Canadian aviation artist Robert Bailey has recently released a painting depicting a low-level strafing attack on a German airfield in France on April 28, 1944, the painting featuring four bluenosed Mustangs of the 352nd Fighter Group out of Bodney, England.
Running the gauntlet of intense and accurate enemy gunfire, these Bluenosers destroyed or damaged several German Ju-88s and Fw-190s tocarry out Gen. Jimmy Doolittle's orders to "Destroy the Enemy; in the air and on the ground."
Returning from a bomber escort mission after being relieved by another fighter group, the airfield at Herbeville, France became a tempting target for the four Mustangs flown by Capt. Robert Sharp and Lieutenants Robert Powell, William Furr and Jamie Laing. Diving down at 350 mph a few miles from their target, the four P-51s hit the field at treetop level, finding targets and shooting them up.
Foremost in the painting is Powell's "West 'by Gawd' Virginian" taking an explosive shell in his right horizontal stabilizer as he zoomed up off of a hangar where he left a Ju-88 burning. Calling out that he was hit, he fought the Mustang as it zoomed upward, the bent up meal of the tail making it necessary to force the stick forward with both hands. Powell prepared to bailout, just waiting for his plane to reach enough altitude, but as his speed diminished he found it easier to control the plane and decided to bring it home.
Rright behind him, Lt. Jamie Laing took a hit in his radiator and rapidly lost his coolant. When his engine 'froze' some 15 miles from the field, Laing bailed out. He was later captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW.
With Sharp and Furr escorting him, Powell managed to get his ship back across the North Sea to Bodney. Col. Joe L. Mason, the Group Commander, radioed Powell to ask if he was going to land the plane or bailout. When Powell told him he wanted to land it, Mason told him to hold at 5,000 feet until he could get all the other incoming planes on the ground. While holding, Powell checked the damaged Mustang to see how it reacted in a near stall both with wheels up and wheels down. Satisfied that he could keep it stable at the lower speeds, he left his wheels down and made a "hotter than usual" landing.
He later said that attack reminded him of Tennyson's famous poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," with "cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right of them, cannon in front of them . . ." Most fighter pilots of WWII agree that strafing airfields was far more dangerous than air-to-air combat and with a higher casualty rate.
By Bob "Punchy" Powell From the December issue of the 8th AF News.
|The original painting, which was priced at $10,000, was sold to an aviation art collector. In the Fall of 2001, nine members of the famous 352nd FG and 1st Service group got together to sign copies copies of the prints! These signed prints of "Bluenoser Bounce" are available from several studios. Anyone interested in more information or would like information on obtaining a copy can contact Bob Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org or can visit the Brooks Aviation Art website.|