Arness wanted to be a naval fighter pilot, but he felt his poor eyesight would bar him. His height of 6 feet 7 inches ended his hopes, since 6 feet 2 inches was the limit for aviators. Instead, he was called for the Army and reported to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, in March 1943. Arness served as a rifleman with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, and was severely wounded during Operation Shingle, at Anzio, Italy.
According to 'James Arness – An Autobiography', he landed on Anzio Beachhead on January 22, 1944 as a rifleman with 2nd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. Because of his height, he was the first ordered off his landing craft to determine the depth of the water; it came up to his waist.
Arness was sent to the U.S Army 91st General Hospital at Clinton, Iowa, to be treated. On January 29, 1945, having undergone surgery several times, Arness was honorably discharged. His wounds continued to bother him, and in later years, he suffered from chronic leg pain, which sometimes hurt when mounting a horse. His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze battle stars, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Mr. Arness, we salute you and thank you for your service to our country. Rest in peace.