Norman Lear’s Combat Missions In WWII Expose An Entirely Different Side Of Him

Most critics agree that the American entertainment industry would not be the same without the work of Norman Lear. But while we’re all familiar with shows such as All in the Family and Sanford and Son, few are aware of the producer’s military career. In the skies above Europe, his experiences shaped the man he would become and even inspired the work that we all know and love.

Social justice

Instilled with a sense of social justice from a young age, Lear is known for breaking taboos across his popular television shows. But his affinity for marginalized groups began long before his Hollywood success. As a gunner with the U.S. Air Force, he fought against the tyranny that was taking hold around the world. 

A long career

And that was just the beginning of Lear’s extraordinary career. From the characters inspired by the famous Tuskegee Airmen to his reputation as a political activist, he has battled against injustice at every turn. And even with his 100th birthday behind him, he is showing few signs of slowing down.

Early years

Born on July 27, 1922, in New Haven, Connecticut, Lear was the son of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. Raised in the Jewish faith, he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah as a young boy. And while he did not consider himself religious in later life, this heritage would form an integral part of his identity.


In time, the family relocated some 150 miles north-east to Chelsea, Massachusetts. But life was difficult behind the scenes. According to reports, Lear’s mother Jeanette was a narcissist who struggled to prioritize the needs of her children. Meanwhile, his father Hyman was a petty crook who dealt in forged bonds.