Claim: Actor Don Knotts once served as a drill instructor for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2003]
I heard that Don Knotts was the most feared drill instructor on Parris Island during World
Origins: Positing improbable military backgrounds for popular entertainment figures is a common urban legend motif these days. Such tales don’t merely put stars in uniform as ordinary
gentle children’s host Fred Rogers as a tattooed marksman with a plethora of confirmed kills, and
Another legend of this ilk casts Don Knotts, best known as the bumbling deputy sheriff Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and the pop-eyed, leisure-suited
landlord Ralph Furley on Three’s Company, as not just the unlikeliest serviceman since Gomer Pyle, but as the toughest and most fearsome of all military figures: a
The only connection between legend and real life in this case is that Don Knotts did serve in the military. Born the youngest of four brothers in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 1924, young Don Knotts embarked on an entertainment career by performing as a ventriloquist at local venues; after
high school he tried a brief stint in New York City and took a stab at attending West Virginia University before being drafted by the Army in
in the midst of fighting World
Barney Fife eventually won him five consecutive Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actor in a television series.) Don Knotts also had one other military connection of the cinematic variety: he played the character of Corporal
Why so many rumors about entertainers as military figures? The prevalence of this legend type can probably be attributed to the appeal of imagining popular stars as the polar opposites of their on-stage personas: Just as we’re intrigued by the notion that macabre rocker
Last updated: 24 September 2015
Knotts, Don. Barney Fife and Other Characters I Have Known. New York: Berkley Boulevard Books, 1999. ISBN 0-425-17159-0.