Major Jimmy Stewart talks over the final details of a mission with flyers about to take off, from left to right: Sgt. Keith M. Dibble of Rixford, Pa.; first Lt. Roger Counselman of Meadville, Pa.; Stewart; Sgt. Joseph T. Fiorentino of Philadelphia, Pa.; and second Lt. A.E. Lensky of Monessen, Pa., April 19, 1944, in England during World War II. (AP Photo)

Major Jimmy Stewart talks over the final details of a mission with flyers about to take off, from left to right: Sgt. Keith M. Dibble of Rixford, Pa.; first Lt. Roger Counselman of Meadville, Pa.; Stewart; Sgt. Joseph T. Fiorentino of Philadelphia, Pa.; and second Lt. A.E. Lensky of Monessen, Pa., April 19, 1944, in England during World War II. (AP Photo)

Hollywood legend James Stewart was considered too old, too light and too famous to fight in the United States Army Air Force in World War II. This didn’t stop him, and with a great deal of determination, he went on to lead a bomber squadron based in England. He survived twenty bombing missions against Germany. Long after the war he remained a reserve airman, and remarkably, flew as an observer in a B-52 mission in the Vietnam War.

EXCLUSIVE: I MADE JIMMY STEWART, BOMBER PILOT- Interview with Nina Mae Fowler

Hollywood legend James Stewart was considered too old, too light and too famous to fight in the United States Army Air Force in World War II. This didn’t stop him, and with a great deal of determination, he went on to lead a bomber squadron based in England. He survived twenty bombing missions against Germany. Long after the war he remained a reserve airman, and remarkably, flew as an observer in a B-52 mission in the Vietnam War.

Japanese WW2

Japanese WW2

James Stewart celebrates his promotion to major by leading his bomber group on a raid over Frankfurt, Germany (January 29, 1944).

James Stewart celebrates his promotion to major by leading his bomber group on a raid over Frankfurt, Germany (January 29, 1944).

"portaaviones Zuikaku"

"portaaviones Zuikaku"

"When he gets out of the Army, which may be soon, Jimmy expects to go back to making movies," LIFE wrote. "'But no war pictures,' he said. 'I'll settle for good comedy.'" True to his word, Stewart returned to film in 1946 -- with a little picture called It's a Wonderful Life.  (full photo album of 22 pics)

The TIME Vault: May 5, 2014

"When he gets out of the Army, which may be soon, Jimmy expects to go back to making movies," LIFE wrote. "'But no war pictures,' he said. 'I'll settle for good comedy.'" True to his word, Stewart returned to film in 1946 -- with a little picture called It's a Wonderful Life. (full photo album of 22 pics)

David Niven

David Niven

DeForest Kelley (1920-1999) [Fear in the Night (1947); Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)]He served with the Army Air Corp in World War II.

DeForest Kelley (1920-1999) [Fear in the Night (1947); Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)]He served with the Army Air Corp in World War II.

Lieut. E.L. Reid, personnel officer of the west coast training center at Moffett Field, California, right, swears in Jimmy Stewart, former movie star, as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps on Jan. 1, 1941. Stewart, who was one of Hollywood’s most popular actors before he was inducted into the Army in 1941, was a corporal. (AP Photo)

Lieut. E.L. Reid, personnel officer of the west coast training center at Moffett Field, California, right, swears in Jimmy Stewart, former movie star, as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps on Jan. 1, 1941. Stewart, who was one of Hollywood’s most popular actors before he was inducted into the Army in 1941, was a corporal. (AP Photo)

Henry Fonda served in the Navy for three years, initially as a quartermaster 3rd class on the destroyer USS Satterlee. In 1943, Fonda received his commission as a Lieutenant, j.g. and was assigned to an air combat intelligence unit working in the Central Pacific, during which he was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and the Bronze Star.

Henry Fonda served in the Navy for three years, initially as a quartermaster 3rd class on the destroyer USS Satterlee. In 1943, Fonda received his commission as a Lieutenant, j.g. and was assigned to an air combat intelligence unit working in the Central Pacific, during which he was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and the Bronze Star.

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