February 23rd, 2017, 08:34 AM
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: North Carolina
Jimmy Stewart flies his last combat mission . . .
. . . on 22 February 1966. Twenty-two years to the day he won his Distinguished Flying Cross.
Brigadier General James Stewart on an inspection tour of the Far East Air Forces on behalf of the Air Force Reserve, whose pilots made a significant proportion of the B-52, KC-135 and theater transport crews, flew as an observer on an Arc-Light mission. B-52F-65-BW, sn 57-0149 from the 732nd Bombardment Squadron, 459th Bombardment Wing [Green 2] was part of a thirty aircraft strike on VC strong holds near Siagon, South Vietnam. Total mission time was 12 hour, 50 min, and everything when smoothly, until the approach to landing . . .
As the B-52 began to deploy flaps in preparation for landing, Capt Bob Amos felt a slight roll and the Capt Lee Meyer, the co-pilot, noticed of the two flap indicators, one for each wing, one was displaying 0°. Amos announced they had split flaps, pulled the flap lever up and applied power for climb out.
Once they established a holding pattern, they began to assess the situation. Landing a B-52 without flaps is possible, but the high landing speed made it a difficult and dangerous as the normal nose low attitude of a landing B-52 changed to a nose high attitude which reversed all the normal actions needed to get all four landing gear sets to hit the ground evenly, most pilots only made practice ‘flap-up’ landing to an altitude of 500’ before climbing out again.
Captain Amos recalled one of the thoughts that ran through his head was “Headline news – Captain Robert Amos kills actor Jimmy Stewart”.
After a brief discussion with the ground, they figured there was a chance that that the indicator was bad and not the flaps. The rolling may have been due to turbulence from the B-52 in front of them at the time, and by the time the gunner got a look at the flaps they were back in the up position. So, they were going to try the flaps again with the gunner paying special attention if they didn’t go down together. As a further precaution, General Stewart was moved down to the jump-seat in the lower cabin, so if things when badly, he could exit quickly by jumping through either of the two holes left by the radar navigator or navigator’s downward ejection seat.
Fortunately, the flaps deployed normally, and they landed without further incident.
This would not be the end of either Gen. Stewart's or Capt Amos’s personal involvement with the war. Amos would go on to complete 36 missions as a B-52 pilot, and a further 126 missions in an F-105D Thunderchief. Stewart retired from the USAFR in 1968, but in June 1969, Jimmy Stewart’s son, 1stLt Ronald McLean, USMC, was killed while on a reconnaissance patrol near the DMZ.