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Jimmy Stewart: Bomber Pilot Paperback – November 15, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smith (Only the Days Were Long) served with Stewart (1908-1997) in the Eighth Air Force during 1943-1944. They were stationed in East Anglia, England, but Smith opens this memoir of their service with Stewart's New York homecoming in 1945. By then, Stewart had led 20 missions over enemy territory and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, along with other decorations. Smith, whose later career included stints working with Air Force brass and in the reserves, takes readers through Stewart's entire WWII service, including his fight with the studios to let him enlist, his training and his deployment. The bulk of the book concerns action in Germany, and will be of great interest to flight squad buffs. The final chapters make brief stops at Stewart's post-war marriage, his eventual promotion to Brigadier General and the establishment of the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana and the Mighty Eighth Heritage Museum. Smith's clear admiration for Stewart comes through on every page, but with an understatement that even George Bailey could have lived with. 64 b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This partial biography and its subject are fairly described as unassuming but highly competent. Smith served as an intelligence officer with Stewart and frankly admires him. The movie star possessed both an Oscar and a pilot's license before World War II broke out. Too old for cadet training, he took regular pilot training and transitioned into heavy bombers. Ultimately, he flew 20 combat missions in the daunting B-24, rising to the command of a wing and filling several staff positions with equal capability. Several senior-officer mentors, recognizing his competence as more than merely respectable, secured him combat assignments when Hollywood and the air force would probably rather have kept him making training films. His postwar service eventually saw him attain the rank of brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve and exceed Mach 2 in the back seat of a B-58. Smith un-star-biographically dishes no dirt, possibly because, like other Stewart limners before him, he found none to dish, though he might have quarreled with Stewart's old-fashioned Middle American virtues, one supposes. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Zenith Press; 1st edition (November 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760328242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760328248
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Marvin D. Pipher on October 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was well aware of Jimmy Stewart's military record when I set out to read this book. I was, however, anxious to learn a bit more about Stewart's combat exploits during World War II. In that regard, this book was somewhat disappointing. Rather than let us get inside Stewart's heart and mind and sense what he experienced, it appears to chronicle Stewart's time in service, letting us know where, when, and in what capacities he served; what a great guy he was, how dedicated and successful he was, and when and to what ranks he was promoted; and, in general, what many of those who served with him thought of him, but it never gets down to the nitty-gritty of what he actually did at a personal level. The reader, it would seem, is always looking from the outside in.

I was also disappointed by the fact that much of the book isn't even about Jimmy Stewart. Stewart seems to be a thread running through a broader story about World War II in Europe and, more specifically, the air war as fought by our B-24 Liberator bomb groups. I say that because more often than not the author deviates from his presumed subject, Stewart, and goes off on a tangent (e.g., Eisenhower's appointment, George C. Marshall, one officer or another, the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1940, manufacturing B-24 bombers, the Wright crew, Churchill and Roosevelt at Casablanca, and various reminiscences of one person or another). Perhaps I'm being too critical, but I would estimate that only about 30% of the book actually deals directly with Jimmy Stewart while the remainder concerns other topics. And much of the 30% is a bit repetitive.

All that said, this is still an interesting history of the air war in Europe, much of it in the words of men who actually served with Jimmy Stewart.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is almost a love letter to Jimmy Stewart. And it may well be that the love is justified in this case. The mild "aw shucks" demeanor of an honest, average middle class individual thrust into crisis seen so often on the screen is reported here over and over by people who knew him during WW II. It's clear that he was no dummy, graduate of Princeton.

This book though is on his wartime career. Entering the Army early in 1941 (and seeing his salary drop from $6,000 a month to $21) he was by the end of the war a seasoned bomber pilot with 20 missions behind him, including a visit to Berlin.

In part this book has to concentrate on the differences a movie star has to see (the Army didn't want him killed), but most of it is on the way Jimmy Stewart handled himself in the War. It's a view of the war seen in movies like 12 O'Clock high, but this one is a personal view as seen by one man. If even half of what the book says is true, Jimmy Stewart clearly deserved his decorations.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas E. Sarantakes on September 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In reading the other reviews of this book, I found something very interesting: both the positive and negative are basically correct. This book is a near love letter to Stewart, but it also really fails to describe his military experiences. Stewart was the Pat Tillman of another era. He enlisted--enlisted--in the U.S. Army before--I repeat--before Pear Harbor. This after he was an Oscar winning movie star. The book is good at building up and describing Stewart's early career in Hollywood and his initial training. You get a good feel for his leadership ability. Then, the author fails to deliver. There is nothing about the missions Stewart flew. The book reads like a series of articles from unit alumni newsletters. It strikes me that Smith used this book as a post-retirment mechanism to renew old friendships from the war, and while everyone seems to agree that Stewart was an amazing man of integrity and character, they fail to provide any meaningful evidence to support their position.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Paul Mcaleer on March 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Smith does a nice job recounting the days the Jimmy Stewart spent in the military during WWII. I found it very detailed oriented and less filled with anecdotes than I would have thought all these years removed from WWII. I knew a bit about Stewart's involvement in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force, but this book really filled in the details of his time during the war. Guys like Jimmy Stewart are a far cry from the phonies like Alec Baldwin who threaten to go back to Canada but wind up sticking around the USA to sap of of our money with second rate films.

I think you will be amazed to find out all that Stewart had to do in order to become the hero he was. He was not drafted as a previous review claims, rather he inlisted against the will of the studio. He also had to endure undesired special treatment because no one wanted to put him in harms way. Eventually his desire to train for and see active duty prevailed and some forty odd years later this film star retired as Gen. Stewart, donating all of his retirement money back to the Air Force.

This is a great book about an American hero. Like many of his day, Glen Miller, Ronald Reagan. Stewart did not wait he willingly enlisted!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Graves VINE VOICE on July 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
Smith's book "Jimmy Stewart Bomber pilot" honors the war time service of one of the most famous movies stars in American History. At a time when many celebrities enlisted in the military but spent their time doing what could only be called PR work, Stewart fought to become a combat officer. Refusing to pull strings or use influence he strove to become a combat pilot in the US 8th Air Force in WW2. Not an actor in uniform he ended his war time service with the rank of colonel with numerous decorations for courage and leadership and a total of 20 combat missions flown over Hitler's Germany. I only wish they had found a better writer to tell his story.

Smith himself was an air force officer at roughly the same time Stewart was so he does bring to the book the knowledge and experience of war time service and an intimate knowledge of how things really were. Parts of his writing flow easily and fans of Stewart's acting feel they can hear his voice coming from the pages as it tells the tale of a man who passionately wanted to serve his country, whose life could be summed up in his own words "what's wrong with wanting to fight for your country? Why are people reluctant to use the word patriotism?"

Reading about Stewart's exploits as a student, a trainer and finally a combat leader, I would find pages flying by but then the flight would crash to the ground. There are a few significant problems with the book that kept being some what jarring. Firstly Stewart himself did not write about his war experiences. Much of the book comes from his official war record, a knowledge by Smith about how the 8th Air Force operated and many, many interviews with people who knew Stewart in those days. The problem is that introducing these people comes across as severe padding to the book.
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