Clint Eastwood’s Harrowing Real Life Survival Story Proves He is More Than Just a Tough Guy Onscreen

June 18, 2018Jun 18, 2018

Before Clint Eastwood became the toughest man in the west, he was drafted into the Army during the Korean war. 

Clint completed basic training at Ft. Ord outside of Monterey, California.  After basic training he remained stationed there as a swimming instructor and stayed there for the duration of his enlistment.

While having not seen combat directly, Clint was thrust into a harrowing life or death situation. On September 30, 1951 he was returning from visiting family in Seattle when the bomber that he was hitching a ride on ran out of fuel and crashed landed into the rough waters outside of San Francisco.

“We went down about 4 o’clock in the afternoon”, Eastwood told the Hollywood Reporter. “I could see the Marin County coast from a distance. I don’t know how far it was, it seemed like 50 miles, but it was probably a mile or two. Then it got dark. It was quite a way into nightfall before we reached it.

Eastwood and the pilot had emerged from the crash unharmed. They inflated two rubber life rafts and attempted to steer them towards the shore. The seas were so rough that Eastwood was thrown from his raft. Each time he made progress towards the shore, the sea would pull him back out again.

"I thought I might die,” Clint recalled. “But then I thought, other people have made it through these things before. I kept my eyes on the lights on shore and kept swimming."

Eastwood ended up swimming 3 miles to shore through the cold and choppy water that night, proving that he is the ultimate tough guy. When he finally reached the shore, he collapsed on the ground. He was able to muster enough strength to crawl to the RCA radio station at Point Reyes.

He was discharged from the Army in 1953 and used the GI Bill to study drama at L.A. City College.  The rest is history.

Clint was so captured by the beauty of the Monterey Bay area during his time in the military that he made it his permanent residence, even serving as mayor of Carmel from 1986 -1988.