Mark Harmon is well-known across the nation for an acting career that has spanned decades. But was he ever in the military?
There is no evidence to suggest that Mark Harmon was ever in the military, although his father, Tom Harmon, served in World War II as a pilot. Whilst Mark was never in the military, he has assumed the role of several special agent characters over the course of his acting career, including special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, in ‘NCIS’.
Read on to learn more about Mark Harmon’s father and his on-screen roles.
His Father’s Service
Though Mark Harmon never served in the military, his father, Tom Harmon, was a pilot in World War II.
Prior to his service, Tom Harmon was an incredible football player and played for the University of Michigan from 1938 to 1940. He won the Heisman trophy in 1940, awarded to the nation’s most outstanding football player, and has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
He initially deferred enlisting for service as he was still a student, but eventually applied to be a cadet in November of 1941.
After finishing his flight training in California, Harmon was assigned to Williams Field United States Air Force base as a bomber pilot.
Over the course of his service, Harmon had a few extremely close shaves. In one incident, Harmon and the rest of the crew had to bail out of the aircraft he was piloting due to a thunderstorm, which had torn off the wing of the plane.
After a parachute landing in the South American jungle, Harmon trekked for days before he was eventually rescued by locals. Of the six aircraft passengers, he was the only survivor.
Though incredibly lucky, Harmon was soon reported missing again after he was shot down by Japanese fighter planes over China. Once again he miraculously survived, but not without injury.
For his service, Harmon was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart and was discharged at the end of the war.
Mark Harmon has spoken about the tough love approach his father took when it came to raising him. He’s said, “he raised me hard. And when I say hard, I mean hard”, adding that he had to fight for everything.
Although tough on his son, Tom was a huge model for Mark. Harmon told People Magazine that his Dad told him to “work your ass off, and don’t let the effort show”, and he carries this advice with him today.
Agent Simon Donovan
As for Mark Harmon, there’s no evidence to suggest he had any sort of military career. He did, however, take on some action-heavy roles over the course of his acting career, with a penchant for playing the part of special agents.
He first played special agent Simon Donavon in TV show ‘The West Wing’ in 2002. Don Bellisario, who created ‘NCIS’, saw Harmon in the role and reportedly said, “what I saw was a very controlled presence, a quiet strength. That’s what I was looking for”.
His role in ‘The West Wing’ only lasted for four episodes, but he was so commanding that it earned him an Emmy nomination and an enduring role in ‘NCIS’.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs
Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a character in ‘NCIS’, has been played by Harmon since 2003 and his portrayal has earned him widespread acclaim.
Discussing Leroy’s character, Harmon has said, “so much of his life is really tormented and dark, and I don’t know if he’ll ever recover from it. I think he would be an uncomfortable guy to have dinner with”.
A former U.S. Marine, Leroy is an expert marksman with a long list of credentials and has carried his team through thick and thin.
Though Harmon has never been in the military himself, he’s certainly had experience playing the part.
Watch Mark Harmon speak with Stephen Colbert about his ‘NCIS’ role in the YouTube video below.