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Jimmy Stewart's Military Career

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by JCFalkenbergIII, Jul 26, 2008.

  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Jimmy Stewart's Military Career

    James ‘Jimmy’ Stewart was one of the most popular leading men in Hollywood, starring in such classic films as “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946), “Harvey” (1950), and “Rear Window” (1954). Despite being a successful actor, Stewart was a patriotic man who believed when his country needed men to serve, he would join the rest as a regular soldier.

    Inspired by his family’s military background dating back to the Civil War, James Stewart wanted to be a part of the service as well. When it was getting closer to the fact that America would inevitably join WWII, Stewart tried to enlist, hoping his private pilot license would gain him a position as fighter pilot. He was rejected due to being underweight. Stewart returned to Hollywood but made an effort to gain weight in order to pass the 148 LB requirement. After building some muscle, Stewart returned. This time, he barely made the weight requirement by one ounce. Finally, Stewart was enlisted. Eight months later, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Stewart was recognized as the first actor to serve in WW II.

    Throughout Stewart’s military career, he insisted on not being treated special which resulted in him steadily working his way from private to colonel in four years. First, Stewart started out as an instructor pilot. By the time he was sent overseas, Stewart was commander of Eighth Air Force bomber squadron — one of his sergeants was future actor Walter Mathau. In 1945, Stewart returned to Hollywood to continue making films – his first post-war success was “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946).

    When America employed the draft for The Vietnam War, a lot of men dodged the draft. A staunch patriot, James Stewart has been quoted as saying, “I hate them! I absolutely hate them! Whether right or wrong, their country was at war and their country asked them to serve, and they refused and ran away. Cowards, that’s what they were.” Stewart himself flew combat missions during that same war as well. He lost his son Ronald who fought in the Vietnam War as well. He officially retired from the military in 1966.

    By the end of James Stewart’s military career, he had risen to the rank of Brigadier General and remains to be one of the few men to rise from private to colonel in four years. Steward has been the recipient of the Croix de Guerre award, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Distinguished Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, as well as receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross twice and the Air Medal four times. His military uniform and decorations can be seen at the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA.

    Jimmy Stewart's Military Career - Classic Film
     
  2. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    My pleasure jack. I have alweays admired the man and his accomplishments :) .
     
  3. 1911Colt

    1911Colt Member

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    Ironically i just got done watching "The Naked Spur".
    I've known of Jimmys' accomplishments for some time having been a fan for even longer. Hollywood will never see his kind again. There's an obscure museum in Gettysburg that has one of his uniforms on display i always stop to see when i get a chance. I never knew Walter Mathau was a vet though. Thanks for the article JC.
     
  4. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    Jimmy Stewart has always been at the top of my A-List for Hollywood celebrities. I love his films -- both the well known and the obscure -- and I love his strength of character. He was to Hollywood what Ted Williams was to Sport -- a man who always put country first.

    One note though, about the bio you have presented. It's a Wonderful Life was not really a hit in theaters. It finished around 46th for the year at the Box Office, as I recall. It really only became a hit when most households in the US started to have TVs in the late 50's/early 60's and everyone started to rely on it as a Christmas standard.
     
  5. Herr Kaleun

    Herr Kaleun Member

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    For further reading, pick up a copy of Jimmy Stewart: Bomber Pilot by Starr Smith.

    A fine book on a true American hero.
     
  6. Mortman2004

    Mortman2004 Dishonorably Discharged

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    Guess my post on The stars who served in combat was in the wrong thread Boy do i feel stupid...... and overlooked LOL
     
  7. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    One of the greats, I remember him fondly. :salute:

    P.S. I wasn't aware of his participation in VN.
     
  8. VeteranTributes

    VeteranTributes recruit

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    I created a tribute for Jimmy Stewart on my website here:

    Veteran Tributes

    -Erich
    Veteran Tributes Founder
     

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