James Stewart's Last Vietnam Flying Mission Almost Ended In Disaster

Serving in a country's military is arguably one of the bravest and most selfless things that a person can do. According to World Atlas, the United States military is the third largest in the world. It is also considered not only the best equipped, but the best trained. Though it is believed by many to be one of the best militaries, serving is still dangerous, especially in times of war. To put it simply, serving in the US Military is not only an honor, but a major challenge on many fronts and is not for the faint of heart.

One of the most infamous and dangerous wars in American history was the Vietnam War. Over three million US soldiers served in this conflict, with an estimated 200,000 being wounded or killed, per the AP. One of those who served and managed to make it back home was one of the most famous faces of Hollywood's Golden Age: Jimmy Stewart. However, his return was never guaranteed, and almost ended in catastrophe.

Incredible Actor Turned Military Man

James"Jimmy" Stewart was one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1960s. His breakout role was in a film called The Murder Man which was released in 1935. He subsequently starred in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in 1939, which earned multiple Oscar nominations. Stewart's biggest and most recognizable role came in 1946, when he nabbed the leading role of George Bailey in the iconic film, It's A Wonderful Life.

Jimmy Stewart became not just a bona fide movie star, he was also a beloved icon. Because of his status, it came as a shock to many when he began a military career in the midst of his stardom. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII, before returning to acting after the war (per Soldier of Fortune.) He then remained in the USAF Reserve and subsequently answered the nation's call a second time when the Vietnam War broke out in 1955.

Mission That Almost Ended In Tragedy

On February 21, 1966, Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart was directed to fly a bombing mission with targets near Saigon (per History Net). When Stewart and Captain Bob Amos, along with the crew of a B-52 bomber, left Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, all was as it should be. They successfully completed their mission and turned around to head back to base. It was smooth flying until they began their descent to land.

Captain Amos, who was piloting the plane, believed that the flaps on the aircraft were damaged. If they were in fact split, it would affect how the plane could land, and whether they could make a safe landing at all. As Captain Amos was unsure of how the flaps were able to function, he decided to test it out; but not without preparing for the worst case scenario. He directed Stewart on the protocol to bail out of the aircraft, should he lose control of it. With the crew prepared to escape the plane if needed, Amos tested out the flaps.

As the flaps were lowered, the flap gauge showed splitting conditions. However, the plane miraculously remained stable, indicating that the problem was with the gauge, not the actual flaps. Thankfully, the plane then landed safely, with all crew on board including Brigadier General and cherished actor, Jimmy Stewart. Upon landing, Stewart took a photo with a crew to memorialize the occasion, as this was his last combat mission.