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John Hamilton (Sterling Hayden)

His file noted
His file noted "an almost reckless disregard of his own life." (Courtesy Of Afi - Courtesy Of Afi)
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Friday, August 15, 2008

He left nine years of seafaring and his early Hollywood acting career to join the Marine Corps and the OSS under the assumed name of John Hamilton in 1941. His mastery of the seas -- he was first mate on a schooner voyage around the world in 1936 and captained a ship from Gloucester, Mass., to Tahiti in 1939 -- led OSS officials to have him set up secret shipping operations based in Italy. He was attacked by the Germans and operated behind enemy lines in Croatia.

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After receiving the Silver Star, Hayden returned to the silver screen. In 1956, he had the lead role in "The Killing," in which he played an ex-convict plotting a racetrack heist; he portrayed a one-star general in "Dr. Strangelove" in 1964; and he was a corrupt policeman in "The Godfather" in 1972.

From a promotion recommendation for Hayden in April 1944, contained in the roughly 85 pages of his OSS file: "Lt. Hamilton conducted a reconnaissance of the Dalmation Islands to plot alternate shipping routes in event of German invasion, which then was starting. He was strafed by German planes, and . . . conducted himself in a brave manner."

From a rating record, Dec. 21, 1944: "He is essentially a seaman and has demonstrated great skill in handling small vessels on clandestine missions along the Dalmation coast. He has great courage and has shown an almost reckless disregard of his own life where duty is involved."


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