At forty-seven years of age, after three decades of trying, John Ford was finally a soldier.
Ford served without pay, traveling across the globe and dodging enemy bombers and U-Boats to fulfill his duties as head of Field Photo. Iceland… Panama… North Africa… West Africa… Cuba… Australia… Ceylon… China… India…. Burma…. Saudi Arabia… Brazil… France. Ford filmed potential base locations, assessed the security of existing sites, captured now-historic battles on film, often in color, and coordinated the movements and missions of his men, thirteen of whom were killed in action. For these efforts, he was promoted to Captain on April 3, 1944. In later years he would state that — although he was the recipient of many of the highest awards in the film industry, including several Oscars — he was most proud of having earned his Small Arms Expert’s medal in the Navy.
John Ford had a knack for showing up in interesting places. He was on the deck of the USS Hornet, deep in enemy waters, when the famous Doolittle raid lifted off for Japan, his camera recording the historic moment for posterity. He was at Normandy on June 6, 1944, capturing rare footage of D-Day as it unfolded. He first (and last!) parachute jump occurred behind enemy lines in Burma on a secret OSS mission, with Ford terrified and murmuring Hail Marys all the way down because, a mere few days before, he had filmed a cargo drop and watched as chute after chute failed to open and the boxes smashed into the unforgiving earth.
Reading about patriots–not to mention conservatives–in Hollywood, you feel like an archaeologist excavating shards of a lost world. But in fact, the heritage is a rich one, and there is much more to come. Personally, I’m looking forward to a conservative analysis of Mildred Pierce.