Saturday, June 04, 2011

Saturday Western

In memory of James Arness, who played Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke from 1955 through 1975.

Often alone and outnumbered, he always stood his ground and always won out over the bad guys.

James Arness died yesterday at age 88. And he didn't just play a hero on TV. When World War Two broke out, he served as a rifleman with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, and was severely wounded during Operation Shingle, at Anzio, Italy.

According to James Arness – An Autobiography, he landed on Anzio Beachhead on January 21, 1944 as a rifleman with 2nd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. Due to his height, he was the first ordered off his landing craft to determine the depth of the water; it came up to his waist.

On January 29, 1945, having undergone surgery several times, Arness was honorably discharged. His wounds continued to bother him, and in later years Arness suffered from acute leg pain, which sometimes hurt when mounting a horse.

His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze battle stars, the World War II Victory Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

He was a close friend of John Wayne, and when Wayne was initially offered the role of Marshal Dillon, he turned it down but recommended Arness, who got it and played the character for two decades.

A real man on and off the screen, He has no equal in Hollywood today.



  1. Matt fired 7 shots at the bandidos in the first clip before there was a pause.

  2. Excellent tribute!

    Bob - He was just that good.

  3. He and John Wayne will forever define "Cowboy" to me.

  4. My part of the country seems to be almost swimming in Mexican bandidos...

  5. Yes, Bob, that was his secret weapon, the 7 shot single action.

    There is nothing on TV like these shows. I remember trying to keep my grades up because that was the price to be allowed to watch Gunsmoke, Bonanza and the others.

  6. 'He has no equal in Hollywood today.'

    Hollywood has no equal to any of the old actors that were in the service in WW2.

    There are a few that are conservative and good folk, but none like the WW2 bunch.