The Jimmy Stewart You Never Knew: World War II Squadron Commander

In March 1941, Jimmy Stewart, America’s boy next door and recent Academy Award winner, left fame and fortune behind and joined the United States Army Air Corps to fulfill his family mission and serve his country. He rose from private to colonel and participated in 20 often-brutal World War II combat missions over Germany and France. In mere months, the war took away his boyish looks as he faced near-death experiences and the loss of men under his command. The war finally won, he returned home with millions of other veterans to face an uncertain future, suffering what we now know as PTSD. For the next half century, Stewart refused to discuss his combat experiences and took the story of his service to the grave.

RELATED: Why War Veteran and Quadruple Amputee Travis Mills Is Thankful and ‘Tough as They Come’

In Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, author Robert Matzen presents the first in-depth look at Stewart’s life as a Squadron Commander in the skies over Germany, and, his return to Hollywood the changed man who embarked on production of America’s most beloved holiday classic, It's a Wonderful Life. Matzen sifted through thousands of Air Force combat reports and the Stewart personnel files; interviewed surviving aviators who flew with Stewart; visited the James Stewart Papers at Brigham Young University; flew in the cockpits of the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator; and walked the earth of air bases in England used by Stewart in his combat missions from 1943-45. What emerges is the story of a Jimmy Stewart you never knew, a story more fantastic than any he brought to the screen.

Matzen joined Glenn on radio Thursday to talk about Mission and the life of one of America's most beloved and iconic cinema stars.

Read below or listen to the full segment for answers to these questions:

• Did Matzen reveal any skeletons that ruined Glenn's view of Stewart?

• Which relatives of Stewart's fought in the Civil War?

• Were the snowy scenes in It's a Wonderful Life shot in the Mojave Desert?

• How did the war change Stewart as a man?

• How many missions did Stewart fly and which one cracked his plane in half?

Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:

Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:

GLENN: Hello, and welcome -- welcome to the program. I was reading an article about Jimmy Stewart. This new book out that's called Mission. And I learned some stuff about Jimmy Stewart that I really wasn't aware of and especially what was happening with him when he came back to film --

PAT: Glenn, don't you know me?

GLENN: Yeah. Okay.

PAT: Don't you know me, Glenn?

GLENN: So when he was filming that, he and Frank Capra were going through PTSD, which nobody talked about back then.

PAT: Uh-uh.

GLENN: And Jimmy Stewart was quite an amazing guy. Robert Matzen is the author of Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe. And we wanted to get him on.

Robert, welcome to the program. How are you?

ROBERT: I'm great. Thanks for having me on.

GLENN: You bet.

So tell me what we don't know about Jimmy Stewart.

ROBERT: Well, in the context of It's a Wonderful Life, he had just come back from the most horrific combat experiences over the skies of Europe that you could imagine.

GLENN: Now, he was not -- he was not -- you know, as a celebrity, he could have gone and done anything over in World War II. But he didn't. He really signed up and was like, "No, I really want to fight."

ROBERT: Yeah. He -- the war department and Hollywood both wanted to keep him stateside, of course, because nothing good could come of a Hollywood star being shot down over Germany.

PAT: That's for sure.

ROBERT: So he had to buck those headwinds to get overseas, and he managed to do it. It took him two years.

PAT: And so what -- what exactly was his job when he was over there? What did he do? You said in the skies over Europe. He wasn't a pilot, was he?

ROBERT: He was a pilot. He was a bomber pilot.

PAT: He was a pilot. Wow.

ROBERT: He had been a private pilot in his Hollywood years. That was the first thing he did when he earned a Hollywood paycheck, was learn to fly, and then he bought his own plane. And so he was ready. He wanted to serve. And he wanted to serve as an Army pilot, and that's exactly what he did.

And at first, he was training other pilots stateside that was eating him alive. He wanted to go fight. And finally he did get a combat assignment as a squadron commander in a heavy bomb group that went over to England in 1943.

PAT: This guy was almost too good to be true, wasn't he? An American patriot. American hero. A tremendous actor. Married to the same woman virtually his whole life. Right? No major scandals that we know of. Am I --

GLENN: And if we do, we don't necessarily want to know about them.

PAT: Right.

GLENN: I mean, this is a book -- I want to read it over the Christmas holiday. Because I love Jimmy Stewart. Is this -- are you going to wreck him for me?

ROBERT: No, I'm not going to wreck him for you. I went into this project neutral on the guy. I mean, not a fan, per se. Everybody loves It's a Wonderful Life. Well, almost everybody.

But I grew to admire him tremendously, through learning about the 20 combat missions that he went through and what he was like when he came back. You know, refusing to talk about what it was like over there.

GLENN: So when he was on the set -- because Frank Capra -- what was Frank Capra doing the war?

ROBERT: And Frank Capra was making patriotic films. Films to let Americans know what was going on overseas. Who the enemy was. What our boys were doing over there.

So his experience wasn't like Jim's. But Frank was away for four years from Hollywood, and Jim was away for five. I mean, Jim slammed the door on Hollywood and left it behind.

And so he's coming back as, really, a middle-aged man. There's a photo in the book that's a before shot in 1942 of this fresh-faced Jimmy Stewart. Just got his wings. Second lieutenant.

Two years later, he looks like a haggard old man. By then, it looks like 14 combat missions in three months. So when -- by the time they reached the set of its a wonderful life, they were both feeling, "This is make or break for me." If I don't make this work, my career is over. They were both thinking that.

And so the set was extremely tense. It was nothing like you would think it would be.

GLENN: So it was shot in California. The snowy scene is happening in California in the middle of June. Right?

ROBERT: In the Mojave Desert. At 90 degrees. That's right.

GLENN: In the desert.

PAT: Jeez. Wow.

ROBERT: Yeah.

GLENN: And I got the impression from what the story -- I don't even remember where I read this, but it was about your book. And I got the impression that that was -- it was just rife with problems.

ROBERT: Well, that particular scene was shot at the RKO ranch in Encino. And they had to really invent a new type of snow that could withstand the heat and could still be slushy, could still look and feel like snow. So, yeah, I mean, it was a tough shoot.

But the whole movie -- if you look at the movie, it's an extravagant picture with a tremendous number of setups. They re-created that whole main street of Bedford Falls. A lot of interior shots -- everything that was -- all the bridge sequences where Clarence jumps in the water and Jim jumps in, those were all done in the studio. And that took weeks to get it right. Capra was a perfectionist. A lot went into that movie.

GLENN: And did they have any idea -- did Jimmy Stewart have any idea of what that movie was going to be at the end of it?

ROBERT: No. He was disappointed in how it turned out. He was always a populist in the sense that if the public liked his picture, he liked his picture. If the public didn't react like he wanted, then he didn't like the picture.

And It's a Wonderful Life was made right at the end of the war. You know, a war-weary America I don't think was ready for this particular picture, and it took another ten years before it was embraced. And that was by television. And that's when Jim started to warm up to it, when everybody else did.

GLENN: How did he change -- how did the war change him overall as a man?

ROBERT: Before the war, I spent a fair amount of time talking about his romantic adventures with A-List Hollywood actresses. And he went through all of them.

GLENN: He was a player? Jimmy Stewart was a player?

ROBERT: He was a player. Big-time.

JEFFY: He told you he wasn't going to ruin him for you.

(laughter)

GLENN: Wow. I had no idea.

ROBERT: Yeah.

GLENN: Player. Okay.

ROBERT: Because here he is -- he's 6-4 and 140 pounds.

PAT: Jeez.

ROBERT: And he thought he was just this gangly guy that no one would find attractive. So he had to prove to himself that he was attractive. That was his pre-war thing.

But when he came back, he realized how superficial that was. He didn't need to prove that to himself anymore. He had also proved the other thing that he needed to prove, which was that he was brave enough to represent the Stewart family. And that's what Mission is really all about, is his family mission to serve their country. And he proved that to himself.

So he came back as a mature person who had been seasoned by all this death and devastation. And that's why he was ready to settle down. And he did it beautifully. And he also carved this career that emphasized the darker side of him that had come out of the war. This hardened, tough man came out of the war. And he started to play tough roles.

GLENN: What do you mean his family -- his family had a long history of war --

ROBERT: Oh, yeah.

GLENN: -- heroes?

ROBERT: Both of his grandfathers were in the Civil War. One of them was a hero of the second day of Gettysburg, at Little Round Top. And the other one served with Custer in the Shenandoah Valley. And so -- and that grandfather also named James M. Stewart lived into the 1930s. And Jim learned all about war from someone who saw Lee surrender to Grant at Appomattox.

PAT: Wow.

GLENN: Do these kind of guys exist anymore?

ROBERT: You know, I've been asked that.

And Pat Tillman comes to mind, you know. Someone who just walked away from a very successful public career to serve. But they are few and far between. But even in Jim's time, they were few and far between.

GLENN: Because most people, they just -- they would do their rounds, and they would be seen in the uniform. They would raise money. Raise awareness. And not actually go in and fight.

Was it -- was he a believer in what he was fighting against or just a believer of what he was fighting for?

ROBERT: Boy, that's a great question.

Both. I think both. He was a tremendous believer in the cause. And it was the happiest time in his life, he said that often. He said he was never happier than doing this righteous thing for this righteous cause.

GLENN: That was -- I mean, being a pilot in World War II, it was quite surprising that he lived, honestly. I mean, how many missions did he fly?

ROBERT: He flew 20 exactly. And at one point, on one of his missions, on February 25th, 1944, an anti-aircraft shell hit the flight deck of his B-24 Liberator and blew a hole between his feet, two feet across. And his map case fell out the hole and went down to Germany. And that was one mission too many. When he landed that plane, it cracked in half.

I mean, that's just -- that was his closest brush with death. But he had more than that. And that's what people just don't know. That's the guy -- that's his backstory, when you watch It's a Wonderful Life. He had just been there. And he had just done that.

GLENN: Hmm. Robert Matzen, thank you for the time that you spent on looking at this man's life and telling us the truth about who he really was. Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe by Robert Matzen. Great gift for anybody like me who just loves Jimmy Stewart and loves a good story of history that you've never heard before. Robert Matzen. Mission is the name of the book.

Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ROBERT: Thanks, Glenn.

GLENN: You bet. God bless.

Featured Image: Lt. Gen. Valin, Chief of Staff, French Air Force, awarding Croix De Guerre with palm to Col. James Stewart (Photo: US Air Force).

From the moment the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson arrived at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776, he was on the radical side. That caused John Adams to like him immediately. Then the Congress stuck Jefferson and Adams together on the five-man committee to write a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain, and their mutual admiration society began.

Jefferson thought Adams should write the Declaration. But Adams protested, saying, “It can't come from me because I'm obnoxious and disliked." Adams reasoned that Jefferson was not obnoxious or disliked, therefore he should write it. Plus, he flattered Jefferson, by telling him he was a great writer. It was a master class in passing the buck.

So, over the next 17 days, Jefferson holed up in his room, applying his lawyer skills to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He borrowed freely from existing documents like the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He later wrote that “he was not striving for originality of principle or sentiment." Instead, he hoped his words served as “an expression of the American mind."

It's safe to say he achieved his goal.

The five-man committee changed about 25 percent of Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration before submitting it to Congress. Then, Congress altered about one-fifth of that draft. But most of the final Declaration's words are Jefferson's, including the most famous passage — the Preamble — which Congress left intact. The result is nothing less than America's mission statement, the words that ultimately bind the nation together. And words that we desperately need to rediscover because of our boiling partisan rage.

The Declaration is brilliant in structure and purpose. It was designed for multiple audiences: the King of Great Britain, the colonists, and the world. And it was designed for multiple purposes: rallying the troops, gaining foreign allies, and announcing the creation of a new country.

The Declaration is structured in five sections: the Introduction, Preamble, the Body composed of two parts, and the Conclusion. It's basically the most genius breakup letter ever written.

In the Introduction, step 1 is the notificationI think we need to break up. And to be fair, I feel I owe you an explanation...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

The Continental Congress felt they were entitled by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to “dissolve the political bands," but they needed to prove the legitimacy of their cause. They were defying the world's most powerful nation and needed to motivate foreign allies to join the effort. So, they set their struggle within the entire “Course of human events." They're saying, this is no petty political spat — this is a major event in world history.

Step 2 is declaring what you believe in, your standardsHere's what I'm looking for in a healthy relationship...

This is the most famous part of the Declaration; the part school children recite — the Preamble:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That's as much as many Americans know of the Declaration. But the Preamble is the DNA of our nation, and it really needs to be taken as a whole:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Preamble takes us through a logical progression: All men are created equal; God gives all humans certain inherent rights that cannot be denied; these include the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to protect those rights, we have governments set up; but when a government fails to protect our inherent rights, people have the right to change or replace it.

Government is only there to protect the rights of mankind. They don't have any power unless we give it to them. That was an extraordinarily radical concept then and we're drifting away from it now.

The Preamble is the justification for revolution. But note how they don't mention Great Britain yet. And again, note how they frame it within a universal context. These are fundamental principles, not just squabbling between neighbors. These are the principles that make the Declaration just as relevant today. It's not just a dusty parchment that applied in 1776.

Step 3 is laying out your caseHere's why things didn't work out between us. It's not me, it's you...

This is Part 1 of the Body of the Declaration. It's the section where Jefferson gets to flex his lawyer muscles by listing 27 grievances against the British crown. This is the specific proof of their right to rebellion:

He has obstructed the administration of justice...

For imposing taxes on us without our consent...

For suspending our own legislatures...

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...

Again, Congress presented these “causes which impel them to separation" in universal terms to appeal to an international audience. It's like they were saying, by joining our fight you'll be joining mankind's overall fight against tyranny.

Step 4 is demonstrating the actions you took I really tried to make this relationship work, and here's how...

This is Part 2 of the Body. It explains how the colonists attempted to plead their case directly to the British people, only to have the door slammed in their face:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury...

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice... We must, therefore... hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

This basically wrapped up America's argument for independence — we haven't been treated justly, we tried to talk to you about it, but since you refuse to listen and things are only getting worse, we're done here.

Step 5 is stating your intent — So, I think it's best if we go our separate ways. And my decision is final...

This is the powerful Conclusion. If people know any part of the Declaration besides the Preamble, this is it:

...that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved...

They left no room for doubt. The relationship was over, and America was going to reboot, on its own, with all the rights of an independent nation.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The message was clear — this was no pitchfork mob. These were serious men who had carefully thought through the issues before taking action. They were putting everything on the line for this cause.

The Declaration of Independence is a landmark in the history of democracy because it was the first formal statement of a people announcing their right to choose their own government. That seems so obvious to us now, but in 1776 it was radical and unprecedented.

In 1825, Jefferson wrote that the purpose of the Declaration was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of… but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm… to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."

You're not going to do better than the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it worked as a means of breaking away from Great Britain, but its genius is that its principles of equality, inherent rights, and self-government work for all time — as long as we actually know and pursue those principles.

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, better known today as Independence Hall. Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence. The “Lee Resolution" was short and sweet:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Intense debate followed, and the Congress voted 7 to 5 (with New York abstaining) to postpone a vote on Lee's Resolution. They called a recess for three weeks. In the meantime, the delegates felt they needed to explain what they were doing in writing. So, before the recess, they appointed a five-man committee to come up with a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain. They appointed two men from New England — Roger Sherman and John Adams; two from the middle colonies — Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin; and one Southerner — Thomas Jefferson. The responsibility for writing what would become the Declaration of Independence fell to Jefferson.

In the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., there are three original documents on permanent display: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. These are the three pillars of the United States, yet America barely seems to know them anymore. We need to get reacquainted — quickly.

In a letter to his friend John Adams in 1816, Jefferson wrote: “I like the dreams of the future, better than the history of the past."

America used to be a forward-looking nation of dreamers. We still are in spots, but the national attitude that we hear broadcast loudest across media is not looking toward the future with optimism and hope. In late 2017, a national poll found 59% of Americans think we are currently at the “lowest point in our nation's history that they can remember."

America spends far too much time looking to the past for blame and excuse. And let's be honest, even the Right is often more concerned with “owning the left" than helping point anyone toward the practical principles of the Declaration of Independence. America has clearly lost touch with who we are as a nation. We have a national identity crisis.

The Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

It is urgent that we get reacquainted with the Declaration of Independence because postmodernism would have us believe that we've evolved beyond the America of our founding documents, and thus they're irrelevant to the present and the future. But the Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

Today, much of the nation is so addicted to partisan indignation that "day-to-day" indignation isn't enough to feed the addiction. So, we're reaching into America's past to help us get our fix. In 2016, Democrats in the Louisiana state legislature tabled a bill that would have required fourth through sixth graders to recite the opening lines of the Declaration. They didn't table it because they thought it would be too difficult or too patriotic. They tabled it because the requirement would include the phrase “all men are created equal" and the progressives in the Louisiana legislature didn't want the children to have to recite a lie. Representative Barbara Norton said, “One thing that I do know is, all men are not created equal. When I think back in 1776, July the fourth, African Americans were slaves. And for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it's a little bit unfair to us. To ask our children to recite something that's not the truth. And for you to ask those children to repeat the Declaration stating that all men's are free. I think that's unfair."

Remarkable — an elected representative saying it wouldn't be fair for students to have to recite the Declaration because “all men are not created equal." Another Louisiana Democrat explained that the government born out of the Declaration “was used against races of people." I guess they missed that part in school where they might have learned that the same government later made slavery illegal and amended the Constitution to guarantee all men equal protection under the law. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were an admission of guilt by the nation regarding slavery, and an effort to right the wrongs.

Yet, the progressive logic goes something like this: many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson who wrote it, owned slaves; slavery is evil; therefore, the Declaration of Independence is not valid because it was created by evil slave owners.

It's a sad reality that the left has a very hard time appreciating the universal merits of the Declaration of Independence because they're so hung up on the long-dead issue of slavery. And just to be clear — because people love to take things out of context — of course slavery was horrible. Yes, it is a total stain on our history. But defending the Declaration of Independence is not an effort to excuse any aspect of slavery.

Okay then, people might say, how could the Founders approve the phrase “All men are created equal," when many of them owned slaves? How did they miss that?

They didn't miss it. In fact, Thomas Jefferson included an anti-slavery passage in his first draft of the Declaration. The paragraph blasted King George for condoning slavery and preventing the American Colonies from passing legislation to ban slavery:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights to life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere... Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.

We don't say “execrable" that much anymore. It means, utterly detestable, abominable, abhorrent — basically very bad.

Jefferson was upset when Georgia and North Carolina threw up the biggest resistance to that paragraph. Ultimately, those two states twisted Congress' arm to delete the paragraph.

Still, how could a man calling the slave trade “execrable" be a slaveowner himself? No doubt about it, Jefferson was a flawed human being. He even had slaves from his estate in Virginia attending him while he was in Philadelphia, in the very apartment where he was writing the Declaration.

Many of the Southern Founders deeply believed in the principles of the Declaration yet couldn't bring themselves to upend the basis of their livelihood. By 1806, Virginia law made it more difficult for slave owners to free their slaves, especially if the owner had significant debts as Jefferson did.

At the same time, the Founders were not idiots. They understood the ramifications of signing on to the principles described so eloquently in the Declaration. They understood that logically, slavery would eventually have to be abolished in America because it was unjust, and the words they were committing to paper said as much. Remember, John Adams was on the committee of five that worked on the Declaration and he later said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free.

Also, the same generation that signed the Declaration started the process of abolition by banning the importation of slaves in 1807. Jefferson was President at the time and he urged Congress to pass the law.

America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough.

The Declaration took a major step toward crippling the institution of slavery. It made the argument for the first time about the fundamental rights of all humans which completely undermined slavery. Planting the seeds to end slavery is not nearly commendable enough for leftist critics, but you can't discount the fact that the seeds were planted. It's like they started an expiration clock for slavery by approving the Declaration. Everything that happened almost a century later to end slavery, and then a century after that with the Civil Rights movement, flowed from the principles voiced in the Declaration.

Ironically for a movement that calls itself progressive, it is obsessed with retrying and judging the past over and over. Progressives consider this a better use of time than actually putting past abuses in the rearview and striving not to be defined by ancestral failures.

It can be very constructive to look to the past, but not when it's used to flog each other in the present. Examining history is useful in providing a road map for the future. And America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough. But it's right there, the original, under glass. The ink is fading, but the words won't die — as long as we continue to discuss them.

'Good Morning Texas' gives exclusive preview of Mercury One museum

Screen shot from Good Morning Texas

Mercury One is holding a special exhibition over the 4th of July weekend, using hundreds of artifacts, documents and augmented reality experiences to showcase the history of slavery — including slavery today — and a path forward. Good Morning Texas reporter Paige McCoy Smith went through the exhibit for an exclusive preview with Mercury One's chief operating officer Michael Little on Tuesday.

Watch the video below to see the full preview.

Click here to purchase tickets to the museum (running from July 4 - 7).

Over the weekend, journalist Andy Ngo and several other apparent right-leaning people were brutally beaten by masked-gangs of Antifa protesters in Portland, Oregon. Short for "antifascist," Antifa claims to be fighting for social justice and tolerance — by forcibly and violently silencing anyone with opposing opinions. Ngo, who was kicked, punched, and sprayed with an unknown substance, is currently still in the hospital with a "brain bleed" as a result of the savage attack. Watch the video to get the details from Glenn.