Υποσχέθηκε να μη τους ξεχάσει και το έκανε…….
Καθώς τα ονόματα διαβάστηκαν τραβήχτηκαν τα σεντόνια και οι φιγούρες που αποκαλύφθηκαν είχαν η καθεμιά μια ιστορία να παρουσιάσουν για τις ζωές των στρατιωτών του Β’ Παγκόσμιου Πολέμου, που δεν κατάφεραν να επιστρέψουν στα σπίτια τους.
Το γλυπτό αυτό είναι δουλειά επτά χρόνων και πάνω από 70 χρόνια αναμνήσεων των 12 πιλότων από τους 13 που υπηρέτησαν μαζί με τον Frederic Arnold !
Αυτός και Jim Hagenbach ήταν οι μοναδικοί επιζώντες και για χρόνια πάλευαν με τους “δαίμονες” τους…
Έμειναν φίλοι για πάντα…..
Ένα τραυματικό σοκ από το θάνατο του αδελφού του τον έφερε αντιμέτωπο με όσα χρόνια κουβαλούσε στη ψυχή του…
Έγραψε τότε ένα βιβλίο εξιστορώντας όλη τη φρίκη που βίωσαν…
Όταν πέθαινε και ο φίλος του είπε “ΜΗ ΞΕΧΑΣΕΙΣ” την υπόσχεση … να μη τους ξεχάσουμε ποτέ…..
ΚΑΙ ΤΗΝ ΤΗΡΗΣΕ !!!!!!!!!
As the names were read — Teenager, Squadron Leader, Good Lookin’, Lucky Strike, Eager Beaver, Frenchy, Montana, Lonesome, Tailend Charlie, Stud, Speed and Handsome — the grandchildren removed the sheets, revealing each figure carrying his own message and representing the lives of airmen who did not make it home.
The new sculpture is the result of seven years of work, and more than 70 years of memories inspired by the deaths of 12 fellow pilots who served in World War II with Arnold.
“For me, it’s about remembering those who were lost, those young soldiers who never had a chance to grow up, to raise a family and to live,” said Arnold, a Longmont resident who has raised three children with his wife of 70 years, Natalie.
On Feb. 28, 1942, just three months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Arnold enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and was assigned to Class 42J P-38 fighter pilots.
One year later, Arnold went out on his first combat mission. Within two years, he had completed 50 combat missions over North Africa, Sicily and Italy, “a virtual death sentence,” said Arnold, who flew 25 more missions than his original quota to help cover the staggering losses of World War II fighter pilots.
Andy Cross, The Denver Post
WWII Veteran P-38 pilot Frederic Arnold at his Lest We Forget: The Mission statue unveiling at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum August 6, 2016.
Arnold was shot down over Sicily and captured. He escaped, made it home and was promoted to major — at the age of 23.
On his last day in North Africa, Arnold’s crew chief gifted him with 30 mission planning charts, which would eventually become the canvases for painted memorials to the fallen men of his class.
When the war was over, Arnold wanted to forget everything. “I did not want to look in the mirror and see a killer,” he said.
Years later, his brother’s death in 1977 triggered an episode of post-traumatic stress, forcing Arnold to confront the demons he had stuffed away.
So he began to write.
The result was a 1,500-page manuscript, which became the 1981 book “Doorknob Five Two” —after his radio call name when flying.
“To learn what he had seen came as an unbelievable shock,” said Arnold’s son Marc. “The horrible events he had witnessed and acts he performed in service of our country, reconciling this with the caring sensitive artist that he is … he was a human camera, which informed who he became as an adult. For us, it became an important part of what he had been through.”
Arnold’s original class was made up of 14 members. After six months of combat, only two pilots had survived — Arnold and Jim Hagenbach. The two men remained friends, and several years after the war, while playing tennis, they made a vow that whoever was left standing would do something to honor the 12 who had died in combat.
In 1998, Arnold learned that his friend was dying. He went to visit Hagenbach who, on his deathbed, told Arnold, “Don’t forget the promise.”
“I promised I would honor our vow, but I did not have the slightest idea what to do,” said Arnold.
Arnold visited monuments and museums but could not come up with an idea. Eventually, his daughter-in-law suggested that Arnold use the 10 maps he had been given by his crew chief as background for painted memorials. Arnold liked the idea and, using the maps, created 10 panels on which he painted murals.
“The murals showed what we did, but it did not fulfill my vow … It didn’t convey the true cost of those lives, so I was back to square one,” said Arnold. “And then, one day, in passing, I noticed this scene,” he said, referring to one of the murals depicting a group of soldiers standing around during a typical morning briefing in North Africa.
“I knew this was the way to remember, to not forget. It was not just my crew, but all those guys who got killed and, as a sculptor, I knew how to do it.”
When he was in his late 80s, Arnold created a miniature based on that sketch. He was 90 years old when he began to mold the clay, embarking on the most ambitious project of his career as an artist. He finished the models in March 2015.
“The message is 100 percent Dad’s,” Marc said, adding that others helped to keep the work true to history. “The research program ran in parallel with the work. We wanted to make sure the details were portrayed correctly. The word got out — the National World War II Museum shipped an oxygen mask for detail, and other elements including rafts, ripcords.”
The finished sculpture is a three-dimensional rendering in bronze of a pre-dawn briefing. The project required 3,000 pounds of clay, and the painstaking work of artist Sutton Betti, and 40 other craftsmen from Arts Castings of Colorado in Loveland, who helped Arnold process the work from clay to bronze.
Arnold and his family put up the money for the project, since fundraising didn’t cover the costs.
While Arnold’s memories of the 12 fellow pilots in his class provided the inspiration, the sculptures intend to represent the 88,000 airmen who were killed in combat in World War II. The piece differentiates between living pilots and those who had been killed in action by the color of the metals, with the dead men in a more pallid hue.
For Stanley Yokell, a friend and former neighbor of Arnold’s who also served as an officer in World War II, the unveiling brought back memories.
“It was the first time I cried since my wife died,” said Yokell. “The thought of the young men, barely out of their teens fighting our battles was overwhelming. I had an especial fondness for P-38 pilots when my ship was in action and they were overhead protecting us from Japanese airplanes.”
“I am proud and happy that I did what I said I would do,” said Arnold.
David Cogger is a freelance writer.