Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches


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Mr. Speaker, he was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, on May 20, 1908.

Jimmy became a Boy Scout and remained active in the organization throughout his adulthood.

Of course, I'm talking about Jimmy Stewart. He made more than 80 films, including comedies, Westerns and dramas.

Jimmy Stewart won an Academy Award for best performance by an actor in 1940 for his performance in "The Philadelphia Story." He also received four other Oscar nominations for his performances in ``Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,'' a movie which by the way all Members of Congress should be required to watch, and my personal favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life." He also appeared in "Anatomy of a Murder."

Jimmy Stewart was voted the third greatest movie star of all time by Entertainment Weekly. Jimmy Stewart appeared in a number of television shows and Broadway plays and received a Tony award.

Although Jimmy Stewart would have preferred to attend the Naval Academy, Stewart entered his father's alma mater, Princeton University, in the fall of 1928. He initially considered engineering, but he finally settled on architecture as his course of study, at which he excelled. He graduated from Princeton in 1932.

While he was building his reputation as an actor, the rest of the world was about to go to war. Germany occupied numerous countries in the early part of 1940, and it led Congress to be concerned. And on September 16, 1940, this Congress passed the Selective Service Bill, which we now refer to as "The Draft."

Stewart's draft number was 310, and when his number was called, he appeared at Draft Board No. 245 in Los Angeles in February of 1941.

A 6-foot-3 Stewart weighed only 138 pounds. He was 5 pounds under the acceptable weight limit. He was turned down, but Stewart wanted to fly and serve his country, but by May of 1941 he would have been too old to get into flight school. He went home after that day of being rejected by the draft, and he ate everything he could that fattened him up. He went back and he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and he passed the physical with 2 ounces to spare.

While others tried to avoid the draft, Jimmy Stewart actually wanted to serve in the military. Later, he would actually campaign to see combat. He was already a licensed pilot. He was interested in aviation as a child. He had taken his first flight while still in Indiana from one of those barnstorming pilots that used to travel throughout the Midwest.

He was a successful actor in 1935, and so he was able to afford flying lessons. He often flew cross-country to visit his parents in Pennsylvania, and he navigated by watching the railroad tracks.

In the military, he was to make extensive use of his pilot training. In March 1941, at the age of 32, he reported for duty as Private James Stewart at Fort MacArthur and was assigned to the Army Air Corps. To comply with the regulations of the Army Air Corps Proficiency Board, he was required to take 100 additional flying hours, and he did so and bought them at a nearby field at his own expense.

Then, in January 1942, Stewart was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was then sent to California at Mather Field as a twin engine instructor which included both B-17s and B-24s. Much to his dismay, Stewart stayed stateside for almost 2 years, until his commanding officers finally yielded to his constant request to be sent overseas and to see combat.

So, in November of 1943, Captain Stewart, now a captain and operations officer for the 703rd Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, of the Eight Air Force, he arrived in England. Later, he was transferred to the 453rd Bombardment Group.

While stateside, Stewart flew B-17s, commonly call