As a child he had been taught to do whatever he did with all he had, he was a great flight instructor. He had a way of talking and a voice that would calm the most hysterical student. His natural command presence would take over and bring order to chaos, a talent that would come in handy in combat.
He knew his skills were better used in combat than teaching the basics of flight so in the only instance I can find of this man calling in favors or using his friends to pull strings – he forced the Army to send him to a combat unit.
He reported in to the 703rd Bombardment Squadron in England as a B-24 First officer.
Distinguishing himself in Combat over Germany he was given command of his own B-24 and eventually promoted to Major. He participated in twelve Combat missions over NAZI Germany; most as lead aircraft
His unique speech and inherent command presence made it possible for him to keep his squadrons together and calm his crews no matter what the Germans threw at them.
In July 1944 he was promoted to Chief of Staff, 2nd Combat Bombardment wing, 8th Air Force and to the rank of Full Bird Colonel.
Many years later, GREEN-TWO dropped her load and the group turned toward home, six hours of boring calm and thanks to one of the crewmen, a breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked on a hot-plate in the Radio compartment. Return trips were usually pretty upbeat, especially since all 30 birds were headed home – all that was left was to put her on the ground and call it a day.
Final approach and checklist, the aircraft decelerating toward rotation speed, Co-Pilot Lee Meyers, hollered “Flaps are splitting!” – This was NOT a good thing.
The BUFF has a reputation for being an engineering anomaly that is actually incapable of flight. I’ve heard her described with great affection as “A half-million pounds of sheet-metal, hydraulics and ordinance; vibrating with such velocity that the earth revolts it from gravitational pull”
“Flaps splitting” means that not all sections of the flaps (required for slow flight – i.e. landing) were extending equally. The textbook result was for the ship to roll hard on approach and crash.
Capt. Amos decided to take GREEN-TWO out to a ditch area and have the crew punch out while he held the aircraft stable then punched out himself – a definite maybe as far as success goes, BUFFS don’t fly well with big ejection seat sized holes in her airframe.
“General do you understand? We are probably going to eject”; “My command will be – BAIL OUT – BAIL OUT – BAIL OUT. The Navigator will go first and leave a huge hole in the floor, you will go second.”
The General’s voice came across the intercom with that same calming quality that served him so well over Germany – “Why sure, Captain – I understand.”
Having the general in a down ejecting seat meant if he ejected on approach it would shoot him directly into the ground and take days to dig him out.
Amos took GREEN–TWO out to an area where Crash Rescue was staged and tested his flaps every way possible. To everyone’s relief the Split Flaps indication was an instrument failure – not battle damage, Capt. Amos landed her without incident.
In three wars and almost three decades of service General Jimmy Stewart earned: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, an ARCOM, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a French Croix de Guerre with Palm; and he climbed the ranks from Pvt. (E-1) to full Colonel (O-6) in just 4 years. He remained a Reserve officer, maintaining SAC flight proficiency ratings as a bomber pilot throughout his career as an Actor.
Gen. Stewart is one of the very few Hollywood celebrities who were targeted by the McCarthy witch hunts yet still came out smelling like a rose
Late in Jimmy Stewart’s life he commented about how he wanted to be remembered –He said
“I’d like people to remember me as someone who was good at his job and seemed to mean what he said.”
Sorry Sir… I’ll remember you as the Warrior you were. “It’s a Wonderful life” will take on a whole new significance to me this year.
US Air Force Brig, General Jimmy Steward made his final “Post Flight” on 2 July, 1997 – don’t ya know the Big Guy’s Air Wing did one hell of a fly-by when the General Reported in.
Does anyone know where I can get “Harvey is my co-pilot” bumper sticker for my Jeep.