During one of my visits with Bob Friend, he asked if I had been introduced to Harry Stewart, Bob’s brother-in-law? I told him that I hadn’t, so he promptly called Harry and introduced us. It wasn’t long before I paid a visit to Harry in his house in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I quickly found Harry to be a delightful individual and full of life. I will tell his story in 2 parts, this is part 1.
At 18 years old, Stewart volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps, taking and passing the Pilot Cadet exam. On June 27, 1944, Stewart completed cadet pilot training, receiving his wings and graduating in the Tuskegee Airmen Class 44-F-SE. Stewart learned to fly before he learned how to drive an automobile.
Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, turned into a big day for Harry, but almost at the cost of his life.
His squadron had been protecting B-24 bombers during a mission to Linz, Austria. The bombers were now in the clear and the fighters were released to do “Fighter Sweeps” looking for targets of opportunity. Harry spotted three airplanes in the distance directly ahead of him and flying in the same direction he was. They were Focke Wulf 190s! As he closed in behind them, he was surprised that they didn’t notice him. When he came into range, he fired at one of them and it burst into flames. Before the Luftwaffe pilots could react, Harry had shot up the second one, now also in a flaming nose dive. Harry looked for the third one. It wasn’t in sight anywhere. Just as he thought it had escaped, tracers started flashing by his airplane. It was right behind him! He dove frantically trying to lose the enemy fighter, but no luck. He was expecting to be shot at any moment and was now right on the deck, zigzagging between trees just trying to survive. Tracers were still flashing by him, then they suddenly stopped. Harry got up the nerve to look behind him and saw flaming FW 190 parts flying through the air. The 190 had flown into the ground.
Because he had caused the Focke Wulf to crash, he was given credit for it along with the other two.
For this feat, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In all, Stewart completed 43 combat missions in the European Theater.