It’s a Wonderful Life and Major Jimmy Stewart

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

By Doug Cerretti

One of the many things we do during the Holidays is watch Christmas movies. It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart is on the top of my list. 

It’s a Wonderful Life is an example of the darker post-WWII movies reflecting the experiences of WWII. 

The movie was released in 1946 to mixed reviews and was unsuccessful at the box office, in part due to this dark nature with a theme of suicide during Christmas, “you're worth more dead then alive,” as Mr. Potter said.

Maj. Jimmy Stewart
Over the years, of course, it become a Christmas and cinema classic. 

This was the first movie Major Jimmy Stewart made after returning home from WWII. 

You may not have known that Stewart pulled strings to become a pilot in the Army Air Corps (he was too old) and additional strings to fly in combat (who wants to have a movie star KIA under your watch?). 

Stewart was a B-24 Bomber pilor
Stewart was assigned to the 8th Air Force as a B-24 Bomber pilot, 703rd Squadron Commander and 445th Bomb Group operations officer. 

He flew 20 missions over Europe and felt responsible for every airman that was lost under his command. 

Like many veterans he carried this emotional load home and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) although it was not recognized then. 

So when you watch It’s a Wonderful Life or any post-WWII jimmy Stewart movie think about this nuance. 

Below is a link to an article by Dave Kindy published December 2020 about Jimmy Stewart’s war years. 

Just another reason he is one of my favorite actors.

Dave Kindy (12/21/2022) Jimmy Stewart Owed His Most Memorable Holiday Performance to World War II.

Photos from


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