Col. Walter Stewart
Walt Stewart, a native of Benjamin, Utah (left) with Dan Metcalf KO7R (right), February, 2001. Col. Stewart is 83 years old in this picture, taken beside his home, the house he was born in.
Walt is the great-nephew of John M. Browning, the famous gunmaker, and is a hero in his own right.
In WWII, as pilot of the B-24 "Utah
Man" he was the leader of a crew of ten men on his plane. There were
over 160 planes and 1600 men who conducted the surprise bombing raid on Hitler's
oil fields in Ploesti, Romania on August 1, 1943.
Over 50 of these planes didn't return. Col. Stewart and his crew were the last of the raiders to land back in Benghazi, their home base, with all tanks empty and the plane shot up so badly that their maximum speed was about 125 MPH. This was his 31st mission (with only 25 being required in order to retire from bomber duty). He was belatedly awarded the Distinguished Service Cross a few years ago for his part in the mission (it had originally been wrongly awarded to someone else, due to a paperwork mix-up).
His story is available on the video "Wing and a Prayer, the Saga of Utah Man" for $20 plus postage. Anyone interested contact KO7R at 801-768-9144, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. KO7R gets no profit. Col. Stewart is still very active, does farming and speaks to scout troops, youth groups, and church meetings, etc. on a regular basis.
Meeting him and listening to his stories
and experiences were a highlight of my life. We should never forget Walt
nor all the others like him---many of whom never returned---because of all they
gave and were willing to give, when asked by their country's leaders.
These WWII vets are dying at the rate of 1,100 a day now, and won't be around
much longer. If you know one, thank him while he is still alive.
3 March, 2001
This plane took part in the 93rd Bomb Group's first mission on
1942 and was shot up so badly it was going to be used for parts, however
it was put back into flying condition and went on to become the first
8th Air Force B-24 to complete 50 missions, including Ploesti, and in
fact did go on to 53 after being flown by three different assigned
crews. On 4 Apr 1944, Walt Stewart flew it back to the states with a
picked crew of guys from all four 93rd squadrons who had completed their
missions and went on to do a war bond tour.
Walt shaking hands with General Timberlake
Timberlake signing his name to the planes nose
All B&W pictures above Copyright: Rob Clayton
Bomerang, flying low over the Ploesti oil refineries.
Picture Copyright: Kent Jaquith
Walt holding his Distinguished Service Cross
Memorial to veterans of all U.S. wars from Benjamin, UT.
Walt's wife Ruth played a major role in organizing this memorial.
Above 4 pictures Copyright: Dan Metcalf
In the latter part of May 2002 I stumbled upon a documentary airing on television called, “Wing and a Prayer, The Saga of Utah Man”. I have always been interested in World War II and especially the USAAF. This video was about Walter T. Stewart and the 1 Aug. 1943 raid on the Rumanian oilfields of Ploesti. I sat through the whole of it completely mesmerized and knew I had to have a copy of this film. One thing led to another and with the help of Dan Metcalf (mentioned above), I was able to meet Col Stewart. Actually I was able to meet Walter not only once, but twice while in Utah visiting family. It was a very enjoyable time and I will treasure the memory of the visits. Not only do I admire Col. Stewart for what he did in the performance of his duty during his military career; I admire him for the life he has led since. He is a devoted family man and has served his church with great diligence since before he was in the military. I was able to take my son on the second visit and I hope he will remember Walt and the things he said. Because of physical handicaps, my son can't ever serve, but if I and men like Walter Stewart have anything to say about it, he will know what has been done for him by men and women who when called upon, made many serious sacrifices, up to and including their lives.
I enlisted in the army after high school and served 21 years both on active duty and in the reserves. I never saw combat, but I knew many who did. We need to appreciate those who have put their lives on the line over these many years, going where they were told to go and doing what they were told (or asked) in the service of their country. Most of these men and women don’t like to be called heroes, the heroes are those who didn’t come home.
Steve Hall KB3IOJ
Walt with model of B-24
Copyright: Steve Hall
KUED Interview with Walt Stewart
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