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From the Archives: Jimmy Stewart joins the Army

March 22, 1941: Actor James "Jimmy" Stewart, third from right in front row, being sworn into the U.S. Army.
( Los Angeles Times)

A group of 41 men, including actor Jimmy Stewart, in the foreground wearing the solid black tie, takes the oath to enter the Army. Stewart was the first top-ranked Hollywood star to enter military service during the United States’ mobilization before World War ll.

Before joining the Army, Stewart had won the 1941 Best Actor Academy award for the movie “The Philadelphia Story.”

Stewart’s induction into the U.S. Army -- as reported the next day in the L.A. Times -- was a media event:

It was just plain Private James Maitland Stewart around 10 a.m. yesterday for Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor and $1500-a-week screen star…

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Jimmy reported along with 18 other less well-known young men at 7:15 a.m. at the intersection of Santa Monica and Westwood Blvds…

When he stepped from the automobile he was greeted by P.H. Brown, chief clerk of Draft Board No. 245.…

After he received his draft papers he hopped aboard a streetcar which transported the group to the Subway Terminal station on Hill St.

From the terminal to the induction station at 106 W. Third St. the group marched. Men and women lined the streets. The women waved their hankerchiefs and called “Good-by Jimmy.” He waved back and smiled…

As he entered the induction station newspapermen, photographers and newsreel cameramen were on hand to record the scenes. Portable lights were hung up and news cameramen directed the star who would probably earn $100,000 a picture as a result of his Academy award.

Upstairs he filled out questionnaires. Bulbs snapped. One of them popped showering the room with glass, but no one was injured.…

Declared mentally and physically fit by Army doctors, Stewart stepped in line with 41 other young men and sworn into the military by Col. John A. Robenson, Southern California district recruiting officer.

“I, James Maitland Stewart, do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America and will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies whomsover. I will obey orders of the President of the United States and of the officers appointed over me according to the Articles of War. So help me God.”

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After induction, Pvt. Stewart was made squad leader of the group and sent off to Ft. MacArthur to begin training. During World War II, Stewart rose to rank of colonel and flew 20 bomber missions over Germany.

Mar. 22, 1941: Actor Jimmy Stewart standing at Westwood train depot at 7:15 a.m. with fans saying good-by.
(Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)

After the war, Stewart stayed in the military, rising the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force reserve.

The photo of Stewart taking the oath was published on the front page of the L.A. Times accompanying the above-quoted story. The photographer is unknown. These other four photos were taken by Gordon Wallace, Los Angeles Times staff photographer, so he may have also taken the oath image.

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Most of the men inducted with Stewart were draftees. But the actor had volunteered. When Stewart had earlier been drafted, he was underweight and failed the physical. After working with an MGM studios trainer, Stewart gained the needed weight and retook the physical. He passed and according to a March 14, 1941, Los Angeles Times story, Stewart joined as a “volunteer-selectee.”

This post was originally published on March 24, 2011.

Mar. 22, 1941. Actor Jimmy Stewart talking to fellow Army inductees on Red Car train.
(Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)
Mar. 22, 1941: Actor Jimmy Stewart getting eye exam, left, back to camera, with media documenting the event.
(Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)

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Mar. 22, 1941: Actor Jimmy Stewart being finger printed for induction into the United States Army.
(Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here


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