Actors Who Served: 'Star Trek's' James Doohan, Royal Canadian WW2 Veteran

Before James Doohan was Scotty on "Star Trek," he was taking to the skies as a Canadian World War Two pilot.

Born in British Columbia in 1920 to North Irish parents, Doohan left home at 19 to enroll in the 102nd Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. Doohan was once labelled the “craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces,” although he was never actually a member of the Canadian Air Force.

When World War II began, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery where he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 13th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry division. In 1940, he went to the United Kingdom for training and saw combat for the first time on D-Day. While invading Juno Beach, Doohan got his men safely through a minefield to higher ground.

While leading his men, Doohan shot two German snipers but never knew if he killed them. Doohan himself was hit by six rounds on that night by friendly fire. He lost a finger in this accident but his life was saved by a cigarette case, a gift from his brother, which stopped a bullet just four inches from his heart. For the remainder of the war, Doohan worked as a pilot observer. In this position, he flew reconnaissance missions to spot artillery. Once spotted, he would call in the big guns to shoot on their positions.

After the war, Doohan returned home to Canada where he performed with a local radio station. He was awarded a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York beginning in 1946 and was on his way to stardom.

Doohan passed away in 2005, leaving a wife and three children.


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