Beloved children’s television actor Bob Keeshan is better known for his character ‘Captain Kangaroo’ and one persistent myth; is it true that he fought in World War II?
Bob Keeshan was in the military. However, the rumor about him fighting in World War II is false, as he enlisted but did not fight overseas.
This seems just to be a potent piece of internet mythology, although there are enough fascinating things to learn about Bob Keeshan that are based in reality.
Debunking the Military Myth
According to fact-checking and myth-busting website Snopes, there appear to be a few rumors about Bob Keeshan circulating the internet. The prominent rumor argues that it has a clip of dialogue taken from ‘The Tonight Show’ between actor Lee Marvin and host Johnny Carson.
In the clip, Lee Marvin talks about how Bob Keeshan is the bravest man he ever knew and maintained that the two fought together at Iwo Jima in the Pacific. The transcript of the dialogue has been shared widely through emails.
The only problem with this story?
It isn’t true. Well, not entirely.
Lee Marvin did fight in World War II and saw action. However, he fought in the battle for Saipan in June 1944, not in the 1945 battle for Iwo Jima.
Lee Marvin was also awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery.
Bob Keeshan enlisted two weeks before his 18th birthday, which was after the battle for Iwo Jima. In fact, by the time he was old enough to enlist, the war was ending, and he did not go overseas to fight.
It doesn’t seem to be a malicious legend, just someone sharing some accidental misinformation, although it’s nearly impossible to trace where these sorts of internet myths crop up. However, it is an excellent reminder to always fact-check information from email threads.
The long story short? That transcript never happened.
Jack Green, who works with the Naval Historical Center in Washington, is frequently asked to fact-check the legend about Captain Kangaroo being a war hero. “I have to tell them it’s a nice story, but it didn’t happen,” he said.
Interestingly, Captain Kangaroo isn’t the only beloved children’s television legend with these kinds of myths about him.
Fred Rogers, of the television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, also had a rumor flying around about him serving in the military. There’s a rumor that he was a Navy SEAL; however, this is entirely untrue as Fred Rogers never served in the military.
Thankfully, Bob Keeshan’s life was fascinating enough in reality. If you are interested in watching a career retrospective of the man commonly known as Captain Kangaroo, you can do so here:
Bob Keeshan’s work touched the hearts of many fans. His children’s show, ‘Captain Kangaroo,’ ran weekday mornings for 29 years, from 1955 to 1984.
Bob Keeshan cared deeply about his young audiences and never patronized them, saying, “A child needs to be listened to and talked to at 3 and 4 and 5 years of age. Parents should not wait for the sophisticated conversation of a teenager.”
Clearly, his fans thanked him for this respect. After Bob Keeshan survived a severe heart attack in 1981, he received more than 5,000 letters wishing him well.
Additionally, his show ‘Captain Kangaroo’ holds a record for being the longest-running children’s show on commercial television. Its competition is ‘Sesame Street,’ which is the longest-running children’s show on public television – or at least it was before it switched over to HBO.
There are some more interesting facts about the television personality floating around – facts that are completely true. For example, before Keeshan was known as Captain Kangaroo, he was Clarabell the Clown on ‘Howdy Doody.’
Although Bob Keeshan was a children’s television personality, he disapproved of parents who simply let their children watch television all day instead of engaging with them. He said to The New York Times, “Back in the old days, when I was a child, we sat around the family table at dinner time and exchanged our daily experiences. … We listened to each other and the interest was not put on; it was real.”
Bob Keeshan died in 2004 at the age of 76. He had a massive impact on the countless lives that watched his show over the decades.