Its a Wonderful life - the Story of Jimmy Stewart

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In 1946 Frank Carpa released to the world “Its a Wonderful Life” starting Jimmy Stewart one of America’s favorite Christmas Story. Now This maybe odd for an aviation related forum and you’re probably wondering how does Jimmy Stewart and aviation combine? With war breaking out in Europe, Japan is taking over the pacific people began to enlist to protect the US. Jimmy Stewart was the first major holly wood start to enlist. Already holding a private pilot certificate Private Stewart at the time was sent to the US Army Air Force March 22, 1941. Soon to be 33, Private Stewart was almost to old to train to be a pilot. Typically the normal path of commissioning for pilots, navigators and bombardiers and therefore applied for an Air Corps commission as both a college graduate and a licensed commercial pilot. 2nd Lt Stewart received his commission as a second lieutenant on January 1, 1942. After joining the Army Jimmy Stewart told the studios he could not do any contracts to help fight the war but remained under contract with MGM. He couldn’t do showings due to his service with the Army.

2nd Lt Stewart was concerned that his celebrity status would relegate him to duties beyond the lines to go fight. In July of 1942 his fears came true after becoming a 1st Lieutenant, the Military wanted to keep him State side this sending 1st Lt Stewart to Kirtland Army Airfield in Albuquerque, New Mexico to train B-24 pilots. A Year later he would receive the rank of Captain and became the Squadron Commander. After hearing rumors he maybe sent to make films and sell war bonds, Capt Stewart begged commander to send him to Europe which he did do. His commander gave him the 445th Bombardment Group. Capt Stewart arrived in England on November 25, 1943, to pilot the B-24 Liberator. During his time in Europe he would volunteer for every combat service and would put himself into combat since he could pull strings. He gained the respect from his crews.

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After the raid of Ludwigshafen, Germany. Major Stewart was promoted to the rank of Major. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions as deputy commander of the 2nd Bombardment Command. He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre with palm and the Air Medal and a set of oak leaf cluster. In March of 1945 he raised to the rank of Full Bird Colonel, Col Stewart is one of the few Americans to ever rise from private to colonel in only four year. In 1945 Col Stewart headed office the investigation of an accidental bombing of Switzerland. With the War ending in Europe Col Stewart returned home and continued his duties as a reservist in the Army. With Col Stewart home he founded the Air Force Association. During his time in the US Col Stewart would upgrade to the B-47 bomber. He continued to upgrade to the B-36 Peace maker then finally the B-52.

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On July 23, 1959 Col Stewart received his first General Star. Becoming the highest ranking Hollywood action.


Again General Stewart was called to war with Vietnam. In February of 1966 General Stewart flew his last combat mission. The 12 hour 50 minutes General Stewart flew the B-52 in Arc Light. A Bombing campaign over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream. Their operation was to support American and allies troops on the ground.

General Stewart finally retired from the US Air Force 1968. During his time with the Military Jimmy started in a ton of films. It’s a Wonderful Life, Magic Life, is to name a few. One of my all time favorite Jimmy Stewart movie is Strategic Air Command, every bomber you see Jimmy Stewart is actually flying it. In total General Stewart flew 20 combat missions between World War Two and Vietnam.

Jimmy Stewart passed away in 1997 in California due to a heart attack he was 89. While he maybe gone his films are still with us and the story he left of his Military and aviation service.

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Fun fact, upon release “Its a Wonderful Life” was basically never viewed. The creator and actors made little to no money off of it. Eventually, after the movie entered the Public Domain, cheap cable stations started playing it around the holidays. As it was free by that point. The movie got so popular because of that, that it is now a movie we watch around the holidays as a tradition.

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oh wow. i knew he was in the service. but i didnt know the specifics. thank you for a great holiday film and your service jimmy stewart

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I always enjoy the story of Gen Stewart it’s fun watching people you grew up with then seeing how their service enters in.

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Yeah, certainly an interesting thing.

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