During World War I and World War II, the sale of war bonds was crucial not only to generate capital for the government, but to make citizens feel involved in the military efforts of their country. One extremely effective way of selling war bonds was to use celebrities to hawk them. In World War I, stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford crossed the country selling bonds; and when the United States entered World War II in 1941, celebrities again leapt into action. One of the first was movie star Carole Lombard.
At the end of 1941, Lombard, who was married to Clark Gable, went to her home state of Indiana to lead a war bond rally with her mother and her husband’s press agent, Otto Winkler. The event was a huge success, raising more than $2 million in defense bonds. On January 16, 1942, Carole, her mother, and Winkler got on TWA flight 3 to return to California. They made a pit stop in Las Vegas for refueling. Twenty-three minutes after taking off, the plane crashed into Double Up Peak on Mount Potosi, 32 miles southwest of Las Vegas. All 22 aboard, including Lombard and 15 army servicemen, were killed instantly. She is considered the first female casualty of World War II.
Shortly after her death, Clark Gable—who was utterly inconsolable at the loss of his wife—joined the US Air Force, and flew several missions. He also attended the launch of the Liberty ship SS Carole Lombard, named in her honor, on January 15, 1944.