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Jimmy Stewart - Bomber Pilot

Jimmy Stewart - Bomber Pilot Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2005 Title Jimmy Stewart - Bomber Pilot
Author Starr Smith Publisher Zenith Press
Published 2005 ISBN 978-0760321997
Format 286 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $21.95


When I saw this title on the upcoming releases from Zenith Press, I knew I had to get a copy. My mentor, who 20 years ago helped me transition from military to civilian life, had a picture of Jimmy Stewart on his wall. Not actor Jimmy Stewart, Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart, USAF. He had flown B-24 Liberators in the same outfit as Jimmy Stewart and they had been staying in touch.

You see, Jimmy Stewart was an award winning Hollywood actor, but when war clouds started to loom on the horizon, he enlisted into the Army. He was standing guard on Moffett Field the day the Japanese struck Peal Harbor. He wanted to serve his country, quietly and with dignity. He didn't want to be the attention of the press as many of his fellow actors were when they enlisted after the US entered the war.

While most of the Hollywood types went on to entertain the troops, Jimmy Stewart fought hard to stay out of the limelight and fly. He was commissioned in 1942 where he also completed his flight training. From there, he served at a bombardier training school in Albuquerque NM. He managed to get into heavy bombers with an assignment as Operations Officer at a B-17 squadron in Idaho in 1943, but he wasn't happy until he could get where the action was happening. In August 1943, he became squadron commander for the 703rd Bomb Squadron, 445th Bomb Group (H), which deployed to England in late 1943. In March 1944, he became the Group Operations Officer for the 453rd Bomb Group (H). General Jimmy Doolittle said that had the war lasted a month longer, Jimmy Stewart would have commanded his own bomb group.

Author Starr Smith has a special advantage on this subject. He was there. Captain Starr Smith was an Intelligence Officer and served with Stewart in Europe. What you'll read is first-hand accounts and compilations of stories from those who flew with Stewart over Nazi-occupied Europe.

Read about the man who left the glamour of Hollywood to serve his country. He enlisted as a Private before the war and ended the war as a full Colonel. Few men, and certainly no one in Hollywood circles, have ever achieved such a fast-track career, not by his celebrity status, but through hard work and fighting all the way to be able to fly and fight like the men under his command.

This is a well-written book that will provide a unique look into some operational history and the characteristics of a quiet man that in an icon of a true American hero. This title is highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Motorbooks International for this review sample!