Flying with Jimmy Stewart 

Written by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

Colonel Jimmy Stewart 1944
Command Pilot of the 453 Bomb Group

Academy Award-winning Hollywood actor, Jimmy Stewart, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940, before the United States entered World War II. He became a bombardier instructor and, later, a B-17 bomber pilot. After the war, Stewart remained in the Air Force Reserves and retired as a Brigadier General.

In 1943, he was transferred to the Eighth Air Force, stationed in England, as a member of the 445th Bomb Group. While with the Eighth Air Force, he flew 25 combat missions, some of them as a Command Pilot. The name of Stewart's aircraft was Four Yanks and a Jerk

One youth from Eau Claire, Jerry Collison,  was a member of the same group and flew some of the same missions as Stewart. According to Dr. Art Petzold, also of Eau Claire, Stewart shuttled around the Eighth Air Force and flew with other groups. This was probably done for public relations purposes. Clark Gable did the same thing but flew only five missions, as an aerial photographer. 

According to Petzold, the airmen loved and respected Stewart, but they were reluctant to fly with him when he was the Command Pilot because they had a hard time understanding his orders. He stammered and sometimes hesitated before giving orders, so the other pilots had a hard time understanding him.

Petzold attended Stewart's 75th birthday party, held May 21, 1983 in Stewart's hometown. During the birthday celebration, the townspeople unveiled a statue of Stewart. The Presidential greeting was given by Ronald Reagan. 





Above: Jimmy as Charles A. Lindbergh in The Spirit of St. Louis. As a boy, Jimmy charted the 1927 Lindbergh flight by moving a model of the plane he had constructed across a map displayed in this father's hardware window.

An Army studio portrait.

The Jimmy Stewart Statue Dedication Celebration and Ceremony
 May 21, 1983
Jimmy Stewart 75th Birthday 
Indiana, Pennsylvania
Photographs by Art Petzold

I'm introducing my tail gunner (above left) and radio operator (above right) to Jimmy Stewart.  While at Old Buckingham Base in England,  we flew one mission with Jimmy Stewart and, at his 75th Birthday party, May 21,1983, our crew was designated to represent his service time in the Air Corps at his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania. 

When I met him there, I said, "The last time I shook hands with you was at Old Buckingham." His answer was, "Sure, I remember." What a great GUY! Of course, he really didn't remember. 

I'm still in the retirement [July 6, 1942] reserve; that's 61 years!

Jimmy Stewart's father's hardware store