When Jimmy Stewart went off to serve in World War II, he wasn’t like most privates… For one, he was in his 30s. For another, he had won an Oscar for The Philadelphia Story. Putting his Hollywood career on hold to join the United States Army Air Forces, Stewart ultimately reached the rank of colonel, flew 20 combat missions, and came back on the Queen Elizabeth wearing the Distinguished Flying Cross.
For the September 24, 1945, cover story, LIFE’s Peter Stackpole followed Stewart around his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, as he visited family and old friends before getting his military discharge.
In this gallery, see what happened when a Hollywood legend went home a hero.