Sterling Hayden's WW2 Service with the OSS
— Italy, Yugoslavia
Hollywood years and military service
Hayden became a print model and later signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, who dubbed the 6?5? (1.96 m) actor "The Most Beautiful Man in the Movies" and "The Beautiful Blond Viking God." His first film, Virginia (1941), starred Madeleine Carroll, with whom he fell in love and married.
After two film roles, he left Hollywood and joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a private, under the name John Hamilton, a nom de guerre he never used otherwise. While at Parris Island, he was recommended for Officer Candidate School. After graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and was transferred to service as an undercover agent with William J. Donovan's COI office. He remained there after it became the OSS.
As OSS agent John Hamilton, his World War II service included sailing with supplies from Italy to Yugoslav partisans and parachuting into fascist Croatia. Hayden, who also participated in the Naples–Foggia campaign and established air crew rescue teams in enemy-occupied territory, became a first lieutenant on September 13, 1944, and a captain on February 14, 1945. He received the Silver Star (for gallantry in action in the Balkans and Mediterranean; "Lt. Hamilton displayed great courage in making hazardous sea voyages in enemy-infested waters and reconnaissance through enemy-held areas"), a Bronze Arrowhead device for parachuting behind enemy lines, and a commendation from Yugoslavia's Marshal Tito. He left active duty on December 24, 1945.
His great admiration for the bravery of the Communist partisans led to a brief membership in the Communist Party. He was apparently active in supporting an effort by the Communist-controlled motion picture painters union to absorb other film industry unions. As the Red Scare deepened in U.S., he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee, confessing his brief Communist ties and "naming names."His wife at that time, Betty de Noon, insisted that the names her ex-husband provided were already in the hands of the committee, which had a copy of the Communist Party's membership list. In any event, Hayden subsequently repudiated his cooperation with the committee, stating in his autobiography, "I don't think you have the foggiest notion of the contempt I have had for myself since the day I did that thing."
Silver Star Award Citation -- Sterling Hayden
Awarded for actions during the World War II
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star (Army Award) to Captain John Hamilton (AKA: Sterling Hayden) (MCSN: 0-22085), United States Marine Corps, for gallantry in action while serving with the Office of Strategic Services in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations from 24 December 1943 to 2 January 1944. Captain Hamilton displayed great courage in making hazardous sea voyage in enemy infested waters and reconnaissance's through enemy held areas. His conduct reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Armed Forces.
General Orders: Headquarters, Mediterranean Theater of Operations, General Orders No. 145 (July 31, 1946)
Action Date: December 24, 1943 - January 2, 1944
Service: Marine Corps
Division: Office of Strategic Services