The incredible stories like this almost never get told. Via Lileks,
According to Wikipedia, Cinerama was invented by Fred Waller and commercially developed by Waller and Merian C. Cooper, seen on the left. Oh, so that’s the Cooper? Well, the Cooper Foundation, which ran the theaters, was founded by Joseph Cooper, movie theater owner and former Paramount Pictures partner. Merian Cooper started out at Paramount, but moved around from studio to studio. Before he got into pictures, he had an different career:Where was his movie?Cooper was educated at The Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey and entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1912, but was forced to resign in 1915 (his senior year) in a dispute over his belief in air power which the Navy did not share. In 1916, he joined the Georgia National Guard to help chase Pancho Villa in Mexico.Then he served as a bomber pilot in WW 1, was shot down, and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. So then he went to Hollywood, right? No:From late 1919 until the 1921 Treaty of Riga, Cooper was a member of a volunteer American flight squadron, the Kociuszko Squadron, which supported the Polish Army in the Polish-Soviet War. On July 26, 1920, his plane was shot down, and he spent nearly 9 months in a Soviet prisoner of war camp. He escaped just before the war was over and made it to Latvia.When he got out he wrote a book about it, sold it to Putnam. So add author. Now he goes to Hollywood, pausing en route to be a founding member of the board of Pan Am, natch – but when war rolls around again, he reenlists.
Though old enough to be free of service in World War II, he enlisted anyway, commissioned as a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Forces, and accompanied Col. Robert L. Scott to India while serving as a logistics liaison for the Doolittle Raid. He and Scott traveled to Dinjan Airfield, Assam, where they assisted Col. Caleb V. Haynes, a bomber pilot, in setting up the Assam-Burma-China Ferrying Command, which was the origin of The Hump Airlift. He went on to serve in China as chief of staff for General Claire Chennault of the China Air Task Force — precursor of the Fourteenth Air Force — then from 1943 to 1945 in the Southwest Pacific as chief of staff for the Fifth Air Force’s Bomber Command.As for his Hollywood career – he co-wrote and co-directed a movie you might have heard of: King Kong.
At the end of the war he was promoted to Brigadier General, and was aboard the Missouri to witness the surrender.
He appears in the movie, too. His sole acting credit. IMDB lists him as “Pilot of the Plane that Kills Kong.”
Okay, fellows. TOP THAT.
Pardon me - I feel like my life has been nothing but folly.