Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. CAPT, USNR (Ret)

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. CAPT, USNR (Ret)

If you are either of a certain age, or a movie buff, you might recognize the name, Douglas Fairbanks… senior and junior. This father and son were known, probably the civilized world over, as swashbuckling, devil-may-care, movie stars. Senior, born as Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman, was a silent star and made numerous films in which he brandished swords, wore pirate costumes and, generally was all over the place, jumping and escaping from his enemies.

The family name became Fairbanks when Ullman abandons the family and the mother covered up their paternal Jewish ancestry. Junior was an up-and-coming actor in his own right and when Senior died, he became the unofficial “king” of the daredevils in the movies. He was a pal of fellow actors like Cary Grant, with whom he starred in “Gunga Din.”

A little known fact about Junior is that he was active in World War II and practically ran something called Operation Dragoon, and the Beach Jumpers. Fairbanks was commissioned as a reserve officer in the United States Navy when the United States entered World War II and was assigned to Lord Mountbatten’s Commando staff in the United Kingdom.

In March 1943 he proposed the Beach Jumpers, whose mission would simulate amphibious landings with a very limited force. The Beach Jumpers would lure the enemy into believing that theirs was the principal landing. During his time in the Navy, he was awarded the US Navy’s Legion of Merit, two high honors from France, and one from Italy. He stayed with the Navy and eventually retired as a Naval Reserve Captain.

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