May 29

Pieces of the Past-Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 12:01 AM

By

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in uniform

Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Naval History magazine recently showcased a fascinating relic of the U.S. Navy in World War II—a relic with a celebrity vibe: the custom-made oaken case housing an array of medals from ten nations, all awarded to the classic Hollywood legend Douglas Fairbanks Jr. for his wartime service. He was one of those rare few stars who was more of a hero in real life than on the silver screen.

The case and medals, now in the collection of the U.S. Naval Institute, served as an interesting photographic subject—interesting in its many angles and in its diverse content. Alas, due to the limitations of dead-tree publishing, most of these images were not able to fit into the one-page featurette. Thank goodness for such a thing as a blog, i.e., an expandable universe! Here, then, are some more pictures of Fairbanks’ treasure trove of medals, plus a link to the original story.

Medal case

Medal case

Open case

Open case

DSC_0621

Top of the case opened

Medals

Medals

Case with medals displayed

Case with medals displayed

Douglas Fairbanks 1993

Douglas Fairbanks 1993

To read the column as it appeared in Naval History see the link below.

https://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2018-04/pieces-past

 
 
 
  • Jack A Green

    While working in the Photo Section of the then Naval Historical Center in the 1990’s I had the privilege to speak to Captain Fairbanks on the phone. He had contacted the NHC for the return of his wartime photo albums he had lent a few years before. I had found them in the Photo Sections spaces, and through his agent obtained his personal phone number. He seemed pleasantly surprised that I addressed him as “Captain Fairbanks”, something he probably had not been called in many years. The one item in the photo albums I remember the most was an original copy from USS Wichita’s (CA-45) message file of the most famous radio message in Navy history: “AIR RAID PEARL HARBOR THIS IS NO DRILL” He used the albums for his war memoir “A Hell Of A War”.

  • Jack A. Green

    In the 1990’s I was working in the Photo Section of the then Naval Historical Center when we were contacted by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.s agent about some wartime photo albums the actor had lent the Navy to copy his personal photos. They had not been returned and he wanted them for reference while writing his wartime memoir “Hell Of A War”. I found the albums and through his agent got his phone number to find out where to send them. On the phone he was a very courtly and polite old gentleman, who seemed very pleasantly surprised when I addressed him as “Captain Fairbanks”. He hadn’t been called that in many years. We soon sent the albums where he wanted them. The one item in them I remember was an original copy, from USS Wichita’s (CA-45) message file, of probably the most famous radio message in Navy history: AIR RAID PEARL HARBOR THIS IS NO DRILL.