The Hollywood Superstar Who Decided to Enlist in the Army
Clark Gable began his Hollywood career as an extra. After years of bit parts and stints in the theater, he got an MGM contract in 1930, and garnered notice for a powerful performance in his first lead role in The Painted Desert. He built upon that success. When MGM paired him with established female stars such as Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, the combination steamed the screen, and he became an insta-star. By the time America entered WWII, Gable was MGM’s biggest earner.
Gable suffered a serious tragedy when his wife died in an air crash on a war bonds tour. Devastated, he decided to enlist. Despite MGM’s reluctance to let its most lucrative star go, Gable enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in 1942, with the hope of becoming an aerial gunner. He was sent instead to OCS, which he completed in October 1942 and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. On personal orders from the Air Forces’ chief, General Hap Arnold, Gable was sent to the Eighth Air Force in England, with orders to make a combat recruitment film for aerial gunners titled Combat America.