The story of when Jerry Mathers didn't die in 'Nam

The Beav was surprised to learn of his own death.

Rumors and urban legends used to have a lot more credence pre-internet. It wasn't always immediately possible to disprove a claim, especially in the schoolyard. We might take for granted, today, our ability to quickly verify any fact, but Google hasn't always been around. It used to be that you'd just believe something until somebody told you otherwise.

Viewers must've been relieved, then, to see a familiar face on a 1970 episode of My Three Sons. The episode "Love My Neighbor" featured a couple becoming overly friendly neighbors with the series' protagonists. The young, fresh-faced husband hid a boyish, recognizable face behind a big ol' mustache. It didn't take Peter Gunn to sus out that the man used to be the boy we call the Beav. 

Jerry Mathers, it turns out, didn't actually die in Vietnam, as many had been led to believe.

His presence on TV refuted a 1968 Vietnam wire-service story reporting the death of Pvt. J. Mathers, star of the beloved sitcom Leave It to Beaver.

The story was rooted in some fact. Jerry Mathers was enlisted in the Air Force Reserve, a decision he made prior to graduating high school in '67. After training with the Reserves in Texas, Mathers went back to school to study at Cal-Lutheran in the San Fernando Valley.

That's where he first became aware of his own death.

According to a Buffalo Evening News report on the topic, Mathers was woken up by a concerned roommate one morning. "Do you know you're dead?" Mathers' friend asked, thrusting a newspaper in Beaver's direction. Mathers, it appeared, had been killed in action.

This must've come as a shock to the former young Cleaver, as he sat there reading the report of his own death. It came as a shock to the viewing public as well, as rumors persisted for years.

This is all despite the fact that Jerry Mathers never saw action in Vietnam.

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11 Comments

MrsPhilHarris 10 months ago
I don’t know how easy it is to verify a fact anymore. Anyone can say anything and someone will believe it no matter how ludicrous it is. They take on a life of their own.
Runeshaper 10 months ago
Wow! That's pretty bad lol Glad he lived!
Sway 10 months ago
On another note: R.I.P. David McCallum..Ilya Kuryakan Man from UNCLE
Runeshaper Sway 10 months ago
R.I.P. David McCallum
cperrynaples Runeshaper 10 months ago
Yes, best known as Ducky on NCIS, but yes he was Ilya on TMFU! Why isn't this show on H&I? it was on MeTV at one time!
Pacificsun cperrynaples 10 months ago
Illya Kuryakin. And MFU was on MeTV in 2014 and 2015, when MGM (Warner's) was building an audience for the 2015 movie. It was before what is known as H&I now. But Decades did run binges twice a year. Doubtful to be seen for free anymore since Warner's holds it as a tight property, And stealthily guards its copyright. Best chance would be leased to Sundance (AMC), in addition to a lot of action adventure like NCIS, Law & Order and BlueBloods (especially Columbo). But MFU's tinge of being so dated may still deter the investment. There would need to be a comparable example already in place.
If MeTV could honor all those who they have, particularly for the achievements over 70 years. You would think they would at least run a tile. Maybe they're looking for comments about it.
Peter_Falk_Fan Sway 10 months ago
It's weird that I watched "The Great Escape" (in which David McCallum dies) on TCM on the day that David McCallum died (Sept. 25). He was really good in "The Outer Limits" episode 'The Sixth Finger'. R.I.P. David McCallum

Also, my childhood baseball idol, Brooks Robinson, died the next day. R.I.P. Brooks Robinson
JERRY6 Peter_Falk_Fan 9 months ago
i like him in Colditz ?
JERRY6 Peter_Falk_Fan 9 months ago
I REMEMBER him in Saphire and Steele
Coldnorth Sway 9 months ago
He sure was my crush. Hard to pick between him and James west
Bapa1 10 months ago
They should do remakes of all those Missing in Action films with Jerry Mathers playing the Chuck Norris role.
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