Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot

During my last visit the the Air Force Museum, I saw this book at the Museum book store.  I had to have it!!!

In 1939, Jimmy starred in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”.  He had recently starred as a reporter in “Philadelphia Story”.

By 1941, Jimmy had both a private and commercial pilot’s license.

Jimmy at age 32 registered for the draft and was drafted.  He was quoted as saying, “The only lottery I ever came close to winning was the was the drawing for the first draft before Pearl Harbor.”

Jimmy was found to be 10 pounds under weight.   This caused a headline, “Movie Hero Heavy Enough to Knock Out Villain – But Too Light For Uncle Sam.”

Jimmy was inducted at Fort MacArthur.  Jimmy wanted and got pilot training.  Captain Bobby Heilpern gave Jimmy a check ride.  He remembered Jimmy as , “shy, intense, not much of a talker, and a very competent pilot.”  January 19, 1942, Jimmy earned is 2nd Lt. bars and was commissioned.

Jimmy went through many training classes.  He finally qualified near the top of his class in February 1943 on the B-17.  Jimmy wanted combat.  Instead he was assigned as a B-17 instructor in Boise, Idaho.   Here he made Captain.

Finally, he got hired as a squadron operations office with the 701st Squadron of the 445th Bomb Group flying B-24s.  The Group was training in Sioux City, Iowa.  Later, Captain Stewart was to be the CO for the 703rd Squadron.  On November, 1943, Captain Stewart and the 445th arrived in England.

One funny story in the book showed Captain Stewart’s homespun quality of leadership that endeared him to his men.  One crew in his Squadron told him they hadn’t been paid and the finance officer told them to come back next week.  That didn’t sit well with Captain Stewart.  He took some of the crew to finance to straighten this mess out.

The lieutenant said, “They will be paid, sir, but it will take a few days to get it.”  Captain Stewart put his hand to his chin and started rubbing it.  Then he said, “Lieutenant, we just don’t have a few days.  I believe we ought to pay them right now.  Not in a few days.  I mean kinda like, now, – in the next thirty minutes.”  Stewart looked at the lieutenant and then at us.  He said to the lieutenant, “I will be back in a little while, and, you know – if Lieutenant Wright’s crew isn’t paid by then, I believe that we will just have to find a new finance lieutenant for his one will be on his way out of here to the Infantry.”

Jimmy Stewart went on to fly many tough missions.  He was promoted to Major, Lt. Colonel, and finally Colonel during the war.  When the war in Europe ended, Colonel Stewart was about to be given command of a Bomb Group.  This is a very high honor for anyone!

The book has many great stories as Jimmy stayed in the Air Force Reserves after the war.  He went on to serve in SAC and earned his star to become Brigadier General.

After the war Colonel Stewart starred in the Movie, “Strategic Air Command”.  This movie was Jimmy being both actor and officer all at once.  Once Jimmy put on the uniform, he was all officer and not an actor.  A few in the Air Force learned this lesson the hard way.  He sounds like the type of officer I would have easily followed and loved when I was in the Air Force!

I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I think anyone interested in WWII history will too.  You have to give this book 5 stars and top billing!

Author:  Starr Smith

Forward:  Walter Cronkite

Pages:  277

Publisher:  Zenith Press

ISBN:  978-0-7603-2199-7

Price:  $21.95


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