Truk, the small atoll in the South Pacific, was the major anchorage for the Japanese Fleet. Comprising a magnificent harbor and four heavily defended airfields, it was thought impregnable by the US forces as they fought their way up through the Pacific. But on 16-17 February 1944 a violent two-day aerial assault by carrierborne aircraft of Task Force 58 exploded the myth. In just two days the US Navy flyers sunk over 200,000 tons of Japanese naval shipping and destroyed an estimated 275 enemy aircraft, totally eliminating all effectiveness of the Japanese base.
Light as the US Navy losses were only 25 aircraft failed to return the battle for Truk was ferocious. The ground installations, ships, and airfield batteries put up intense antiaircraft fire against the attacking American aircraft, while Zeros did their best to repel the onslaught. The air above the atoll became a maelstrom of flak, tracer, flying lead and shrapnel, while below huge explosions rocked the ground as ammo and fuel dumps were hit, fires raged, and the acrid smoke of battle pervaded the entire area.
In this important painting, his first featuring the F6F Hellcat, Robert Taylor brings to life the scenario that was crucial to Admiral Spruance’s forceful drive through the Central Pacific. The once feared Japanese base at Truk is being reduced to a statistic of war. Hellcats of VF6 hurtle across the lagoon at masthead height with guns blazing, creating havoc as they tear into the enemy positions below. Seen in the foreground is the F6F-3 of Lt. Alex Vracui, subsequently to become one of the Navy’s top guns. This exhilarating work dramatically conveys the awesome conditions endured day after day by the pilots of the US Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific.
The Aces Edition numbered 1 - 450
Comprising main print, signed by THREE US Navy Hellcat Aces.
Every print in the “Aces Edition” is signed by THREE Aces who flew the Hellcat in combat, including leading Ace Alex Vraciu. Each print is also signed by the artist Robert Taylor, and hand-numbered.
Commander Willis E. Hardy USN
‘Bill’ Hardy enlisted in the US Navy in 1939, and after working his way up through the ranks was commissioned in 1943, thereby enabling him to change from flying seaplanes to the latest fighters. Assigned to Fighting Seventeen, he flew the F6F Hellcat from the USS Hornet, and took part in the strikes against Tokyo, the landings on Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, where on 6 April 1945 he downed four Japanese planes in a day. That day also saw him make his first night-time deck landing after he remained in combat too long heading off a tenacious attack by Kamikazes against a US destroyer. ‘Bill’ finished the war with 6 ½ aerial victories, and retired from the service in 1959.
Commander Hamilton McWhorter USN
Hamilton ‘Mac’ McWhorter first saw combat with VF-9 flying the F4F Wildcat from the USS Ranger in strikes against Casablanca. In March 1943 he transferred to the new F6F Hellcat aboard the USS Essex in the Pacific, and participated in the strikes against Marcus, Wake, Marshall and Gilbert Islands, Rabaul, Truk – where he scored a notable triple victory in a few minutes, and Saipan. Joining VF-12 aboard the USS Randolph, he took part in strikes against Tokyo in February 1945, and Iwo Jima and Okinawa. With 12 air victories in 89 combat missions, ‘Mac’ McWhorter was the first carrier-based pilot to become a F6F double Ace. He retired from the Navy in 1969.
Commander Alex Vraciu USN
Alex Vraciu first saw combat flying the F6F Hellcat off carriers with VF-6, becoming an Ace in January 1944 aboard the USS Lexington. His tally of victories continued to mount, and during the ‘Great Marianas Turkey Shoot’ he splashed six dive-bombers in eight minutes, the following day adding a Zero, bringing his total to 19. His luck ran out in December 1944 when he was shot down strafing an airfield. Bailing out, he spent five weeks with Filipino guerillas before meeting up with advancing Americans. He ended the war as the US Navy’s fourth highest Ace, and he retired in 1963.
The “War in the Pacific Edition” is signed by an additional five Hellcat Aces, and is also issued with the color print “Pacific Pirate”, signed by a leading F4U Corsair Ace. There are a total of NINE signatures in this edition.
Commander John ‘Ted’ Crosby USN
Ted Crosby joined the Navy in 1942, and was commissioned in May 1943. Serving on board USS Bunker Hill with VF-18 flying F6F Hellcats, he shared in downing a ‘Betty’ bomber. Transferring to VF-17 he served on USS Hornet from January 1945 where he scored a further five victories, including three in a day on 16 April, and became a Hellcat Ace.
Colonel Archie G. Donahue USMC (Companion Print)
Assigned to VMF-112, Archie Donahue arrived at Guadalcanal in November 1942, where he flew three tours, completing 159 combat missions, first in F4F Wildcats and then in the F4U Corsair, in which he downed five Zeroes in a day. In 1944 he transferred to VMF-451 flying the F4U from the USS Bunker Hill, where he flew a further 56 missions in the F4U against targets at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Japanese mainland, again downing five Zeroes in a day on 12 April 1945. He finished the war with 14 aerial victories.
Lt. Commander Fred ‘Buck’ Dungan USN
Commissioned in October 1942, Fred Dungan joined VF(N)-76 and served with them flying the F6F Hellcat from the USS Yorktown until April 1944. He then transferred with the unit to USS Hornet until July 1944, when he was wounded and sent back to hospital. He was credited with 7 victories, all in the Hellcat, including four in one day.
Lt. Commander James Duffy USN
James Duffy joined the Navy in 1942. Designated a Naval aviator he was commissioned in July 1943. Assigned to VF-15 flying the F6F Hellcat, he served aboard the USS Essex from May 1944, scoring his first victory in June. He achieved his fifth and final victory to become an Ace on 5 November 1944 against an ‘Oscar’ over Luzon.
Captain John R. Strane USN
One of VF-15s leading Aces with 13 victories, John Strane had joined the Navy in April 1941. Assigned to VF-15 in August 1943 flying the F6F Hellcat, he served on the USS Essex scoring his first victories – three in a day, on 19 June 1944. On 25 October he downed four ‘Zekes’ in a day, but was shot down into the sea and wounded, being picked up the next day by the destroyer USS Cotton. He scored his final victory in November 1944.
Commander Ed ‘Wendy’ Wendorf USN
On his very first combat mission, with VF-16, he was hit by flak, which disabled his compass and radio; downed two Japanese aircraft, was badly wounded in a dogfight, and bleeding heavily flew 120 miles back to his carrier – the USS Lexington, without flaps, tailhook, or brakes. Recovered aboard, he was sent to the sickbay, and almost immediately the Lexington was hit by an aerial torpedo that flooded the sick quarters. He just escaped with his life! He survived to fly during the Truk raids, took part in the ‘Marianas Turkey Shoot’, and survived a ditching during the ‘Mission Beyond Darkness’. He finished the war with 6 victories.
Pacific Pirate by Robert Taylor
Named after the 'Fighting Corsairs', the seafaring pirates of an earlier era, the Vought F4U Corsair was the best carrier-borne fighter of World War II.
Overall print size: 15 1/2: wide x 12" high.