (1962).

Wayne also cashed in from box office sensations (albeit critical disasters) such as The Green Berets (1968).

Regardless, he was never able to fully shed his image as a draft dodger (see, below).

Nevertheless, Wayne took considerable strides to correct his reputation.

The actor performed many functions for the USO, including touring military bases and hospitals in the South Pacific during WWII.

He also once defended a veteran against anti-Vietnam War hecklers who were harassing the Marine during a USC event.

Randy Roberts argues in the book John Wayne: American that his decision to avoid service caused guilt for the remainder of his life.

Consequently, the Duke emphasized portraying the role of a superpatriot to avoid having the image of a draft dodger cemented to his legacy.

Eventually, the actor succumbed to stomach cancer in 1979.

Wayne was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

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Did John Wayne Dodge the Military Draft?

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There are different viewpoints regarding whether John Wayne dodged the military draft and therefore WWII service.

In the past, evidence has suggested that Wayne may have had justification for seeking deferment because of his age and family status.

He also had a fair argument that continuing to star in movie roles would benefit the morale of troops in a different way than being assigned to a unit.

Be that as it may, the same was not true of Henry Fonda who was around the same age and also supported a large family.

Additionally, other movie stars like Clark Gable and Paul Newman did not hesitate to enlist during WWII.

Jimmy Stewart even pounded beer in order to gain weight and therefore acceptance into the U.S. Armed Forces.

Moreover, there is even speculation that John Wayne may have dodged the draft because of a heated affair with Marlene Dietrich.

Marc Elito argued in his 2014 book American Titan, Searching for John Wayne that Wayne feared the relationship would end if he were to enlist.

Notwithstanding, the actor has insisted that he signed up for the war yet faced several obstacles toward joining the military.

Furthermore, the actor did make attempts to join the military later in the water yet those efforts were stalled by the movie studio.

FAQs: John Wayne Military Service

What is the truth regarding John Wayne’s military service?

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers:

Did John Wayne serve in the military?

No, he did not.

The Duke sought and received 2 different draft deferments.

Therefore, he never served in World War II.

Did John Wayne dodge the draft?

It depends on who you ask.

John Wayne did much to attempt and change his image from being a draft dodger.

Later in WWII, the actor was open to enlistment after his draft status was changed yet faced resistance from his movie studio.

The studio argued that John Wayne should remain back home and continue to produce patriotic movies.

How did John Wayne avoid military service?

First, the Duke argued that he was too old for service at 34 years of age.

Secondly, he argued that it would cause hardship since he was supporting a family with 4 children.

However, many argue that Wayne avoided service because his movie career was beginning to take off.

Furthermore, he may have other motives which were never made clear because the Duke hated talking about the subject.

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Did John Wayne really dodge the draft?

If so, it would forever change the persona of a man that many today recognize as a true American patriot.

John Wayne made multiple attempts to restore his image after he managed to avoid military service.

Still, some argue that he could have served like other film icons of his time period including Clark Gable and Paul Newman.

Regardless, John Wayne left a legend that continues to personify the idealized American values of his era.

Rob V.
John Wayne Military Service

John Wayne Military Service

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Find out why John Wayne didn't serve in the military during World War 2, and other interesting tidbits.
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