Jimmy Stewart Was Initially Rejected by the Military for Being Underweight
By the time America joined WWII, Jimmy Stewart was a Hollywood superstar. It would have been easy for him, as others from Tinseltown had done, to avoid service altogether – John, cough, Wayne – or secure a safe military gig that allowed him to be seen in uniform while staying away from danger – cough, cough, Reagan. But Stewart’s grandfather had fought against the South, and his father had fought against both Spain and Germany. When WWII came along, it was thus natural for Stewart to go off to fight. He had been drafted into the Army in 1940, but was medically rejected because he was underweight.
Stewart wanted to fight, however, and figured a way to join the military. He was a flight enthusiast who had secured his pilot’s certificate in 1935. By the time WWII began, he had accumulated over 400 hours in the air. Stewart managed to enlist in the US Army Air Forces in 1941, despite being underweight. After he graduated from a pilot training program 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. Higher ups wanted to shunt him into PR and put his celebrity to use in bonds drives and rally appearances. Stewart, however, wanted a combat assignment. After many travails and clashes with commanders he managed a transfer into a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber group, which joined the US Eighth Air Force in Britain in the autumn of 1943.