This is a list of somewhat prominent people who had some part in Second World War and are known primarily for something else than being soldiers. Those who did not participate in the war even indirectly (like scientists and war correspondents did) I left out. With some specific exceptions like Mohandas Gandhi.
There are also people whose childhood was spent during the war - like Oliver Sacks and Hugo Pratt.
Adenauer, Konrad (West German chancellor)
Mayor of Cologne and not particularly favored by nazis. Was arrested by Gestapo 1944 and committed to Brauweiler prison.
Amsberg, Claus von (German-born Prince consort of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands)
Was put into hitler Jugend (like every other boy in Nazi Germany) and was conscripted into Wehrmacht in 1944 at the age of 18. Became a member of the German 90th Armored Infantry Division in Italy in March 1945, but was captured by the US troops at Merano before he saw combat
Andropov, Yuri (Soviet KGB leader and general secretary)
Lead partisans in Karelia at least during the Winter War.
Arnaz, Desi (Cuban-born US entertainer)
Drafted into US army 1943 but was injured and transferred to work in army hospital in Birmingham, California.
Asimov, Isaac (US science and science fiction writer)
Worked in the US Naval Air Experimental Station. Towards the end of the war he served in the army as a corporal.
Aumont, Jean-Pierre (French actor)
Stayed in France until 1942 and then fled to Hollywood. After filming The Cross of Lorraine he joined the Free French in North Africa. Took part in the Operation Storm and was later with Western Allied armies in Italy and France. Was wounded twice, second time seriously when his jeep blew up. Received the Legion d'Honneur and the Croix de Guerre.
Ayer, Alfred (British philosopher)
In Specia Operations Executive.
Ayres, Lew (US actor famous for his role as Dr Kildare)
Conscientious objector but later volunteered for the Medical Corps. Served in the Pacific and New Guinea
Badalamenti, Gaetano (Sicilian-born Mafia boss)
Served in Italian infantry until Allied troops took Sicily, After that he joined Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
Baker, Josephine (US-born black entertainer)
Worked for the French Red Cross in the beginning of the war and helped Resistance after the fall of France. Met US and British espionage agents and reported on Germans watching her performances. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom and the Cross of Lorraine in 1945.
Beckett, Samuel (Irish-born playwright famous for his absurdist plays)
Joined Gloria SMH cell of French resistance. His cell was betrayed but he managed to flee to countryside with his wife. Settled into Paris after the war.
Begin, Menachem (Israeli politician)
Imprisoned by NKVD in Poland after Soviet takeover. Released after German attack and joined Free Polish Army.
Ben, Gottfried (German physician and poet).
Initially supported Nazi party but was disillusioned later and banned from writing. During the war, served as a military physician in garrisons in eastern Germany (and wrote).
Ben Bella, Ahmed (First president of independent Algeria, originally Muhammad Ahmad Bin Balla)
Served in the Free French Forces.
Ben Gurion, David (Polish-born soldier and one of the founders of Israel)
As a prominent member of Zionists, supported fighting with British against Germans and at the same time resisting White Paper ie. limitations of Jewish emigration into Palestine.
†Benoist, Robert (French Grand Prix race car driver)
Fled to Britain after the fall of France and joined Special Operations Executive. Was captured by Gestapo in August 1943 but managed to escape and return to UK. Returned later to work with SOE agent Denis Bloch but was arrested again in June 1944 and sent to Buchenwald, where he was executed.
Bernard, Prince of Netherlands (German-born aristocrat and consort of Dutch Queen Juliana)
Remained in Netherlands with Dutch troops till surrender and left for Britain, where he eventually joined RAF. Became a liaison between British and Dutch troops and later returned to Netherlands to direct partisan activity. Apparently unfounded claims of connections to SS.
Ballard, J.G. (British author)
Was interned in Shanghai as a boy. His novel Empire of the Sun is based on these experiences.
Bidault, Georges (French journalist and politician)
Became a POW after German attack until July 1941. Moved to the unoccupied zone and joined the Liberte resistance group (that later merged with Verite to become Combat). He succeeded Jean Moulin as head of the National Committee of the Resistance (CNR) in 1943. Represented the Resistance in the victory parade down the Champs Elysees on the day after Paris was liberated.
Blish, James (US-born science fiction writer)
In the US Army as a lab technician and as German translator for POWs.
Bohr, Niels (Danish-born physicist and developer of quantum theory)
Escaped Denmark to Sweden by a fishing boat and went to Britain. Joined the Manhattan project in USA.
Bokassa, Jean-Bedel (Dictator of Central African Republic 1966-1979)
Fought in Free French army in Indochina. Earned Legion d'Honneur and the Croix de Guerre and gained the rank of sergeant major.
Borchert, Wolfgang (German playwright and author)
Was conscripted into Wehrmacth and sent to the eastern front. He contracted hepatitis but was accused of trying to evade service by it. When he parodied Göbbels in an amateur play, he was arrested and sent to prison for nine months. His company surrendered to French troops in March 1945 but Brochert escaped to Hamburg. Borchert died of hepatitis in 1947.
Böll, Heinrich (German author)
Served in Wehrmacht in both Eastern and Western fronts and reached the rank of corporal. Was wounded four times. Was captured 1945 and sent to a prison camp in France. His books Der Zug Wae Pünktlich (The Train Was on Time), Wanderer Kommst du Nach Spa (Traveller, If You Come to Spa) and Wo warst du, Adam (Adam, Where Art Thou?) concentrate on Nazi era and life in the army.
Boulle, Pierre (French author of Bridge on the River Kwai fame)
Was in Indochina when the War started and joined the local army. After the fall of France he joined the Free French Mission in Singapore and became a secret agent under the name Peter John Rule. He helped the resistance movement in China, Burma and Indochina. Was captured by the Vichy French loyalists in 1943 on the Mekong River but escaped from Saigon in 1944, and served until the end of the war in British special forces.
Borel, Emile (French mathematician)
Was briefly arrested by Vichy regime after which he begun to support Resistance.
Brandt, Willy (West German politician, birth name Karl Herbert Frahm)
Fled to Stockholm when Germany took over Norway. Supplied information of German troop movements in Norway to both Soviets and Western Allies.
Braun, Wernher von (German-born rocket scientist)
Working for German war effort in Peenemunde from 1937, developed V-1 and V-2 rockets.
Bratteli, Trygve (Norwegian prime minister-to-be)
German occupiers arrested him 1942. He spent most of the war in German concentration camps.
Breznev, Leonid (General Secretary-to-be of Soviet Union)
Coordinated evacuation after German attack. Brigade commissar in the southern front, changed to Colonel when he went to Caucasus. When asked to describe the fighting, said, "It was hard."
Bronson, Charles (US actor, birth name Charles Buzhinsky)
Stationed in USA as a military driver and tailgunner.
Brown, Carter (British-born crime fiction writer, real name Allan Geoffrey Yates)
In the Royal Navy as a lieutenant 1942-1946.
Burgess, Anthony (British writer, birth name John Burgess Anthony Wilson)
Served at the Royal Army Medical Corps.
Burke, Elmer (US gangster and killer for hire)
Volunteered for army to escape a stint in reformatory and was sent to Europe. Very agressive combatant and fond of submachineguns.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice (US author and creator of Tarzan)
War correspondent in South Pacific.
Burroughs, William (US author and a drug addict)
Was trained as a glider pilot, but was discharged as unfit for service in 1942.
Bush, George (senior) (US president 1989-1993)
Navy combat pilot. 58 combat missions. Was once rescued by a submarine when his plane was shot down in the Pacific. Distinguished Flying Cross.
Calvino, Italo (Italian author)
Drafted for Young Fascists but 1943 fled to Ligurian mountains to join Caribaldi Brigade, a resistance group. Battlename Santiago.
Camus, Albert (French author)
In a left-wing Parisian resistance group called Combat that, alongside sabotage and intelligence, published an underground newspaper of the same name. Codename Beauchard. Wrote many of his famous books during the war.
Carson, Johnny (US entertainer)
US Navy 1943-1946
Carter, Jimmy (US president)
Entered Annaport naval military academy 1943, graduated just after the war 1946. Served in submarines until 1953.
Cartland, Barbara (British romantic author)
Chief Lady Welfare Officer for Bedfordshire (1941-45). Her brother, Ronald Cartland, was the first Member of Parliament to be killed in the war.
Chanel, Gabrielle "Coco" (French fashion designer)
Had a German lover, officer Hans Gunther von Dicklage, during the occupation of Paris and was attributed to saying "FRance has got what she deserves". Claimed later - probably without foundation - that she had been in a "secret peace mission". Moved to Switzerland with her lover.
Chase, James Hadley (British-born mystery writer, real name René Brabazon Raymond)
Served as a pilot in the RAF and reached the rank of Squadron Leader.
Chavez, Cesar (US hispanic founder of United Farm Workers of America)
Joined US Navy 1944.
Christie, Agatha (British mystery writer)
Worked in the dispensary of University College Hospital in London where she became familiar with poisons.
Clarke, Arthur C (British-born Science Fiction writer)
RAF radar officer.
Clawell, James (British author of Shogun fame)
Joined British Royal Artillery. Was wounded in Malaysia 1941, hid several months in a Malay village but was eventually captured by the Japanese. Ended up in Changi prison camp near Singapore for 3 ˝ years. Discharged as a captain after the war.
Clement, Hal (US science fiction writer, real name Harry Clement Stubbs)
Joined Army Air force 1943. Flew 35 combat missions in B-24 Liberator bombers with the 8th US air force.
Coburn, James (US actor)
Joined the US Army at the end of the war.
Coogan, Jackie (US Actor)
Enlisted into US Army in 1941. Served as a glider pilot transporting Chindit units in Burma
Cousteau, Jacques-Yves (French marine explorer)
Had been discharged from the navy before the war due to disability. Spied for French resistance when working with the creation of aqualung.
Coward, Noel (British actor and playwright)
Worked undercover for British intelligence.
Cronkite, Walter (US journalist)
Was supposed to fly with US Air Force on bombing missions over Germany before the idea was scrapped. Covered Nuremberg war trials.
Curtis, Tony (US actor, born Bernard Schwartz)
Joined US army 1943.
Dahl, Roald (British author)
With RAF in Libya, where he was shot down, in Greece and in Syria where he was wounded. Posted to Washington as an assistant air attache to British security 1942-43. 1943 wing commander.
Dayan, Moshe (Israeli politician and defense minister)
Was first imprisoned by British as a member of Haganah then released 1941 to fight alongside Allies. Lost his eye in battle, which lead to the use of the trademark black patch.
Dickens, Monica (British-born writer)
Worked in an aircraft factory after a brief spell as a nurse. Married a US marine afterwards.
Dickey, James (US poet, hunter and author famous for Deliverance)
Joined USAF 1941 and served as a radio intercept officer.
Dix, Otto (German anti-war expressionist painter and Great War veteran)
Nazis regarded him as a "degenerate artist". Was later conscripted into Volkssturm.
Dole, Robert "Bob" (US politician and presidential candidate-to-be)
2nd lieutenant in 10th Mountain Division. Lost the function of his right arm in a machinegun fire in Italy when trying to help a wounded radio man. 2 Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.
Doohan, James (Canadian-born actor and Scotty of the Star Trek)
Participated in the D-Day combat as a captain of the Royal Canadian Artillery. Lost a middle finger of his right hand.
Douglas, Kirk (US actor, birth name Issur Demsky)
Enlisted in US Navy 1942. Communications officer in anti-submarine warfare.
Dubcek, Alexander (Chech communist reformer of the Prague Spring)
Active among the communist partisans and during the failed Slovakian National Uprising. His brother died in the war.
Duckwitz, Georg Ferdinand (German businessman]
Even thought he was a member of Nazi party, he warned Danish resistance about Nazi intentions to imprison all Danish Jews, thus allowing most of them to escape to Sweden.
Dutra, Eurico Caspar (President of Brazil 1946-1951)
General and commander of Brazilian soldiers that fought on Allied side in Europe.
Einstein, Albert (German-born physicist and creator of theory of relativity)
Warned Roosevelt about the possibility of German atomic bomb but was not taken to Manhattan project probably because of his socialist and pacifist views. Nominally explosive expert for US navy.
Eisner, Will (US cartoonist and creator of Spirit)
Drafted into US army 1942. Produced army posters, illustrators and strips.
Elmore, James (US Blues singer)
US Navy, stationed in Guam.
Eluard, Paul (French surrealist poet, born Eugene Grandel).
Served in French army and later in the communist resistance with his second wife Maria Benz.
Falk, Lee (US cartoonist and creator of The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician)
Entered the Office of War Information and became chief of his radio foreign language division. In 1944, joined the Army Signal Corps which shipped him around the USA 12 times from one post to another. He managed to continue writing daily for his comic strips.
Falk, Peter (US actor of Columbo fame)
Attempted to enlist in the U.S. Marines 1945 but was rejected because of his glass eye. Joined the Merchant Marines as a cook. After spending two years stationed in France and South America, returned home in 1947.
Faure, Edgar (French politician)
Joined the French Resistance after the Fall of France. Fled to Algiers in 1942 to join De Gaulle who made him head of the legislative department of his provisional government. Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.
Fermi, Enrico (Italian physicist)
Fled Mussolini's Italy to USA and became a part of Manhattan project.
Feuchtwanger, Lion (German Jewish novelist)
Fled to France but was captured by German forces after French surrender. Escaped from an internment camp with the help of Varian Fry and fled to USA. Settled to Los Angeles.
Feynman, Richard (US physicist with sense of humor)
Part of the Manhattan project. He tells about this era in the 3rd chapter of Surely You Are Joking, Mr Feynman. Some seem to doubt its veracity...
Fleming, Ian (British author and creator of James Bond)
Naval officer in British intelligence.
Fo, Dario (Italian author, playwright and satirist)
As a boy, helped his father to take escaped Allied soldiers to Switzerland. Deserted from the Italian army.
Fonda, Henry (US actor)
Enlisted to US Navy 1942 against the wishes of 20th Century Fox. Worked in operations and combat intelligence. Bronze star. Reached a rank of lieutenant.
Ford, Gerald (US president 1974-1977)
Joined US Naval reserve where he served as an athletic director and was stationed in South Pacific. 4 years in service, 10 Battle Stars, lieutenant commander.
Francis, Dick (British jockey and author)
Joined Royal Air Force 1940, first training as a Spitfire pilot but finished war as a Lancaster bomber pilot.
Fuller, Samuel (US author, screenwriter and director)
Fought in North Africa and Europe. Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart. His book (and film) The Big Red One is partially based on his experiences.
Gabin, Jean (French actor, born Jean-Alexis Moncorgé)
Moved to Hollywood after the fall of Rance but later joined Free French forces and fought in North Africa. Was among the troops than entered Paris. He earned the Médaille Militaire and a Croix de Guerre.
Gable, Clark (US movie star)
Joined Army Air Corps after his wife Carole Lombard died in a plane crash in 1942. Served for three years. Hitler promised a reward to whoever would capture him alive.
Gandhi, Mohandas (Indian statesman)
Due to the fact that Britain had not recognized the help of Indian troops during the Great War in any recognizable manner, Gandhi resisted cooperation with Britain and propagated for neutrality in the war. He was imprisoned 1943-1944 but released after a hunger strike.
Gary, Romain (French novelist and diplomat, born Romain Kacew)
After the fall of France, fled to Britain and joined the Free French to fight in North Africa and Europe.
Genscher, Hans-Dietrich (German politician)
1943-1945 in Wehrmacht until captured by the British and the Americans.
Glenn, John (US astronaut and congressman)
Enlisted for naval aviation training. Commissioned in the March 1943. Assigned to Marine corps reserve and sent to Pacific. Flew 59 combat mission with F4U Corsairs.
Golding, William (British author of Lord of Flies fame)
In Royal Navy in command of a rocket launcher ship. Took part in sinking Bismarck and in Normandy landings.
Goldwater, Barry (US politician)
Pilot in US Air Force.
Grass, Günther (German author)
Was drafted into German army at the age of 16 in 1943, was wounded in battle in 1945 and imprisoned by Soviets in Czechoslovakia. Returned to Germany 1946.
Greene, Graham (British author)
Firewatch in London during the first stages of the Blitz. Ended up working for British intelligence in Africa and Portugal. Described some of his activities in the memoir Ways of Escape.
Greco, Juliette (French singer and actress)
Hermother joined the Resistance in Dordogne and was arrested 1943. She andher sister were also arrested but Juliette was releas on the streets of Paris. Lived with an actress Helene Duc intil the end of the war.
†Grover-Williams, William (French race car driver)
After the fall of France, fled to UK and joined to Army Service Corps. Was recruited into Special Operations Executive. Gestapo arrested him June 1943 and sent to Sachenhausen. Executed just before the end of the war.
Guareschi, Giovannino (Italian author and creator of Don Camillo)
Artillery officer, sent to Eastern Front, imprisoned alongside other Italians after Italy surrendered 1943 and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp in Poland. He wrote about this time in Diario Clandestino 1943-1945 (Clandestine Diary).
Guinness, Alec (British actor)
In Royal Navy as an officer thought released for a couple of war films.
Haanpää, Pentti (Finnish author)
Served in Lappland during the Winter War and in Kiestinki and Uhtua area in the Continuation War. Fought in the battles of Pelkosenniemi and Viipurinlahti. Two of his books, Korpisotaa (Forest War) and Yhdeksän Miehen Saappaat (Boots of Nine Men) are about these wars.
Hackmann, Gene (US actor)
Dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join US marines. Trained as a radio operator and disk jockey during tours in Asia and the Pacific.
Hailey, Arthur (British author)
Royal Air Force
Haley, Alex (US writer of Roots fame)
Enlisted in the Coast Guard as a messboy.
Hall, Monty (Canadian-born US game show host)
In Canadian army
Hammett, Dashiel (US crime fiction writer, famous for Maltese Falcon)
3 years in US army, editing a troop newspaper in Aleutian Islands when US troops fought against Japanese forces in two islands. Later co-wrote The Battle of the Aleutians with Robert G. Colodny, an enlisted man who took part of the combat.
Hamsun, Knut (Norwegian author)
Supported Germany and even German occupation of Norway and wrote many pro-nazi articles. Gave his Nobel Prize medal to Göbbels as a token of respect but infuriated Hitler with his complaints about the conduct of occupation troops. Probably did not save any Jews. Showed little remorse afterwards.
Harrison, Harry (US-born science fiction writer)
Was drafted to US army 1943 at the age of 18 and spent 4 years in Army Air Corps, all the time in States. Ended up as a military police sergeant against his wishes. Learnt to dislike army life.
Hassel, Sven (Danish writer)
Had joined the German army before the war because he was unemployed. Was arrested for going AWOL during the war and transferred to penal regiment. Fought in most nothern fronts, mostly in Russia. Has written 14 novels about an eccentric bunch of soldiers based on his experiences - and they are not for the squemish.
Hedin, Sven (Swedish explorer and publicist)
Wrote pro-German polemics (like he had done during the WW1) and befriended high-ranking nazis like Hitler, Goering, Hess and others; in his publications he indicted Roosevelt as the one responsible for the War; wrote memoirs My Life as an Explorer
Heidegger, Martin (German philosopher)
Fervent supporter of Nazi ideals who announced that previous academic freedom in German universities had been "false". Changed little after the war.
Hepburn, Audrey (Belgian-born actress, birth name Andrey Kathleen Ruston)
Was living in Netherlands with her mother when Germans occupied the country. According to her biography, was a messenger for Dutch resistance at the age of 13. Witnessed collection of Jews. Developed health problems due to malnutrition in 1944.
Heinlein, Robert A (US science fiction author)
Tried to re-enlist into US Navy (after being discharged for tuberculosis) but ended up as an engineer in Naval Air Experimental Station, Philadelphia.
Hellaakoski, Aaro (Finnish Poet)
Kept writing while serving in both Finnish wars.
Heller, Joseph (US author)
Joined 12th Air Force 1941. Stationed in Corsica where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier. His novel Catch-22 shows what he thought about that tour.
Hemingway, Ernest (US author and adventurer)
Went to Cuba in 1940 to help anti-Nazi espionage. Later a war correspondent during Normandy Invasion, Liberation of Paris and the rest of the war. Injured twice again
Herriot, James (British author and veterinarian, real name James Alfred Wight)
Royal Air Force volunteer.
Hesse, Herman (German author)
Did not actively resist nazi regime (Göbbels supported him in one point) but helped political refugees. Was placed in Nazi blacklist 1943. Refused to remove "offending" parts (about antisemitism and the like) from reprints of his books.
Heston, Charlton (US actor)
Left college to enlist into US Army in 1944
Heuvelmans, Bernard (Belgian-born cryptozoologist and author)
Military service in Belgium. Was captured by Germans, escaped four times. Published books during the war for which Germans arrested him again.
Heyerdahl, Thor (Norwegian explorer of Kon-Tiki fame)
Joined Free Norwegian troops and ended up in a parachute unit in Finnmark.
Hill, George Roy (US movie director)
US Army Air Corps fighter pilot
Hillerman, Tony (US mystery writer)
Joined US Army in 1943. Was extensively wounded in an explosion in 1945 and later discharged. Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart.
Holt, Harold (Australian Prime minister 1966-1967)
Enlisted as a gunner but was called back 5 months later without service, when three Australian cabinet ministers were killed in an air crash. He was appointed Minister for Labour and National Service.
Hoxha, Enver (Albanian communist dictator)
Founder of the communistic Albanian resistance group LNC.
Hoyle, Fred (British astronomer)
Worked at the Admiralty Signals Establishment, later Admiralty Weapons Establishment, where he participated in the development of radar.
Hudson, Rock (US actor, born Roy Harold Scherer Jr)
Served as a Navy airplane mechanic.
Hubbard, L Ron (Founder of scientology)
Worked in the office in public relations and cencorship. Was trained in anti-submarine warfare but was rejected for incompetence. Was transferred to navy training center in Princeton and then to California after which he was discharged for ulcer. Scientologists claim otherwise, of course.
Husak, Gustav (Czechoslovakian president after the Prague Spring)
Communist official in the rebel headquarters of Banska Bystrica during the failed Slovakian National Uprising
Innes, Hammond (British writer)
Volunteered for Royal Navy but served in Royal Artillery. His first war novel Attack Alarm was written during the war and reputedly under fire during his service in the anti-aircraft gunnery. Ended up editing army magazines. Reached the rank of major. Some of his other books appeared during the war, including Atlantic Fury.
Jaruzelski, Wojciech (Polish general and one of the last communist potentates of Poland)
Was deported to Siberia like thousands of other Poles when Soviet Union took over its half of Poland. Later became a member of Soviet Polish Army after German attack. He was commander of the reconnaissance platoon, and later chief of reconnaissance of a regiment in the Henryk Dabrowski 2nd Infantry Division. Took part in the fighting on the Vistula, at the Magnuszew Bridgehead and fought for the liberation of Warsaw, at the Baltic Sea, the Odra (Oder) and the Elbe rivers. He also took part in encounters with the armed underground.
John Paul II (Pope, born Karol Wojtyla)
Was forced into manua labor in German.occupied Poland. 1942 joined an underground church for priest training.
†Johnson, Amy (British lady aviator)
A pilot in Air Transport Auxiliary. Drowned after bailing out over the Thames estuary.
Johnson, Lyndon (US congressman and president 1963-1969)
The first member of Congress to enter active military duty when he joined the US Navy. 1942 received the Silver Star for gallantry in a bombing mission over New Guinea. Reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. Reentered the House when President Roosevelt ordered all congressmen back to the capital in 1942.
Joliot-Curie, Frederick (French physicist and husband of Irene Curie)
Smuggled his radiation research materials to Britain but stayed in France to supoprt communist resistance. During the liberation of Paris, he set up a production line of Molotov cocktails in his laboratory.
Jünger, Ernst (German author)
Supported nazis at first but turned against them in the beginning of the war. Served in Paris as a Wehrmacht captain and was acquainted with French writers. Recorded his thoughts in a diary. Peripherally involved with Operation Sealion. Might have known about the July Plot and was dismissed from Wehrmacht after it. Was recruited into Kirchhorst Volkssturm at the end of the war. His son was put into a penal regiment and died in Italy on November 1944. Jünger's war diary has been published.
Jylhä, Yrjö (Finnish poet)
Company commander in Taipale during Winter War after which he wrote a collection Kiirastuli (Purgatory). Propagandist (TK-man) in Continuation War against his wishes.
Kennedy, John F (US president-to-be)
Volunteered for combat duty in Pacific. In the spring of 1944 a Japanese destroyer rammed a torpedo boat he commanded off the Solomon Islands - he survived with all his men.
†Kennedy, Joseph Jr (Scion of Kennedy clan at the time)
Navy pilot. Killed when his Liberator bomber exploded, in England, 1944.
Kennedy, Robert (US Senator)
Just after his oldest brother Joseph died, Robert joined the Navy and was commissioned a lieutenant.
Kenyatta, Jomo (future president-for-life to Kenya)
Worked as a farm worker and bit-parts actor in Britain. In 1942 he married an English governess Edna Clarke.
Kerouac, Jack (US writer)
Served in the Merchant Marines (1942-1943) and the U.S. Navy (1943). Was discharged during the war on psychiatric grounds. Served as a merchant seaman afterwards.
Kissinger, Henry (German-born US politician)
Gained US citizenship 1943 and joined US Army Counter-Intelligence corps.
Koestler, Arthur (Hungarian-born author, psychologist and mystic)
Arrested by Vichy government because of his communist connections. After he was released with the aid of British Foreign Office, he went to England and served in British Pioneer Corps in 1941-1942. Later worked for Ministry of Information and the BBC. Took British citizenship 1945.
Kohl, Helmut (German politician who happened to be a chancellor during the German unification)
In Hitler Jügend (like all the boys of his age).
Koivisto, Mauno (Finnish president 1982-1994)
In Infantry recon in the Detachment Törni, lead by later famous Lauri Törni.
†Korczak, Janusz (Jewish-Polish doctor)
Took care of the jewish orphans on Warsav ghetto. In August 6th 1942, he voluntary joined the jewish children when German troops took them to Treblinka.
See Janusz Korczak Communication Center and Janusz Korczak Living Heritage Association.
Kosygin, Aleksei (Soviet politician and foreign minister)
In besieged Leningrad as representative of State Defense Committee.
Knef, Hildegard (German actress)
In the last weeks of the battle of Berlin, put on uniform and joined the company of her lover Ewald von Demandowsky in Schmargendorf freight yards.
Khrushchev, Nikita (Soviet Politician and General Secretary-to-be)
Kommissar (later lieutenant general) in military councils on various fronts. His †eldest son died in battle for Stalingrad.
L'Amour, Louis (US western writer)
Served in a tank destroyer unit in France and in Germany.
Lafferty, R.A. (US science fiction writer)
Served for 4 years in South Pacific.
Leakey, Louis (British-born paleontologist)
Civilian intelligence officer for the Kenyan government. Later drafted to African Intelligence department. At the end of the war was a spy sent to collect information for the government.
Lee, Christopher (British actor)
Volunteered to join Winter War in Finland 1939 at the age of 17 but was not allowed to go to the front. Served in the British Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve from 1941 to 1946 and in British Intelligence.
Lee, Stan (US comic books publisher who founded Timely, forerunner of Marvel Comics)
In Signal Corps where he wrote manuals and scriptwrote training films.
Lem, Stanislaw (Polish science fiction writer)
Disguised his Jewish background by false papers, worked as a car mechanic and supported local resistance.
Lemmon, Jack (US actor, birth name John Uhler Lemmon III)
Served in Naval Reserve and was the communication officer of the USS Lake Champlain.
Levi, Primo (Italian author and chemist)
Wrote for the resistance magazine Giustizia e Libertŕ. Formed an anti-nazi guerilla unit but was betrayed and captured in 1943. He was turned over to SS and sent to Moniwitz-Auschwitz. He was transferred out when he contracted scarlet fever and put into work in one of three I. G. Farben laboratories for the rest of the war. Was released by Soviet troops in 1945.
Ley, Thomas John (British-Australian politician famous for Chalk Pit Muder)
Was arrested in Britain and convicted of black market activities.
Linebarger, Paul (US expert on psychological warfare and science fiction writer known as Cordwainer Smith)
Was sent to China and put in charge of psychological warfare and of coordinating Anglo-American and Chinese military activities as a second lieutenant. Was involved in the formation of the Office of War Information and of the Operation Planning and Intelligence Board. He also helped organize the Army's first psychological warfare section. By the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of major.
Linna, Väinö (Finnish writer)
In the Winter War he fought as the leader of a machine-gun company. In the spring of 1943 he was posted back to Finland as an instructor. Wrote Tuntematon Sotilas (Unknown soldier, no real translation beyond a heavily ruined one)
Lorenz, Konrad (Austrian zoologist and founder of ethology)
Initially expressed some support for Nazi racial ideology in his writings during the war. Was drafted 1941 as a military physician and captured by Soviets in 1942 in Witebsk. Ended up as a camp doctor in various camps in Armenia. Returned to Austria in February 1948.
Ludlum, Robert (US writer)
Tried to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, but after the attempt failed he served in 1945- 47 in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantryman.
Luciano, Charles "Lucky" (US-Italian Mafia leader)
Helped US Army through his connections to Sicilian Mafia in a fight against Fascists.
Lussu, Emilio (Sardinian-Italian socialist politician)
Had taken part of the Spanish Civil War. After the armistice in 1943, moved back to Italy and joined communist Italian Resistance. He also gained leadeship o PArtito d'Aziora party that later merged with Italian Socialist Party.
MacLean, Alistair (British war and thriller writer)
Joined Royal Navy 1941 and served as a torpedo man in Home, Mediterranean and Eastern fleets. Was captured and became a prisoner of war. Tortured by Japanese. Returned to Britain 1946. Apparently Royal Navy regarded his first novel H.M.S. Ulysses as being too realistic.
MacLean, Sorley (Scottish Gaelic poet)
Served in British troops in North Africa and was wounded three times.
Mailer, Norman (US author)
Drafter 1944 and sent to the Philippines as a rifleman. Served in Leyte, Luzon and Japan. The Naked and the Dead is based on his experiences.
Malet, Leo (French detective author and creator of Nestor Burma)
Was released 1940 from Rennes Prison (in which he had been imprisoned for spreading left-wing propaganda) to join the army. After defeat, tried to reach Paris by foot but was captured by Germans and interned in Stalag XB POW camp. He was later released because of ill health. Many Nestor Burma stories are placed in German-occupied Paris.
Malraux, Andre (French author and politician)
Served in French tank unit and was captured during the Western Offensive. Joined French resistance and adopted a codename Colonel Berger afterwards. After the liberation of Paris served in the Alsace-Lorraine Brigade. Was captured by Gestapo in 1944 but survived to see the liberation. Described his experiences in a roundabout way in the Anti-Memoires
Mann, Klaus (German writer and son of Thomas Mann)
Served in US army
Marcos, Ferdinand (Filipino politician and de facto dictator-to-be)
Claimed to have taken part in battles in Bataan and have led guerillas in Luzon. Probably did nothing of the kind.
Marais, Jean (French actor)
Worked in a stage during German occupation. After liberation of Paris, joined France's 2nd armored division and served as an driver, moving fuel and ammunition.
Marker, Chris (French director, born Christian Bouche-Villeneuve)
Marsh, Ngaio (New Zealand mystery writer)
She served in New Zealand Red Cross Transport Unit, driving repatriated soldiers in a hospital bus.
Martinson, Harry (Swedish poet and author of Aniara fame)
Enlisted in the Swedish Volunteer Corps in Finland. The novel Verklighet Till Döds is based on his experiences in the Winter War.
Marvin, Lee (US Actor)
In US Marines in, among other things, Kwajalei and Eniwetok. Took part in the invasion of Saipan and was seriously injured in the buttocks by machinegun fire - his sciatic nerve was severed. Was invalided out with a Purple Heart.
Maskelyne, Jasper (British stage magician)
In Royal Engineers Camouflage Corps in Egypt he created distractions to fool German bombers and Afrika Korps. These exploits are described in David Fisher's The War Magician.
Masters, John (British author specializing in stories about British Empire)
Active Gurkha officer, at the beginingof the war he was sent to North Africa. Served in Iran and Iraq as Adjutant. When he graduated from a staff college in Quetta, he joined a Chindit battalion in Burma. Fought in "Blackpool" base until the brigade was forced to withdraw. Hismen had to shoot 19 own wounded that were too weak to be moved. Wrote about this time in The Road Past Mandalay.
Masuji Ibuse (Japanese author)
Served in propaganda units and witnessed annihilation of Hiroshima in Kamo. Afterwards he wrote a satire Yohai Taicho about an army drills and also criticized military in his other works.
Mastroianni, Marcello (Italian actor)
Worked in films as a boy. Was sent to a German prison camp when Italy switched sides but managed to escape and hide in Venice.
Matthau, Walter (Ukrainian-born US actor, birth name - according to his son - Walter Matthow)
Joined Army Air Corps with James Stewart. He served as a radio operator and cryptographer in Europe, rose to staff sergeant, and earned six battle stars.
Maxwell, Robert (Czech-born media modul, born Jan Ludwik Hoch)
Fled Czechoslovakia 1939 and served as a British army officer.
McCarthy, Joseph (US senator)
Served in US Marines in Pacific in 1942. Reached the rank of captain.
McGovern, George (US congressman and presidential candidate)
Flew 35 combat missions as a B-24 pilot in Europe. Earned Distinguished Flying Cross. Stephen Ambrose's book The Wild Blue is based on his wartime exploits.
Meri, Lennart (Estonian president after the independence from Soviet Union)
His family was deported to Siberia when Soviets took over 1941.
Messmer, Pierre (French politician)
Served with Free French. Was at the Battle of Bir Hakeim.
Michener, James (US author)
Joined the US Navy although Quakers were exempted from service. 1944-1946 naval historian.
Mifune Toshiro (Japanese actor)
Conscripted into military service from Manchuria 1939 and ended up as an Imperial Air Force pilot.
Milligan, Spike (British-born Irish comedian and playwright)
served in the Royal Artillery in North Africa and Italy. In Italy was hospitalized for shell shock, which may have contributed to his bipolar disorder.
Miller, Walter M Jr (US Author of Canticle for Leibowitz)
Enlisted in the Army Air Force and served as a radioman and tail gunner. 53 bombing missions in Italy and the Balkans, including bombing of Monte Cassino.
Mishima Yukio (Japanese writer, birth name Kimitade Hiraoka)
Excused from military service and worked in a factory. Definite survivor guilt afterwards.
Mitchell, Margaret (US author of Gone with the Wind)
Volunteer for the American Red Cross.
Mitterrand, Francois (French politician and to-be-president)
Wounded and captured during German's Western Offensive. Initially supporter of Petain but changed his mind when German victory seemed less secure. 1943 joined ORA (Organization of Armed Resistance) and visited London, where De Gaulle told him to unify different groups that represented former soldiers.
Montgomery, Robert (US Actor)
US Navy, reached the rank of lieutenant commander
Moore, Brian (Irish-born Canadian author)
Served with the British Ministry of War Transport in North Africa, Italy and France.
Moore, Patrick (British astronomer)
Lied about his age to get into RAF at the age of 16. Ended up as a navigator. When his lie was noticed two years later, he was already a commissioned officer.
Moravia, Alberto (Italian author, born Alberto Pincherle)
Anti-Mussolini. 1943 fled to hide in Fojdi, near Cassino, until Allied liberation.
Morita Akio (Japanese founder of Sony corporation)
In 1944, became a Navy lieutenant upon graduation from university that year.
Muggeridge, Malcom (British journalist and author and later theologian)
Joined the British Army Intelligence Corps and served in Mazambique, Italy and France. Arrived to report of the liberation of Paris.
†Munk, Kaj (Danish playwright and priest)
Killed by nazis or Danish nazi symphathizers.
Nakasone Yasuhiro (Japanese prime minister 1982-1987)
Junior naval officer.
Newman, Paul (US Actor)
Served in the US army in the Pacific
Ngo Dinh Diem (President of South Vietnam)
Connected to Vietnamese nationalists.
Nielsen, Leslie (Canadian-born comedy actor)
Served in Royal Canadian Air Force, although he was regarded legally deaf.
Niven, David (British actor)
Having gone through Sandhurst military academy in Britain, he re-joined the British army 1939 and ended up as a Lieutenant Colonel in a Rifle brigade. Did two films during the war. Lead a commando unit in Normandy. Did not want to talk about his war experiences afterwards.
Nixon, Richard (US president 1969-1974)
Entered US navy 1942 as a noncombatant junior lieutenant and was sent to navy base in Iowa. After 6 months sent to an operative officer with South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command. Mustered out 1946.
Nurmi, Paavo (Finnish track athlete)
Collected money in USA and elsewhere for the Finnish Relief Fund.
O'Donnell, Peter (British author and creator of Modesty Blaise)
NCO in mobile radio detachment 3 Corps Signals in 9th army under general Quillan in Persia from August to November 1942. After the threat of German attack was reduced after the battle of Stalingrad, the unit was moved to Syria, and later to Egypt, the Western Desert, Italy, and finally the liberation of Greece in October 1944.
Peter O'Donnell Interview.
Olivier, Laurence (British-born actor)
Served with the Fleet Air Arm and was released twice to act in British war films.
Oppenheimer, Robert (US physicist)
In 1942 was appointed Director of the government laboratory at Los Alamos and head of the Manhattan Project team.
Orwell, George (British author, real name Eric Blair)
Briefly a sergeant in the Home Guard in Britain. After 1941 BBC journalist and literary newspaper editor and 1943 editor of Tribune. At the end of the war, reported in France, Germany and Austria. Had fought for Republican side in the Spanish civil war.
Ousmane, Sembene (Senegalese writer, director and labor union activist)
Served in the French Army in Europe. After France's surrender to Germany, Sembéne joined the Free French forces in 1942 and landed with them in France in 1944.
Ozu Yasujiro (Japanese movie director)
Served in China.
Papandreou, Andreas (Greek academic, politician, and statesman)
After he was exiled from Greece by Metaxas government, he served in the U.S. Navy. Later he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Papandreou, Georgios (Greek antiroyalist leader and son of Andreas Papandreou)
Active in the Greek resistance. Lead the government-in-exile 1944-1945.
Pertwee, John (British actor)
Served in the RNVR as an officer. He was appointed to HMS Hood from which he was returned to shore shortly before that vessel was sunk by the Bismarck
Pettersen, Sverre (Norwegian meteorologist]
Escaped to Britain and made weather forecasts for Allied bombing raids - and for the D-Day.
Piaf, Edith (French singer)
Involved with the French Resistance, though she mainly toured prison camps for French POWs.
Pleven, Rene (French socialist politian)
With the Free French.
Polanski, Roman (Polish-born movie producer and director)
Reputedly escaped the Warsav ghetto at the age of nine and wandered around Poland through the war.
Pound, Ezra (US-born author)
Supported Mussolini and made anti-Allied propaganda broadcasts from Rome. Partisans captured him 1945 and he was taken to USA where he was confined to insane asylum until 1958.
Powell, John Enoch (British politician)
Served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and in Africa with the Desert Rats. Reached the rank of brigadier.
Power, Tyrone (US actor)
Enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he served as an aviator 1942-46. Came back a grimmer man.
Pratt, Hugo (Italian cartoonist of Corto Maltese fame)
Moved with his parents to Ethiopia after Italian conquest and ended up as a mascot for a local Italian volunteer force. His father died in the war. Stole or bought comic books from Allied soldiers during his captivity.
Puzo, Mario (US writer of Godfather fame)
Served in the US Air Force stationed in East Asia and Germany. After the war he stayed in Germany as a civilian public relations man for the Air Force.
Päätalo, Kalle (Finnish author)
Served in both Finnish wars and was wounded in the front. His books Ukkosen Ääni (Sound of Thunder) and Tuulessa ja Tuiskussa (In Wind and Blizzard) are practically fictionalized accounts of his experiences.
†Pyle, Ernie (US journalist)
War correspondent, first in Britain during the Blitz for New York World Telegram. With US army in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy landings. Shot by a Japanese sniper in Okinawa April 17th 1945.
Rabin, Yitzhak (later Prime Minister of Israel)
Joined Palmach, the secret commando unit of Haganah shortly after its formation. Fought in battles versus Vichy French in Syria and Lebanon. Ended up as a deputy commander of the Palmach first battalion in 1945.
†Radnoti, Miklos (Hungarian poet and translator)
1944 was sent to a labor camp near Bor in Yugoslavia because of his Jewish background. Camp was evacuated when the Soviet forces approached and prisoners were marched towards Germany. Radnoti was shot (among others) by Hungarian guards near the village of Abba. His last poems (about the march) were found from the mass grave in which he was buried.
Rainier III (Prince of Monaco)
Served as an Second Lieutenant in artillery regiment in the French army. He was cited for bravery for his conduct during the German counteroffensive in Alsace and was awarded Croix de Guerre.
Ratzinger, Joseph (Pope Benedict XVI)
Recruired into Hitler Jugend, just like any boy of his age. 1943 drafted into anti-aircraft corps near Munich and later into infantry unit posted to Hungarian border. Deserted couple of days before the German surrender.
Rawicz, Slavomir (Polish escapee)
Lieutenant in the Polish army who Soviets sentenced to Siberia. With five others he escaped and walked through Mongolia and Tibet to India. He later served in Free Polish troops in Middle East. His ghost-written book The Long Walk tells about the escape.
Remi, Georges "Herge" (Belgian cartoonist of Tintin fame)
Had to work for Nazi mouthpiece Le Soir and created five Tintin adventures (The Shooting Star, The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure, The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun). Was accused of collaboration after the war due to this connection but was eventually acquitted.
Rockefeller, Winthrop (Son of John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil fame and future governor of Arkansas)
Served in US Army. Received a Bronze star and a purple heart due to his initiative on the troopship USS Henrico after a kamikaze attack.
Roddenberry, Gene (US TV producer and creator of Star Trek)
Joined US Army Air Corps. Was a 2nd lieutenant and bomber pilot at the time of battle of Guadalcanal.
Rusk, Dean (US secretary of State 1961-1969)
Joined the US Army infantry as a reserve captain and served in Burma. Legion of Merit, Oak Leaf Cluster.
Sacks, Oliver (British-born neurologist of Awakenings fame)
Was sent to a boarding school to escape the Blitz in London and ended up in the hands of a sadistic headmaster for four years. First part of his book Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, refers to this time.
Sakharov, Andrej (Russian physicist and Soviet dissident-to-be)
Weapons factory engineer.
†Saint-Exupery, Antoine de (French aviator and author of the Little Prince)
Pilot though he was not considered able to fly military planes due to his several injuries. In 1940 escaped to USA. Joined Free French air force in North Africa although he was not accepted with full enthusiasm. Disappeared July 27th 1944 over Mediterranean, flying from Sardinia to France.
Salicetti, Ange (Corsican ganster)
Worked with the French Resistance and the French Forces of the Interior in the south of France - and apparently handled some mob revenge on the side. Received a full bardon after the war.
Salinger, J.D. (US writer)
Drafted into infantry. Served in the Army Signal Corps and Counter-Intelligence Corps from 1942 to 1946. Took part in Normandy landings and in the battle of Hürtgenwald. Reputedly brave soldier thought he was hospitalized for combat fatigue.
Sariola, Mauri (Finnish crime fiction writer)
Served under general Ruben Lagus in Äänislinna as a radio officer and against the Germans in Lapland after Finland stopped cooperation with Germany.
Sartre, Jean-Paul (French author, playwright and pro-communist intellectual)
Drafted as a weatherman. Was imprisoned after the fall of France. Later returned to occupied Paris to work as a teacher. Peripherally Involved with members of Combat resistance group writing propaganda thought not particularly active.
Savalas, Telly (US actor born Aristotle Savalas)
Joined US army 1941 and was sent to 12th Medicine training battalion. Suffered serious injuries in a car accident in Stateside and was discharged with Purple Heart for disability.
Sharon, Ariel (Israeli prime minister-to-be)
Member of Haganah at the age of 14. Was wounded and started to study history.
Schmidt, Helmut (West German politician)
Conscripted into anti-aircraft duties in Dresden. After a brief service in the Eastern Front, became advisor in the air ministry. At the end of the war, artillery lieutenant in the Western front. Captured by British troops in April 1945.
Schwarzschild, Martin (German-born astronomer)
US army. Legion of Merit, Bronze Star
Serf, Monique (French singer with the stage name Barbara)
Went into hiding as a 10-year-old during German occupation of Paris because of her Jewish descend.
Sheldon, Sidney (US writer)
Briefly in US Air Force.
Shepard, Alan (US astronaut)
Served in US Navy on USS Cogswell in the Pacific but was later transferred to flight training.
Shostakovich, Dmitri (Russian composer)
In besieged Leningrad. Composed a symphony Leningrad which was performed during the siege.
Shute, Nevil (British-born author, full name Nevil Shute Norway)
Lieutenant-commander in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and contributed to the development of secret specialized weapons. 1944-1945 war correspondent in France and then in Burma.
Sillitoe, Alan [British author, playwright and critic]
RAF wireless operator.
Smith, Ian (Rhodesian prime minister)
Served with the Royal Air Force.
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksander (Russian author)
After German attack, was drafted into the Red Army as a private and was sent to artillery school. After his graduation in 1942, he became commander of an artillery battery, serving at the front for three years. Wounded several times, he was twice decorated for bravery. Toward the war's end he, now a captain, commented derogatorily about Stalin's conduct of the war in a letter to a friend. He was arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Spillane, Mickey (US writer and creator of Mike Hammer)
Worked as a flying instructor for the U.S. Army Air Force. Reached the rank of captain.
Spock, Benjamin (US psychologist of Baby and Child Care fame)
During 1943 to 1945 he spent two years with the US Navy as a psychiatrist.
Stassen, Harold (US politician)
Resigned from his post as a governor of Minnesota 1943 to join US Navy. Was a delegate at the San Francisco Conference that established the United Nations.
Steinbeck, John (US author)
War correspondent and propagandist. Later wrote The Moon is Down, a novel about the Norwegian resistance.
Stewart, James (US actor)
Joined US army a year before Pearl Harbor and ended up as an air force colonel. Won both Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross. Apparently accidentally bombed Switzerland once (not the only one). Returned to Hollywood 1946 but remained in air force reserves after the War.
Strugatski, Arkady (Russian science fiction writer, other half of Strugatski brothers)
Served in the Soviet army in 1943-55, becoming a senior lieutenant.
Strugatski, Boris (Russian science fiction writer, other half of Strugatski brothers)
Survived the siege of Leningrad as a child with his mother.
Sugihara Chiune (Japanese consul)
As a Japanese consul to Lithuania when Soviet Union took it over. Wrote over 2000 exit visas to Jews who wanted to escape. Later served as a consul in Chechoslovakia and Romania until was forced to resign in 1947.
Suharto (Indonesian military ruler, sometimes referred to as Bemusu or Mohamed Suharto)
Educated for service in the Dutch colonial army, in 1943 he was given battlefield command of the Japanese-sponsored Indonesian army.
Sukarno (First president of independent Indonesia, also referred to as Akhmed Soekarno)
Lived in confinement until 1942, when he was made leader during the Japanese occupation. During the war he headed Puetra organization from which was developed the Volunteer Army the Peta, in nationalistic lines. Japanese disbanded Peta in 1944.
Suomalainen, Kari (Finnish cartoonist)
Doubled as an artilleryman and war artist in Continuation War.
Svoboda, Ludvík (Czechoslovakian president during the Prague Spring)
Commanded Slovakian units fighting against the Germans in the Dukla Pass during the Slovakian National Uprising
Taguchi Genichi (Japanese statistician)
Was drafted into the Astronomical Department of the Navigation Institute of the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1942.
Taiga, Marton (Finnish adventure writer, official name Martti Löfberg)
Served as a sergeant-major in the Army in the Finnish wars
Teller, Edward (Hungarian-born physicist and Father of Hydrogen Bomb)
In Manhattan Project.
Theodorakis, Mikis (Greek composer, conductor and communist)
During the Italian attack was a member of the Nationalist Youth Organization and cared for the wounded in the Athens town hospital. Later arrested for striking an Italian officer. In prison, he was tortured and other prisoners introduced him to the marxist theory. Became a member of the Communist Party and communist resistance.
Thurmond, Strom (US very senior senator)
Landed in Normandy with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Toynbee, Arnold (British historian)
Working for British foreign office (like he did in the Great War)
Trevor-Roper, Hugh (British historian, later Baron Dacre of Glanton.)
Served in the Radio Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service
Tudman, Franjo (First president of independent Croatia)
Fought among Tito's partisans
Turing, Alan (British mathematician and "father of computer")
Working for British code-breaking project in Bletchley Park.
Tutuola, Amos (Nigerian writer)
Worked for the Royal Air Force as a blacksmith for a time.
Tzara, Tristan (Romanian-born French poet and one of the founders of Dadaism; original name Sami Rosentstock)
Joined the French Resistance.
Uris, Leon (US writer)
Joined the United States Marine Corps and served in the South Pacific at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and New Zealand from 1942 to 1945. His debut novel Battle Cry was a story about a battalion of Marines.
Ustinov, Peter (British actor and writer of Russian descend)
Batman of Lieutenant Colonel David Niven (see above).
Van der Post, Laurens (White South African writer and anti-apartheid activist)
Served as an inteligence officer with the British Army. Participated in the campaign in Abyssinian and met Haile Selassie. when he was sent o Jave, Japanese captured him. After the war, served as a military attache in Batavia until 1947.Many of his books are fictitious, vey embellished accounts of his experiences.
Van Dyke, Dick (US actor)
US Army air corps but never made it to a pilot due to being underweight. Radio announcer in stateside.
Vergčs, Jacques (French lawyer famous for defending infamous defendants)
Served in Free French forces.
Vidal, Gore (US writer, born Eugene Luther Jr)
Joined the U.S. Army. After graduating from Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he served on an army supply ship in the Aleutian Islands, near Alaska, which gave him material for his first novel, Williwaw (1946). Much of his time in the Enlisted Reserve Corps he devoted to writing. Another book In a Yellow Wood. Lost a friend in Iwo Jima.
Vonnegut, Kurt (US author)
Volunteered to military service 1943. December 1944, as a battalion scout, he was captured by Germans during the Battle of the Bulge and taken to Dresden as a POW. Survived bombing of Dresden Feb 13-14 1945 hiding in a meat locker. Slaughterhouse 5 is partially based on this experience. Released 1945.
Wager, Leif (Norwegian-born actor in Finland)
Volunteer ambulance driver in Helsinki during Soviet bombing.
Waldheim, Kurt (Austrian politician and UN Secretary-General)
Served as translator in a SS unit that committed number of atrocities in Yugoslavia. Surrendered to British in Carinthia.
Waltari, Mika (Finnish author)
Government information center (ie. propaganda duties)
Waugh, Evelyn (British author, male despite of his name)
Joined Royal Marines with Churchill's sponsorship and was promoted quickly to captain but reputedly was not much of an officer. He even ended up in the newly-founded British SAS for a time but did not see any action. Helped with the evacuation of British troops from Crete after which he was in extended leave for the next 3 years. Tried to keep Randolph Churchill in line when they were negotiating with Tito 1944. Men at Arms and The End of the Battle are based on his experiences.
White, Patrick (Australian writer)
Served in Royal Air Force Intelligence in Greece and The Middle East.
Whittle, Frank (British aviation engineer and jet engine pioneer)
Part of the Gloster Meteor programme.
Wiesenthal, Simon (Polish-born nazi hunter)
Had to become a mechanic to support himself. Saw most of his family perish. Made a deal with Polish resistance to get his wife out of the country and the Belsen death camp. Fled from Ostbahn camp prior to main extermination. Was captured and sent to Janowska and later to Mauthausen which was liberated by US troops in 1945. Met his wife again.
Wimille, Jean-Pierre (French race car driver)
After the fall of France, was recruited into Special Operations Executive for the duration of the War.
Wodehouse, B.G. (British author of Jeeves fame)
Was captured by Germans in France and made inappropriate radio speeches from Germany. Was captured by French but was eventually recovered by British authorities. Moved to USA afterwards.
Wolf, Markus (East German spymaster of HVA)
Being raised in Moscow, he was in Soviet propaganda units and became part of the new German Communist regime. Apparently did not see combat.
Wouk, Herman (US author)
Joined US Navy 1941 and served in Pacific in destroyer-minesweepers. In US Naval Reserve 1942-1946.
Wuolijoki, Hella (Finnish communist author)
Was involved in secret, unofficial diplomatic negotiations for peace with the Soviet Union.
Yeager, Charles "Chuck" (US test pilot of X-1 fame)
Joined US Army Air Force 1941, first as a mechanic. Ended up in the 363rd Fighter Squadron, of the 357th Fighter Group. In Europe from winter of 1943-44. Shot down 11 German planes, including 2 Me-262 jets. March 5 1944 he was shot down over France and joined Maquis for a while before going back to England through Spain.
Zia ul-Haq, Muhamed (Pakistani general and president 1978-1988)
Served in British troops in Burma, Malaya and Indonesia.
Zhivkov, Todor (Bulgarian communist dictator)
Communist partisan leader.
In addition to these people, there is of course multitude of others who are only locally famous. Unfortunately, all too many French males claimed to have been in French resistance during the war, so many claims are suspect. Also, various people who have falsely claimed to have been part of any kind of armed forces in the past have been exposed at least in Britain and USA.
In the excellent Heritage of Great War page there is a similar list of people involved in the World War One.
Some of the sources:
Pegasus - Literature-related resources - includes many author biographies
Axis History Factbook
John Keegan's Who's Who in World War II (Routledge) concentrates on the important people (politicians, officers, resistance fighters) in the War but all the details do not appear to be accurate.
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