H/T Beyond The Band Of Brothers.

R.I.P.Sergeant Lee Marvin  February 19,1924-August 29,1987

Lee Marvin – the tough guy who drew from personal experience.

Lee Marvin was born in New York City in 1924, the son of Lamont Waltman Marvin, a decorated Great War veteran, who in turn was a direct descendant of one Matthew Marvin, one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut in 1635. Both Lee and his older brother Robert were named in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who was their first cousin, four times removed. Even as a teenager, Lee Marvin already displayed some of the boisterous toughness that later characterized him as an actor, spending his free time hunting deer, puma, wild turkey and quail in the Everglades while getting expelled from several schools for bad behavior.
Lee Marvin in uniform
In 1942, Marvin left school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. His father, 51 at the time, enlisted as well and was sent to England to set up anti-aircraft emplacements against the Luftwaffe. Lee Marvin’s military career got off to an inauspicious start. He was sent to serve in a Service Company in San Diego as a corporal but eventually got demoted to private after several incidents of troublemaking.
Lee Marvin in the USMC
His chance for action arrived in 1944, when he was shipped to the Marshall Islands as a scout-sniper in the 4th Marine Division, his unit tasked with surveying the area before the American attack. It was there that he first faced the realities of war, which led him to later comment: “This insanity, this raving inhumanity- it was then I suddenly knew: This is what war does to a man, what war means.”
Marvin in World War II
It got worse for him in the summer of 1944, when he was deployed to the invasion of Saipan, an important Japanese stronghold and the gateway which would allow B-29 Superfortress bombers to reach the Japanese Home Islands. “We went in on Yellow Beach Two. The first day…we clawed forward and hit the basic scrub of the beach…They had us nicely pinpointed on a checker-board. They didn’t miss. The artillery got very bad, and all the bombing was coming down very heavy…We lost quite a few that night.” – he later recalled. Marvin’s 247-man unit was wiped out during the battle with the exception of him and five others, leaving Marvin wounded.
Rising to a height of 1,500ft, Mount Tapochau was a vital part of the Japanese lines, serving as the anchor point for defensive emplacements in numerous caves from which soldiers could sally out at night. Many areas on and around the mountain received such American nicknames as “Hell’s Pocket,” “Purple Heart Ridge” and “Death Valley.” It was at the last location that Marvin was hit in the buttocks by a machine gun round that severed his sciatic nerve. Shortly after this he was shot in the foot by a sniper. He recounted the event in a letter to his father: “You may think it’s funny to get hit in the can like that but at the time I was very lucky that is all I got. I was pinned down and could not move an inch and then a sniper started on me. His first shot hit my foot and his second just about three inches in front of my nose. It was a matter of time, as I knew I would get hit sooner or later. If I got up and ran, I would not be writing this letter so I just kept down.”
U.S. Marines shelling Japanese positions from atop Mount Tapochau

The nerve damage almost paralyzed his leg for life but 13 months of treatment saw him through to recovery. His disability status prevented him from reenlisting and he returned home feeling frustrated, angry and guilty. “[The war] ruined him. He came home from that half dead, totally broken. He was never the same” – his father later said.

After the war, Marvin took odd jobs until he got his unlikely break. Working as a plumber’s assistant at a community theater, he was asked to stand in for a sick actor. This launched his theatrical career that took him from amateur acting all the way to Hollywood, where he worked along such luminaries as John Wayne or fellow WWII veteran Jimmy Stewart. His tough demeanor made him a natural choice for westerns and war epics such as The Dirty Dozen and The Big Red One. Off-stage, he maintained his penchant for reckless shenanigans: while shooting The Professionals in Las Vegas, he allegedly took another actor’s bow and arrows and shot at the famous cowboy sign, hitting and damaging it. On stage, however, he was known as a team player, often putting his military background to good use advising his directors and fellow actors on realistic troop movements, costumes and firearm handling.

Marvin in The Big Red One
In 1968, Marvin returned to the islands of the Pacific to film Hell in the Pacific, a two-character war drama. Opposite him played Japanese acting legend Toshiro Mifune, who himself was a WWII veteran, having served as an officer in an Aerial Photography unit. “[The islands) were all beautiful then, when you went in. That was a strange thing about it”– he commented on his return to the region, contrasting it with his wartime experience: “I remember what it looked like when we came in past the reef. The place had been bombed and shelled for weeks and the floor of the ocean was covered with brass casings that hadn’t deteriorated yet. Then the smell hit you- death and fire. You’d give a panic look to your buddy. ‘How did we get here?’”
Toshiro Mifune and Lee Marvin in Hell in the Pacific
Lee Marvin passed away in 1987. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, close to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.
Lee Marvin’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery

 

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