Most of the information included in that account is either outright fiction or a transcript based on someone’s unreliable memory. However, it is true that actor Lee Marvin appeared as a guest on that late-night talk show on several occasions during Carson’s time as host. Additionally, there are some elements of truth in the account, such as Marvin and Bob Keeshan, who later became famous as Captain Kangaroo, being World War II veterans who fought together at the battle for Iwo Jima in the Pacific theater. This information is supposedly from a conversation between Lee Marvin and Johnny Carson during a Tonight Show appearance.
Dialog from a Tonight Show … Johnny Carson … His guest was Lee Marvin.
Johnny said … “Lee, I’ll bet a lot of people are unaware that you were a Marine in the initial landing at Iwo Jima … and that during the course of that action you earned the Navy Cross and were severely wounded.”
And you know how Lee was … “Yeah, yeah … I got shot square in the ass and they gave me the Cross for securing a hot spot about halfway up Suribachi. Bad thing about getting shot up on a mountain is guys gettin’ shot hauling you down. But Johnny at Iwo I served under the bravest man I ever knew … We both got the Cross the same day but what he did for his Cross made mine look cheap in comparison. The dumb bastard actually stood up on Red Beach and directed his troops to move forward and get the hell off the beach. That Sgt. and I have been life long friends … When they brought me off Suribachi we passed the Sgt. and he lit a smoke and passed it to me lying on my belly on the litter … “Where’d they get you Lee?”…. “Well Bob … if you make it home before me, tell Mom to sell the outhouse.”
“Johnny, I’m not lying … Sgt. Keeshan was the bravest man I ever Knew — Bob Keeshan … You and the world know him as Captain Kangaroo.”
Many people have always been a bit offended that Lee Marvin is buried in a grove of 3 and 4 star generals at Arlington. His marker gives his name, rank (PVT) and service (USMC). Nothing else.
I thought to myself, damn here’s a guy who was only a famous movie star who served his time, why the heck does he rate burial with these guys? Well, following is the amazing answer:
I always liked Lee Marvin, but did not know the extent of his Corps experiences. Including award of the Navy Cross. There is only one higher award…the Medal Of Honor.
Marvin, who did not receive a Navy Cross, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and was presented with a Purple Heart. The conflict for Iwo Jima occurred a few months after, in February 1945, whereas his injury took place during the battle for Saipan in June 1944, when his sciatic nerve was cut by fire, resulting in a wound (in the buttocks). Marvin served as a Private First Class in the Pacific during World War II and willingly joined the U.S. Marines.
During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines but did not see any action as he signed up after the fighting at Iwo Jima. Bob Keeshan, later famous as “Captain Kangaroo” on television, enlisted in the Marines a few months before his 18th birthday in June 27, 1927. He explained in a 1997 interview that he enlisted in the Marines because he wanted to serve, but he did not see combat because the atomic bomb was dropped before he saw any action.
Military authorities have also denied the exaggerated reports presented in the Internet-circulated versions of the two actors’ military achievements.
Jack Green, the public-affairs officer with the Naval Historical Center in Washington, frequently gets calls about Fighting Captain Kangaroo.
“I have to tell them it’s a nice story, but it didn’t happen,” said Green, who served as a historical adviser for the movie Pearl Harbor.
He doubts that Marvin, who also never was on Iwo Jima, perpetrated such a fantasy.
“Lots of legends pop up and who knows where they come from,” Green said.
In 2003, someone decided to include children’s television host Fred Rogers in the mix, alongside Lee Marvin and Bob Keeshan, by adding the following segment to the existing email.
On another note, there was this wimpy little man (who just passed away) on PBS, gentle and quiet. Mr. Rogers is another of those you would least suspect of being anything but what he now portrays to our youth. But Mr. Rogers was a U.S. Navy Seal, combat proven in Vietnam with over twenty-five confirmed kills to his name. He wore a long sleeve sweater to cover the many tattoo’s on his forearm and biceps. A master in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, able to disarm or kill in a heartbeat. He hid that away and won our hearts with his quiet wit and charm. America’s real heroes don’t flaunt what they did, they quietly go about their day to day lives, doing what they do best. They earned our respect and the freedoms that we all enjoy. Look around and see if you can find one of those heroes in your midst. Often, they are the ones you’d least suspect, but would most like to have on your side if anything ever happened.
Mr. Rogers, our beloved television host of the children’s show, has never served in the military. Over the years, there have been numerous rumors about Fred Rogers having a military or criminal background, or being involved in any violent activities. However, there is no truth to these rumors.