Once upon a time in the West is not only one of my favourite westerns, it is also one of my favourite movies of all time. Many people don’t appreciate this fact but it is one of the few if not the only movie where Henry Fonda plays the bad guy.
But before I ramble on ,on how great the movie is and how the music in it is just magical, this piece isn’t called “Once upon a time in the West” but “Once upon a time in WWII”
There are 3 actors and one stunning looking actress on the poster. My focus is really on the 3 leading men of the movie Henry Fonda,Charles Bronson and Jason Robard, apart from the fact they starred together in this movie, they also served in WWII. The beautiful Claudia Cardinale was born in 1938 so she was just a child during the war.
Fonda enlisted in the United States Navy to fight in World War II, saying, “I don’t want to be in a fake war in a studio.” . Fonda served for three years, initially as a Quartermaster 3rd Class on the destroyer USS Satterlee.
He was later commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in Air Combat Intelligence in the Central Pacific and was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation and the Bronze Star.
Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky
Buchinsky enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces in 1943, serving as an aircraft gunner in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. In 1945 he became a Superfortress crewman with the 39th Bombardment Group, based on Guam, and was assigned to a B-29 bomber, flying on 25 missions.
Eventually he was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received during his service and left the military in 1946.
Following the completion of recruit training and radio school, Robards was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Northampton in 1941 as a radioman 3rd class.
On December 7, 1941, Northampton was at sea in the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles (160 km) off Hawaii. Contrary to some stories, he did not see the devastation of the Japanese attack on Hawaii until Northampton returned to Pearl Harbor two days later.Northampton was later directed into the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II’s Pacific theater, where she participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
During the Battle of Tassafaronga in the waters north of Guadalcanal on the night of November 30, 1942, Northampton was sunk by hits from two Japanese torpedoes. Robards found himself treading water until near daybreak, when he was rescued by an American destroyer. For her service in the war, Northampton was awarded six battle stars.
Two years later, in November 1944, Robards was radioman aboard the light cruiser USS Nashville, the flagship for the invasion of Mindoro in the northern Philippines.
On December 13, she was struck by a kamikaze aircraft off Negros Island in the Philippines.
The aircraft hit one of the port five-inch gun mounts, while the plane’s two bombs set the midsection of the ship ablaze. With this damage and 223 casualties, Nashville was forced to return to Pearl Harbor and then to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for repairs.
Robards served honorably during the war, but was not a recipient of the U.S. Navy Cross for bravery, contrary to what has been reported in numerous sources.
Another cast member from “Once upon a time in the West”, Jack Elam, also served two years in the United States Navy during World War II.