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Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino (2008) and Earl Stone from The Mule (2018) are both Korean War veterans (Clint Eastwood himself is a Korean War veteran).

How many Clint Eastwood film characters are war veterans?

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Nearly half (45%) of Eastwood's credited film roles have him as a veteran or current serving member of the armed forces.

There are only six films where he is positively confirmed not to have served in the military, with the remainder being 'status unknown'.

He's most likely to have served in Korea (11), WW2 (6) or the American Civil War (on both sides) (5) but he also served in WW1, Vietnam and the Spanish Civil War.


Clint has 72 acting credits, according to IMDB. If we exclude his appearances on TV shows, this brings the number of film credits to 63. We can also exclude the "uncredited", "cameo" or 'as himself" appearances from that list, bringing the number of named film credits to 54.

Of those 54 appearances, 8 have him as a presently serving officer (Francis in the Navy, Firefox, West Point, Where Eagles Dare, Kelly's Heroes, The Beguiled, The First Traveling Saleslady and Heartbreak Ridge).

Of the 46 remaining films, he's a war veteran in:

  • Dirty Harry (Harry Callaghan is a former Marine)
  • Magnum Force (Harry Callaghan is a former Marine)
  • The Enforcer (Harry Callaghan is a former Marine)
  • Sudden Impact (Harry Callaghan is a former Marine)
  • The Dead Pool (Harry Callaghan is a former Marine)
  • The Mule (Earl Stone is described as a "Korean War Veteran")
  • Gran Torino (Walt Kowalski is described as a "Korean War Veteran", "1st Cavalry Division")
  • The Eiger Sanction (Jonathan Hemlock served as an "Intelligence Officer" in the Korean War)
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales (Josey Wales served as a Private in the Confederate Army and fought in the American Civil War)
  • Two Mules for Sister Sara (Hogan served as a Private in the Union(?) Army and fought in the American Civil War)
  • Space Cowboys (Frank Corvin was a Colonel in the US Air Force and served in the Korean War)
  • Absolute Power (Luther Whitney served in the US Army and fought in the Korean War)
  • The Bridges of Madison County (Robert Kincaid "enlisted as a soldier" in 1928, but did not serve in a foreign war during his three years of service)
  • Lafayette Escadrille (George Mosely served as a "Volunteer pilot" in the French Lafayette Flying Corps and fought in WW1)
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Thunderbolt served in the Korean War)
  • Ambush at Cimarron Pass (Keith Williams is a "former confederate soldier" who fought in the American Civil War)
  • White Hunter, Black Heart (John Wilson is based on John Huston, who bizarrely, was a "lieutenant in the Mexican cavalry")

And not a veteran in:

  • Cry Macho (injured at an early age and likely 4-F)
  • Unforgiven (Munny was a bandit from an early age and hence unlikely to have served in the military)
  • Escape from Alcatraz (Frank Lee Morris was a career criminal from an early age and had both State and Federal convictions, making him ineligible)
  • Tightrope (status unknown, but unlikely given his earlier career as a youthful criminal, then entry into the police)
  • Honkytonk Man (Red Stovall is based on Jimmie Rodgers who worked as a railwayman before becoming a professional musician and concert arranger)
  • Bronco Billy (status unknown, but unlikely given Billy's background as a youthful thief and confidence trickster)
  • Joe Kidd (status unknown)
  • Play Misty for Me (status unknown)
  • Trouble with the Curve (status unknown)
  • Million Dollar Baby (status unknown)
  • Blood Work (status unknown)
  • True Crime (status unknown)
  • A Perfect World (status unknown)
  • In the Line of Fire (status unknown)
  • The Rookie (status unknown)
  • Pink Cadillac (status unknown)
  • Pale Rider (status unknown)
  • City Heat (status unknown)
  • Every Which Way but Loose (status unknown)
  • Any Which Way You Can (status unknown)
  • High Plains Drifter (status unknown)
  • Coogan's Bluff (status unknown)
  • Paint Your Wagon (status unknown)
  • Hang 'Em High (status unknown)
  • The Witches (status unknown)
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (status unknown, although Clint is briefly interned as a POW for wearing a Confederate uniform)
  • For a Few Dollars More (status unknown)
  • A Fistful of Dollars (status unknown)
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  • Where the status is 'unknown', I've looked at the script, subtitles and any novelisations I can find (as well as the biographies of any real-world characters they were based on), but obviously if you know better, please drop me a comment and I'll correct immediately.
    – Valorum
    Nov 4, 2023 at 20:48
  • In Firefox, Mitchell Gant was (per Wiki) "Former United States Air Force Major Mitchell Gant, a Vietnam veteran, ex member of the Aggressor squadron and former prisoner of war"
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 9, 2023 at 15:25
  • @CGCampbell - I couldn't find any specific evidence in the book that he's retired or former anything.
    – Valorum
    Nov 9, 2023 at 15:58
  • @CGCampbell - Even if he was retired, I'm assuming they 'reactivated' him for duration of his mission to Russia.
    – Valorum
    Nov 11, 2023 at 11:49
  • that's actually a good point... seemed like that chose him for the plausible deniability (he was suffering from PTSD, IIRC) but he'd likely have been clandestinly reactivated
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 13, 2023 at 11:55

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