Ted Williams, U.S. Marine Corps
Ted Williams’ exploits on the baseball diamond are legendary. But his work as a member of the Marine Corps made him an American icon. In addition to serving in World War II (after being drafted), Williams’ name was called from a list of inactive reserves to serve on active duty in the Korean War in 1952.
It was there that he crash-landed his Navy F9F Panther jet, which was damaged by anti-aircraft fire, and still managed to walk away from the wreckage without significant injury.
Joe Louis, U.S. Army
The fact that boxing great Joe Louis’s served as a soldier during World War II is a telling tribute to his personal character. He donated the purses from two fights — nearly $100,000 — to the Army and Navy relief societies in 1942.
However, realizing Louis’s potential for raising the spirit among the troops, the Army placed him in its Special Services Division rather than sending him into combat. Louis would go on a celebrity tour with other notables, including fellow boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.
Joe DiMaggio, U.S. Army
Legendary hitter Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces on February 17, 1943, and would rise to the rank of sergeant. Stationed at Santa Ana, California, Hawaii, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, DiMaggio served as a physical education instructor. He was released on a medical discharge in September 1945, due to chronic stomach ulcers.
Many people characterized his stint in the military as being somewhat “cushy,” as he spent most of his military career playing for baseball teams and in exhibition games against fellow Major Leaguers and minor league players.
Nolan Ryan, U.S. Army
Even Nolan Ryan, easily one of the greatest pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball, served his time in the military. Ryan actually missed the 1967 season with the New York Mets due to service with the Army Reserve.
He was back in 1968 and made it through his first full major league season. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career, in which he made eight All-Star teams, won one World Series and retired as MLB’s all-time strikeouts leader.