Among the more defining attributes of “The Greatest Generation” is a fierce patriotism and a humbleness seldom seen today.
As news broke that Russell Johnson, 89, best known for playing the professor on the television sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” had passed away Thursday, millions fondly remembered the beloved actor.
The TV series ran for just three years, from 1964 to 1967, but lived on for eternity in syndication, eventually becoming an American cultural icon. Few knew that the professor’s name on the show was Roy Hinkley.
Fewer still knew that the actor playing Hinkley was a World War Two hero.
According to “The Wrap,” an entertainment news website:
Born in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, Johnson graduated from a private boarding school for orphaned children before joining the Air Force, flying dozens of combat missions in World War II – including one that turned him into a real-life castaway in the Philippines in 1945. Johnson’s B-25 bomber was shot down by heavy flak; he broke both his ankles during the mission, and received the Purple Heart.
A true life hero, and fans took to Twitter Thursday to share the news, and their condolences, as captured by Twitchy:
Actor and WWII hero Russell Johnson passed away today. Google him. Great man. RIP, Professor. pic.twitter.com/c3KG6AlL7X
— Scanning WWII (@ScanningWWII) January 16, 2014
Russell Johnson (The Professor on Gilligan’s Island) flew 44 combat missions in WWII, until his B-25 was shot down. (Via @GerryCallahan)
— Ed Shahzade (@Ed) January 16, 2014
Russell Johnson.. not just a “Professor” on Gilligan’s Island, but a B-25 Bombardier in WWII. 44 combat missions. RIP, Lieutenant. — Sean Agnew (@seanagnew) January 16, 2014
“Professor” Russell Johnson flew on B-24s in WWII, got a purple heart, and paid for acting school with the GI Bill. http://t.co/O2sao5oxgO
— Drew Cline (@DrewHampshire) January 16, 2014
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