Home » The story of this artwork, which depicts Jimmy Stewart’s B-52F dropping bombs on Viet Cong infiltrators during a daytime mission

The story of this artwork, which depicts Jimmy Stewart’s B-52F dropping bombs on Viet Cong infiltrators during a daytime mission

by Till Daisd
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During his 36th combat sortie, Stewart is shown here piloting B-52F 57-0149 during a daytime bombing mission against Viet Cong infiltrators

The amazing artwork by Mark Postlethwaite that is shown in this post depicts bombs dropping from a formation of B-52Fs of the 3960th Strategic Wing (SW) as they depart from Andersen AFB, Guam, for an Arc Light bombing mission.

The closest B-52F was piloted by Brig Gen. Jimmy Stewart, USAF Reserve, who was then approaching the conclusion of his time in the USAF, according to Jon Lake’s account in his book B-52 Stratofortress Units in Combat 1955-73. Stewart sought a combat deployment for his last two weeks of active duty in 1966, and as a result, he was duly dispatched to Vietnam, where his 24-year-old stepson had recently been killed in action. Stewart took part in a bombing mission over Vietnam during this brief term of active duty.

When Jimmy Stewart flew B-52's in Vietnam: the Story of the Hollywood Star who became an Air Force 2-Star General
Jimmy Stewart in front of his B-52

Although Stewart is most recognized for his work as a Hollywood actor, he also had a spectacular and illustrious military career. As one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, he had left behind a lucrative career when he joined active duty in 1940. Nine months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the war, in March 1941, Stewart joined the USAAC. He fought valiantly to avoid propaganda assignments and official reluctance to put him in danger, hoping to earn an overseas combat duty assignment. His dedication allowed him to overcome the difficulties of being too elderly and too underweight for military service.

After serving as operations officer for the 445th Bomb Group (BG) at Tlbenham, which was equipped with B-24s, Stewart advanced to become commander of the 703rd BS before being moved to ‘turn around’ the shuttered 453rd BG. In July 1944, Stewart was appointed full colonel and appointed as the 2nd Bomb Wing’s chief of staff. In the spring of 1945, he received a promotion to Wing CO. He was highly decorated and flew 20 bombing flights over Germany (targets included Brunswick, Bremen, Frankfurt, Schweinfurt, and Berlin). Stewart continued to take his duties as a member of the Air Force Reserve very seriously even after the war, flying the B-47, B-52, and B-58.


During its 36th combat sortie, the B-52F 57-0149 that Stewart was piloting is seen here attacking Viet Cong infiltrators during the day.

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

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