Military Life Resources

Top franchises created by service members

Joel Searls Avatar

Service members come in all types, with this list including those who served in the Red Cross during wartime. This list covers some of the biggest and best franchises that were founded by veterans, all of which still serve an impact on our culture long after the creator has passed on.

1. Walt Disney

Photo courtesy of

Walt Disney created the biggest franchise of the 20th century and so far, the 21st century as well. He forged his birthday on his service records to be able to join the Red Cross during the First World War and serve as an ambulance driver. He arrived in France after the armistice was signed, however, he did put cartoons on his ambulance and drew some for the Stars and Stripes newspaper. Upon returning home he founded his first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram Studio, in Kansas City which was a short-lived company. He eventually moved to Hollywood with his brother Roy and founded what would eventually become The Walt Disney Company. His ingenuity, creativity, leadership and passion engendered him to take new leaps in animation, films and in starting his own theme park, all of which have endured throughout generations after his passing.

2. J.R.R. Tolkein

Tolkien in 1916. Photo courtesy of

Tolkien was born in South Africa and his family eventually moved to England. He showed much promise as a literary genius during his youth and enjoyed studying. He joined the British Army in World War I and his unit fought in the Battle of Somme with many of his fellow service members giving their lives on the field of battle. Tolkien was stricken with a fever carried by lice and returned back to England. He spent the rest of his service going between hospitals and serving in garrison and was eventually deemed medically unfit for service. He began writing The Book of Lost Tales during his recovery and eventually was taken off active service in 1919. He did attempt to serve during World War II as a codebreaker, however, his services were not needed by the British government. His literary creations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been favorites for millions and millions of people both in literary form, on the silver screen and in video games. The world of literature and fantasy would not be as robust without his important writings.

3. Ian Fleming: Bond. James Bond.

Cubby Brocoli, Ian Fleming (seated), Sean Connery and Harry Saltzman. Photo courtesy of

Ian Fleming was born and raised in England and came from a family of military service members, especially those of his brothers who served in the First World War. Fleming spent his life in education and in writing before the British entered the Second World War. He was recruited by Rear Admiral John Godfrey the Director of Naval Intelligence to be the director’s personal assistant and this led to exponential opportunities. During the period, Fleming was able to work as a liaison with the Special Intelligence Service, Political Warfare Executive, the Prime Minister’s staff, the Special Operations Executive and the Joint Intelligence Committee. Many memos from Fleming instigated certain pivotal actions by the British military such as Operation Ruthless, which was a plan to obtain Enigma codes from the Nazis. He got to work with Colonel “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of the OSS and one of FDR’s close advisers during the war. Admiral Godfrey put him in charge of Operation Goldeneye which was a plan to keep an intel footprint in the country of Spain if the Nazis invaded, which may have been the inspiration for a Bond film of a similar name, Goldeneye. Hmmm.

He spent the remainder of his service founding the No. 30 Commando or 30 Assault Unit, aka the 30AU, which was full of intelligence specialists. The unit’s goal was to get enemy documents from higher echelon commands. The unit grew from 30 to around 150 during his leadership tenure. The unit was involved in Operation Overlord, even though he was replaced as the commanding officer. He stayed in contact with the unit and found involvement with them once the unit found the location of the naval archives in Tambach Castle in Germany. 30AU’s success led to the British military starting the Target Force or T-Force, which is set to guard and secure documents, people and equipment with combat and intel troops after the capture of a large town or enemy area. Fleming left the service after the war and began his spy novel writing which gave the world James Bond. And more dry martinis, shaken, not stirred (*all said in a rogue Scottish accent).

4. Gene Roddenberry

Leonard Nimoy, Robert Wise (seated), Gene Roddenberry (standing), DeForest Kelly and William Shatner filming Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Photo courtesy of

Thanks to Mr. Roddenberry we have all boldly gone to where no man has gone before…well, him and the magic of cinema. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II flying 89 bomber missions in a B-17 in the Pacific theater. For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. He returned to civilian life as a Pan Am commercial airline pilot, then switched careers to the LAPD as an officer and then speechwriter for the Chief of Police. He then became a technical advisor for the TV show Mr. District Attorney and after about six years on the force left to focus more on his writing, which we are glad he did. He has given audiences around the world some of the best science fiction of all time with enduring characters through one of the most lasting franchises in TV and cinematic history.

5. Robert Ludlum

Ludlum was born in NYC and grew up in Connecticut. He spent his youth acting in plays and had a desire to serve, so post his high school graduation he spent two years in the Marine Corps from 1945 to 1947. He was stationed in the South Pacific as an infantryman and left the Marines to go to college. He worked as a stage manager for theatrical productions, which is where he likely learned how to write novels and keep his audience in suspense. Many of his books have been turned into mini-series, movies or video games such as The Bourne Trilogy, The Osterman Weekend and The Apocalypse Watch. Without his mind, creative engine and passion we may be without one of the cinema’s most underrated and easy to root for heroes, Jason Bourne.