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Top 10 Famous People Who Were Rejected by the Military

Top 10 Famous People Who Were Rejected by the Military
VOICE OVER: Patrick Mealey WRITTEN BY: Joshua Garvin
These celebrities didn't make the cut! For this list, we'll be looking at celebrities from different walks of life who desperately wanted to serve their country. Our countdown of famous people who were rejected by the military includes Bruce Springsteen, Paul Newman, Bruce Lee, and more!

Top 10 Famous People Who Were Rejected by the Military


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Famous People Who Were Rejected by the Military.

For this list, we’ll be looking at celebrities from different walks of life who desperately wanted to serve their country. To a person, they were - at least at first - told by the government to go take a hike.

Do you have any other stories about celebrities who wanted to join the military but couldn’t? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: Jimmy Stewart


In anticipation of an entrance into World War II, the U.S. military initiated the draft in September 1940. Actor Jimmy Stewart was one of many drafted but he was rejected for being five pounds underweight for his height. Undeterred, Stewart approached MGM muscleman and physical trainer Don Loomis to help. Stewart tried again to enlist in the Army Air Corps, and again failed the weigh in. Using his Hollywood charm, he convinced the recruiter to run the tests one more time and passed, a month after winning the Best Actor Oscar for “The Philadelphia Story.” He was the first major American star to serve in the WWII era military. He achieved the rank of colonel and won several awards before his tour ended.

#9: Alfred Hitchcock


Weight - both either too light or too heavy - was one of the primary reasons for being rejected for military service. Later in life, famed director Alfred Hitchcock was able to make light of his weight. When he was younger, however, his obesity haunted him. Like many teen boys in England during World War I, Hitchcock wanted to enlist. He was too young for most of the war, but when he turned 18, young Alfred was called up. Unfortunately, he was excused from service due to his weight. He received a c3 classification, deemed “ only suitable for sedentary work.”

#8: Bruce Springsteen


Ever since the 1984 presidential campaign, American conservatives have tried to co-opt Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A” as a jingoistic political anthem. In truth, the song is a sober reflection on the plight of Vietnam War Vets. It was also written out of guilt: Springsteen himself almost joined their ranks. Like many young men who didn’t believe in the war, Springsteen was drafted against his will at 19. In his own words, Springsteen was a “stone-cold draft-dodger” receiving 4f status due to a concussion from a motorcycle accident. He also deliberately gave the army ‘crazy’ answers to ensure he avoided the draft.

#7: Charlie Chaplin


In 1914, a group of British women formed an organization called “The Order of the White Feather.” In British culture, white feathers had been a symbol for cowardice since the 18th Century. During World War I, these women would accost men on the street,handing white feathers to shame them into signing up for combat. Famous actor Charlie Chaplin was one such man. For much of the war, Chaplin was harassed constantly by British citizens who accused him of cowardice for refusing to serve. In truth, Chaplin had registered for combat, but was rejected due to his low weight and small stature. For years, even after the war ended, British men and women would send Chaplin white feathers.

#6: Julia Child


Although best known for bringing French Cuisine to the United States, Julia Child was a true patriot. When the U.S. entered World War II, women across the country enlisted in the military. The U.S. Navy’s WAVES - Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service - and the Women’s Army Corps accepted women for non-combat roles. Child, thanks to her six foot two height, was rejected by both. Julia didn’t let that stop her, ultimately joining the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA. While there, Julia rose through the ranks, ultimately working as a researcher for the chief of the organization. As an O.S.S. officer, Child invented a shark repellent that saved the lives of downed pilots in the Pacific.

#5: Orson Welles


“Citizen Kane,” considered by many to be the greatest American film ever made, was released on May 1, 1941. Seven months later, the United States was pulled into World War II thanks to the attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany’s declaration of war. Like many actors of the time, Welles was drafted. His status underwent several shifts. At first, he was listed as 1-B, available for limited duty only. Eventually, after examination by Army doctors, Welles was considered 4-F, denied service on medical grounds. As it turned out, he had multiple conditions, including both flat feet and asthma, that kept him from the fight.

#4: Paul Newman


At the outbreak of World War II, a very young Paul Newman desperately wanted to fly. He dreamed of becoming a bomber pilot, taking the fight to the Japanese or the Germans. Unfortunately - and unbeknownst to Newman - he was colorblind. His application was rejected, but Newman pivoted and went to basic training instead. He joined the Navy and found his way onto a torpedo bomber as radioman, and then turret gunner. He was meant to be a part of the bloody battle of Okinawa, but his plane was grounded due to his pilot having an ear infection. After the war, Newman used the GI bill to go to college, where he studied acting.

#3: Frank Sinatra


Frank Sinatra achieved national fame in 1940 while singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. A few years after he became a national celebrity, his number was called and he went to the draft board. He was classified 4-f due to a perforated eardrum. He spent the war rising in fame, launching his career in film. All during the war and for years afterwards, he was haunted by accusations of having strings pulled to get him out of combat. After his death, the FBI’s files on Sinatra were made public. In addition to the perforated eardrum, we learned that Sinatra was also rejected on psychological grounds. According to the examiner’s report, Sinatra suffered from severe neuroses and fear of crowds and so was deemed unfit.

#2: Bruce Lee


Martial Arts legend and actor Bruce Lee was a student at the University of Washington in Seattle from 1961-1964. Even then, Lee was in peak physical condition. He was part of the Army ROTC and had planned to join the military after school. He was drafted in 1963, but was rejected and listed as 4-f. According to his biographer, Sid Campbell, Lee failed his physical thanks to a sinus disorder, poor eyesight, and an undescended testicle. Campbell claimed that Lee considered himself to be “the fittest man the Army ever rejected.”

#1: John F. Kennedy


John F. Kennedy was the son of Joseph Kennedy, SEC chairman and eventual ambassador to the U.K. Joseph was infamously hands-on with his sons, hoping to guide them to great careers in public service. John graduated from Harvard and, in 1940, tried to become an officer in the U.S. Army. Unfortunately, John suffered from numerous medical conditions including ulcers and chronic back problems. He was rejected by the Army, at which point Joseph pulled some strings to get John into the Navy. The future president served in naval intelligence until he managed a transfer onto a patrol torpedo boat, PT-109. Despite his initial rejection, JFK served with distinction, saving his men when their boat sank.
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