Beam Me Up! The WWII Heroism of “Scotty” – James Doohan

Ah… the times have a changed. It’s rare today to hear of a “star” who has put their life and livelihood on the line to serve. While there are notable exceptions to this today, as a general rule most have not served. But, it was not always the case. In World War II, many of the stars of the time and the later stars to be would give it up and put it all on the line.

Including one James Montgomery Doohan, affectionately known to all nerds as “Scotty.”

According to WarHistoryOnline, “Jimmy” as he was known in the civilian world, served with the Canadians in World War II, landing at Juno beach on D-Day. After killing two German snipers, he was later hit by “friendly” fire having his life saved by a lighter stored on his kit given to him as a good luck charm. It was good luck indeed, saving a round from entering his chest, but it did not deflect the rounds into his leg.

Healing up, he moved up the ranks as an officer and pilot of the Taylorcraft Auster Mark IV plane, serving as a courier and spotter for artillery. “In early 1945, he flew his plane between two telegraph poles to prove it could be done. He got into trouble for that, and everyone called him the “craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force.””

The story gets only more interesting from there as a civilian. Check out WarHistoryOnline for the rest. 

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Joseph Goins

    I’m still partial to Christopher Lee’s and Jimmy Stewart’s service records.

    • Hanover Fist

      Stewart flew 20 combat missions over Europe and retired a general…

    • Peter Jackson’s story about Christopher Lee schooling him on the set of the LOTR movies about the sound a man actually makes when you stab him in the back was pretty grand.

      • Don Ward

        Glad that you brought that movie trivia up since I was thinking the same thing.

      • Giolli Joker

        I’d say we need a movie on Lee’s life.
        Although I doubt there’s a modern actor up to the task…

        • Joseph Goins

          Or tall enough.

      • Rodford Smith

        I’m reminded of Audie Murphy. The only actor who could play him in a movie was him. 🙂

        • Nelson Kerr

          What is funny is that folks who do not know who he is tend to say he looks too young for the part and it was made years l after the war.

    • Old Vet

      I’m most partial to Audie Murphy and Jimmie Stewart myself. I have read of Murphy’s later life and believed he suffered from PTSD and went undiagnosed. His drinking was legendary off the set, they say and that often led to a violent temper. Stewart’s best role, for me, was the movie where he was a baseball player called back to active duty to fly the new B-47 Stratofortress. Since he was an Air Force Bomber pilot, it made the movie almost like a documentary.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Anyone interested in the covert Canadian actions of WWII should read “A Man Called Intrepid.”

    • Juggernaut

      sounds like a real snoozefest

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        I recommended it mainly for people who know how to read.

        Hey, tell me Oppenheimer, what shapes a book? Circle or triangle?

      • Phillip Cooper

        This lackwit again. Great.

    • Tassiebush

      Sounds good. I was quite surprised to see how much expertise there was in Canada with covert stuff.

      • demophilus

        I once read that of all the Western counterintelligence services, the KGB disliked the Mounties the most. IIRC, at some point the Mounties were very good at running double and triple agents, and they went places US citizens couldn’t.

        But then again, every other thing you read about tradecraft is a lie.

        • Tassiebush


      • Georgiaboy61

        Arguably Churchill’s most-able spymaster during WWII was “The Quiet Canadian,” William Stephenson (later Sir William Stephenson), better known to history by his codename, “Intrepid.”

        Stephenson was a marvel – a decorated pilot in WWI, he later became one of the founders of the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), and held a number of important patents for his many technological and scientific inventions. He was a wealthy businessman in the 1930s when future British Prime Minister asked him to start spying for him on his business trips to Nazi Germany – which he did, quite successfully.

        When WSC ascended to PM, he asked Stephenson to be his liaison to the Americans on intelligence matters, and also to set up what later became known as the BSC – British Security Coordination – a joint U.S.-British-Commonwealth intelligence agency. BSC later served as the inspiration for the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which Stephenson and his colleagues helped to create and organize. By war’s end, Stephenson was leading a globe-spanning intelligence operation – and was known and trusted by numerous Allied heads-of-state and senior military leaders.

        Amongst his many awards and decorations were a knighthood received in 1945, for which he was personally recommended by Winston Churchill.

        After a long career as a spymaster, Stephenson retired from that field early in the Cold War. Ultimately, he went to Bermuda, where he and his wife and family lived out their lives. He died in 1989 at the age of 92.

        Popular thriller author and the inventor of “James Bond,” Ian Fleming, then Commander Fleming of the Royal Navy, has known Stephenson during the war in the course of his intelligence duties. In part, Stephenson served as the model for the Bond character, according to Fleming himself.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Canada has had our back for decades.
        Hopefully that will continue.

        • nick

          yes , and you have had ours! I see no reason why that would change. I served a tour as an exchange officer ( a NATO program ) in the mid 90’s with the US, and found a very high level of mutual respect. in the field, we work better than anyone together
          Our hand shall always be extended in friendship

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            We may rag each other from time to time but we know if anyone else messes with the other we”ll be on it.

          • lookinoutforu

            That is a fact, my Canadian brother!

        • Tassiebush

          I think they’re a bit like us tagging along for most US tiffs with fascists, communists or islamists. We thank you guys for turning up to both world wars too! 🙂

        • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

          For background on the SOE and OSS I recommend a book, probably long out of print though, by the name of “Camp X.”
          It is about the ‘secret’ training facility set-up by the head men for Intel operations training. It brought over some rather well-known persons from the Hong Kong Constabulary and many others with various skill sets to train folks who were going into The Game on the Allied side.
          It was in Mississauga(sp?)

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Just added it to my cart.

      • Joshua

        The Canadian and Australians have served as the British military’s Backbone for a century, camp X was on Canadian soil, and half the men who graduated we’re ours, we lost one third of our population in the process of tossing the damn yank invader out and have gone toe to toe with some of the worst in the world, and it didn’t go there way.

        There is some experience here yeah.

        • Tassiebush

          You’ve got me reading up on the topic!

    • The_Champ

      I read it quite a while back, and found it fascinating.

      I have since seen some other historians call into question the validity of some of the things written in that book.

      It is always a difficult task to decipher the history of warfare. Just look at how often the “common knowledge” about certain things in WWII has changed over the decades. Delving into the history of the ‘secret war’ contained within that war is even more difficult.

      Recently read Max Hastings “The Secret War”, and quite enjoyed it.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Ive not heard any serious refutations of the information but there always is. Like you say it is a difficult subject. Having read other accounts and cross referencing im confident that the basic information holds up even though some minor details may be contested.

  • WFDT

    Toughest man in Starfleet. Wore a red shirt his entire career and was even killed once- but he recovered.

    • nate

      didn’t even think about his red shirt until you pointed it out, you are right! R.I.P. Scotty!

      • Rodford Smith

        Just remember, The Most Interesting Man in the World was security on the _Enterprise_ and also survived! 🙂

    • GhostTrain81

      After the first movie all Starfleet uniforms were red :D.

    • Phillip Cooper

      Wait, when was Scotty killed?

      • Bob Gallucci

        In the episode the “Changeling” with Nomad the little space probe, Sterilize!

        • Phillip Cooper

          Thanks, will have to watch that one again…

  • Spike

    Jon Pertwee (the 3rd Doctor Who) was on HMS Hood and later part of SOE, working along side Ian Fleming (yes that Ian Fleming)!

    • Swarf

      There’s another?

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Yes, Ian Fleming the famous eel pie baron of Gloucestchapelwaite.

        • Swarf

          It’s always eel pies with you.

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            They both horrify and fascinate me.

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      Fleming was sent to Jamaica to monitor German naval activity and after the war bought a house there and named the property “GoldenEye”.

  • A.WChuck

    Greatest Generation indeed.

  • bavav

    The bad guy in the new star wars film who kills his dad is ex-military, not the best example though.
    ‘Agreeing’ to get conscripted in a world war is not that big a deal. It’s when the military is professional and requires volunteers, that is more noteworthy.

    • Klaus

      I can’t agree with that statement. I’m not sure of the exact #s but it was about 40% volunteer 60% draftee. People went because their country called upon them to do so. I highly doubt there were to many said should I ‘agree’ to this or not. Just saying.

      • codfilet

        If you were of draft age in WW2, there wasn’t much choice-you were going into the Service, whether you wanted to or not.

        • oldman

          Unless you were working in an exempted industry then you had to get a waver to join the military.

      • oananna

        That doesn’t make any sense either. Either conscription exists in which case everyone is on equal footing, or it’s just a lie. The swiss would agree with me. Maybe everything went to crap after ww2 cause all the draft dodgers had the home advantage.

    • Holdfast_II

      Canada only sent draftees overseas at the very end of WW II, when there was literally a shortage of volunteers. Because of the end of the war, only a couple of thousand draftees (“zombies” as they were known) made it to the front lines.

      Of course it was an ethnic thing – basically the Quebec French volunteered at much lower rates than all other ethnic communities, and so were massively over-represented in the zombies, who were only used for homeland defense until the very end of the war.

      • Swarf

        “the Quebec French volunteered at much lower rates”

        Quelle surprise.

      • Warren Ellis

        Didn’t even have the interest in helping their forebears during the German invasion of France. How sad.

        • Norm Glitz

          How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?

          No one knows.

          • Nelson Kerr

            Over a million of them died in the twentieth Century doing so,

          • Warren Ellis

            Well they kinda got outmaneuvered and broken into piecemeal groups due to incompetence on their generals and faulty equipment.

            I would kind of argue that the French in WW2 were brave but just couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag.

            Kind of like the Arabs actually. As in being very incompetent on a possible tactical and strategic level. Doesn’t matter how brave you are if you’re too stupid to use your capabilities effectively.

    • Dcoil1

      Adam Driver. Joined the Marines after 9/11 but was medically discharged at 2.5 years after breaking his sternum in a mountain biking accident. He was discharged just before his unit was deployed to Iraq.

      He gave a pretty good TED talk about it.

    • Tassiebush

      I think conscripts deserve to be honoured. Besides in many contexts if conscription occurs there isn’t an option for people to display the fact that they chose to serve.

  • TVOrZ6dw

    I’m always amazed when I learn of the military backgrounds of some of these favorite actors. Doohan storming the beaches a Normandy, with confirmed kills. Also, I just learned that Russell Johnson, aka The Professor from Gilligan’s Island, flew 44 missions as a bombardier on B-25’s.

    • Marcus D.

      James Stewart flew multiple missions in B-24, was the squadron commander, and flew may uncredited missions with pathfinders. After the war, he was a member of the reserves, ultimately achieving the rank of Brigadier General. He flew the B-24, the B-36, the B-47 and the B-52 in his career.

      • Clem122321

        Jimmy Stewart was drafted in the Fall of ’41, became a squadron commander, group operations officer and went home in ’45 as a wing commander, full Col. He remained in the reserves and flew one mission in Viet Nam in a B-52.

    • demophilus

      Harvey Keitel is a Marine, served in Lebanon. Scott Glenn and Gene Hackman, USN, I think. Jeff Bridges and Tom Waits, USCG. Jimi Hendrix, Airborne. Eddie Albert, Navy Cross, Tarawa. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., USN, D-Day. Clint Eastwood, Hunter S. Thompson, Joseph Heller, Norman Lear and George Carlin, USA(A)F (apparently something about the Chair Force imbues one with a sense of anger and comedy). George Roy Hill, Robert Altman and Jimmy Stewart, USAAF. Christopher Lee, Roald Dahl, RAF. Elvis Presley, Richard Pryor, US Army (sadly, both of them were legs, despite their talent). Charles Durning, ditto. MC Hammer, USN. Mel Brooks, US Army, EOD, Battle of the Bulge. Amos Gitai, Israeli Army. Jafar Panahi, Iranian Army. Samuel Beckett, Jean-Pierre Melville, French Resistance.

      There’s more. That’s all I recall, off the top of my head.

      • Georgiaboy61

        Good list – but Elvis wasn’t infantry; he was a tanker.
        Charles Bronson, USAAF, saw action in the Pacific Theater as a tail-gunner in a B-29 in combat over Japan.
        Distraught over the death of his wife, Carol Lombard, in a plane crash, top movie actor and star Clark Gable enlisted in the USAAC – despite being overage – and served as an NCO and gunner on heavy bomber missions over Europe.
        Movie tough guy Lee Marvin was a real-life tough guy as well. He was a Marine infantryman who went ashore at Saipan as a member of 4th Mar-Div and was wounded in action in the battle for Mt. Tapochau. The wound, to his buttock, served his sciatic nerve, and he was hit again in the foot by a sniper before being evacuated. He spent over a year in naval hospitals before regaining full health; he was medically-discharged from the ‘Corps in 1945.
        Famed entertainer Johnny Carson joined the USN in 1943 under the V12 program and was commissioned as an ensign. He was stationed aboard the battleship U.S.S. Pennsylvania, and compiled a 10-0 record as an amateur boxer. He was aboard a troopship headed for the front when the war ended.
        Noted cook and culinary television show hostess Julia Child served in the OSS during WWII – primarily in intelligence and administration, where she once worked directly for Director William Donovan. Her tour of duty also included several foreign postings in the Far East and CBI theater.
        While a member of the USAAF, Charlton Heston was a radio operator and gunner aboard a B-25 bomber; during his two years of service in the Eleventh Air Force, he rose to the rank of staff sergeant.
        Just a few to add to your list….

        • demophilus

          Kudos, dude — I forgot them. And Chuck Norris, USAF.

          Don’t tell him, OK? I can’t run that fast no more.

          • Georgiaboy61

            I won’t – and remember…
            Chuck doesn’t do push-ups; he pushes the earth down….
            Superman has Chuck Norris pajamas….
            Chuck Norris doesn’t have to run from death; death runs from him…
            (who started this whole thing anyway?)

          • Wzrd

            You never could run THAT fast. No one can.

          • demophilus

            Right? But if I could just run fast enough to find cover, I might also find some kryptonite…wait! That wouldn’t work either! D’oh!

        • Colonel K

          I’ve read that Charles Bronson’s war record was faked. He actually spent the war driving a truck at a stateside base. Clark Gable was commissioned as a gunnery officer and rose to the rank of Major. He was detailed to make a film about the buildup and use of the 8th AF in England, and did fly two or three combat missions before being ordered to stand down. Somebody mention Russell Johnson but failed to note he was shot down. I think he was the only survivor and was drifting in his raft toward a deserted island before being rescued (life nearly imitating art).

          • Georgiaboy61

            I don’t know enough about the individuals in question to respond. If any of the people on the list faked it – used “stolen valor” – I am sorry to hear it. Doing your duty well, regardless of what your specific military job may be, is honor-enough for anyone.

          • Colonel K

            I don’t know if Bronson had anything to do with the embellishment of his wartime career. That may have been the work of Hollywood PR hacks. I do know that Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) spent a lot of time dispelling false stories about having served in combat with Lee Marvin. He always made a point of telling folks that while he was Marine at the time, all of his service was stateside. As in any war, this is true of most of those who serve. Even among those in a combat zone, few ever see the elephant.

      • Phillip Cooper

        Elvis was NOT a leg. He was a tank driver.

        • demophilus

          My apologies, but it was a joke. In Airborne parlance, anyone without wings is a leg. Infantry is a straight leg. The joke being, Hendrix was full on Airborne, but Elvis was a leg.

          Tho’, kudos on the tank thing. It’s a trip, imagining Elvis mowing down trees in Germany driving an M48…

      • Nils Svein

        Little known and pleasantly surprising fact: Drew Carey was a Marine!

    • anonymous

      I heard that Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”) and Bob Keeshan (“Captain Kangaroo”) were commandos tasked with capturing Hitler. When informed that the duo had parachuted into Berlin just ahead of the advancing Red Army, Hitler decided to kill himself instead.

      With the war in Europe over, Rogers and Keeshan were preparing to infiltrate Tokyo via submarine and kidnap the Emperor, but the mission was cancelled after the atom bomb was dropped.

      As with any war stories on the internet, these accounts may be slightly exaggerated.

      • Norm Glitz

        More like wildly exaggerated. Rogers went from seminary school to the ministry to TV, and was never in any of the armed forces. Keeshan enlisted in the USMC in 1945, but never got out of the US.

  • JDC

    I was Operations Officer on the “other” USS Enterprise (CVN-65, a US aircraft carrier) in 1995 when “Scotty” came aboard with Terry Farrell (the spotted Lt. Dax, Deep Space Nine) for a tour after hours one Saturday. They were in town for a Trek convention.

    One of my junior officers was the tour guide. He asked Scotty if he enjoyed the Star Trek conventions. As I recall his response was words to the effect: “Why in hell not?” They fly me into town, treat me like a king, wine and dine me, pay me a good sum, fly me home and I’ve had a great time.”

    That always struck me as the mark of someone who remembered who he was, wasn’t putting on airs, and enjoyed life. Sadly, he’s gone now, and instead we have actors who never sacrificed anything and expect everything.

    Fair winds and following seas, James-we salute you!

  • Jim_Macklin

    Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable WWII. War on terror, Tillman Many others. Often “stars” were not allowed combat but were assigned training duty or publicity.
    Propaganda movies kept actors busy too doing war duty.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Amen! Brother.

  • Mike

    Somewhere in WWII he lost some finger tips, I assume during the incident mentioned above. If you watch all of the TOS episodes, they do a great job keeping that hand from view.

    • Marcus D.

      He lost the entire middle finger of his right hand. Shot off by a trigger happy sentry with a sten. See article link. Four to the leg, one to the chest, and one to the hand.

  • Sebastacat

    Let’s not forget James Arness, Marshall Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke. He had half his foot shot off at Anzio.

  • LCON

    This by the way leads to one of the TOS’s best kept easter eggs. The number of Fingers on Scotty’s hands. He was missing the middle finger of his right hand.

    • .45

      Yeah, I never knew that for my entire childhood. Later on I found out and noticed he always ALWAYS keeps that hand obscured. Very careful about it. I suppose in the future replacing fingers is no biggie, so no way can Scotty have a missing finger.

  • Rocketman

    Many years ago I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the late Mr. Doohan at a comic book convention in South Florida and had my picture taken with him. I told him that I was currently working on the design of the next generation X-30 space shuttle engine for Pratt and Whitney Aircraft which tickled him no end and he mentioned to me that he was a light plane pilot as was I. A real gentleman and family man. Warp speed Mr. Scott. All of us Star Trek fans miss you.

  • Colonel K

    Here’s an interesting sidebar. Peter Ustinov’s father was a top British agent working against the communists.

  • demophilus

    I forgot about Sterling Hayden; he was a stud. Not for nothing, but a buddy of mine, alleged NSA contractor in the 70s, claimed he smoked hash with Hayden on Hayden’s sloop in Sausalito.

    Knew about David Niven, but forgot him too. Never knew about Marcel Marceau.

    Dang. Sorta puts a different spin on that getting out of an invisible box shtick, no?

  • user z

    Another lesser known hollywood star / WWII vet with awards was Dan Rowan of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Was a P38 pilot, shot Japs down and was wounded.