5 Famous People With Hilariously Awful Military Careers
When you hear that a celebrity spent some time in the military, maybe you think of them serving honorably like in a war drama, or turning the whole system on its ear like in a comedy. But there's a third category: celebrities who had absolutely no right to be anywhere near the real military at all, like in the Battleship movie. For example ...
Richard Pryor Spent His Army Years Getting Into Fistfights And Stabbing Dudes
There's no person in the annals of history who, on reflection, was less suited to a career in the military than Richard Pryor. Pryor served in the Army from 1958 to 1960, and spent much of that time putting on comedy shows and doing as much violence as possible. In the first of two major incidents, Pryor was jumped in the shower by three soldiers armed with tire irons. Instead of taking the beating, he flew into beast mode, grabbed a length of piping, and smacked one of them in the head. His attacker/victim then stumbled back into the arms of his comrades and gave up, awed by Pryor's show of dominance. "Well damn! You're alright with me, I'll tell you that."
The second incident didn't end quite as well. A few months after his shower brawl, Pryor and a group of other black soldiers were watching Imitation Of Life, a movie about a black woman whose light-skinned daughter rejects her in order to pass for white. The guys soon noticed that one their white comrades seemed a little too amused by this plot, and so they jumped him after the movie finished. Pryor flew pulled a switchblade and repeatedly stabbed the guy in the back.
The guy refused to go down. Sensing that perhaps he'd stumbled into a Highlander-type situation, Pryor turned and ran, tossing the knife into some nearby bushes. He was soon arrested by MPs after the white guy stormed into the base commander's office (still wearing his shredded, bloodied fatigues) and demanded justice. Pryor was locked up in military jail for a month before being dishonorably discharged on account of "some silly enlisted man f--king up regulations." That's certainly one way to put it.
Stan Lee Burglarized An Army Mail Room Because Of Comics
Stan Lee had already begun his career in comics when World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Army, where, after a brief stint in the Signal Corps repairing communications equipment, he was transferred to the Training Film Division as a "playwright," which saw him writing everything from training manuals to film scripts to cartoons.
As you'd expect, he was pretty good at it. He was so good, in fact, that his commanding officer asked him to slow down because he was making his colleagues look bad. (Who were they, you might wonder? Just some nobodies like Charles Addams and Theodor "Dr." Seuss Geisel.) His prodigious output was especially remarkable considering that he was still writing comics in his downtime. Lee would receive a package from Timely Comics every Friday with notes on what they wanted him to write, and Lee would spend his weekend writing copy before sending the completed drafts back on Monday.
It was a well-oiled operation -- that is, until one Friday when a clerk forgot to give Lee his mail. When Lee visited the now-closed mail room the next day and spied a letter from Timely in his cubbyhole, he asked a nearby officer to open the door. The officer refused. The solution was obvious. Wait patiently and accept a delay? Of course not. He dismantled the door with a screwdriver to get in. Come Monday, he was arrested by MPs on charges of mail tampering, and it was only because of the intervention of a friendly colonel that Lee managed to avoid winning an all-expenses-paid vacation to Leavenworth.
Ernest Hemingway Was Tried For Breaking The Geneva Conventions
Toward the end of WWII, Ernest Hemingway was embedded with several units (including the 22nd Infantry), and saw his fair share of combat. At the same time, however, Hemingway also became involved with several partisan groups -- who, unlike the military, aren't terribly picky about who they give guns to. Hemingway soon found himself before the Inspector General of the Third Army, accused of being an armed combatant while also working as a journalist, which is outlawed under the Geneva Conventions.
One charge leveled against Hemingway was that during the liberation of the town of Rambouillet, France, he "stripped off correspondence insignia and acted as a colonel of [resistance] troops; that he had a room with mines, grenades and war maps; [and] that he directed resistance patrols." Hemingway somehow managed to explain away most of the charges, including why his room contained explosives. He was keeping that stuff safe for his friends, who just so happened to be partisans, you see. When directly asked if he'd ever "fought with the men," Hemingway feigned ignorance about how words worked and replied that of course not, he'd never "fought" (i.e. argued) with them:
I swore I was not armed in Rambouillet. I swore I did not "fight with the men." Who would fight with the men, i.e. not get along with them. Not me ... I denied and kidded out of all of it, and swore away everything I felt any pride in.
Hemingway eventually left Europe for Cuba in 1945. For the next few years, he would happily regale his friends with tall tales of how he spent the war as a one-man killing machine who hunted "Krauts" and killed an enemy officer mid-interrogation. In letters to Marlene Dietrich and Pablo Picasso, he claimed he'd killed 122 men. Such a body count would make him the most prolific soldier after Chris Kyle -- a comparison that kinda speaks for itself.
Mark Twain Led A Civil War Militia (Which Quickly Fell Apart)
Mark Twain is famous for writing some of the finest satire to ever grace the English language. It's a little-known fact, however, that he also starred in his own old-timey version of Police Academy, when he commanded a Confederate militia and led it straight into the ground. In 1861, Twain and several friends enlisted in the Marion Rangers, a unit of the Missouri State Guard. In spite of his lack of military experience, Twain was soon made a lieutenant and given command over a dozen men ... who revolted almost immediately and refused to follow his orders.
It didn't get any better when the platoon went into the field, either. In a memoir, Twain wrote that it rained constantly, and his troops were so under-supplied that they were forced to beg local farmers for food and shelter. They were also scared stiff of the approaching Union Army, and so any rumors of enemies were enough to send the squad hurtling in the opposite direction.
The militia lasted a whole two weeks before it disbanded. The men scattered to the wind to avoid being shot as deserters, which led Twain to journey to St. Louis to hide out with some relatives. Honestly, as bad as this might sound, it sure beats what everyone else does when they get kicked out of the military -- get a face tattoo and buy a Challenger.
Walt Disney Was Nearly Fired From The Red Cross For Abandoning His Post
Walt Disney spent much of World War I eager to get his war on. The only thing stopping him was that he was too young to join any branch of the military. So in 1918, with help from his mom of all people, he forged a passport application to age himself from 16 to 17, and signed up to the Red Cross. That stint lasted a whole two months before the war ended. Fortunately for Disney, the Red Cross still needed help with postwar operations -- driving ambulances, chauffeuring officers, and making deliveries. The job afforded him plenty of downtime and allowed him to partake in his other passion: drawing and sketching cartoons.
The following year, however, this cozy life was suddenly flip-turned upside-down. While he and another driver were long-hauling a truckload of beans and sugar across France, they were suddenly hit by a snowstorm and broke down. The rules said that someone had to remain with the truck at all times, so Disney decided to stay with the truck while his partner went back to Paris to fetch help. He was still waiting three days later. Exhausted, hungry, and sleep-deprived, he decided to walk to the nearest town. He ordered himself a meal and a room, and slept for an entire day. When he returned to the truck, however:
[It] was gone ... I didn't know what had happened. When I got into Paris, I found out the story. This helper got into Paris and went out that night before he reported to the headquarters ... and got drunk and he was drunk for two days. Then he finally reported and he came to find me. I was gone and he picked up the truck. So I was court-martialed.
It was only because Disney had struck up a friendship with his boss that he was let off of all charges. (His friend was arrested and thrown in the brig.) He left shortly after in order to find work as a cartoonist, and spent the entirety of the next war making propaganda movies about income taxes, authoritarian brainwashing, and Donald Duck sieg-heiling Hitler.
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