Frank Sinatra was born 100 years ago today, and the Internet seems to be going crazy about the milestone. There’s a little-known story about the time “The Voice” went to Fort Jay on Governors Island in 1945.
The tale is best told on the Governors Island National Monument Facebook page, reproduced here. If you aren’t already, follow them, because there are good history updates all year long.
World War II was entering its fourth year in February 1945. No one of course knew at the time that the conflict would be over in six months. The Army was still looking for recruits. In December 1943 Sinatra had been declared 4-F due to a punctured eardrum, which meant he did not have to serve in uniform. In winter 1945 the Army was facing a manpower shortage and decided to take a closer look at the status of cases such as Sinatra’s. And so in early February the 29-year-old crooner flew from Hollywood to the 113th Armory in Jersey City to take another physical. Hundreds of screaming bobby-soxers turned out in the sleet and cold to get a glimpse of the heartthrob.
Results proved inconclusive and so the doctors sent him out for more tests. It is not clear why the draft board sent Sinatra to Governors Island; there were after all many other facilities in New York. Our guess is that the Army did not want a repeat of what had happened at the NJ Armory and so chose Ft. Jay because as an island it was more secure. And so a few days later Sinatra was on the Governors Island ferry to meet his fate. Sinatra ultimately retained his 4-F status.
Even though Sinatra avoided the military, that didn’t stop him from putting on a uniform — in Hollywood. Sinatra was in many armed forces roles over the decades. He played sailors in Anchors Aweigh (1945) and On The Town (1949). Sinatra was a soldier in It Happened in Brooklyn (1947), From Here to Eternity (1953), and Kings Go Forth (1958). In 1965 he was promoted to colonel for Von Ryan’s Express.
Sinatra went back to the Island one more time, for the centennial of the Statue of Liberty, in 1986.
Kevin C. Fitzpatrick has written and edited seven books with ties to New York history, including "The Governors Island Explorer's Guide" and "World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War." Kevin is a licensed sightseeing guide and has been leading walking tours since 1999. He resides in Manhattan.