Jack Palance

Jack Palance, RIP:

This Veteran's Day, we remember many great men, and honor those still living who have served. It happens that we might, this particular Veteran's Day, take a moment to remember Jack Palance, who has just died.

I suspect he's best remembered here as the gunfighter Jack Wilson in Shane. He did "cold-eyed killer" better than almost anyone: even Lee Van Cleef seemed to be reprising Jack Wilson in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

There was more to the man than that, however: he was a heavyweight fighter, under the name Jack Brazzo, with twelve knockouts and fifteen wins in his career. And, yes, he was a veteran:

With the outbreak of World War II, Palance's boxing career ended and his military career began. Palance's rugged face, which took many beatings in the boxing ring, was disfigured when he bailed out of his burning B-24 Liberator while on a training flight over southern Arizona, where he was a student pilot. Plastic surgeons repaired as much of the damage that they could, but he was left with a distinctive, somewhat gaunt, look. After much reconstructive surgery, he was discharged in 1944.
It's easy to forget how dangerous training is in the military, but the risks are very real. The Department of Defense celebrated in 1998 when accidental deaths in the military declined notably over a monitored nine-year period: only 6,790 service members died in that time. It had, in the previous perioud, been 11,216. In Iraq, in three years we've lost about three thousand people. In nine years from 1988-1996, 6,790 died accidentally.

Palance didn't die, and went on to turn his reconstructed face into one well known to every American. He won an Oscar for his role in the film City Slickers, and at the awards show made some appropriate remarks about Billy Crystal before demonstrating one-handed pushups. He was 73 at the time.

We'll miss you, Jack.

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