Hugh Hefner, Camp Adair 1945

The Little-Known Military Past Of Playboy's Hugh Hefner

It's well-known that Hugh Hefner, who sadly died on Wednesday, was the founder of one of history's most iconic global brands in Playboy...

Hugh Hefner, Camp Adair 1945

It's well-known that Hugh Hefner, who sadly died on Wednesday, was the founder of one of history's most iconic global brands in Playboy.

Less widely-reported, however, is his contribution to the war effort during World War II.

Just seven years before he created Playboy magazine from his kitchen table, Hefner joined the Army, serving as an infantry clerk and drawing cartoons for various military newspapers.

He served as a noncombatant following his graduation from high school in January 1944, until being discharged in 1946.

Hefner is even said to have won a sharpshooter badge for firing an M1 during basic training, as well as making it through 'Killer College', in which troops went through manoeuvres while throwing real grenades.

He was then posted to Camp Adair in Salem, Oregon (see above), and Camp Pickett in Virginia, where he worked on the Camp Pickett News.

US Marines Fort Pickett training
Hefner served at Camp Pickett, which was renamed Fort Pickett in 1974 and is still used by the US military to this day

It was at the latter that celebrated cartoonist Hy Eisman, famous for his work on Popeye strips, told Hefner that he had better have a job waiting for him after the war, as he couldn't draw.

Luckily, Hefner had big plans.

After spending the summer taking art classes - including, perhaps unsurprisingly, life drawing - at the Art Institute of Chicago, he worked for a number of years in the publishing industry, before becoming convinced that there was a market for an upscale men's magazine.

It went on to become the biggest-selling men's magazine in the world, and continues to be published in more than 20 countries to this day.

He took out a loan - putting up his furniture as collateral - and borrowed money from family and friends to publish the very first issue of Playboy in December 1953.

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was the centrefold for the first ever edition of Playboy

He famously wrote that the magazine and its content would appeal to men 'aged 18 to 80'.

The first edition featured a centrefold image of Marilyn Monroe, originally shot for her 1949 nude calendar - an image which came to symbolise the early days of the magazine.

Hefner's creation was an instant sensation, selling more than 50,000 copies.

Playboy soon became famed for its bow-tie-wearing bunny girls, which have included Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and supermodel Kate Moss over the years.

Hefner himself was thrust into the limelight and his extravagant lifestyle soon became synonymous with the Playboy brand.

Hugh Hefner
Hefner with two of his then-girlfriends in 2007. Picture: Luke Ford

Living in his two Playboy mansions, accompanied by an ever-changing cast of celebrities and girlfriends, Hefner once boasted he had slept with more than 1,000 women.

He married three times.

Hefner himself went on to become a political activist and philanthropist, advocating political and sexual freedom.

He hosted a TV series, Playboy's Penthouse, which paved the way as the first televised programme to feature mixed groups of African American and white performers and audience members together.

When the US Post Office refused to deliver Playboy to subscribers through the mail, he fought all the way to the Supreme Court, winning a landmark decision considered a victory for free speech, while he was also an advocate for same-sex marriage.

Son Cooper Hefner said he "defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand", adding:

"My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He will be greatly missed by many."

Hefner died at his home of natural causes at the age of 91.

He is survived by his wife Crystal and his four children - Christie, David, Marston and Cooper.

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