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Jimmy Stewart: American Actor and Honored Veteran

Photo from _jimmystewart on Instagram

Jimmy Stewart: American Actor and Honored Veteran

By Movieguide® Contributor

This Veterans Day, we’re highlighting some of our favorite celebrities who served in the United States military.

Many know Jimmy Stewart for his tall stature, boyish looks and unique voice, but along with his successful acting career, he also served as an airman in the Army Air Corps, Air Force and Air Force Reserves.

The IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE actor “came from a long line of military service. Both grandfathers fought in the Civil War, and his father was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and World War I. Then a hardware store owner, he instead convinced his son to attend Princeton, which is still a pretty good school, all things considered. It was there that Stewart became involved with acting and pursued it as a career,” Military.com wrote.

After he left Princeton with an architecture degree, Stewart thought there wouldn’t be many jobs. So he headed for Hollywood. While he performed on the big screens, he also “logged 400 flight hours over eight years in show business.” When it came time to enlist in 1940 at the beginning of World War II, Stewart got rejected due to his low weight. At his next attempt, his friend helped him cheat the scale, and Stewart became the first Hollywood actor to enlist.

Military.com reported, “It was the start of a 27-year career in the Army and then the Air Force. When a producer asked him why he would give up his screen career for the military, he said: ‘This country’s conscience is bigger than all the studios in Hollywood put together, and the time will come when we’ll have to fight.’”

“After a year training new pilots in New Mexico, he finally was sent overseas to fly B-24 Liberator bombers over Nazi-occupied Europe. At a time when air crews were expected to be killed between eight and 12 missions, Stewart had flown 20,” Military.com reported. “He was stationed in Europe through the end of the war, receiving two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals, a Presidential Unit Citation and the French Croix de Guerre.”

Stewart ultimately rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserves, and President Raegan honored him with the Medal of Freedom.

Movieguide® previously reported on Stewart’s courage in the military:

Ned Forney, author of Saluting America’s Veterans, writes:

Determined to lead by example, he bucked the system, assigning himself to every combat mission he could. By the end of the war he was one of the most respected and decorated pilots in his unit.

But his wartime service came at a high personal price.In the final months of WWII he was grounded for being “flak happy,” today called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When he returned to the US in August 1945, Stewart was a changed man. He had lost so much weight that he looked sickly. He rarely slept, and when he did he had nightmares of planes exploding and men falling through the air screaming (in one mission alone his unit had lost 13 planes and 130 men, most of whom he knew personally).He was depressed, couldn’t focus, and refused to talk to anyone about his war experiences. His acting career was all but over.

However, Stewart channeled his grief into his legendary role in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Biographer Robert Matzen told CNN, “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was a result of Jim’s war experiences because it unlocked this depth of soul in Jimmy…He had to learn to act again and that’s what you’re seeing on screen. It’s like lightning that just got captured in a bottle.”

“Jimmy Stewart was following his own experience and using that in his character. That is a very hard thing to do. The audience feels the intensity of that because it was clearly authentic.” Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz said.

The Jimmy Stewart Museum wrote Stewart “will be remembered as a talented actor, brave military hero, loving husband, good father, and a giant among men. He leaves a legacy of honesty, hard work, and strong values. He was a good man, a loyal citizen, and had a wonderful life. He indeed earned his wings!”

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Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.


4000+ Faith Based Articles and Movie Reviews – Will you Support Us?

Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.