Jack's "escape picture". Luckily, he never had to use it. Probably wouldn't have helped anyway,
as the Germans could usually tell what Group a pilot was from by the snappy suit and tie - usually the same one for most of
the men in the same unit!
"Red Dog" Norley and Vermont Garrison (later an F-86 Sabre double ace in Korea) in flight gear near the 336
FS brick parking bays at the southwestern corner of Debden airfield.
Close up of P-47C-5-RE, serial 41-6529 Eager Beaver.
The "Beev", as Jack used to call her, stars in my painting Eagles of Thunder.
Jack shot a series of photos of "Millie" Millikan as he ran up Eager Beaver. Note the
"Miss Beth" motif on the forward fuselage ("Violet" was applied to the other side).
"Maddie" (left), and "Miss Beth" herself. Beth later traveled the world as an opera singer.
Col. Don Blakeslee poses for one of the famous Illustrated magazine photos. Jack's originals
still have the magazine's stamp on the back, along with the negative number (in this case: 1944-71-72). Wonder
where the negs are now?
Do you really need me to tell you who these two are? DB and DG compare notes on the steps of
the Officer's Mess, circa early 1944.
Late 1943. Vic France (KIA 4/18/44) and Don Gentile in the grass in front of one of the 336 flightline
Johnny Godfrey and Don Gentile pose for the camera next to Don's famous Shangri-La.
In one of the last, if not the last photo taken of her in one piece, arguably the
most famous Mustang ever reposes on her usual parking spot in front of the 336 dispersal shacks. Note the April 8th
kills (bringing Don's score up to 30) have been applied already. She was pranged on April 13th, so allowing for a few
days for the confirmation process, this must be within a day or so of the crash. Note the interesting paint demarcation
line mis-match on the lower center cowl section. This is the only picture I've ever seen of this oddity
- learn something new all the time!
Gentile in a VF P-47.
Jack Raphael in front of one of his P-51B Mustangs. Declared tour-expired in March 1944, Jack wasn't
quite ready to go home, and went on to very interesting series of non-flying assignments, ultimately ending up on the continent,
where, fluent in French, he was a great asset to the allied forces doing investigative and other work.
Steve "The Greek" Pisanos in front of a 71 Eagle Squadron Spitfire. Note the Eagle Squadron crest
on Steve's left shoulder. "The Greek" became an American Citizen while serving with the 4th Fighter Group.
Jack (left), and friend Jay Warren.
Another Illustrated photograph (Negative 1944-71-65). This time Don Patchen, Robert Hobert,
Don Emerson, Jim Goodson and Bob Tussey admire the 336 scoreboard.
Debden, 29 Feb 1944, 0850-0900 hrs.
Following briefing at 0745, P-51Bs line up for 2-ship takeoffs on the second 4th FG P-51 mission, conducted
from 0900 to 1305 hrs. and led by Capt. Jim Goodson. That's Lt. Bob Hills (334) in the foreground messing with
Red Dog, Louis "Red Dog" Norley's P-47C-2; VF-O, 41-6183.
1Lt. Ray G. Fuchs and his Trishie II. Ray served with 336 for just over a year.
1Lt. Bob Nelson, with his kite and crew chief. Bob was "hacked" (shot down) in April 1944 and
while evading capture for four days ate buffalo grass at some point. He made the mistake of telling somebody in
prison camp - he was known as "Buffalo Grass" from then on.
Mechs tinker with Jack's '51. The paint finish on most wartime aircraft left a little to be desired
usually, but you could bet the house that they were as perfect mechanically as they could be. Mechanics, Armorers,
Radio men, and other Techs worked countless hours. If a pilot or aircraft was lost, it was a personal blow to these
men. Note the gas cap on the 75-gallon wing (drop) tank is off. Either the tank is about to be filled, or they
are letting it air out to ensure that no condensation (water) is present.
Jack's collection of 8" x 10" autographed photos is unbelievable. Here's Johnny Godfrey sitting on
his Reggie's Reply.
Jack poses in the cockpit of his Thunderbolt in front of 336's dispersal.
Looking northerly at VF-R parked along the 336 peri-track just before it turns into 335 territory.
Jack was flying this particular ship as "Spare 1" on January 5, 1944 when, as he was taking off on the west runway, the
kite's rudder locked and he swung to port violently. Jack and the out-of-control plane struck a 335 kite as they
careened, slicing off one of it's wings. Jack finally slid to a stop just short of the bomb dump! He was back
flying the next day.
This is what WD-K looked like after Jack and VF-R hit her after his rudder locked up during the takeoff
roll (see photo above). May have saved Jack's life as the next stop was the bomb dump - Jack and VF-R stopped just a
few feet short . . .
Jack poses with Spitfire Vb BL582, a 71 and 133 Eagle Squadron vet. Interestingly, the US
National insignia and code letters, MD-V, have been painted out. No further information available at present.
Yet another Illustrated shot, this time a portrait of Major Louis H. "Red Dog" Norley, Jr.
He flew with all three squadrons during a 26-month career with the 4th.
Yet another beautiful Illustrated picture. What more can you say about "Col. Don"?
He arrived in the UK in May 1941, and flew with several RCAF and RAF units, including 121 and 133 "Eagle" Squadrons, before
transferring with his fellow Americans into the new 4th Fighter Group in September 1942. He commanded the group from
Jan - November 1944, and over the course of his 3.5 years of nearly non-stop "ops" flew 500+ sorties, accumulating 1,200+
hours of combat time. On April 11, 1944, Gen. Eisenhower personally pinned the Distinguished Service Cross
to Blakeslee's uniform in a ceremony at Debden.
Jim Goodson (facing camera), Bob Nelson and Hank Mills (334 FS) in front of the 336 line shack. Notice
sidewalk in the background. All the buildings are gone now, but remnants of the sidewalk still remain. See my
"Debden 2002" pages on this site for Then and Now shots.
One of Jack's best friends at Debden was 1Lt. George K. Villinger. George was KIA in a P-51B on 3/2/44.
Don Gentile with a Spitfire Vb.
Don Gentile (left) and Deacon Hively (right) are amazed by Dick Braley's latest " . . . and here's
how I did it!" They stand amidst the group briefing shacks located between the 334 and 336 hangars (across from the
1Lt. Robert E. Hughes. Eddie flew with the 4th for just over seven months before becoming a POW
in April 1944.
Great portrait of "Gentle".
1Lt. Conrad C. "Connie" Ingold. After his P-47 crash off the South runway in September 1943 was
blamed on poor eyesight, he stayed on as a ground officer. Ingold served for a while as the Group's Personal (Flying)
Equipment Officer, then as 334's Intel Officer until the end of the war.
Steve Pisanos, Don Blakeslee and Vernon Boehle pose with a "Spit".
Spring 1944. Col. Don briefs the troops for another "show". Yep, Illustrated once again.
A portion of Jack's logbook showing flights made in October 1943. Jack used two lines for each flight,
listing the time on the second line of each entry. Since this is only the right hand side of this page
of entries, here's the dates/events/matching times:
10/4/43 (the date of my painting, "Eagles of Thunder")- Ramrod to Eupen
10/9/43 - Air Test - 0:10
10/9/43 - Joy Ride in a Wellington IC as 2nd Pilot - 1:30
10/10/43 - Ramrod to Munster - 2:35
10/13/43 - Air Test, Slow Time new engine in VF-R - 0:30
10/14/43 - Group Balbo/Ramrod Recall - 0:50
10/19/43 - Local Cloud Flying - 1:00
10/20/43 - Ramrod to Antwerp - 2:25
10/21/43 - Air Test after plug change in VF-M - 0:45
10/25/43 - Air Test, Altitude 32,000 ft. - 1:15
Notice his Flight and Squadron Commander's signatures verifying the times listed. Jack ended up with
~ 90 combat hours over 55 sorties.
August 1942. After displaying complete mastery of the Harvard II (North American AT-6), Jack was awarded
his coveted RCAF Pilot Wings. He immediately started flying OTU missions in Harvards, Hurricanes and Spits to learn
how to convert his new skills into finely-tuned instruments of political and military will.
When the pilots weren't "up there", they were usually right here in the squadron dispersal shack.
That goes for all three squadrons, but this shot shows 336's lounge area. Here pilots could read up on the latest intel
reports, study and discuss tactics or read magazines. Looks like everybody was taking it easy today!
Here's a good shot of WD-X. This kite went MIA on 9-7-43 with Lt. Aubrey C. Stanhope (POW).
Jack mentions several times in his diary that he did some artwork before he hit the sack. Here's one
example, a pencil drawing of his P-47, Eager Beaver.
Steve Pisanos and friend Pam in front of the Officer's Mess.
Mike Sobanski (KIA 6 June 1944 while flying a D-Day mission) and Jim Goodson relax in the grass.
Charles F. Anderson (KIA 4/19/44), 335's Frank C. Jones (KIA 8/8/44) and Don Gentile lounge in front of
the Officer's Mess.
Not the best quality shot, but still a goody. "Lucky", a squadron mascot (usually Johnny Godfrey's),
gets tossed into the air by Bob Nelson (L), and Pierce "Wiggy" Wiggin. Notice all three C hangars in the background,
and if you squint, you can see the control tower immediately to the left of Nelson's jacket. As of this writing
(mid-April 2003), my contacts advise me that the last C hangar, 334's, the one behind Bob Nelson, is in her last days.
Her structure is weak, they say, and she's not longer safe.
Armorers load the wing trays of Eager Beaver with .50 calibre ammo. Note the lack of an outboard
.50 gun. Most
4th FG P-47s had the outboard guns removed as a weight saving measure - to aid range somewhat.
When belly tanks, especially the 108-gallon variety, came into regular use, most Jugs had the extra two guns reinstalled.
Also note the large 60" wing insignia - duplicated on the other side as well. This recognition feature was unique to
ETO P-47s, since in 'flash view' it was easily mistaken for a FW-190. This shot was taken in the 336 parking bay just
north of the dispersal shacks. This brick dispersal is still relatively intact - see my "Debden 2002" pages on this
site for some good pictures.
A great candid shot of VF-L taxiing into the north 336 bay entrance.
Jack and friends Larry Grey (L), and Jay Warren (C), in May 1943, a few months before Jack was assigned
to the 4th.