Jimmy Stewart is one of Hollywood’s greatest all-time stars. He stared in numerous classic movies, such as Vertigo and Rear Window, worked with top directors, such as Hitchcock, John Ford, and Billy Wilder, won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and, in 1999 was ranked third on the list of greatest American male actors by the American Film Institute (AFI)
But more than that, Stewart was the epiphany of the American ideal. True to his image, in 1941, Stewart left behind fat paychecks and the comforts of a movie star to enlist and contribute to the war effort. Mind you he was already 33.
Initially, he ejected for low weight but Stewart persisted and did not stop until the army let him enlist.
He was too old for a pilot course, but as a licensed pilot and a college graduate, he was soon commissioned as a second lieutenant in Air Corps.
At first, the army mainly used him on radio programs to draw recruits. Stewart found this frustrating and appealed to his commander to send him to combat duty. In 1943 his efforts bore and he was sent to the front as a B-24 Pilot.
For his bravery in combat, Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre with palm, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
By the end of the war, he was promoted to full colonel, making him one of the few Americans to ever rise from private to colonel in only four years.
After resuming his acting career, Stewart continued to serve as an Air Force reserve pilot and in 1959 he was promoted to brigadier general, becoming the highest-ranking actor in American military history. In 1985, Stewart was promoted to rank of major general on the Air Force retired list
Bonus Fact: In 1966 during the Vietnam War, already 58 years old, General Stewart flew as a non-duty observer in a B-52 on a bombing mission.