Bea Arthur, Tough Chick: Her Secret Past as a Marine

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Most people know the late Bea Arthur as the smack-talking Dorothy on The Golden Girls. But back in the 1940s, Arthur was proving her strength with the Marines.

The actress and comic legend, who died last year at 86, had always denied serving in the military. But she did serve for 30 months, according to documents uncovered by The Smoking Gun. She enlisted in 1943, at the age of 21, under the name Bernice Frankel. She served as a typist and a truck driver, moving up the ranks from private to staff sergeant. While she was enlisted, she married Private Robert Aurthur, which led to her eventual name change to Bea Arthur.

(See TIME’s appreciation of Bea Arthur.)

Though it’s unclear why she denied ever serving, it may have been to cover up her one count of misconduct — due to contracting a venereal disease — in 1944. Arthur was honorably discharged in 1945, and then began to pursue her acting career in 1947, where she went on to steal America’s hearts and funny bones.

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Even though she may have covered up her military time, we’re glad to count one more reason that Bea Arthur was one tough cookie. (via Smoking Gun)

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