If John Wayne was granted deferment from military service during WWII because he had a large family, wouldn’t this make him a draft dodger?

Master Sergeant John K. Smith

U.S. Air Force, Retired

Lincoln City, Oregon

Roberts and Olson’s John Wayne, American states that in 1943, Duke was given a “3A” deferment for dependency reasons. The deferment was later changed to “A” status for National Service. Another deferment was given in late 1945 because he was too old for the draft.

In fairness to Wayne, he did register for the draft and would have gone if he’d been called. More important, Wayne did not request the deferment; Republic Studio President Herbert Yates did. He’d already lost Gene Autry to the service, and he was determined to keep Wayne, his leading moneymaker, out of uniform and in front of the camera.

Film scholar James Denniston offers a different take on the issue: “Duke largely could not get an officer’s commission to enter the military because he had an old injury, which would have kept anyone from being eligible, and also had four children. Also, the powers that be saw the immense contribution Duke could make on the screen to help national morale. His overall roles involved our exposure to what we were fighting abroad, and he also went on many trips drumming up support. He gets a bad rap for not being in the fight as others were, but let no one make that mistake. He was the real deal, no matter where he showed up.”

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