Aviation History

The story behind this artwork featuring Jimmy Stewart’s B-52F dropping bombs on a daylight mission against Viet Cong infiltrators

Stewart is seen here flying B-52F 57-0149 (on its 36th combat sortie) on a daylight bombing mission against Viet Cong infiltrators.

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The beautiful artwork by Mark Postlethwaite featured in this post shows bombs falling from a formation of B-52Fs of the 3960th Strategic Wing (SW) during an Arc Light bombing mission from Andersen AFB, Guam.

As told by Jon Lake in his book B-52 Stratofortress Units in Combat 1955-73, the nearest B-52F was the aircraft flown by Brig Gen Jimmy Stewart, USAF Reserve, who was then coming to the end of his USAF service. For his final two-week stint of active duty in 1966, Stewart had requested a combat assignment and had been duly sent on an inspection tour of Vietnam, where his 24-year-old stepson had recently been killed in action. During this brief period of active duty, Stewart participated in a bombing strike over Vietnam.

Jimmy Stewart in front of his B-52

Although best known as a Hollywood actor, Stewart had also enjoyed a remarkable, and distinguished, military career. He had volunteered for active service in 1940, turning his back on what had been a lucrative profession as one of Hollywood’s greatest stars. Stewart joined the USAAC in March 1941, a full nine months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into the war. His determination allowed him to overcome the disadvantages of being too old and too skinny for military service, and he fought tirelessly to avoid propaganda assignments and official reluctance to place him in harm’s way, striving to get an overseas combat duty assignment.

This print is available in multiple sizes from Aircraftprofileprints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-52H Stratofortress 2nd BW, 20th BS, LA/60-0008 “Lucky Lady IV”.

Stewart was finally assigned to the B-24-equipped 445th Bomb Group (BG) at Tlbenham as operations officer, rising to command the 703rd BS before being transferred to ‘turn around’ the shattered 453rd BG. Stewart became a full colonel, and the 2nd Bomb Wing’s chief of staff, in July 1944, and was promoted to Wing CO in the spring of 1945. He flew 20 bombing missions over Germany (against targets which included Brunswick, Bremen, Frankfurt, Schweinfurt, and Berlin), and was highly decorated. Despite resuming his acting career post-war, Stewart continued to take his Air Force Reserve duties extremely seriously, flying the B-47, B-52 and B-58.

Stewart is seen here flying B-52F 57-0149 (on its 36th combat sortie) on a daylight bombing mission against Viet Cong infiltrators.

B-52 Stratofortress Units in Combat 1955-73 is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.

Cover artwork by Mark Postlethwaite via Osprey

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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