Greatest Athletes Who Served in the US Military

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Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Jack Dempsey
> Branch of service: Coast Guard
> Served: 1942-1952
> Sport Boxing
> Position, team(s): N/A
> Accolades: World champion 1919-1926

By the time World War II took place, Jack Dempsey was already a boxing legend, having held the heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. He served in the Coast Guard for a decade, in active duty from 1942 to 1945, then was honorably discharged in 1952 after serving in the reserves.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Jackie Robinson
> Branch of service: Army
> Served: 1942-1944
> Sport MLB
> Position, team(s): Second base: Brooklyn Dodgers
> Accolades: 6x All-Star, MVP, Hall of Fame

Before he broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, Jackie Robinson confronted racial bias in the military. He was drafted in 1942 and assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit in Kansas. Robinson fought for African American soldiers to get officers’ commissions when they were denied them. Robinson would eventually become a second lieutenant.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

Joe DiMaggio
> Branch of service: Army
> Served: 1943-9145
> Sport MLB
> Position, team(s): Center field: New York Yankees
> Accolades: 3x MVP, 13x All-Star, Hall of Fame

Joe DiMaggio enlisted in the Army in 1943. During his time in the service, he played many exhibition baseball games to boost the morale of his fellow soldiers. He was stationed in California and Hawaii before he was hospitalized for stomach ulcers and eventually discharged in 1945.

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images

Joe Louis
> Branch of service: Army
> Served: 1942-1945
> Sport Boxing
> Position, team(s): N/A
> Accolades: World heavyweight champion

Joe Louis held the world heavyweight title belt throughout the duration of World War II. He used his fame after joining the Army, boxing in exhibition matches to entertain troops. Louis also advocated for African American soldiers to receive equal treatment as white soldiers.

Source: The Monticola / WIkimedia Commons

Joe Stydahar
> Branch of service: Navy
> Served: 1942-1945
> Sport NFL
> Position, team(s): Tackle: Chicago Bears
> Accolades: 4x Pro Bowl, 4x All-Pro, Hall of Fame

Chicago Bears tackle Joe Stydahar made four Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams throughout his career despite missing two full seasons in his prime when he was serving in the Navy during World War II. He would later go on to to coach the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Cardinals.