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Brig. Gen. James M. Stewart

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Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awards the Croix De Guerre with Palm to Col. Jimmy Stewart for exceptional services in the liberation. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On March 22, 1941, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces. He was assigned to the Army Air Corps as an enlisted man and stationed at Moffett Field, Calif. During his nine months of training at that base, he also took extension courses with the idea of obtaining a commission. He completed the courses and was awaiting the results when Pearl Harbor took place. A month later he received his commission, and because he had logged over 400 hours as a civilian, he was permitted to take basic flight training at Moffett and received his pilot wings. During the next nine months, he instructed in AT-6, AT-9 and B-17 aircraft and flew bombardiers in the training school at Albuquerque, N.M. In the fall of 1943, Stewart went to England as Commanding Officer of the 703d Bomb Squadron, equipped with B-24s.

Brig. Gen. James M. Stewart, USAF Reserve. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Maj. Jimmy Stewart confers with a B-24 crew member. (U.S. Air Force photo)

He began flying combat missions and on March 31, 1944, was appointed Operations Officer of the 453rd Bomb Group and, subsequently, Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat wing, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force. Stewart ended the war with 20 combat missions. He remained in the USAF Reserve and was promoted to brigadier general on July 23, 1959. He retired on May 31, 1968.

From his Website:

James Maitland Stewart

USAF PHoto

Jimmy did win the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Philadelphia Story also starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in 1940. Stewart was riding high and MGM was expecting big things from him. What he chose to do next was bigger than anyone could have imagined. Like his ancestors before him, Stewart enlisted in the United States Army to the dismay of MGM.

The Stewart family tradition of serving in the military goes back to Jimmy’s third great grandfather, Fergus Moorhead, who served in the Revolutionary War. Jimmy’s maternal grandfather was a general for the Union in the Civil War. His father Alex, served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I. Jimmy Stewart entered the Army as a private and at the end of WWII was a colonel in the Army Air Corps, fully decorated as the result of the 20 combat missions he flew over Germany as leader of a squadron of B-24’s. Among the medals, he was awarded were two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Croix de Guerre.

Stewart continued his military career after WWII by serving in the Air Force Reserves and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. President Reagan awarded him the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest award that can be awarded to a civilian in the United States.Following the war, Jimmy got right back to the business of making movies. His first post-war performance in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life earned him an Academy Award nomination. Initially, this film was a box office bust, it has become the most famous Christmas holiday film in Hollywood history. It was also Stewart’s and Frank Capra’s favorite films. For his entire biography visit his website

Jimmy’s Stepson Ronald died in the Vietnam War.

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