03 January, 2012

Profile 63 - "369" as flown by Robert Mason

Here's my pencil-study of the next Profile.  How's this for a way to start 2012?

When I began interviewing WW2 vets, I never fooled myself that the artwork I'd create as part of the process would become my hallmark.  There are only so many hours in a day.  The time needed to even approach the level of many aviation artists simply - for me - didn't, doesn't and never will exist.

But, the 'story' - the story would require less innate talent on my part and more of the deep well of passion for learning about life through the paths it takes.  "The Story" is simply mine to uncover and display.  I can do this.

Years ago, I was given the book, "Chickenhawk" by a friend who wondered if I'd enjoy learning more of aerial combat in Vietnam.  At the time, Hollywood was in full-crank on its fascination with all-things-SE-Asia.  Killing Fields, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket...and of course, the fanciful, Apocalypse Now.

Truth be told, "Vietnam" was interesting, but at the time, I was hoping more so for a drastic remake of the movie Midway.  The dramatic angst of the Era were too closely linked to my mother's television-side rantings against George McGovern and the vibrant images of "Hippies" who slurred their speech and looked so...dirty.  I didn't like watching Vietnam on the news, I didn't like hearing about it in the house and given a choice between dreams of blue-nosed P-51s and dingy UH-1s, I'd take the Mustang.

Yet,  I cracked the book...and finished it the next day in a marathon of page turning.  Though Mason's life - in and out of combat - was fascinating in its own right, I remember putting the book down and thinking, "This is how you write!"

Damn.  It was 20+ years ago that I read Chickenhawk and to this day, it remains in my rarified Gold Standards of the art of truth-telling.

Recently, I contacted Robert to do his Vietnam UH-1 "Slick" - not as a vehicle to share history (which it should be obvious that I love doing) but as my way of thanking him for giving me an amazing well to draw upon.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be bring one of his Huey's back to life - #369.   In the meantime, if you have an appetite for reading, do yourself a favor and get his book.

First Air Cav is saddled - let's crank!

Click here for the book.

Click here to learn more about Robert.

Photo courtesy Robert Mason