“I was so down I wanted to write a feeling-blue song,” he told Seventeen magazine in 1974, “[but] this is what came out.”
He enlisted as a private, but because of his college degree and being a licensed pilot, he applied for an Air Corps commission. On January 19, 1942, he received his commission as a second lieutenant.
Also like Captain America, at first Jimmy Stewart made a lot of public appearances and a recruitment film, Winning the Wings. This resulted in 150,000 new recruits. If you wish to watch it, it is 17:33 minutes in length.
- The 445th Bomb Group flew to RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England where it flew several weeks of training missions.
- On December 13, 1943, the group flew its first combat mission to bomb U-boat facilities in Kiel, Germany. Stewart led the high squadron of the group formation.
- Three days later, on its second mission which was to Bremen, Stewart led the entire group.
- Following a mission to Ludwigshafen, Germany, on January 7, 1944, Stewart was promoted to major.
- Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions as deputy commander of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing on the first day of “Big Week” operations in February and flew two other missions that week.
- On March 22, 1944, Stewart flew his 12th combat mission, leading the 2nd Bomb Wing in an attack on Berlin.
- On March 30, 1944, he was sent to RAF Old Buckenham to become group operations officer of the 453rd Bombardment Group, a new B-24 unit that had just lost both its commander and operations officer on missions.
- Stewart flew as command pilot in the lead B-24 on several missions deep into Nazi-occupied Europe.
- As a staff officer, Stewart was assigned to the 453rd “for the duration” and assigned himself as a combat crewman on the group’s missions until his promotion to lieutenant colonel on June 3
- Reassignment on July 1, 1944, to the 2nd Bomb Wing, assigned as executive officer to Brigadier General Edward J. Timberlake.
- His official tally of mission credits while assigned to the 445th and 453rd Bomb Groups totaled 20 sorties.
Stewart continued to make missions, uncredited, flying with the pathfinder squadron of the 389th Bombardment Group, with his two former groups, and with groups of the 20th Combat Bomb Wing. He received a second award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in combat and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
He also received the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. Stewart served in a number of staff positions in the 2nd and 20th Bomb Wings between July 1944 and the end of the war in Europe, and was promoted to full colonel on March 29, 1945. On May 10, 1945, he succeeded to command of the 2nd Bomb Wing, a position he held until June 15. Stewart was one of the few Americans to rise from private to colonel in four years.