The supportive relationship that developed between bomber crews and fighter pilots of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces in the ETO are legendary. It was a tight bond between the "Big Friends" and their "Little Friends", the latter acting in a defensive role out of a desperate need to stem rising casualties among the bomber crews in the bleak years of 1942 and 1943.
In those dark days, bomber crews often had to face seasoned Luftwaffe pilots when they went beyond the limited range of U.S. and R.A.F. fighters being used at that time. Crew and bomber losses rose alarmingly to unacceptable levels.
The air doctrine that grew out of this dilemma envisioned and achieved full escort coverage for the bomber crews, both to and from their continental targets. Additionally, newer and more potent fighter planes that had increased range, coupled with proven aggressive fighter tactics learned in the early years of the air war, wrestled the enemy skies from the Germans. This left the Luftwaffe as a shell of its former self.
Still, for the crippled stragglers in the wake of bomber streams who fell back from the protective pack of other "heavies", the prospect of being alone in the skies over Germany was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Marauding Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts often targeted these unfortunate crews as easy prey. Little Friends who responded to the radio pleas of these cripples, often beat back the aggressors and then escorted the bombers as they limped westward and home.
In Robert Bailey's painting titled "Sting of the Yellow Jackets", just such a scenario unfolded. A single Flying Fortress finds itself all alone in enemy skies, damaged by flak during its bomb run. One engine has been shut down, control surfaces are shredded and there are wounded airmen aboard. Struggling to maintain altitude, the B-17 is attacked by two Me109's bent upon its destruction. Fighters from the 361st Fighter Group, 375th Fighter Squadron enters the fray, destroying one of the attackers and driving off his wingman. The journey home will be uneventful, now that the injured crew has their own private escort of determined Little Friends.
225 Limited Edition prints w/SIX signatures
30 Artist Proofs and 30 Remarques with the same SIX signatures.
Lt. Col. Joe Kruzel's military career began as an Aviation Cadet in May 1940. His first assignment was to the Philippines, where he flew P-40's in the 17th Pursuit Squadron when the Japanese attacked in December 1941. During the first year of war, he was credited with destroying 3 Japanese fighters. On his return to the U.S. as a Captain, he became a P-47 Squadron Commander at Richmond, Virginia, where he was later chosen to be the Executive Officer of the 361st Fighter Group, which went to England in November 1943. In Europe, he was credited with destroying 3 and ½ German fighters. He became Fighter Group Commander of the 361st in September 1944. Other commands include F-100 Fighter Wing and an F-100 Air Division. Key staff posts were in Operations at Headquarters PACAF and at Headquarters USAF, Pentagon. Medals awarded were Silver Star with two O.L.C.'s, Distinguished Flying Cross with O.L.C., Distinguished Service Medal and Presidential Unit Citation. He retired in August 1970 and a Major General.
1st Lt. David Carl Landin joined the U.S. Army in May of 1941. Serving with the Field Artillery. He then became an Air Cadet and completed his training at Foster Field, Texas. He hen joined the newly formed 361st Fighter Group in the 376th Fighter Squadron, stationed at Bottisham, England. He began combat operations in January 1944, eventually completing 83 missions. This included D-Day and escorting "Heavies" to Berlin. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross with an O.L.C., and the Air Medal with 5 O.L.C.'s. Although he left active service in 1945, he stayed in the active reserves, retiring as a Lt. Col. in 1971. At this time he was presented with the Meritorious Service Award.
1st Lt. Henry B. Lederer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He attended New York University and joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 as an Aviation Cadet. His training was on P-47 Thunderbolts. He was afterwards assigned to the 361st Fighter Group, 374th Fighter Squadron. After transfer to the 374th F.S. he was in Bottisham, England, flying escort to B-17's and B-24's, plus ground support missions. In January of 1944 he was involved in the 361st first combat encounter, which was a fight with about 40 Me109's. He shared a victory in this battle. Henry flew 305 hours of combat and received the Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 O.L.C.'s, and the Air Medal with 2 O.L.C.'s. He was an "Eager Beaver" and the first to finish this tour of duty and be rotated home. He had completed 92 missions.
Capt. George Lichter joined the 361st Fighter Group, 374th Fighter Squadron at Richmond Army Base in May 1943. The Group departed for overseas in November 1943 on the liner Queen Elizabeth. Captain Lichter flew 88 combat missions and was credited with destroying 2 enemy aircraft, 1 probable and 3 damaged. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal and attained the position of Squadron Flight Leader. After returning to the states in December 1944 upon completing his combat, Captain Lichter joined the Israeli Air Force in 1948 where he flew combat in the Messerschmitt 109 and Supermarine Spitfire. This was during the Israeli War of Independence. When this war ended, he trained fighter pilots and was head of the Israeli Advanced Flying School. He became chief instructor in 1950 and returned to the States in 1951.
1st Lt. Leslie W. "Bill" May enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March 1942. He graduated from Foster Field, Texas, in May of 1943. After transition to fighters he was transferred to the 376th Fighter Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia. Bill was one of the original pilots of the 361st, arriving at Bottisham, England, in November 1943. He flew 93 missions, including escort on the first trip to Berlin and fighter cover during the D-Day invasion of Europe. He completed his tour of 300 hours of combat with the group in August of 1944. 1st Lt. Bill May was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one O.L.C., and the Air Medal with three O.L.C's.
1st Lt. Robert C. "Chuck" Wright was born in Williston, North Dakota. He received his pilot's wings in April 1943 and was assigned to the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group and was one of their original pilots. He flew 83 combat missions. Score was 3and ½ aircraft destroyed in the air, and 4 on the ground. Chuck was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 O.L.C.'s, and the Air Medal with 3 O.L.C.'s. His service career lasted 20 years, the last 7 of which were with the 27th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. He retired as a Lt. Col. In 1962.
150 Group Edition w/THIRTY-FIVE signatures (Each Group Edition comes with a list of signatories, printed on prime, acid-free paper and suitable for framing.)
Signatures on the Group Edition
1st. Lieutenant Billy D. Welch, 376th. Squadron
S/Sgt. Fred L. Seavey, 375th. Squadron
S/Sgt. Benjamin W. Tyrell, 375th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Duane Grounds, 376th. Squadron
Corporal Bill Schrader, 375th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Tom Moore, 374th. Squadron
S/Sgt. John Hornyak, 376th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Jimmy C. Wright, 376th. Squadron
S/Sgt. Barney Vellutello, 468th. Service Squadron
1st. Lieutenant James R. Golden, 374th Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Lee C. Travis, 375th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Lyle L. Jewell, 374th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant John J. Olmstead, 374th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Alton B. Snyder, Jr., 375th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Robert C. Wright, 375th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Stanley Raines, 375th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Alva Hill, 374th. Squadron
Lt. Colonel James Hastin, 374th. Squadron
Sergeant Donald F. Hill, 375th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Robert J. Bain, 376th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Cecil A. Laxton, 376th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Henry B. Lederer, 374th. Squadron
Captain George Lichter, 374th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Henry G. Castle, 376th. Squadron
S/Sgt. Robert L. Grubb, 374th. Squadron
S/Sgt. Vincent F. Rosewell, 374th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Charles B. Screws, 374th. Squadron
S/Sgt. Robert O. Bland, 374th. Squadron
Sergeant Joe Redden, 375th. Squadron
Lieutenant Richard E. Chandler, 374th. Squadron
Lieutenant Marion C. Kelly, 376th. Squadron
Lieutenant Walter N. Hedges, 374th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant William 'Bill' May, 376th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Phillip 'Phil' Heacox, 376th. Squadron
1st. Lieutenant Jacob L. Rawls, 374th. Squadron
Sheet size: 23" high x 33" wide.