John Wayne's Signature Golden Bracelet Holds An Incredible Story

John Wayne is nearly synonymous with the Western genre of film in Hollywood history. In total, "The Duke," or simply "Duke," as he was nicknamed, appeared in 175 films over a career spanning 50 years. He even branched out into directing, for the 1960 film "The Alamo." From colonels to cowboys, Wayne lit up the silver screen in true outlaw fashion, but did not win an Academy Award until 1970 for his role as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit" — this despite the fact that "The Searchers" from 1956 is thought to be the best Western film ever made (per History). 

Wayne's look itself is iconic: cowboy hats, neckerchiefs, leather vests, and more. Not to mention the brooding face of a stern, yet handsome, all-American country guy. However, there is a more subtle piece to his look that has a larger-than-life story behind it. Wayne was nearly always seen with a gold bracelet.

John Wayne filmed a movie in Vietnam during the war

John Wayne wore a golden brass bracelet everywhere he went. He received the bracelet as a gift from the Montagnard people of Vietnam, a native population which vehemently fought against communism during the Vietnam War. What brought Wayne to Vietnam was his film "The Green Berets," which he directed and starred in. It was the only major film that was actually in support of the war rather than opposed to it, as most of Hollywood was. The bracelet signified that Wayne was an honorary member of the Montagnard people. He wore it in "The Green Berets" and in all of his films afterward. Many say he was buried with it as well (per Outsider).

Wayne was not the only recipient of a bracelet from the Montagnard people. This tribe fought alongside the American efforts against communism and the Viet Cong. In 1965, Captain Larry Brown, stationed in Pleiku, Vietnam, stated, "If you are out alone and get into trouble, the bracelet could make the difference in being rescued" (via Stars and Stripes).

John Wayne supported the United States military, but did not serve

During his time in Vietnam in 1966, John Wayne also visited American soldiers. However, many accused him of avoiding the military draft during World War II two decades prior. Other actors of the era, like Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, and Jimmy Stewart, did enter into military service. Wayne opted to support the troops and the war effort through his films instead. Wayne was deferred from military in "support of national interest" given the star power that he brought to films that celebrated the military throughout the 1940s. Still, servicemen and non-servicemen alike called him a "draft-dodger," as explained by Perhaps this desire to help from within U.S. borders led him to do the same during the Vietnam War with "The Green Berets" and his treasured bracelet.

There is truth to his belief that films could benefit a war effort such as World War II and the Vietnam War. He has been quoted as saying, "Nobody should come to the movies unless he believes in heroes." Heroes both in fiction and real life are definitely as relevant then as they are now.