John Wayne: American icon

A veteran of the Civil War was a soldier of Presbyterian Scots-Irish descent named Marion Mitchell Morrison.

His grandson of the same name, Marion Mitchell Morrison, born May 26, 1907, became an Academy Award-winning actor known for portraying the patriotic courage of soldiers in war films.

Raoul Walsh, director of film “The Big Trail” (1930), first suggested his screen name be “Anthony Wayne” after Revolutionary War general “Mad Anthony” Wayne, but settled upon “John Wayne.”

John Wayne had played football for U.S.C. and worked behind the scenes at Fox Studios. His career took off when director John Ford cast him in epic western films such as “Fort Apache” (1948), “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” (1949) and “Rio Grande” (1950).

An Icon for U.S. Armed Forces

John Wayne became an icon of the U.S. Armed Forces for depicting the strength and sacrifice of American military personnel during World War II, Korea and Vietnam:

“The Flying Tigers” (1942)
“The Fighting Seabees” (1944)
“They Were Expendable” (1945)
“Back to Bataan” (1945)
“The Sands of Iwo Jima” (1949)
“The Flying Leathernecks” (1951)
“Operation Pacific” (1951)
“The Longest Day” (1962)
“In Harm’s Way” (1965)
“The Green Berets” (1968)

These films had the international effect of publicizing America’s military might and moral values, as demonstrated in 1975, when Japanese emperor Hirohito visited the United States and asked to meet John Wayne, who symbolically represented his country’s former enemy.

“The Duke”

On May 26, 1979, the U.S. Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal and President Jimmy Carter, who later awarded John Wayne the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously, stated: “I have today approved … a specially struck gold medal to John Wayne. For nearly half a century, the Duke has symbolized the American ideals of integrity, courage, patriotism, and strength and has represented to the world many of the deepest values that this Nation respects.”

In 1998, the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation honored John Wayne with the Naval Heritage Award for his support of the U.S. Navy and military.

A Harris poll, January 2011, ranked John Wayne third among America’s favorite film stars. In 1979, California’s Orange County airport was named John Wayne Airport.

Ronald Reagan said Nov. 5, 1984: “I noted the news coverage about the death of my friend, John Wayne. One headline read ‘The Last American Hero.’ … No one would be angrier than Duke Wayne at the suggestion that he was America’s last hero. Just before he died, John Wayne said in his unforgettable way, ‘Just give the American people a good cause, and there’s nothing they can’t lick.’”

John Wayne stated in a 1971 interview: “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

In his album, “America – Why I Love Her,” 1977, John Wayne stated:

“Face the Flag, son, and face reality.
Our strengths and our freedoms are based in unity.
The flag is but a symbol, son, of the world’s greatest nation,
And as long as it keeps flying, there’s cause for celebration.
So do what you’ve got to do, but always keep in mind,
A lot of people believe in peace … but there are the other kind.
If we want to keep these freedoms, we may have to fight again.
God forbid, but if we do, let’s always fight to win,
For the fate of a loser is futile and it’s bare:
No love, no peace … just misery and despair.
Face the Flag, son … and thank God it’s still there.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked as *


11 + 14 =

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.