Fred Rogers served as a sniper or as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War, with a large number of confirmed kills to his credit.
A popular form of humor-cum-legend is to float a rumor that some mild-mannered, physically unimposing celebrity (such as John Denver or Don Knotts) not only served in the military, but held a position particularly known for requiring toughness and extreme mental and physical fortitude, such as a Navy SEAL, an Army Green Beret, a Marine Corps drill instructor, or an armed services sniper. Fred Rogers has also been the subject of such rumors, all of them false.
Not only did Fred Rogers never serve in the military, there are no gaps in his career when he could conceivably have done so. He went straight into college after high school, he moved directly into TV work after graduating college, and his breaks from television work were devoted to attending the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963) and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Child Development. Moreover, Fred Rogers was born in 1928 and was therefore far too old to have been a draftee during the period of America’s military involvement in the Vietnam ground war (1965-72) and too established in his career at that point to have run off to enlist.
Fred Rogers always wore long-sleeved shirts and sweaters on his show to conceal the tattoos on his arms he obtained while serving in the military.
Fred Rogers never served in the military, and he bore no tattoos on his arms (or any other part of his body). He wore long-sleeved shirts and sweaters on his show as a stylistic choice, in order to maintain an air of formality with youngsters. Although he was friendly with the children in his viewing audience and talked to them on their own level, he was most definitely an authority figure on a par with parents and teachers (he was Mister Rogers to them, after all, not “Fred”), and his choice of dress was intended to establish and foster that relationship.
Fred Rogers “flipped the bird” to his young audience during the taping of his final show in December 2000
Images of Fred Rogers posing with one or both middle fingers extended have long been circulated on the Internet with captions claiming they captured the children’s show host disdainfully “flipping off” his audience during the taping of the final Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episode. Although the pictures may appear puzzling out of context, they’re actually screen captures from a harmless moment in 1967 when Fred Rogers led some youngsters through the familiar children’s song “Where Is Thumbkin?,” which is traditionally accompanied by participants’ holding up the corresponding fingers as they are each named in the song.