Author(s): Robert Matzen
It's a Wonderful Life was the first motion picture Jimmy Stewart made after returning home from World War 2, where he had participated in 20 often-brutal combat missions over Germany and France. When he left Hollywood in March 1941, Jimmy Stewart was America's boy next door movie star and a recent Academy Award winner. He left all that behind to join the United States Army Air Corps and fulfill his family mission to serve his country--only to face obstacle after obstacle from both Hollywood and Washington. Finally he made his way to the European Theater, where several near-death experiences and the loss of men under his command took away his youthful good looks. The war finally won, he returned home with millions of other veterans to face an uncertain future, suffering what we now know as PTSD. That is the man who embarked on 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, from takeoff to landing and every key moment in between.
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.