John Wayne's greatest regret was that he never served in our armed forces during WWII.
At that time he was in his mid-30s and was not required to serve. He chose instead to make 15 films during this period (1942-45), many of them patriotic war films and, in doing so, helped our country with War Bond sales and morale for the cause. He also travelled extensively to visit our troops between the 1940s-70s.
After the war, he continued to make westerns and a few more war films. His toughest professional challenges were two films that were about patriotism, but failed to garner the critical acclaim for which he'd hoped: One was "The Alamo" (1960), and the other was "The Green Berets" (1968). The latter was blasted by anti-war leftists for painting an altruistic portrait of our involvement in Viet Nam.
Duke died in 1979 of intestinal cancer, a delayed illness from his exposure to radiation in the Nevada desert way back in 1955 (while filming "The Conquerer", a biography of Genghis Khan).
He won his only Academy Award in 1969 for his role as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit".
In 1979, just weeks before he passed away, his best friend Maureen O'Hara testified before Congress to have a medal minted in Dukes honor. She concluded her testimony with:
“I beg you to strike a medal for Duke, to order the President to strike it. And I feel that the medal should say just one thing: ‘John Wayne, American.’ ”
A splendid tribute.