Monday, May 4, 2015

Hollywood Went to War

Second in the series, Hollywood Went to War, is the name and story you may remember...
...James Doohan.

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At the beginning of the Second World War, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the 13th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. He was sent to England in 1940 for training. His first combat was the invasion of Normandy at Juno Beach on D-Day. Shooting two snipers, Doohan led his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines, where they took defensive positions for the night. Crossing between command posts at 11:30 that night, Doohan was hit by six rounds fired from a Bren gun by a nervous Canadian sentry: four in his leg, one in the chest, and one through his right middle finger. The bullet to his chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case given to him by his brother. His right middle finger had to be amputated, something he would conceal during his career as an actor.

Doohan graduated from Air Observation Pilot Course 40 with 11 other Canadian artillery officers and flew Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft for 666 (AOP) Squadron, RCAF as a Royal Canadian Artillery officer in support of 1st Army Group Royal Canadian Artillery. All three Canadian (AOP) RCAF Squadrons were manned by Artillery Officer-pilots and accompanied by non-commissioned RCA and RCAF personnel serving as observers.

Although he was never actually a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Doohan was once labelled the "craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force". In the late spring of 1945, on Salisbury Plain north of RAF Andover, he is said to have slalomed a plane between mountainside telegraph poles "to prove it could be done"—earning himself a serious reprimand. (Various accounts cite the plane as a Hurricane or a jet trainer; however, it was a Mark IV Auster.)

Anyone who hit the beach at Normandy on D-Day and lived to tell the tale certainly has my respect. "Scottie" passed away in 2005 at the age of 85.

James Doohan, rest in peace, and thank you for your service.

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