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USC Marine History Index - Pvt Lee Marvin USMC

I will set down a tale . . . it may be history, it may be only a legend, a tradition. It may have happened, it may not have happened. But it could have happened. . . . Mark Twain

This is an urban legend.

Captain Kangaroo turned 75 recently, which is odd, because he's never looked a day under 75. (Birthday 6/27/27)

Some people have been a bit offended that Lee Marvin is buried in a grave alongside 3 and 4 star generals at Arlington National Cemetery. His marker gives his name, rank (PVT) and service (USMC). Nothing else.

Here's a guy who was only a famous movie star who served his time, why the heck does he rate burial with these guys? Well, following is the amazing answer:

I always liked Lee Marvin, but did not know the extent of his Corps experiences. In a time when many Hollywood stars served their country in the armed forces, often in rear-echelon posts where they were carefully protected, only to be trotted out to perform for the cameras in war bond promotions, Lee Marvin was a genuine hero. He won the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima. There is only one higher Naval award... the Medal Of Honor. If that is a surprising comment on the true character of the man, he credits his sergeant with an even greater show of bravery.

Dialog From The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson: His guest was Lee Marvin.

Johnny said, "Lee, I'll bet a lot of people are unaware that you were a Marine in the initial landing at Iwo Jima... and that during the course of that action you earned the Navy Cross and were severely wounded."

Yeah, yeah... I got shot square in the ass and they gave me the Cross for securing a hot spot about halfway up Suribachi... bad thing about getting shot up on a mountain is guys getting shot hauling you down. But Johnny, at Iwo I served under the bravest man I ever knew... We both got the Cross the same day, but what he did for his Cross made mine look cheap in comparison.

The dumb bastard actually stood up on Red beach and directed his troops to move forward and get the hell off the beach. That Sergeant and I have been lifelong friends. When they brought me off Suribachi we passed the Sergeant and he lit a smoke and passed it to me lying on my belly on the litter and said, 'Where'd they get you Lee?' Well Bob... if you make it home before me, tell Mom to sell the outhouse! Johnny, I'm not lying... Sergeant Keeshan was the bravest man I ever knew..... Bob Keeshan...

You and the world know him as Captain Kangaroo."

Origins: We can't say for sure whether actor Lee Marvin ever related something like the story described above to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show (Marvin was a guest on the show seven times during Carson's tenure as host), but the details of the [R.I.P.] anecdote are undeniably false.

Lee Marvin did enlist in the U.S. Marines, saw action as Private First Class in the Pacific during World War II, and was wounded (in the buttocks) by fire which severed his sciatic nerve. However, this injury occurred during the battle for Saipan in June 1944, not the battle for Iwo Jima, which took place several months later, in February 1945. (Marvin also did receive a Purple Heart, and he is indeed buried at Arlington National Cemetery.)

Bob Keeshan, later famous as television's "Captain Kangaroo," also enlisted in the U.S. Marines, but too late to see any action during World War II. Keeshan was born on 27 June 1927 and enlisted two weeks before his 18th birthday, months too late to have taken part in the fighting at Iwo Jima. A 1997 interview with Keeshan noted that he "later enlisted in the U.S. Marines but saw no combat" because, as Keeshan said, he signed up "just before we dropped the atom bomb."

For more details see: Captain Kangaroo Court



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