After the war ended, Harry stayed in what was now the United States Army Air Force. Most of the pilots and ground crew from the 332nd, realizing that there wasn’t much opportunity outside of the USAF, had decided to stay in. They were now flying the P-47N Thunderbolt.
On September 18, 1947, the US Air Force separated from the US Army to become its own branch of the military. President Truman had signed an order to integrate the armed services, but things were slow to change.
Harry, along with quite a few of his fellow Tuskegee Airmen, were still in the service and were still flying their trusty P-47Ns. Because few of them were leaving, there hadn’t been much room for advancement in the ranks.
In 1949, the USAF decided to have its first gunnery meet since the end of the war. Each fighter squadron in the USAF sent three airplanes, pilots and ground crew and one alternate plane, pilot and ground crew to Nellis Air Force base for the competition. In the end, Harry and the two other pilots, James Harvey and Alva Temple won the competition with Harry having a perfect score!
This apparently shook up the US Air Force. The trophy was promptly misplaced and there was very little PR sent out about the event. The order came to inactivate the group and scatter the pilots and ground crews throughout the Air Force. What seemed like a setback for the Tuskegee pilots and ground crews, turned into a blessing. They were all very good at what they had been doing and were now given jets to fly! They shot up in rank very quickly.
Harry Stewart retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Lt. Col.