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Marine fought in three wars and dared challenge John Wayne

June 10, 2009 |  2:13 pm

Jack Lewis, a decorated Marine, Gun World co-founder and prolific writer, served in three wars but in some circles he may be best known for the fight he avoided.

Lewis told the story in his 2002 book “White Horse, Black Hat: A Quarter Century on Hollywood’s Poverty Row,” his remembrances as a screenwriter, feature writer and sometime stuntman during the heyday of low-budget westerns.

As a technical advisor to the 1949 movie "Sands of Iwo Jima," filmed at Camp Pendleton, Lewis struck up a friendship with John Wayne. Some years later, Lewis said he became annoyed when he heard Wayne holding forth with right-wing politics at a bar in Newport Beach. 

"Duke, for someone who’s never worn a uniform, for real, and never heard a shot fired in anger, you’re a mite casual about spilling other people’s blood," Lewis said he told the star.

 After a moment of tense silence, Wayne let loose with “a lion-like roar.”

“Not being a total fool, I figured this was a good time to depart the scene,” Lewis wrote. Later, when Lewis and Wayne met on the set of “True Grit,” the star indicated he’d forgotten the incident.

Lewis died May 24 at age 84. A funeral is set for Thursday on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Read an obituary about Lewis.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego