Thursday, November 26, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Presenting "YO-YO" - a B-24J Liberator as it flew with the 741st Bomber Squadron, 455th Bomber Group, 15th Air Force, Italy, circa 1944.
Some historians have recorded George flying a B-24 named "Dakota Queen." No photographic reference exists of that airplane. However, George's logs show that he flew "YO-YO" in combat and being that ample photographic documentation remains of this airplane, I went with what could be verified.
I hope to soon get the Senator's blessing on the artwork, but I'm confident enough that YO-YO is on-target, so I'm posting it now.
Anyway, I believe that in WW2, unique cultures emerged within each aerial discipline. Whether by nature or nurture, I can't quite tell, but suffice it to say, fighter pilots tend to act like fighter pilots, bomber pilots like bomber pilots, recon pilots like recon pilots...My explanation is that the man had to fit the mission.
A fair number of history buffs read this blog so the following may be old-hat. Nevertheless, the job of a WW2 bomber pilot was governed by a strong value system. Teamwork, consistency and single-mindedness were absolutely necessary for their mission. Strength was in numbers, security in discipline and success by collectively doing the job so well, it needn't be done again.
Today, there is no proper analog to the job George did. The image of the bomber pilot, working to hold his clumsy machine in formation, trundling through clouds of supersonic shrapnel* and parenting a crew of eight, ten men is forever locked in the 1940s.
Thankfully, the inspiration of such dedication and focus is timeless. Without a doubt, George's sense of public service and passion for the rights of others was honed in that cockpit. I remember that during the 1972 presidential election, George took more flak for his aggressive opposition to the Vietnam War, Though history has vindicated his position, I wonder if back then people really understood that he knew what he was talking about...**?
Today, George is nearing his fifth DECADE of leadership within Food for Peace, a program that distributes food overseas. John F. Kennedy appointed him Director in 1961. A few weeks ago, George stated Food for Peace's purpose rather simply. "Every kid needs lunch."
What a brilliant mission - and he shares leadership roles with none other than Bob Dole. Talk about beating bombs into plowshares, eh?
Oh - George turned 87 this year and maintains that he could horse a B-24 off the ground if the chance remained. Two years ago, he proved he could yet fly and land a BT-13 (the airplane he learned to fly in Basic Training).
*The lethal blast radius from a German 8,8 cm FlaK shell was approximately 50 feet and sprayed 300+ shards of metal at initial velocities of around 2,000 fps.
**George McGovern flew 35 missions in combat, received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters and twice experienced battle damage that resulted in casualties and/or scrapping the airplane. If we figure that George commanded an average of 4,500lbs of bombs on each of his missions, he was responsible for about 80 tons of explosive dropped on the enemy.
Photo: George McGovern, Ground School Flight Training, July '43, Carbondale, IL - George is standing 2nd from the left. Photo courtesy of The Senator George McGovern Collection, McGovern Library Archives and Special Collections, Dakota Wesleyan University
Note: Special thanks to historian Dave Ungemach for his provision of excellent photographic documentation of "YO-YO," especially that silly bunny on the side. I spent a whole night at the kitchen table drawing that stupid rabbit; if it weren't for Dave, I'd have ended up drawing a big old happy Elmer Fudd proudly dangling Bugs by his ears.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
However, the history part of the process was utterly fascinating. This project began with a chance meeting in Cambridge, UK with one of the board members of the Finnish Aviation Museum Society. Earlier in the day, my buddies and I were talking about how (aside from a little incident with the Brits in 1812), America had never been invaded. War is something that has happened, "over there."
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
And I wonder, "How on earth do I get a car-polish sheen on this thing?!" Well, you be the judge. Mac maintains the polish didn't so much change the color as it did merely add sheen. However, the main reason for the polish wasn't about the shine, but the speed.
Drag is "cubed" as velocity increases. In other words, the faster something goes, the resistance from drag grows stronger and stronger. The result of eliminating dust, dirt and scratches through a thorough polishing has been estimated to have provided as much as a 10 knot increase in airspeed! Those extra mph's could mean life and death, adding an extra second to close in on a surprise bounce or another inch distance away from an otherwise mortal bullet.
Suddenly, little details of paint become rather more interesting, don't you think?
The photo below shows Mac on SNEEZY's wing, and Crew Chief, Luman Morey. Though Mac trusted his life to Morey's mechanical prowess, he maintains that plenty of his own sweat was scrubbed into SNEEZY's Simoniz job.
*Nita later became Don's wife.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
This is my latest work-in-progress, a P-47 Thunderbolt flown by "Mac" McKibben of the 352nd FG. I wanted to get something up in time for Memorial Day. For some reason, I always start with the nose.
Anyway, historian Marc L. Hamel published a story about this particular airplane that's quite fascinating. Marc's letting me share his retelling of the account - click here for a downloadable .pdf on the details of a harrowing day for both pilot and civilian alike.
Suffice it to say, accidents killed more of the 352nd than the Nazis. Accidents, such as those that happen while trying to get a formation of 12,000lb fighters together in 10 foot visibility. Risking one's life in mortal combat with the enemy may be honorable, but loss and pain because of an accident before the battle begins seems especially cheap and tragic.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Nevertheless, "18" was flown during the Korean Conflict by "Red" James, a Marine pilot. He flew Corsairs in both WW2 and Korea. I chose to do his Korean mount because of the sheer number of reference material - in fact, “18” is on display at the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Easy details - just look.
Last Friday, Red told of how he was "called up" again for service in 1951. Remember, the American military had just decommissioned its gigantic WW2 force when the Korean situation ignited. Plenty of combat-experienced personnel were available for the call, almost immediately. For specialized warriors like pilots, a month or two of refresher courses is much more efficient than a year or more of raising pilots from scratch.
But by the time the North Korean Communists moved South, Red James had added a new experience to his resume on top of Corsair and carrier qualifications. He was a dad with two little kids and a wife. Though Red had a lot to offer the Marines by virtue of his skill and experience, he also had a lot more to lose.
Through these interviews, I’m challenged to think about beliefs on war, justice, duty - working to distinguish the feel-good thoughts from true conviction. In the course of Friday’s conversation, we discussed a word that can fan flames in emotionally-charged circles - Cowardice. I asked Red how he defined the term and his answer was devilishly simple - "Someone who doesn't do what they're supposed to do."
The men that I’ve interviewed are no longer the pilots of 1943 or 1951. They’ve gone on, living whole new lifetimes that proportionately, make their moments in combat just blips in time. But when they share their wisdom - hardened by The Great Depression and war, softened by some of the most prosperous decades in American record - I learn fine points that I could never get on my own.
Update: Red's granddaughter asked me to post a picture of him from his service days, so I here it is. It's an "official" Marine Corps photo. The paper is thick and brittle but the grain is unbelievably tight. No digital pixels, no washed-out insta-matic film - this is crisp, clear life circa 1944. I swear I can smell developer chemicals on my fingers after holding the photo.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
A man’s span on this earth is not measured in years. Above all, that is least important. To find happiness, success, and most important, to find God is the Zenith of any man’s worldly activities. I think a man has not lived until these things have been achieved. ... Yes, George knew a full, rich life. He surely reached out and touched the face of God many times. ...