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James Stewart at War (Hardback)

His Career in the USAAF

Military P&S History > Social History

By Pavel Türk
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 112
Illustrations: 10 colour illustrations, 110 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399066952
Published: 30th June 2023


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James Stewart was already a Hollywood star when the United States went to war in December 1941. Having received an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1940 for his role in The Philadelphia Story, he had become a familiar face to movie goers by the time that the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor. By that time ‘Jimmy’ had already received his private pilot’s licence and when his name was drawn by the Drafting Commission on 29 October 1940, he applied to join the US Army Air Corps. He continued his pilot training and just twelve days before he received his draft, he had obtained his commercial pilot’s licence. It was on 18 January 1942, that the Hollywood star was called into active duty.

Jimmy was transferred to the 929th Bombardier Training School, based at Kirtland Field in New Mexico, on 19 August 1942. There he served as a pilot almost until the end of the year. Though his film company had managed to secure a ‘static personnel’ role, Jimmy was determined to fly in combat. So it was that Captain James Maitland Stewart was appointed as the Commander of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron. Finally, on 17 November 1943, he landed in the UK and his operational war began.

Flying in a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Jimmy undertook his first bombing mission on 13 December 1943, the target on this occasion being the German U-boat facilities at Kiel. Just seven days later he was once again sent to attack a target in Germany, this time the port of Bremen.

A further eighteen missions followed over the following fifteen months. Stewart took part in raids against targets across Germany, including Berlin, all of which are analysed in detail along with a fabulous collection of photographs of the aircraft Jimmy flew and the men he flew with.

His contribution to victory over Germany was not confined to flying B-24 bombers, He also functioned as an Operations Officer for a period and led the Liberators of the 2nd Combat Bomb Wing to an attack on the railway marshalling yards at Halle from the navigator’s seat of a de Haviland Mosquito.

James Stewart rose to the rank of major from private in just four years, an achievement few can claim. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions as deputy commander of the 2nd Bombardment Wing, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. The French bestowed him with the Croix de Guerre with palm.

Having risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel, James Stewart returned to the silver screen after the war. He continued to play a role in the Army Air Forces reserve, during which period he was promoted to brigadier general. In so doing, Stewart became the highest-ranking actor in American military history.

“James Maitland Stewart became the highest-ranking actor in American military history. And, for that reason alone his life is as inspiring as it can get and worthy of a lengthy wholesome read.”

Read the full review here.


"The book is rich in photographs and even includes a large section of color profiles."

The Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation

"...he (James Stewart) spoke little of his wartime service but this highly readable account puts that record straight."

Andrew Thomas - FlyPast - March 2024

"I learned a lot from this book not only the text but also the absolutely terrific selection of photographs and specially commissioned colour plates."

Read the full review here.

Flying in Ireland

"I learned a lot from this book not only the text of but also the absolutely terrific selection of photographs and specially commissioned colour plates. I would suggest that the reader might also like to purchase a good biography to read in tandem, setting out the rest of James Stewart’s remarkable life and would recommend James Stewart by Donald Dewey."

Ulster Aviation Society

Review as featured in

The Armourer

About Pavel Türk

A renowned author and historian on the aerial aspects of the Second World War, PAVEL TÜRK has a particular interest in the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. As a result of his research on this particular bomber, Pavel has previously written two separate volumes of the B-24 Liberator Handbook, which were published in the Czech language, and co-authored B-24 Liberator in RAF Coastal Command Service. He lives in the Czech Republic.

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