From the day they began their aerial campaign against Nazi Germany to the cessation of hostilities in 1945, the USAAF bomber crews plied their hazardous trade in broad daylight. This tactic may have enabled better sighting of targets, and possibly less danger of mid-air collisions, but the grievous penalty of flying daylight missions over enemy territory was the ever presence of enemy fighters.
Though heavily armed, the heavy bombers of the American Eighth Air Force were no match against the fast, highly maneuverable Me109s, Fw190s and, late in the war, Me 262 jet fighters which the Luftwaffe sent up to intercept them. Without fighter escort they were sitting ducks, and inevitably paid a heavy price. Among others, one fighter group earned particular respect, gratitude, and praise from bomber crews for its escort tactics. The 356th FG stuck rigidly to the principle of tight bomber escort duty, their presence in tight formation with the bombers often being sufficient to deter enemy attack.
Repeatedly passing up the opportunity to increase individual scores, the leadership determined it more important to bring the bombers home than claim another enemy fighter victory. As the air war progressed this philosophy brought about an unbreakable bond between heavy bomber crews and escort fighter pilots, and among those held in the highest esteem were the pilots of the 356th.
Nicolas Trudgian pays tribute to the escort fighter pilots of the USAAF Eighth Air Force, and in particular to those who flew with the 356th, with his new action packed aerial panorama Ace of Diamonds. Top scoring ace Donald J Strait, flying his P-51 D Mustang Jersey Jerk, together with pilots of the 356th Fighter Group, are seen in action against Luftwaffe Fw 190s while escorting B-17 bombers returning from a raid on German installations during the late winter of 1944.
His fine rendition brings home the devastating speed with which these attacks were fought: One minute all is orderly as the mighty bombers thunder their way homeward; the next minute enemy fighters are upon them and all hell breaks loose.
Each print in this commemorative edition is individually signed in pencil by three of the top pilots from the 356th Fighter group, including top-scoring ace Donald Strait. Every print is also signed Personally by the artist, Nicolas Trudgian, and hand-numbered.
Lieutenant Colonel CHARLES E. BECK
Captain CLINTIN DeWITT BURDICK
Major General DONALD J. STRAIT