Skip to comments.Stamp honors James Stewart [decorated World War II bomber pilot ]
Posted on 08/16/2007 2:35:19 PM PDT by Dubya
Lots of actors play war heroes on the screen. James Stewart was one in real life.
A decorated World War II bomber pilot who returned from battle to star in "It's A Wonderful Life," Stewart will be commemorated on a new 41-cent postage stamp being released Friday.
Stewart flew 20 bombing missions over Germany, including one over Berlin, after wrangling combat duty when commanders would have preferred to use a movie star for morale building work at home.
As a squadron commander, Stewart flew many dangerous missions when he could have sent others instead, recalled Robbie Robinson, a sergeant who was an engineer-gunner in Stewart's B-24 squadron.
But while Stewart rose to colonel during the war and later retired as a brigadier general in the reserves, he didn't stand on ceremony.
Robinson, of Collierville, Tenn., recalled one time when a creative tail gunner managed to "liberate" a keg of beer from the officer's club.
That evening, Stewart wandered into a hut where some men were resting, picked up a cup, walked over to the "hidden" keg, poured himself a beer and sat back and drank it slowly, relaxing in a chair.
"We were shaking in our boots," Robinson said.
But Stewart merely got up, wiped out the cup, asked the men to keep an eye out for a missing keg of beer, and left.
Another time, Robinson recalled in a telephone interview, his plane landed behind another that was stuck on the end of the runway, nearly clipping it's tail.
After watching this Stewart rubbed his chin and commented: "Ye Gods, sergeant, somebody's going to get hurt in one of these things."
"Once in your lifetime someone crosses your path you can never forget, and that was Jimmy Stewart," Robinson concluded.
This is the 13th stamp in the "Legends of Hollywood" series and will be dedicated in ceremonies at Universal Studios, Hollywood, Calif.
"It's our privilege to pay tribute to James Stewart, a fantastic actor, a great gentleman, a brave soldier, and an inspirational human being who truly led a wonderful life," Alan C. Kessler, vice chairman of the postal governing board, said in a statement.
Other highlights from Stewart's career include the movies "Rear Window," "Vertigo" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much," all directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Stewart played a country lawyer in "Anatomy of a Murder" and played a lawyer again in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," a Western released in 1962.
He won an Oscar for best actor in "Philadelphia Story" in 1940.
Stewart died on July 2, 1997.
Smaller stars on a military ribbon denote subsequent awards. For instance two stars on a Bronze Star ribbon indicate the awarding of three medals total. The Silver Star, the nations third highest award for bravery in combat is in fact star shaped ... adorned by a light blue/red & white ribbon.
Since the United States had yet to declare war on Germany and because of the Army's unwillingness to put celebrities on the front, Stewart was held back from combat duty, though he did earn a commission as a Second Lieutenant and completed pilot training. He was later stationed in Albuquerque, NM, becoming an instructor pilot for the B-17 Flying Fortress.
The only public appearances after he went into flight school were limited engagements scheduled by the Air Corps. "Stewart appeared several times on network radio with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he performed with Orson Welles, Edward G. Robinson, Walter Huston and Lionel Barrymore in an all-network radio program called 'We Hold These Truths,' dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. But mostly, Stewart's days and nights were spent preparing for his upcoming flight tests, ground school and academic examinations for his commission."
"Still, the war was moving on. For the thirty-six-year-old Stewart, combat duty seemed far away and unreachable, and he had no clear plans for the future. But then a rumor that Stewart would be taken off flying status and assigned to making training films or selling bonds called for his immediate and decisive action, because what he dreaded most was the hope-shattering spector of a dead end." So he appealed to his commander, a pre-war aviator, who understood and reassigned him to a unit going overseas.
In August 1943 he was finally assigned to the 445th Bombardment Group in Sioux City, Iowa, first as Operations Officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron and then its commander. In December, the 445th Bombardment Group flew its B-24 Liberator bombers to Tibenham, England and immediately began combat operations. While flying missions over Germany, Stewart was promoted to Major.
In March 1944, he was transferred as Group Operations Officer to the 453rd Bombardment Group, a new B-24 outfit that had been experiencing difficulties.
In 1944, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in combat and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He also received the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
In July 1944, after flying 20 combat missions, Stewart was made Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force. Before the war ended, he was promoted to Colonel, one of only a few Americans to rise from private to colonel in four years.
BTW, if you goggle Lt Col Matt Urban, the Foxhole thread is hit #3.
Very cool. That’s for the info.
Coool. “big grin”. We’re famous. ;-)