Pvt James S Bumgarner, AKA James Garner

On April 23, 1951, Pvt James S Bumgarner was serving with the California National Guard’s 5th Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Bumgarner later became well known to American audiences as James Garner – star of numerous TV shows like Maverick, Rockford Files, and movies like Support Your Local Sheriff and The Great Escape. A story in WeAreTheMighty by Blake Stillwell captured our attention as maybe something you might not know about the famous actor: one night, he found that he had a special talent for finding the enemy. It was his nose.

Story continues below:



Pvt Bumgarner – A nose for the enemy

In 2011, James Garner wrote a memoir called “The Garner Files.” (Book is available on Amazon). In it, he described his experiences with California’s 5th Regimental Combat Team. On one night in particular, his sensitive nose actually saved the team.

Army chow was bearable as long as I could keep the onions and garlic out of it. I cannot stand onions and I’m very sensitive to garlic. I can taste tiny amounts of it, like when they’ve cooked another dish with garlic before and don’t wash the pan. If I get even a hint of it, I might throw up in my plate. This violent aversion may have saved my life: like our South Korean allies, the Chinese and North Korean troops lived on a diet of fish heads, rice, and garlic.

One night while on guard on the line, I caught a faint whiff of it coming from the direction of the enemy positions. I couldn’t see anything, but I knew there was someone out there and they were coming closer. Once I sniffed them I could hear them, too. It turned out to be a patrol heading straight for our position. They were just the other side of a rise when I passed the word down the line. We were ready for them and stopped them in their tracks.

The Garner Files Excerpt

Pvt Bumgarner (James Garner) received two purple hearts during the war, one for the above exchange, and one 32 years later after the Army found paperwork that had been lost. His sense of humor was evident even over receiving a purple heart.

I got it in the backside. I went into a foxhole headfirst and I was a little late. There’s a lot of room for error with a wound in the rear. It’s a wide target.

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.

James Garner – Pvt James S Bumgarner

Many Hollywood actors were in the US Armed Forces during various wars.


Featured photo: Screenshot of Pvt James S. Bumgarner with a Korean orphan that he ‘looked after’

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