35 missions as B-17 bombardier/navigator
Newman flew 35 missions in World War II as a US Air Force bombardier and navigator. His B-17 crash-landed on the 22nd mission but everyone survived. A few days later, they were back in the air.
That kind of derring-do characterizes Newman, who after the war worked as a reporter in South Florida before founding Stuart Newman Associates in 1946. Now called NewmanPR, the Miami-based public relations agency handles such accounts as Carnival Cruise Line, the Florida Keys and Key West, Holland America Line, Costa Cruises and Victory Cruise Lines, among others. Newman still serves as CEO, and his son Andy is SVP.
On Saturday, Newman was among 70 veterans of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War selected by Honor Flight South Florida for a whirlwind day in Washington that began with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard and continued in a VIP motorcade, complete with blaring sirens, to the World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Iwo Jima memorials.
Cheers, salutes and the media spotlight
Every step of the way, the veterans were cheered and saluted. Camera crews and newspaper reporters were captivated by Newman, a soft-spoken raconteur who's been adeptly telling his clients' stories for decades. On this day, though, he was the story.
One anecdote, related by son Andy: On Jan. 10, 1945, while flying over Germany on a bombing mission, Newman's B-17 took so much flak (enemy gunfire) that engines were out and the pilot told Newman to find a place to land. 'Back then, there was no GPS. It was called "dead reckoning" navigation,' Andy said.
Bounce back from a crash landing
They went down in Belgium, their plane a wreck. The crew survived but one man lost a leg to gunfire. They were rescued from approaching Germans by British troops, 'and three or four days later, they all cimbed back into a plane to continue the mission,' Andy said.
During the Honor Flight, Newman was accompanied by Andy and met in Washington by daughter Cathy Newman, an author and former National Geographic editor; grandsons Michael Newman and Jeb Fain, and well-wishers including Jennifer de la Cruz, former longtime Carnival Cruise Line PR vice president.
Andy Newman—who's taken his father for B-17 flights to celebrate his 80th and 90th birthdays—said Saturday's highlight was having Stuart's kids and grandkids there, along with a 'mail call' and the heroes' welcome the veterans got on their return to South Florida.
During the flight back to Fort Lauderdale, a mail call—reminiscent of the soldiers' highly anticipated periodic gatherings to receive letters from home during their war service, back before the days of email and satellite phones—showered Newman with a hundred notes from family, friends, colleagues and schoolkids.
'That was moving and emotional. You think this is fabulous; it can't get any better than this,' Andy related, 'then we landed and maybe 80 military people including a two-star general were there, and we turned the corner and two or three thousand people were cheering, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, little kids with their hands out to shake [with the veterans], people with signs; red, white and blue; a DJ firing up everybody, a procession that went on and on.'
'I'm not a hero'
Andy described Stuart as 'overwhelmed by the whole day,' adding: 'He always says "I'm not a hero. It's the guys who didn't come back; they're the heroes."'