Jimmy Stewart and his dad outside the family hardware store, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
Not published in LIFE. Jimmy Stewart and his dad outside the family hardware store, Indiana, Pa., 1945.Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Jimmy Stewart and his dad outside the family hardware store, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
Jimmy Stewart and Family, 1945
Jimmy Stewart 1945
Jimmy Stewart chats with George Little, the oldest employee in his father's hardware store, 1945. Besides all the usual hardware goods, the store also boasted Jimmy's Philadelphia Story Oscar on display.
Jimmy Stewart on the phone, 1945
Jimmy Stewart on the phone at his father's hardware store, 1945.
Jimmy Stewart goes fishing, 1945
Jimmy Stewart and friend, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
The house where Jimmy Stewart grew up in Indiana, Pa., about 50 miles from Pittsburgh, seen in 1945.
The movie star and war vet Jimmy Stewart signs autographs for local girls, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
Col. Jimmy Stewart, 1945
Jimmy Stewart and family, 1945
Jimmy Stewart plays the piano with his sister, 1945
James Stewart looks in his family's hardware store window and spots a model plane he'd built years earlier, 1945.
Jimmy Stewart and stuffed squirrel
Jimmy Stewart and hand puppets, 1945
Jimmy Stewart entertains some local children, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
Jimmy Stewart takes out his father's horse and shay, 1945.
Magician Bill Neff wasn't just a friend of Stewart's; he once provided Jimmy with a summer job, when they "took a tour as magicians."
James Stewart, back home after serving in World War II, reads in bed at his parents' house, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
Col. James Stewart: movie star, war hero, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
Not published in LIFE. Jimmy Stewart and his dad outside the family hardware store, Indiana, Pa., 1945.
Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
1 of 21

LIFE With Jimmy Stewart: A War Hero Comes Home, 1945

Apr 29, 2013

When James Maitland Stewart, the oldest child and only son of Alexander and Elizabeth Stewart of Indiana, Pa., enlisted in the United States Army in 1941, he wasn't like most privates. For one thing, he was already well into his 30s. For another, he had already been rejected by the military for being too skinny. (The first time around, he was five pounds under the Army's weight standard for new recruits.) And finally, no other World War II inductee had won a Best Actor Oscar, as Stewart had for his indelible performance as reporter Mike Connor in the 1940 classic, The Philadelphia Story.

Putting his Hollywood career on hold to join the Army Air Corps—a forerunner to today's Air Force—Stewart ultimately reached the rank of colonel, making him one of few Americans ever to rise from private to colonel in four years. He flew dozens of combat missions, some as command pilot, on sorties deep into Nazi-occupied Europe, and returned from the war on the Queen Elizabeth, covered in medals—including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.

For LIFE magazine's September 24, 1945, cover story, photographer Peter Stackpole followed Stewart around his Pennsylvania hometown, chronicling the unsurprisingly wholesome goings-on when the Hollywood star returned home a hero.

Col. Jimmy Stewart photographed in his Pennsylvania hometown upon his return from World War II, 1945.Peter Stackpole—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images 
TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.