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John Wayne

Why Didn’t John Wayne Serve in the Military? (5 Reasons)

Hollywood star John Wayne is best known for his WWII films. However, in real life, he never took part in the war. Why didn’t John Wayne serve in the military?
Though inconclusive, there are many theories as to why Wayne “dodged” his draft, including:

He was classified as “3-A” when registering with Selective Service. This meant that he was eligible for temporary deferment.
Republic Pictures filed a “2-A” deferment for him when he was again eligible to serve, so he would stay with the studio after “Stagecoach” (1939).
The enlistment paperwork never made it to his home.
He did not want to lose his mistress Marlene Dietrich.
He did not want to impact his path to becoming a famous star.

Continue reading to find the details of each of these theories. To get a good idea, be sure to not stop until you reach the end!

Table of Contents [hide]

John Wayne Draft Dodger? – 5 Potential Reasons to Why

1. Reason Number 1: 3-A Deferment
2. Reason Number 2: 2-A Deferment
3. Reason Number 3: Displaced Paperwork
4. Reason Number 4: Commitment to Mistress
5. Reason Number 5: Rising Star Obstacle

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Who was John Wayne?
2. What are some of John Wayne’s WW2 movies?
3. Was John Wayne ever in the military?
4. Are there other actors who didn’t serve in ww2?
5. Which actors served in WW2?


John Wayne Draft Dodger? – 5 Potential Reasons to Why

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1. Reason Number 1: 3-A Deferment
It is speculated that John Wayne did not serve in WWII because he was classified as “3-A” when he did his part in registering with Selective Service.
“3-A” is one of the classifications that allowed the registrant to defer service. Its official name is “Hardship Deferment.” It applies to registrants whose commitment to service can burden (cause hardship for) their families. John Wayne was considered one of these 3-A registrants because he had a wife and 4 kids to provide for.
2. Reason Number 2: 2-A Deferment
“2-A” is another classification with grounds for deferment. Republic Pictures, when Wayne was eligible to enlist, filed a “2-A” deferment to keep him in their studio. After his “Stagecoach” role, Wayne was the only A-list actor at Republic Pictures. So, it was no surprise that they did not want to ‘“lose” him to the war. As an actor, Wayne qualified as a “2-A” registrant in a non-agricultural occupation.
3. Reason Number 3: Displaced Paperwork
Displaced paperwork is another possible reason why John Wayne did not serve in WWII. It was believed that the required papers for his enlistment were processed but mistakenly sent to his ex-wife’s house and not his. Thus, he never knew about it. Some sources claimed that she neglected it, while some contended that she withheld it intentionally because she and the children were still relying on Wayne’s star power to live comfortably.
4. Reason Number 4: Commitment to Mistress
Many people believe Marlene Dietrich was the “culprit” behind John Wayne’s WW2 dodging behavior. He became involved with Marlene Dietrich on the “Seven Sinners” set. Throughout his 3 year affair with her, many asserted that she was an extreme distraction to him.
According to author Marc Elliot, for instance:
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With that said, it is plausible that he did not want to enter service for fear of losing his mistress. After all, they say, love makes you blind (and possibly in Wayne’s case, a draft dodger too).
5. Reason Number 5: Rising Star Obstacle
After his role in “Stagecoach” (1939), Wayne was on his way to becoming an A-list actor. Joining the war at this time would seriously impact his acting career, which was taking off.
Compared to enlisted actors (like Clark Gable & Jimmy Stewart) Wayne was not yet established. So, there was a good chance that by the time he returned from the war, his time would be over. According to, Wayne told his friends that the best thing he could do (for the war) was to star in films to support the troops.
Not everyone agreed with this, though. For example, American Author Garry Wills said in his book “John Wayne’s America”:
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
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1. Who was John Wayne?
John Wayne was a popular American actor, best known for his Western and war movies. His real name is Marion Robert Morrison, though he is also commonly referred to as “Duke.”
Wayne was born on May 26, 1907 in Winterset, Iowa. He has starred in a total of 142 motion pictures and is considered one of the best male stars of classic American cinema.
He was a guest on many radio programs and also had a program of his own “Three Sheets to the Win.” He died in 1979 because of stomach cancer at the UCLA Medical Center. His resting place is the Pacific View Memorial Park Cemetery in Corona del Mar, Newport Beach.
2. What are some of John Wayne’s WW2 movies?
Here is a list of some of John Wayne’s US Army movie roles:

Flying Tigers (October 1942) – Wayne played Captain Jim Gordan.
Reunion in France (December 1942) – Wayne played Pat Talbot.
The Fighting Seabees (March 1944) – Wayne played Lieutenant Commander Wedge Donovan.
Back to Bataan (May 1945) – Wayne played Colonel Joseph Madden.
They Were Expendable (December 1945) – Wayne played Lieutenant Junior General Rusty Ryan.
Sands of Iwo Jima (March 1950) – Wayne played Sergeant John M. Stryker.
In Harm’s Way (April 1965) – Wayne played Captain Rockwell Torrey.

3. Was John Wayne ever in the military?
As written above, John Wayne, despite being in many films set in WWII, never served in the military; not even after the war. He made half-hearted attempts to serve toward the end of the war, but in the end, he never followed through.
4. Are there other actors who didn’t serve in ww2?
Orson Welles is another actor who did not serve in the Second World War. However, rather than filing for deferment, Welles was actually rejected by the military. He failed the physical examination. Although the exact reasons were not disclosed, it is rumored that he had asthma and skeletal inflammation.
5. Which actors served in WW2?

Jimmy Stewart: Stewart was initially rejected because he was underweight. However, to ensure he did his part, Stewart loaded up on milkshakes and chicken wings to gain the needed pounds. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was a part of twenty flying combat missions over Europe. He received many awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross (2), the Croix de Guerre, and the Air Medal (4). He later served as an observer in the Vietnam War, too.
Kirk Douglas: Douglas was in the Navy aboard the anti-submarine ship “PC-1139” during WW2. He even sustained an injury and was left with chronic abdominal problems.
Clark Gable: Gable was a gunner on a B-17 in WW2 and he flew at least 5 combat missions. Gable was even awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal before he returned to acting.
Paul Newman: Newman served in the war aboard Avenger torpedo bombers as a radio operator.
George Kennedy: Kennedy, Wayne’s co-star in Cahill, U.S. Marshal (1973), fought in the Battle of the Bulge as part of Patton’s army, which earned him 2 Bronze Stars.

As you have read, there are 5 potential reasons to, “Why didn’t John Wayne serve in the military?” It may have been because of his 3-A Hardship Deferment, 2-A Occupation Deferment (due to Republic Pictures’ intervention), displaced paperwork, mistress Marlene Dietrich, or fear of aging out of his acting career, or a combination of all.
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John Wayne

John Wayne’s death was ‘ordered’ by Joseph Stalin because of star’s threat to comm*n*sm

Wayne was renowned for detesting the values of communism, so much so he even played a prominent role in creating the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (MPA) in 1944, becoming President five years later.
Its membership included the likes of Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney and Clark Gable.
For a man so intrinsically linked to stereotypical personas of what a man should look like in the Thirties and Forties, it is a surprise that, unlike his fellow Americans, Wayne did not fight in World War Two.
His contemporaries, such as Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Mel Brooks and Kirk Douglas, all served, but Wayne was excused on medical grounds and instead continued his film career.

John Wayne on the set of Stagecoach

John Wayne: The star of the set of Stagecoach (Image: GETTY)

Being unable to serve was a “terrible embarrassment” for Wayne, Carolyn McGivern’s 2000 book John Wayne: A Giant Shadow argued. The star reportedly said: “Mine became the task of holding high and ever visible the value that everyone was fighting for.”
However, there were counterclaims that Wayne could have served, including by author Marc Eliot, who discussed the topic in his 2014 book American Titan: Searching for John Wayne.
He claimed Wayne did not want to fight Germany on account of his relationship with Marlene Dietrich, a German actress he reportedly had an affair with. Unwilling to end the bonk, Wayne instead just vetoed taking part in the war.
In 2014’s publication John Wayne: The Life and Legend, by author Scott Eyman, Wayne, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 1970, described how one encounter affected him while he grew up.
He wrote: “Duke Morrison [Wayne]’s learning experiences were not always pleasant, but deeply imprinted on his ethical compass. He remembered catching a bee, and tying a thread around the creature so all it could do was fly in circles. A boy who was about three years older and had recently arrived from Poland walked by and said, ‘Don’t do that.’

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John Wayne was in so much pain he couldn’t sleep when filming Western with Ann-Margret

By the 1970s, John Wayne was coming towards the end of his career as a Hollywood star. In 1973, aged 65-years-old, he had been living with one lung for the best part of 10 years and was suffering from emphysema on the remaining one. That year he released two Westerns, which aren’t remembered as his best but saw the ageing icon carry on with much determination. One of these films was The Train Robbers, which co-starred Ann-Margret as a feisty widow who works alongside three cowboys in recovering a cage of gold. Despite his health problems on the movie, Wayne refused to delay filming and strived forwards. Ann-Margret had fond memories of her co-star’s tenacity during this period.
Ann-Margret recalled: “Duke was still a strong, rugged, formidable man, larger-than-life and incredibly personal. He was a big teddy bear, and we got along famously. Duke gave me the confidence I lacked.”

The Viva Las Vegas star appreciated this given that 1972 had been a very difficult time in her life, having been seriously injured when performing in her Lake Tahoe show. In terms of the confidence boost she needed, the actress had to overcome her fear of horses as there was much riding for her character. It was here that Wayne gave her support and helped her overcome this obstacle. Yet even before shooting started, Duke had fractured two of his ribs, which was so painful he struggled to sleep at night.

wayne and ann-margret
John Wayne was in so much pain he couldn’t sleep when filming Western with Ann-Margret (Image: GETTY)

wayne and ann in the train robbers
John Wayne and Ann-Margret in The Train Robbers (Image: GETTY)

As a result, Wayne’s action scenes in The Train Robbers had to be scaled down, with co-star Rod Taylor remembered Duke being “slightly” infirm during the shoot. The Time Machine star said the Western legend had trouble with his balance and understandably needed afternoon naps.
Wayne also released Cahill: US Marshall in 1973, which saw a significantly weakened Duke having to use a stepladder to climb onto a horse. That year also marked the death of his most famous collaborator, the director John Ford.

Upon news of the filmmakers’ death that August, Wayne told journalists: “I’m pretty much living on borrowed time.”

train robbers poster
The Train Robbers poster (Image: GETTY)

wayne and ann
Ann-Margret thought John Wayne was a “teddy bear” on set (Image: GETTY)

Duke would go on to make a couple of better-reviewed Westerns in True Grit sequel Rooster Cogburn opposite Katherine Hepburn and The Shootist.
The latter film was his final one and saw him playing a terminally ill gunfighter. The Hollywood icon himself died of cancer just a couple of years later in 1979.

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John Wayne

10 Best John Wayne Movies, Ranked by Viewers

‘Baby Face’ (1933) – 7.5/10The Most Popular John Wayne Movies According to IMDb

‘The Longest Day’ (1962) – 344
‘The Quiet Man’ (1952) – 367
‘Chisum’ (1970) – 1,999
‘Rio Bravo’ (1959) – 2,355
‘The Searchers’ (1956) – 2,872
‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962) – 2,963
‘El Dorado’ (1966) – 3,372
‘McLintock!’ (1963) – 3,664
‘Stagecoach’ (1939) – 3,905
‘True Grit’ (1969) – 4,016

1‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ (1962)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Director: John FordStars: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin
IMDb: 8.1/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,963
John Ford’s 1962 classic western ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ is a timeless masterpiece. Featuring performances from James Stewart and John Wayne, the film follows Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) as he arrives in the town of Shinbone, Arizona in pursuit of justice.

He quickly meets Tom Doniphon (Wayne), the local lawman, and together they take on notorious outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). In a climactic showdown against all odds, the two succeed in defeating Liberty but at what cost?
The movie thoughtfully explores themes of justice and friendship that are still relevant today. Stewart’s and Wayne’s performances are legendary while the movie’s cinematography and score create an unforgettable viewing experience – one that will stay with audiences for generations to come.
2‘Rio Bravo’ (1959)
Rio Bravo (1959)

Director: Howard HawksStars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson
IMDb: 8.0/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,355
‘Rio Bravo’ is an iconic Western classic by director Howard Hawks, starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, and more. This beloved film follows the epic tale of Sheriff John T. Chance as he arrests a powerful rancher’s brother for murder and defends against his gang until a U.S. Marshal arrives with help from unlikely allies; a cripple, drunkard, and young gunfighter.

Rio Bravo (1959) Official Trailer – Johh Wayne, Dean Martin Western Movie HD

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Despite its small budget of $1 million, ‘Rio Bravo’ went on to make over five times that at the box office. Its popularity has only grown throughout the years due to its talented cast (John Wayne delivering a powerful performance), memorable characters, and suspenseful plot arc. It remains one of the most unforgettable classics in Western cinema history.

3‘The Searchers’ (1956)
The Searchers (1956)
Director: John FordStars: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond
IMDb: 7.9/10 | Metascore: 94 | Popularity: 2,872
John Wayne‘s timeless performance in John Ford’s 1956 classic “The Searchers” is widely regarded as one of the best westerns ever made. Based on Alan Le May‘s 1954 novel, the film follows Ethan Edwards, a middle-aged Civil War veteran consumed by his desire to find his abducted niece (Natalie Wood). Along with his adopted nephew Martin (Jeffrey Hunter), Ethan embarks on a quest fraught with danger and emotion.

With its complex characters and examination of darker themes, “The Searchers” was both a critical and commercial success upon release and has only grown in popularity over time.
4‘Stagecoach’ (1939)
Stagecoach (1939)

Director: John FordStars: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell
IMDb: 7.8/10 | Metascore: 93 | Popularity: 3,905
This classic Western film directed by John Ford follows a group of travelers as they make their way from Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico in a stagecoach. Along the way, they encounter Native Americans and outlaws that challenge them to band together for survival.

Starring John Wayne and Claire Trevor, ‘Stagecoach’ is an enduring cinematic masterpiece with its gripping action sequences and rich characters. The themes of courage in the face of adversity have made this movie timeless while it continues to capture viewers’ hearts after over 80 years since its release.
5‘Red River’ (1948)
Red River (1948)

Directors: Howard Hawks, Arthur RossonStars: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru, Walter Brennan
IMDb: 7.8/10 | Metascore: 96
A classic Western film from 1948, ‘Red River’ has stood the test of time and still captivates audiences today. Directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, and Coleen Gray in supporting roles, the movie follows the story of a Texas rancher and his adopted adult son as they embark on their first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail.
As tensions rise between them over managing the cattle drive, viewers are treated to thrilling action sequences amidst stunning cinematography and an emotional score. Along with its memorable characters and gripping drama throughout, ‘Red River’ remains one of cinema’s greatest Westerns ever made.
6‘The Longest Day’ (1962)
The Longest Day (1962)

Directors: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Gerd Oswald, Bernhard Wicki, Darryl F. ZanuckStars: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda
IMDb: 7.7/10 | Metascore: 75 | Popularity: 344
An epic war movie, ‘The Longest Day’ is about the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day during World War II. Directed by Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki, this film features a star-studded cast of John Wayne, Robert Ryan, and Henry Fonda. The story follows several characters from different countries as they fight for the liberation of France in one of the most important battles in history. Through precision camera work and clear storytelling, it conveys a powerful message about courage and sacrifice while still staying true to its historical accuracy.

The Longest Day (1962) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailer

‘The Longest Day’ showcases a variety of technical skills that are essential for any successful war movie. It uses dramatic music to emphasize key moments while also relying on voiceover narration to explain complex events or describe emotional scenes with clarity.
7‘The Quiet Man’ (1952)
The Quiet Man (1952)

Director: John FordStars: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond
IMDb: 7.7/10 | Metascore: 85 | Popularity: 367
Returning to his hometown in Ireland, Sean Thornton is a former American boxer looking to reclaim the family farm. He meets Mary Kate Danaher and falls in love with her fiery spirit despite the disapproval of their community. Directed by John Ford, ‘The Quiet Man’ follows their journey as they strive for happiness together.

The Quiet Man (1952) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

This classic romantic drama stars Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, both delivering powerful performances that have stood the test of time.
8‘The Shootist’ (1976)
The Shootist (1976)
Director: Don SiegelStars: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart
IMDb: 7.6/10 | Metascore: 77
Directed by the legendary Don Siegel, ‘The Shootist’ is a critically acclaimed 1976 Western film based on Glendon Swarthout‘s novel. The movie stars John Wayne in his final acting role before he passed away three years later; it also features Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, and James Stewart with a screenplay written by Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale.

J.B Books (John Wayne) is a renowned gunfighter struggling to accept his looming death as he is diagnosed with cancer and chooses to spend his remaining time in seclusion at a boarding house managed by Lauren Bacall‘s character–a widow who rents him one room. Despite Book’s wishes for peace during these last days, conflict arises when young gunslingers challenge the greatness of Books’ reputation as the best shooter.
9‘El Dorado’ (1966)
El Dorado (1966)

Director: Howard HawksStars: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt
IMDb: 7.5/10 | Metascore: 85 | Popularity: 3,372
Sheriff J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) embarks on a journey to bring justice to a small town in California and meets up with an old acquaintance, Cole Thornton, who helps him take on a powerful rancher and his gang of criminals. This classic Western movie features action-packed fights, thrilling horse chases, and gun-slinging showdowns – all held together by John Wayne‘s authoritative presence and Robert Mitchum‘s charming charisma.

With its tightly written plot and well-paced tension throughout, ‘El Dorado’ is an unforgettable movie experience that stands the test of time as one of the greats of the Western genre.
10‘Baby Face’ (1933)
Baby Face (1933)

Director: Alfred E. GreenStars: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook, Alphonse Ethier
IMDb: 7.5/10
Barbara Stanwyck stars in this classic pre-Code Hollywood drama as Lily Powers, a young woman determined to succeed despite her difficult circumstances. She uses her beauty and wit to seek revenge on the men who have wronged her, learning valuable lessons about power and manipulation along the way.

Despite its age and John Wayne‘s minor role, ‘Baby Face’ remains an iconic piece of cinema today due to its strong female lead, bold themes, and powerful performance from Stanwyck. It is also an important reminder of how far we have come since 1933 when it comes to gender inequality in America – but also how far we still have left to go.
Popular John Wayne Movies Not Ranked Top 10
Though not ranked the highest amongst the best by viewers, the following films are still very popular.
‘Chisum’ (1970)

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