Actors Who Served: Humphrey Bogart

In 1918, a young Humphrey Bogart found himself with nothing to do.

He had left the prestigious preparatory school Phillips Academy, although stories differ as to why. Some say that he was expelled, either for throwing a staff member into a lake on campus or poor grades and behavioral problems. Others say that his parents removed him from the school due to poor academic performance.

Regardless of the reason, Bogart’s future was wide open.

With a world of possibilities open to him, Bogart enlisted in the United States Navy. As he said, “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! French girls! Hot damn!”

He was ready to sail, and did well as a signal man aboard the USS Leviathan, formerly the Vaterland, a German ship which had been seized by the Americans. Bogart’s service also gave him his trademark scar, although accounts of this event differ as well.

In one version of the story, his ship was shelled and his lip was cut by a piece of shrapnel. However, a longtime friend said that Bogart was injured by the handcuffs of a prisoner who attacked Bogart while being escorted to Portsmouth Naval Prison.

Still another account is that his scar came from a childhood injury, but film studios fabricated the other story to make him appear more glamorous and heroic.

Bogart was honorably discharged with an exemplary record in 1919, but he continued to serve his country. During World War II, Bogart again wanted to serve. It is rumored that he tried again to enlist but was turned down due to his age.

Bogart worked with the USO and went on tour selling war bonds. He even went so far as to volunteer himself and his yacht, Santana, in the US Coast Guard Temporary Reserve and Auxiliary. In this capacity, he took his yacht out for weekly patrols and took advantage of this time away to meet up with a woman who would become his wife - Lauren Bacall.


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