Famous Military-Related Deaths for the Week of August 27-September 2

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Famous Military-Related Deaths for the Week of August 27-September 2

Lee Marvin, as Maj. Reisman keeping his Dirty Dozen in line
(Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are courtesy of Wikipedia)

This Week in Military History

August 29, 1987 – Lee Marvin, U.S. Marine, actor – heart attack, age 63

Lee Marvin was born February 19, 1924 in New York City. His father was an ad man, his mother a fashion writer and beauty consultant. He was named in honor of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, who was a first cousin, four times removed. He was shuttled around to various prep schools (mainly for constant bad behavior), finally leaving school at age 18 to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

While serving as a member of "I" Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, he was wounded in action on June 18, 1944, during the Battle of Saipan, during which most of his company were casualties. He was hit by machine gun fire, which severed his sciatic nerve, and then was hit again in the foot by a sniper. After over a year of medical treatment in naval hospitals, Marvin was given a medical discharge with the rank of private first class (he had been a corporal years earlier but had been demoted after causing trouble) in 1945 at Philadelphia.[

After the war, while working as a plumber's assistant at a local community theatre in upstate New York, Marvin was asked to replace an actor who had fallen ill during rehearsals. In 1950, Marvin moved to Hollywood. He found work in supporting roles, and from the beginning was cast in various war films. As a decorated combat veteran, Marvin was a natural in war dramas, where he frequently assisted the director and other actors in realistically portraying infantry movement, arranging costumes, and the use of firearms. He had a minor role as the sailor "Meatball" in The Caine Mutiny (1954).

Marvin played in a variety of roles and movie genres, including war films, westerns, and crime/noir films. He gained name recognition with Americans after three seasons as a police lieutenant on the TV show M Squad. [He also appeared in a number of other scripted TV shows, including two episodes of The Twilight Zone: 1961's "The Grave" and 1963's "Steel" (this episode was also the inspiration for the 2011 movie Real Steel)].

The 1960's were probably the pinnacle of Marvin's career. In 1962, he starred in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence as the very-bad man of the title, along with Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. He then appeared in the western/comedy film Cat Ballou (1965) opposite Jane Fonda. For his double portrayal of Kid Shelleen and his twin brother Tim Strawn, Marvin received the Academy Award for Best Actor. Two years later, he headlined the WWII drama The Dirty Dozen.

In 1968, Marvin starred – along with Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune – in Hell in the Pacific. The following year he was top-billed again (over a still-young Clint Eastwood) in the western/musical comedy Paint Your Wagon. His final film role was in 1986's Delta Force, alongside Chuck Norris.

After his death, Marvin was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

General John Bell Hood, CSA; Photographer and date unknown
General John Bell Hood, CSA
Photographer and date unknown

August 30, 1879 – John Bell Hood, Lt. General, C.S.A – died of yellow fever, age 48

Hood was born in Owingsville, KY in June of 1831. There is some dispute as to whether his birthday was June 1 or June 29. He received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Hood graduated in the Class of 1853, placing 44th out of 52 men (he was nearly expelled his senior year for accumulating 196 out of a possible 200 demerits).

Hood served in the U.S. Army from 1853-1861, in California as part of the Fourth U.S. Infantry, and in Texas as an officer in the Second U.S. Cavalry. He resigned his commission the day after the attack on Fort Sumter. However, dissatisfied with the neutral position of his native Kentucky, Hood offered his services to his adopted state of Texas.

Hood saw action in Virginia, and quickly climbed from command of an infantry brigade (known throughout the Army of Northern Virginia as "Hood's Texas Brigade") to divisional command. His corps commander was James Longstreet. Hood led his men through some of the great battles of the War Between the States, including: the Seven Days' Battles (particularly Gaines' Mill); 2nd Manassas; Antietam; Fredericksburg; Gettysburg; Chickamauga; the Atlanta Campaign; and, the Franklin-Nashville Campaign

Hood's Brigade led the major Confederate attack on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. At the beginning of the attack on Little Round Top, an exploding artillery shell wounded Hood in the left arm. [His arm was saved from amputation, but the limb was useless for the remainder of his life.]

Shortly after Gettysburg, Longstreet's corps was temporarily transferred to the western theatre of the war, in Tennessee and Georgia. At the battle of Chickamauga, Hood's Brigade again led a major attack on the Union center, splitting the enemy in half. However, Hood received a severe wound to his right leg, resulting in its amputation. His men of the Texas Brigade raised $3100 in a single day to buy him an artificial cork leg (plus two spares), ordered from Europe and brought through the Union blockade.

Hood and his brigade stayed in the western theatre of the war. After the Union victories at the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, Hood accepted command of a corps in the Army of Tennessee commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. However, Hood wrote a number of letters to the Confederate government, bad-mouthing Johnston's strategy of withdrawal in the face of Sherman's thrust toward Atlanta. Johnston was eventually relieved of command, and Hood was named his replacement – something of a shock to many Rebel officers because of his youth and inexperience.

The Atlanta Campaign did not go well for the Confederacy, so Hood pulled most of his troops back into northern Alabama, with an eye toward disrupting Sherman's lines of communication. This result in the battles of Franklin and Nashville, both Confederate losses which drained most of the manpower of the Army of Tennessee. Hood resigned his commission in January of 1865, essentially ending his military career.

After the war, Hood moved to Louisiana, becoming a cotton broker and worked as president of an insurance company. In 1868, he married Anna Marie Hennen, with whom he had 11 children over 10 years, including three pairs of twins. He also served the community in numerous philanthropic endeavors, assisting in fund-raising for orphans, widows, and wounded soldiers.

In the winter of 1878-1879 a yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans wiped out his insurance business. Hood caught the disease, and died six days after his wife and eldest daughter also succumbed. He is buried in Metairie, LA.

General Kearney's Gallant Charge at the battle of Chantilly (or Ox Hill); Color lithograph by Augustus Tholey (1866)
"General Kearney's Gallant Charge" at the battle of Chantilly (or Ox Hill)
Color lithograph by Augustus Tholey (1866)

September 1, 1862 – Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, USA, kia at battle of Chantilly, aged 47

Kearny was born June 1, 1815 in New York City to a wealthy Irish American family. Kearny's father was a Harvard-educated, New York City financier who owned his own brokerage firm and was also a founder of the New York Stock Exchange. His grandfather also owned considerable holdings, making him one of the wealthiest men in New York City.

In 1836, Kearny's grandfather died and left him a substantial inheritance: $1 million ($22 million in 2016 dollars). He resolved to pursue a military career. He obtained a commission in the 1st U.S. Dragoons; the unit was commanded by his uncle Col. Stephen W. Kearney. It was assigned to service in the western U.S. territories.

In 1839 Kearny traveled to France and spent a year learning their cavalry tactics. He even participated in several battles in Algeria with the elite Chasseurs d'Afrique. When he returned to America in the fall of 1840, Kearny prepared a cavalry manual for the Army based on his experiences overseas.

Disappointed with the lack of fighting in Army, Kearny resigned his commission in early 1846, but quickly re-joined when war with Mexico broke out. He spent the early months of the war raising a troop of cavalry for the 1st U.S. Dragoons. He was promoted to major in December.

Kearny saw action against the Mexicans in the battles of Contreras and Churubusco. In the latter action, he personally led a charge in which he received a severe grapeshot wound to his left arm, necessitating an amputation. Despite his wound, Kearney quickly returned to duty. When American forces entered Mexico city, Kearny was the first man to enter the city gates.

In 1859, Kearny traveled once more to France to re-join his beloved Chasseurs d'Afrique, who were serving in Italy against the Austrians, fighting for Italian unification. He participated in the battle of Solferino, becoming the first American to receive France's Légion d'honneur.

When the War Between the States broke out, Kearny returned to the U.S., receiving a commission as brigadier general. He led the New Jersey Brigade, which was widely regarded as one of the best-trained units in the Union Army. He fought in the Peninsula Campaign, and commanded troops at the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run).

During the Union retreat, Kearny and his troops sought to hold off Confederate troops dogging the heels of the fleeing Northerners during the battle of Chantilly. The battle took place in a fearsome summer storm, with lightning and pouring rain. At one point in the fight, Kearny rode forward alone to investigate a gap in the Union line. When warned by a subordinate to be careful, Kearny replied, "The Confederate bullet that can kill me has not yet been molded." Riding forward, Kearny encountered Rebel troops; attempting to ride away, six Confederate soldiers fired at him. Kearny was struck by a bullet in the hip, and exiting through his shoulder, killing him instantly.

Kearny's body was returned through the Union lines. He was originally buried in Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City. Fifty years later, Kearny's remains were exhumed and re-interred in Arlington National Cemetery. His resting place is marked by a statue, one of only two equestrian statues in the cemetery.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.