“Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe” was published in 2016 (October) and was written by Robert Matzen (https://robertmatzen.com). This is Mr. Matzen’s seventh book.
I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set mostly in Hollywood, CA and England. As you would expect with a biography, the primary character is the subject, in this case James “Jimmy” Stewart.
The story begins when Stewart is in High school and follows him to Princeton University, and then to New York as be tries to start an acting career. He soon finds his way to Hollywood as an actor for MGM Studios. Stewart made many significant films in the five years he was part of the movie industry before World War II.
Always interested in aviation, Stewart had his own plane and by the time that the US seemed on the brink of entering the war with Germany, he had qualified for a commercial pilot license. He was drafted before the war broke out and because of his experience, became a training officer for bomber crews.
Stewart had a heritage of military service and he felt obliged to follow those footsteps. Rather than take the easy route of being a PR face for the military, he fought hard to become a combat flyer. Eventually he was able to travel to England with the unit he had been training and began combat bombing missions over occupied Europe.
Most of the book deals with the 4 plus years Stewart served in the active Army Air Corps. He went in as a recruit, received his officer commission when he was awarded his wings, and left active service after the end of World War II as a Colonel. His story serving as an officer in the 8th Air force parallels those of many others who flew in combat against Germany – Lack of sleep, miserable winters in England, sub-freezing flying conditions, constant threat of attack by the German Luftwaffe fighters and repeatedly flying through heavy flack to reach their targets.
The 16 months he was involved in combat took a toll on Stewart. Today he would be diagnosed with PTSD. He survived and returned to Hollywood, resuming his acting career with “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the just shy of 10 hours I spent with this 400 page Biography! I thought it might be on the dry side, but the story had a good pace to it. I have seen Stewart in dozens of movies and I knew he had an Air Force commission, but I had no idea of what he had gone through. I think that this book not only gives a brief view of Hollywood in the 1930’s, but an excellent view of the air war in Europe. I think that the cover was aptly chosen, though does not really hint at the extent of Stewart’s war experiences. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.
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