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James Garner Served In Korean War, Awarded Purple Heart Twice

James Scott Bumgarner, a.k.a. James Garner, served in the Merchant Marines, the Oklahoma National Guard, and the U.S. Army. Garner was injured in the Korean War and twice awarded the Purple Heart before being discharged in 1952.

Garner, an Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated actor, died July 19 in Los Angeles at the age of 86. reports Garner's military career began when he was just 16 years old and dropped out of high school to join the Merchant Marines as World War II was winding down. He later left the Merchant Marines to live with his father in California and go back to high school.


But soon, Garner dropped out of high school again, and returned to his native Oklahoma where, as Yahoo News reports, he enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard.

According to, in 1950 Garner became the first Oklahoman drafted to serve in the Korean War.

Although Garner earned two Purple Hearts during his service, he did not receive one of them until 1983. A three-decades old article in the Oklahoman explains how a mix-up prevented Garner from getting his Purple Heart until a U.S. Army official took note of the error after Garner appeared on "Good Morning America."

Garner told the crowd at his 1983 Purple Heart ceremony:

"After 32 years, it's better to receive this now than posthumously...

"It is indeed an honor and I tried to serve my country to the best of my ability."