How John Wayne saved the United States Marine Corps
After WWII concluded, and the bloodshed finally ended after years of mind-numbing terror and violence, the massive demobilization of servicemen to slash military spending began. Many liberal Democrats supported an effort to completely abolish the Marine Corps.
This effort was supported by the Doolittle Board, created by the Truman Administration, and headed by none other than Army General Jimmy Doolittle himself, which called for the Marine Corps to be disbanded as a separate military outfit and unified with Army units.
Well, as you can imagine, this didn’t go over well with Marines who had sacrificed so much to the war effort and distinguished themselves for valor and bravery against all odds over and over again in those brutal years. Several enterprising Marines with Hollywood connections thought a movie built around the famous Joe Rosenthal photo of the Mount Suribachi flag raising at Iwo Jima could help sway public opinion.
They brought the idea to Hollywood director Allan Dwan who saw the merit in it and wanted to be involved in the project. The movie was to be called “The Sands of Iwo Jima” and everyone agreed the only big name Hollywood star fit to play the hero Sgt. Stryker was John Wayne.
John Wayne read the script, didn’t like the hero or the script and turned it down. Never ones to back down from a fight, the Marines had Marine Corps Commandant, General Clifton B. Cates board a flight from Washington to California to personally explain to John Wayne what was at stake – the very existence of the United States Marine Corps. Wayne immediately changed his mind and promised the General he would do whatever it took to make the movie a success.
The Sands of Iwo Jima was released in 1949 and immediately became a blockbuster among the millions of Americans who packed into movie theaters to see it. Wayne was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar which quickly established him as a Number One box-office star.
The Doolittle Board quietly disintegrated and no politician on Capitol Hill has ever again suggested we should disband the Marine Corps.
There are John Wayne critics who point out that he did not serve his country by putting himself in harm’s way like Lee Marvin, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Stack, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and many others. When war broke out, Wayne tried to enlist but was rejected because of old football injuries and a bad back from years of doing his own stunts, his age (34), and his family status (father, 4 children). So he flew out to Washington to plead that he be allowed to join the Navy. No go. So he poured his heart and soul into the war effort by making inspirational war films, helping to get public support and resources for our military. He continued supporting our military through the Viet Nam war by making “The Green Berets” – another blockbuster.
He may not have seen actual combat like so many, but singlehandedly saving the United States Marine Corps was an accomplishment no one but John Wayne could have pulled off.
Thirty years later, in October 1979, Ronald Reagan’s biography of his dear friend John Wayne appeared in Reader’s Digest, imparting this advice: ”Don’t ever trust a man who doesn’t like John Wayne. A man’s opinion of John Wayne is a good rule-of-thumb test of his character and moral values. To admire John Wayne is to admire the heroic and the morally noble. To sneer at John Wayne is to admire the opposite. It’s revealing that you find very few liberals among his admirers, and very few conservatives among his detractors.”
John Wayne continues to be ranked third of America’s favorite male film stars, even though he died in 1979, and is the only deceased actor on the list and the only one to have appeared in the top ten every year since the poll was started in 1994 (as of 2010). He once said, “It’s kind of sad when normal love of country makes you a super patriot.”
John Wayne’s most famous Sgt. Stryker quotes? “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.”
OORAH, John Wayne. Well done.
From UGA Sports.com forums, breitbart.com, beliefnet.com “America in Uniform”, Wikipedia.org, and countless current-day Marines still sharing the story on social media.