Donnie Dunagan, Bambi

Donna Svennevik/ABC; Disney

It's hard to imagine taking orders from Bambi, the baby deer starring in Walt Disney's 1942 animated classic of the same name. But for years, hundreds of U.S. Marines were doing just that at the command of Donnie Dunagan, the child actor who voiced Bambi's character so many years before!

Dunagan, now 80, never told anyone in the service about his movie past. "No chance!" he said to his wife Dana during a recent sit-down with NPR's StoryCorps. "I never said a word to anybody about Bambi, even to you. When we first met I never said a word about it. Most of the image in people's minds of Bambi was a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly."

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After voicing Bambi a few other small parts for children, Dunagan set aside his acting career. He was drafted to the Marines in the 1950s and "subsequently promoted 13 times in 21 years," a record for the Corps at the time, he said.

Because Dunagan didn't want any of his fellow Marines calling him "Maj. Bambi," the highly decorated vet never mentioned the fact that he was the voice of Bambi. He sacrificed a lot during his time in the service, even winning "an award or two for saving lives over time," he told NPR's StoryCorps.

"But I think I could have been appointed as the aide-de-camp in the White House," he said. "It wouldn't make any difference—it's Bambi that's so dear to people."

Dunagan is beyond trying to cover up his past as an adorable little forest creature, though. As he told NPR's StoryCorps, "...I love it now—when people realize, 'This old jerk, he's still alive and was Bambi.' And I wouldn't take anything for it, not a darn thing for it."

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