A Marine's Story: Captain Sterling Walter Hayden


Captain Sterling Walter Hayden was born Serling Relyea Walter on March 26, 1916. He attended the Wassookeag School in Dexter, Maine, but left at 16 to work on a commercial schooner and found his passion as a sailor. Captain Hayden quickly worked up the ranks through fishing vessels, yachts, and steamers before qualifying as a master sailor and earning his first command aboard the Florence C. Robinson, a rigger, in 1938, at 22 years old. 

Captain Hayden earned a screen test with Paramount pictures after the Boston Press published his image during the Annual Glouchest Massachusetts Fisherman's Race.

He appeared in two films, Virginia and Bahama Passage, before leaving Hollywood to join the US Army for World War II. However, Captain Sterlin Hayden's US Army career was cut short after he broke his ankle during basic training. As a result, Captain Hayden was deemed unfit for combat and medically discharged. Rather than return to Hollywood, Captain Sterling Hayden enlisted in the US Marines under the name John Hamilton.

During Boot Camp at Parris Island, he was recommended for Officer's Candidate School, where Captain Sterling Walter Hayden was recruited to the Office of Strategic Services. 

He spent World War II within the Mediterranean and Balkan Theaters, participating in the Naples Foggia Campain, getting supplies through Italy and Yugoslavia, and earned a Silver Star for Gallantry. 

Captain Sterling Hayden left active service after the war in 1945. He took a few years off before realizing that he could make a bigger impact on the world by keeping his acting career. His first movie after the war was "Blaze of Noon."

While Captain Hayden was a prolific actor and appeared in more than 73 films (including Asphalt Jungle, Dr. Strangelove, The Godfather movies, and 9 to 5), his heart was always with the sea, and he spent much of his time sailing. 

Captain Sterling Walter Hayden died on May 23, 1986, and his ashes were scattered in San Franciso Bay.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

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