At the beginning of 1945 it was plain that Germany would lose the war. The incessant air raids were inexorably destroying the Nazi war machine reducing supplies to the front lines to a crawl. Yet Germany fought doggedly on. Its fighter pilots had known nothing different since 1939 – many of those still surviving had flown five years of combat virtually without a break.
If the Allies were controlling the skies nobody had told the seasoned Luftwaffe pilots who continued to intercept the massed daylight raids with great determination. The long range capabilities of the 8th Air Forces may have allowed fighter escort all the way to the target and back, but the heavy bombers were still being knocked down in numbers, and the American fighter pilots had their work cut out every time the German fighters appeared.
This iconic scene depicts a dramatic clash between USAAF and Luftwaffe fighters in January 1945. P-51 Mustangs of the 357th Fighter Group, escorting a heavy bomber raid deep into enemy territory, engage a strong force of Me109s. A massive dog-fight ensues high over the Rhine, drawing interceptors away from the bomber force – a partial victory in itself. But the battle is by no means over.
Captain Robert Foy of 363rd Squadron engages one of the Me109s in a daring head-on pass whilst P-47 Thunderbolts of 56th Fighter Group climb to give support. Ominously, more Luftwaffe fighters are joining the fray. The action is painted in a peerless cloudscape, giving huge distance and depth to what is a classic World War II air combat picture.
THE MULTI-SIGNED PRINT
Published in 2001 this stunning print was signed by four distinguished 8th Air Force Aces and three high scoring Luftwaffe Aces. This one exclusive copy was kept aside and over a number of years additionally autographed by US Pilots who flew the P-51 Mustang in combat as well as Luftwaffe Fighter Pilots who fought against them. It now boasts a total of TWENTY NINE original autographs:
Colonel CLARENCE E “BUD” ANDERSON – 357th Fighter Group / 16¼ victories
Lieutenant Colonel ERNEST BANKEY – 357th Fighter Group / 11 ½ victories
Colonel DONALD CUMMINGS – 38th Fighter Group / 6 ½ victories including 2 jets
Colonel WALKER “BUD” MAHURIN – 56th & 3rd Air Commando Group / 24 ½ victories
Generalleutnant GÜNTHER RALL Knights Cross with Oak Leaves & Swords – JG52, JG300 / 275 victories
Oberfeldwebel HELMUT RÜFFLER Knights Cross – JG3. JG51 / 98 victories
Hauptmann HANS WEIK Knights Cross – JG3 / 36 victories
Lieutenant Colonel ROBERT A. KARR – 52nd Fighter Group/ 6 victories
Colonel ARTHUR “ART” FIEDLER – 325th Fighter Group / 8 victories
Brigadier General FRANK L GAILER – 357th Fighter Group / 5 ½ victories
Captain HARVEY MACE – 357th Fighter Group / 3 victories
Captain CHARLES E. WEAVER – 357th Fighter Group / 8 victories
Lieutenant Colonel WILLIAM FOARD – 357th Fighter Group / Flew the Squadron’s main escort missions
Captain ROBERT P WINKS – 357th Fighter Group / 5 ½ victories
Lieutenant Colonel ROBERT G SCHIMANSKI – 357th Fighter Group / 6 victories
Lieutenant Colonel CLYDE EAST – 10th Photo Recon Group / 14 ½ victories
Major JOHN A KIRLA – 357th Fighter Group / 11 ½ victories
First Lieutenant RAYMOND “TED” CONLIN – 357th Fighter Group/ 1 victory
First Lieutenant JOHN SKARA – 357th Fighter Group/ Wingman to Bud Anderson
Leutnant ALFRED AMBS – JG5, JG7 / 7 victories in a Me262
Oberleutnant KURT SCHULZ – JG5 / 3 Victories
Feldwebel HERIBERT KOLLER – JG54 / 49 victories
Major HANS EKKEHARD-BOB Knights Cross – JG54, JV44 / 60 victories
First Lieutenant JOSEPH BLACK – 357th Fighter Group / 28 combat missions
First Lieutenant DALE E. KARGER – 357th Fighter Group/ 7 ½ victories, third youngest US Ace
Oberleutnant WALTER WOLFRUM Knight’s Cross – JG52 / 137 victories
Leutnant NORBERT HANNIG Iron Cross First Class – JG54 / 42 victories
Captain WILLIAM B. OVERSTREET – 357th Fighter Group / 5 victories
Colonel ARVAL J. ROBERSON – 357th Fighter Group / 6 victories
The standard print in this edition is already one of the most sought after in Robert Taylor’s extensive portfolio and rarely becomes available on the secondary market. The highly distinguished fighter pilots who signed this copy scored a staggering total of more than 800 aerial victories, and only one multi-signed copy was ever completed, making it a unique and highly sought after collector’s piece.