Skip to comments.Stewart's Heroism Caught On Pages (BGen.James Stewart USAFR Preserved Our Freedoms with Conviction)
Posted on 05/04/2005 7:09:07 PM PDT by fight_truth_decay
"Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot" by Starr Smith
Sixty-some years ago, when President Franklin Roosevelt declared war on Germany and Japan, almost every American who was able became involved.
Some left their children at home in the effort to make planes and ships in factories. Some left their families and traveled across the country and across the world.
One left an Academy Award-winning career to do something that he felt he needed to do, and in "Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot" by Starr Smith (c.2005, Zenith Press), you'll read about that man and his heroism.
James Maitland Stewart was born on May 20, 1908 in Indiana, Penn., his parents' eldest child and only son.
Young Jimmy's father had served in the Spanish-American War and in World War I, and, as the owner of the town's hardware store; he hoped that his son would go into the family business. Instead, Jimmy went to college and found that he loved acting. In 1935, Stewart followed his friend and roommate Henry Fonda to Hollywood.
Airplanes had always been one of Jimmy's big fascinations, and he spent hours studying them, building models, and taking flying lessons. Because of his family's patriotic background, when it became obvious that war was imminent, Stewart decided to enlist in the Army.
His Hollywood studio boss, Louis B. Mayer, tried to talk Stewart out of his plans, but fate took matters out of Mayer's hands: Jimmy was drafted. When the Army turned him down, Stewart was undeterred. He decided to volunteer, and in March of 1941, Private James Stewart reported for duty at Fort MacArthur, Calif.
Because of his interest in flying and his pilot experience, he was assigned to the Army Air Corps (later, the U.S. Air Force).
Although the Army apparently would have been happy to have a big-name celebrity to make public appearances on its behalf, Stewart asked repeatedly for combat assignments.
Finally, he was granted his wish and in November 1943 he took his squadron to the 445th Station at Tibenham, England where he became a decorated war hero, a bomber pilot, and a trusted and admired leader.
In "Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot," author Starr Smith has seamlessly done something seemingly impossible: he gently melds together flashy Hollywood stories with reminisces of people who knew Jimmy Stewart as just a "regular" guy.
I've seen dozens of movies that starred Jimmy Stewart, but I didn't know that he had flown missions in Vietnam. I wasn't aware that he eventually joined the Air Force Reserve, and I didn't know that when he died, he had attained the rank of brigadier general and was buried with full military honors.
There are lots of hard facts in this book that may be difficult to follow if you're a casual reader, and if you're looking for a snazzy, gossipy Hollywood-type biography, this is not the book for you. If you're a World War II veteran or a history buff, though, "Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot" is going to show you how a reel hero became a real hero.
Schlichenmeyer reviews books for the Pahrump Valley Times from her home in Wisconsin.
Jimmy Stewart has always been one of my favorite actors - what a great man and wonderful actor, and "It's a Wonderful Life" is one of my favorite movies.
And here is another little tidbit about him from WWII.
"Editorial Abstract: Accidental bombings are not new, but court-martialing crews for such fog-of-war incidents is rare. On 4 March 1945, six B-24s dropped 12 tons of incendiaries and 12.5 tons of high-explosive bombs on Zurich, Switzerlanda neutral country. This is an account of how navigation errors, poor weather, and crew aggressiveness caused that to happen and how the officers of the lead B-24 fared when they were court-martialed. Interestingly, the presiding officer in the court-martial proceedings was Col James M. Stewart (of Hollywood fame). To more fully appreciate this study, we suggest you read Dr. Helmreichs earlier piece, The Diplomacy of Apology: US Bombings of Switzerland during World War II, published in the MayJune 1977 issue of Air University Review and also available at http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj00/sum00/helmreich.html There he provides a comprehensive account of World War II bombing of Switzerland, which began with a scattering of incidents in 1943 and eventually led to increasingly heavy attacks until the 4 March bombing of both Zurich and Basel. Both articles show how conflicts can arise between airmen and diplomats over issues of crew safety and mission accomplishment to win a war."
In Charlton Heston's autobiography "In the Arena", Heston relates to a time when he was in Spain, making a movie.
He ran into Jimmy Stewart at a posh hotel that was a bit "uppity." It seems that the hotel refused to allow actors to stay in the hotel. As Heston and Stewart conversed, the hotel staff realized that Stewart was also an actor, and the manager at the desk started to tell Stewart that he couldn't stay and asked for the room key back.
Stewart calmly told the manager that for the next two weeks, he wasn't an actor, he was Brigadier General Stewart of the Air Force, working with the USAF at a near by location ... picked up his registration slip and kept the key, and walked off.
Both excellent men .... even more so considering that they remained unaffected by the cesspool of Hollywood.
Glenn Ford is still alive. You should see his service record. He served in WW II and Vietnam.
He was a heartthrob from Reagan's time in the late thirties. Ford and M. Rooney are the only ones from that era I know who are alive.
I wish he were honored by Hollywood before he passes.
BTW: I hear he watches Fox News!
Not only that, at 6-4 and about 135 pounds, Stewart was initially rejected as being underweight. He had to bulk up and try again before he was accepted.
Another star who volunteered when he could legitimately have stayed on the sidelines: Tyrone Power
There are some in hollywood who are pro-America and very patriotic; Gary Sinise immediately comes to mind. What has changed is hollywood now leans against the Nation - and we don't hear about the Sinise' of the world now because their support goes against hollywood PC and are being metaphorically "airbrushed" out of the public consciousness.
Also still alive are Eddie Albert, Karl Malden, Van Johnson, Richard Widmark and Kirk Douglas.
Your Forgot Ernest Borgnine (spelled correct?) and Ed McMahon, both I believe and correct me if I am wrong flew Bent Wing Corsair's in WWII.
Not Hollywood Heart-thorbs, but great Americans non the less.
Good list, but Eddie Albert I'm pretty sure died a few years ago.
Richard Widemark is alive?
One more: Bruce Bennett, who turns 99 years young this month.
Yep, he played Cody in 'The Treasure of the Sierre Madre'. He's not very well known though. And ubiqutous character actor Charles Lane is 100!
Charles Lane was married for 71 years...till his wife died.
Pictures look good. Back in the days without the Day Care Centers and "Consideration of Others" training. Back when the average young male in America who attended college served in the military in one capacity or another.
The current Hollywood generation isn't fit to mow the grass on Stewart's grave.
When I first saw him in movies, this was a man I couldn't help but like. Now I know why.
I liked doing this piece. I had not known Stewart served in Nam. Most likely Hollywood being as liberal as they were back then and now were not about to promote any actor's involvement in the war...even an icon in the industry as Stewart.