Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe

By Robert Matzen
Foreword by Leonard Maltin
Read by Peter Berkrot

11.77 Hours 04/11/2017 unabridged
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In March 1941 Jimmy Stewart, America’s boy next door and recent Academy Award winner, left fame and fortune behind and joined the United States Army Air Corps to fulfill his family mission and serve his country. He rose from private to colonel and participated in twenty often-brutal World War II combat missions over Germany and France. In mere months the war took away his boyish looks as he faced near-death experiences and the loss of men under his command. The war finally won, he returned home with millions of other veterans to face an uncertain future, suffering what we now know as PTSD. Younger stars like Gregory Peck were now getting roles that might have been Stewart’s, and he didn’t know if he would ever work in Hollywood again. Then came It’s a Wonderful Life. For the next half century, Stewart refused to discuss his combat experiences and took the story of his service to the grave. Mission presents the first in-depth look at Stewart’s life as a squadron commander in the skies over Germany, his return to Hollywood, and the changed man who embarked on production of America’s most beloved holiday classic. Author Robert Matzen sifted through thousands of Air Force combat reports and the Stewart personnel files; interviewed surviving aviators who flew with Stewart; visited the James Stewart Papers at Brigham Young University; flew in the cockpits of the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator; and walked the earth of air bases in England used by Stewart in his combat missions of 1943–45. What emerges in Mission is the story of a Jimmy Stewart you never knew until now—a story more fantastic than any he brought to the screen.

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Summary

Summary

In March 1941 Jimmy Stewart, America’s boy next door and recent Academy Award winner, left fame and fortune behind and joined the United States Army Air Corps to fulfill his family mission and serve his country. He rose from private to colonel and participated in twenty often-brutal World War II combat missions over Germany and France. In mere months the war took away his boyish looks as he faced near-death experiences and the loss of men under his command. The war finally won, he returned home with millions of other veterans to face an uncertain future, suffering what we now know as PTSD. Younger stars like Gregory Peck were now getting roles that might have been Stewart’s, and he didn’t know if he would ever work in Hollywood again. Then came It’s a Wonderful Life.

For the next half century, Stewart refused to discuss his combat experiences and took the story of his service to the grave. Mission presents the first in-depth look at Stewart’s life as a squadron commander in the skies over Germany, his return to Hollywood, and the changed man who embarked on production of America’s most beloved holiday classic.

Author Robert Matzen sifted through thousands of Air Force combat reports and the Stewart personnel files; interviewed surviving aviators who flew with Stewart; visited the James Stewart Papers at Brigham Young University; flew in the cockpits of the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator; and walked the earth of air bases in England used by Stewart in his combat missions of 1943–45. What emerges in Mission is the story of a Jimmy Stewart you never knew until now—a story more fantastic than any he brought to the screen.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Matzen’s compelling narrative gets inside his subject’s head to recreate specific moments in the heat of preparation for combat.” Leonard Maltin, film critic, historian, and author
“Our father’s service during the war was the most significant event of his life, although he rarely spoke of it…Thank you, Robert Matzen.” Kelly Stewart, daughter of Jimmy Stewart
“Military and movie buffs alike will revel in this vivid portrayal of a man who successfully straddled two worlds.” Publishers Weekly
Mission digs deep into the untold true story…Paints a vivid picture of how James Stewart’s often horrific experiences in the air informed his remarkable postwar career.” Lou Lumenick, film editor and chief film critic at the New York Post
“A truly excellent in-all-aspects account of Jimmy Stewart’s life and film career…Matzen has done it, and done it well.” Rudy Behlmer, author of Behind the Scenes

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Author

Author Bio: Robert Matzen

Robert Matzen is a former federal contractor for NASA who now specializes in Hollywood history. He has appeared on BBC 2 and BBC Radio 4. He is the author of Carol Lombard: A Bio-Bibliography and Errol & Olivia, and he is the coauthor of Errol Flynn Slept Here. He lives in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Nonfiction/Biography & Autobiography
Runtime: 11.77
Audience: Adult
Edition: English