Somewhere in England, an American crew chief impatiently watches his P-51 Mustang to return from its first mission of the day. Just a few hours before, he was checking the airplane for mechanical issues, loading the guns and hastily painting black and white invasion stripes on the aircraft just prior to the first mission of D-Day.
Traditionally, fighter and bomber pilots of WWII were the golden boys and seen as the brave and gallant knights of the air, as indeed they were. Those often overlooked, were the tens of thousands of men behind the scenes. Without the efforts made by mechanics, armorers, and crew chiefs, the allied air campaign against the Axis powers in WWII would have literally, never gotten off the ground.
The ground crews would often work all night preparing their assigned aircraft for the following days’ mission. They stood by, strapping their pilot into the aircraft and watching pilot and plane fly away. The crews grabbed a bite to eat and a few hours of sleep and then waited for their aircraft to return. Often, the day for these highly dedicated and skilled young men would end in sadness when their pilot and aircraft failed to return from a combat mission.
Over the years as the artist talked with many of the pilots, the first people they would single out for praise was not their commanders or fellow pilots but rather their ground crews! In this painting we see a crew chief anxiously waiting alongside several drop tanks as he watches his pilot and aircraft on final approach. He wonders how the aircraft performed for his friend and his thoughts turned toward the hours of work ahead.