The Star Trek Icon That Lost A Finger Fighting In War

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

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On Star Trek: The Original Series, few characters were quite as memorable as Scotty, the engineer/Miracle Worker played to perfection by James Doohan. Over the course of that show, seven movies, and one TNG episode, we saw Scotty as a hero in times of peace and times of war. However, few fans know the incredible fact that James Doohan was a real-life war hero long before appearing on Star Trek, and he even lost a finger in the line of duty.

James Doohan Stormed The Beaches

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Just how the heck did James Doohan become a war hero and lose his finger? Like many famous faces in Star Trek (including franchise icon William Shatner), the actor is originally from Canada and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Artillery in 1939.

The future actor apparently did well in the service and was promoted to lieutenant by 1940, but he wouldn’t become a bona fide war hero until a few years later.

Eventually, Doohan was sent to Britain to train for Operation Overlord, which was the codename for the Battle of Normandy. When the time came, he was right in the thick of things and made a combat landing on Juno Beach on D-Day.

After surviving the landing, James Doohan took out two snipers and led his men through a field of anti-tank mines, but in an incredibly dark bit of irony, it wasn’t the enemy who would cause him to lose a finger.

He Was A Victim Of Friendly Fire

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After all of that, Doohan’s men took defensive positions for the evening, and at 11:30 pm (23:30 for you military types) he tried to cross between command posts. At this point, Doohan encountered someone who almost brought his illustrious military career to an end along with his life.

The person in question was a trigger-happy Canadian sentry, and Doohan’s countryman unloaded a Bren gun thinking that he was shooting an enemy creeping around in the dark.

The sentry might not have had the best aim, but when you’re firing a machine gun in the dead of night, the “spray and pray” method is surprisingly effective. James Doohan took six bullets that night: four to his leg, one to his finger, and one to his chest.

As you’ve probably surmised, the finger that was hit by the bullet ultimately had to be amputated.

He Was About As Lucky As You Can Get

james doohan finger

While the Scotty actor would certainly have preferred to avoid amputation, James Doohan was lucky to only lose a finger that night. Remember that bullet that he took to the chest? The only thing that stopped that bullet and most likely saved his life was a silver cigarette case that was a gift from his brother.

He Hid The Amputation From The Screen

james doohan finger

At this point, you’re probably asking how the heck you never noticed James Doohan’s missing finger in all those hours of iconic TV and movie appearances. The truth is that he simply hid it, which was sometimes as easy as keeping parts of his hand out of frame while filming. Other times, the actor wore a flesh-colored glove that kept most people watching him onscreen from noticing that one of the fingers inside was secretly missing.

Doohan Was A Real Life Hero

Considering what an affable and easygoing character he played onscreen, it’s genuinely surprising that this Star Trek legend was a war hero who fought in one of the darkest and most important battles in modern history. This goes to show that fans can go ahead and forget the warp core and dilithium crystals. When it comes to real-life combat and fighting for a better world, the man who would play Scotty taught entirely different lessons about “giving it all she’s got, captain!”

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