The Jimmy Stewart Story and the 703rd Squadron
James (Jimmy) Stewart (1908-1997) was a famous actor originally drafted by the Army in 1940, but was rejected because he was 5 pounds underweight. He did manage to gain weight and enlisted in the Air Corps in March 1941.
Although he enlisted as a private, he received a commission as a second lieutenant in January 1942. Additionally, he received a pilot rating, although the circumstances were unclear since he did not participate in the standard pilot training program and he was 6 years beyond aviation cadet training. Stewart was very worried that his celebrity status would prevent him from being assigned combat duties. Ultimately, though he was assigned as a commander of the 445th Bombardment Group.
In August 1943, Stewart was assigned to the 445th Bomb Group as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, but three weeks later was its commander. However, it was not until October 1943 that the 445th Bomb Group was transferred to Tibenham, Norfolk, England. After several weeks of training, the first combat mission over the U-boat facilities at Kiel, Germany.
By March 22, 1944, Stewart had flown his 12th combat mission and was leading the 2nd Bomb Wing in an attack on Berlin. It is recorded that every time he led the group no aircraft were lost.
Eight days later, he was transferred a different, higher unit. By May 1945, he succeeded to command of the 2nd Bomb Wing. He was one of the few Americans to rise from private to colonel in four years.
Stewart remained in the Air Force Reserve after the war and ultimately retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 with a rank of Brigadier General.
In 1975, Stewart visited Tibenham, England, and toured the runways. He had a nostalgic stroll around the derelict control tower and watched the gliders soaring overhead. He later boarded a glider for his first ever glider flight.
The time that Stewart was commanding the 703rd Bombardment Squadron did not overlap with the arrival of Maynard L. Jones and the rest of the Hautman crew. However, Maynard mentioned seeing ‘Lt. Col. Jimmy Stewart’ at a dance in his letter of July 9, 1944 and reported getting Stewart’s autograph. Maynard also mentioned seeing Stewart some time later at the Officers’ Club.