Ronald Reagan

Becoming a Star: 1937–1946

Ironically, at the pinnacle of his success in Hollywood, Reagan had to stop making movies. Merely several months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, the famous actor and future President received his notice from the US Army instructing him to report for duty in San Francisco. Because Reagan's eyesight was horrible (he was among the first Americans to wear experimental contact lenses), he was assigned to logistics duty in the US. Then, in mid-1942 he was transferred to Fort Roach in Los Angeles to join the newly-formed First Motion Picture Unit within the Army Air Corp's intelligence department. With a lieutenant's commission, Reagan recruited several of his contacts in the motion picture industry to join the army and make military movies with him.

Most of the films Reagan made during the war were classified and made for US military pilots conducting bombing raids in Japan and the Pacific. He also made training films for new recruits. As a member of Army Intelligence, Reagan often knew of bombing raids before they occurred. He also handled and documented much of the films taken on the battlefield in Europe and Japan, as well as enemy films intercepted by the US Army. He was among the first Americans to ever witness footage of the horrors of the Holocaust. He was horrified by the images he saw, and never forgot them. Reagan based many of his policies decades later on the premise of preventing such horrible atrocities from ever happening again. He returned to Hollywood and filmmaking in 1946.