Monday, April 27, 2015

Hollywood Went to War

American Sniper was the moving tribute to one American hero as he struggled serve his country with honor, while balancing the needs of his personal life, and struggling with the morality of his life and death role in the military. It resonated with the American public, who made it the highest grossing war film of all time, unadjusted for inflation.

It was a rare film for these times, as most military films seem to portray a less than honorable side of the military and the men and women who put their lives on the line for us. It didn't used to be this way. Many prominent actors were veterans. They didn't wear it on their sleeves, but they had heard the sound of a shot fired in anger. It gave them a deep well of experience to draw from.

In this context, I heard something about Eddie Albert today. Yes, Eva Gabor's husband from Green Acres. It didn't surprise me that he had been a veteran. It surprised me that he was the recipient of a Bronze Star...after having been a spy prior to the war!

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Prior to World War II, and before his film career, Albert had toured Mexico as a clown and high-wire artist with the Escalante Brothers Circus, but secretly worked for U.S. Army intelligence, photographing German U-boats in Mexican harbors. On September 9, 1942, Albert enlisted in the United States Navy and was discharged in 1943 to accept an appointment as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V" for his actions during the invasion of Tarawa in November 1943, when, as the pilot of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft, he rescued 47 Marines who were stranded offshore (and supervised the rescue of 30 others), while under heavy enemy machine-gun fire.

Most of the WWII vets I've met don't really want to talk about the war. Many of the most heroic don't consider themselves heroes, but that they just did what needed to be done. Eddie Albert did what needed to be done at Tarawa, and he did it with big brass ones.

Eddie passed away in 2005 at the age of 99. Rest in peace, Mr. Albert, and thank you for your service.

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