We remember the brave and the fallen on Remembrance Day and we honour the service and sacrifice of all veterans and active military members. This Remembrance Day I’d like to share the stories of four Canadian and American military veterans who went on to create and shape the culturally transformative show that fans around the world know and love, Star Trek.
Through their acting and personal examples over the years, these veterans helped change our views of the world and influenced generations of tech developers, engineers, scientists, and doctors that have since gone on to help propel our society forward, even to this day.
Lieutenant James Doohan – Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, Chief Engineer USS Enterprise
The sole Canadian veteran on the list and my personal favourite Star Trek veteran, Doohan joined the Canadian Army in 1938 and served in the Royal Canadian Artillery, 14th (Midland) Field Battery of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. He served during WWII and was a D-Day veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy. Lt "Scotty" Doohan shot and killed two german snipers on D-Day, saving an untold number of troops from sniper fire, and led his men off the dangerous beach.
That same night he was shot seven times by friendly fire while walking back from the command post and lost his right finger. An 8th bullet hit him right in the chest but it struck a silver cigarette case in his breast pocket, saving his life. He recovered and after the war left the military and moved to the US. He went on to an acting career playing a Star Trek fan favourite Scotty, Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise. He is known in memes all over the internet for (ironically) being the "only red shirt to survive an away mission with Captain Kirk" and for the line "I'm givin' er all she's got Captain" when in difficult situations.
Doohan is also credited with saving the life of a suicidal Star Trek fan who showed up at a convention. After speaking with her he made her promise to come to see him at more Star Trek conventions to try and give her something to live for and look forward to. This went on for a number of years until one time she didn't show. Doohan was concerned and wondered what happened to his fan. A few years later she popped up at a convention to let her hero know that she was much better and thank him for his efforts that she said saved her life.
In an interview years later when he was asked about saving the fan, this WWII and D-Day veteran would say it was "the greatest thing I've ever done". What a humble hero and great example to all Canadians.
Private 1st Class Deforest Kelly – Dr Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy, Ships Doctor USS Enterprise
This WWII veteran joined the US Army Air Corps in 1943 and worked in public relations, as a control tower operator, and in the military’s first motion picture unit where they made recruiting films. He was honourably discharged in 1946 and eventually landed the role of Dr. McCoy that made him famous the world over as the “salty” doctor on Star Trek who was known for saying lines such as "Damnit Jim, I'm a doctor not an engineer."
Second Lieutenant Gene Rodenberry – the Creator of Star Trek
Rodenberry served as a pilot in the US Army Air Corps during WWII. He flew 89 combat missions in the south pacific including sorties and against enemy strongholds. He was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
Rodenberry went on to serve as a police officer for the LAPD before he eventually got into show biz. He created the original Star Trek series using his police and military experience to help give the show structure and a military feel. Star Trek has since had a number of related series on tv and movies and is still airing today.
On a side note, Star Trek is credited with the first interracial kiss on tv in the 1960s. While today we wouldn’t think anything of it, back then it was a really big deal and caused quite a stir. Rodenberry took a lot of flack for that but it didn't matter because he had a vision "to boldly go where no man has gone before".
Sargeant Leonard Nimoy – Mr Spock, 1st officer USS Enterprise
Already an actor Nimoy joined the US Army reserves in 1953. He was part of the Special Services Division - entertainment branch, along with other actors and musicians who served the military by entertaining the troops (think USO shows). He completed his service in 1955 after reaching the rank of sergeant.
Star Treks influence on pop culture still lasts today and Mr. Spock is one of the most well-known of all of the Star Trek characters. His name, likeness, and quotes have been a running theme and referenced on some of today's top shows like the ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Young Sheldon’ with his most famous phrase being "Live long and Prosper."