In 1942, following Carole Lombard’s death, Clark Gable joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. Lombard had suggested that Gable enlist as part of the war effort, but MGM was reluctant to let him go, and he resisted the suggestion. Gable made a public statement after Lombard’s death that prompted Commanding General of the Army Air Forces Henry H. Arnold to offer Gable a “special assignment” in aerial gunnery. Gable had earlier expressed an interest in officer candidate school (OCS), but he enlisted on August 12, 1942, with the intention of becoming an enlisted gunner on an air crew. MGM arranged for his studio friend, cinematographer Andrew McIntyre, to enlist with and accompany him through training.
Gable reported to Biggs Army Air Base on January 27, 1943, to train with and accompany the 351st Bomb Group to England as head of a six-man motion picture unit. In addition to McIntyre, he recruited screenwriter John Lee Mahin; camera operators Sgts. Mario Toti and Robert Boles; and sound man Lt. Howard Voss to complete his crew. Gable was promoted to captain while with the 351st at Pueblo AAB, Colorado, for rank commensurate with his position as a unit commander. (As first lieutenants, he and McIntyre had equal seniority.)
Gable spent most of the war in the United Kingdom at RAF Polebrook with the 351st. Gable flew five combat missions, including one to Germany, as an observer-gunner in B-17 Flying Fortresses between May 4 and September 23, 1943, earning the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. During one of the missions, Gable’s aircraft was damaged by flak and attacked by fighters, which knocked out one of the engines and shot up the stabilizer. In the raid on Germany, one crewman was killed and two others were wounded, and flak went through Gable’s boot and narrowly missed his head.
Adolf Hitler esteemed Gable above all other actors; he offered a sizable reward to anyone who could capture and bring Gable to him unscathed. (via)