James Doohan: The Star TrekActor Who Took Out Two German Snipers In World War II
James Doohan influenced a whole generation of real-life aeronautical technicians in his iconic role on Star Trek as “Scotty.” But as one of the 14,000 Canadian soldiers who landed on the shores of Normandy during World War II, many of those who idolatry him do not even know about his real-world heroic exploits.
Indeed, the sci-fi actor has a war story almost stranger than fiction, and one that lands him the title of “craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Forces.”
Doohan, who died back in 2005, had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army when he was just 19 years old.
He had progressed to the rank of lieutenant with the 14th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division by the time Allied troops invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944.
Doohan and his division were tasked with taking Juno Beach on D-Day as other Allied forces, including U.S. and British troops, focused on other nearby landing points.
He managed to take out two German snipers when he successfully led his men across the beach without setting off any of the planted mines.
‘I don’t know if they were killed or wounded but it shut them up,’ Doohan told the New York Times back in 1998.
While Doohan wasn’t injured during the initial invasion, he was accidentally shot six times by a fellow Canadian serviceman later that evening when he was walking back to his post.
Doohan suffered gunshot wounds to the leg, his hand, and chest.
He lost his right middle finger in the gunfire and narrowly escaped a fatal shot to the chest when his metal cigarette case deflected the bullet.
After recovering from his injuries, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery and served as a pilot.
He would go on to become known as the ‘craziest pilot in the Canadian air force’ at the tail end of the war. Doohan returned to Canada when the war ended and enrolled in a Toronto acting school.
He would spend the next 20 years performing in television, radio and stage roles before landing his spot on Star Trek in 1966.
Doohan rose to stardom playing Montgomery Scott – an engineer aboard the Starship Enterprise – on both TV and in film.
He died of pneumonia in July 2005 and it was reported at the time that he was suffering from a respiratory disease believed to be from exposure to toxic substances during the war.