07 February, 2021

PROFILE 148: Republic F-105D Thunderchief as flown by Marty Mahrt, 333rd TFS


Ok.  Done.  But not done.

The above illustration is (should be anyway) an animated .gif file showing what the print of my artwork of F-105 "Thud" pilot Marty Mahrt's F-105D looks like.

I may be guilty of a lot of things but when it comes to my aviation art, "arrogance" is not one of them.  There are so many people who crush me in terms of ability, I can't begin to list them.  But, 'this' is not a competition.

However, my art is distinctive in that I bother to get the art printed and signed by the pilot.  It's my way of honoring the moment, the human and the surrounding story.  


Have a look at the illustration above - you should be able to see the white space above the Thud's spine transition from white to a row of odd icons.  Like this...

The prints have the above icons printed with clear varnish that is invisible unless the light is just-so.  Then, the icons are clearly apparent.  It's a bit of poetic symbolism that represents the forces, people and ideals that resulted in Marty's rescue from North Vietnam after being shot down on 10 May, 1966.

A little math is in order.  From left to right, the two HH-3 "Jolly Green Giant" rescue helicopters each had a crew of five.   So ten people.  The next two silhouettes are A-1 Skyraiders that were flying the "SANDY" mission of providing top cover for the downed pilot and "Jollys."  That's two more people for a total of 12.  Jumping past the heart (I'll get to that in a sec), the two F-105 silhouettes represent David Hatcher and Bob Gobble, two Thud drivers who elected to fly cover over Marty while the Jollys and SANDY guys arrived.  Two more = 14.   And then, the F-4s that came in at the right moment to chase away the MiG-17s that were hell-bent on shooting down the Jollys at the moment of pickup.  Each F-4 had a crew of two so thats... (brain whirs) 18 people directly involved with rescuing Marty.

I didn't count the KC-135 tanker crews that flew INTO North Vietnam to refuel Gobble and Hatcher... that in and of itself was heroic!

Have a look at the heart with the crucifix in it.  It's slightly elevated and represents the idea that Marty (and Hatcher) deeply believe: greatness is something that's inspired by something bigger than self.  Marty and Hatcher relied on their deep-seated spirituality to survive the war.  Hatcher was shot down a few weeks later and made POW.  Marty got to go home.  But for both men, they understood that sometimes "God" causes one thing for another and another for another.  There's no apparent earthly reason for it other than the sovereignty of Faith. 

But the heart also represents Marty's wife Colleen.  She, like so many wives and family, waited every day with the sneaking haunting that dad-husband-uncle-son-whatever was immersed in a brutal job in a brutal war.  It needs to be reminded that 40% of all F-105s manufactured were lost in combat...

Ah heck.  Time for a family photo.

Marty and Colleen Mart on the ramp at Seymour Johnson AFB,  c. August 1966

It means a lot for me that Marty's family will get prints of their patriarch's F-105D but I suspect the greater meaning will not be lost on them as they flick the frame or view from a certain angle...to see the icons that represent how they're connected to so many others.

So.  What are you doing on 10 Feb, 2021?  Want to meet Marty?  Why wouldn't you?  It's not every-day that one gets a chance to meet someone of such a story.  Here's how - depending upon your time zone, log into South Dakota PBS's portal here

A film I helped produce will start the moment.  It's called "Never Alone" and features the Mahrt's story.  Afterwards, we'll cut to a live bit and take Q&A from the audience (online and streaming).


(click the graphic)

Sure hope to 'see' you there.   And to make matters even more interesting, the Distinguished Flying Cross Society (of which Marty is a proud member) has helped produce an Educator's Kit that features maps, graphics and illustrations to help tell the backstory. 

Click here for that.

In the meantime, have another look at the artwork above and think about an object in your life that may represent the equivalent to Marty's Thunderchief.   What icons would you put above it?

God, I'm a lucky guy to do this stuff...