Sterling Hayden's service to his country is the stuff movies are made about. After acting in his first two feature films, Sterling put Hollywood on hold to join the Marine Corps. He enlisted in 1942 under the alias “John Hamilton”. He then volunteered for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which was the predecessor to the CIA.
During World War II, Sterling used his passion and knowledge for sailing on hazardous voyages and evading German patrol boats in the Mediterranean Sea while running supplies and weapons from Italy to partisan fighters in Yugoslavia. He also parachuted into enemy territory on reconnaissance and helped organize rescue teams for downed allies behind enemy lines.
He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action in the Balkans and Mediterranean as well as the Bronze Arrowhead for parachuting behind enemy lines. He left active duty with the rank of Captain in 1945 and returned to acting where he would go on to steal the show as General Jack Ripper in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.