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|Signatures on this item|
|*The value given for each signature has been calculated by us based on the historical significance and rarity of the signature. Values of many pilot signatures have risen in recent years and will likely continue to rise as they become more and more rare.|
|Second Lieutenant Gene Koscinski|
*Signature Value : £20
|Joining up in 1943, Gene Koscinski graduated as a bomber pilot and soon found himself in the thick of the action with the 780th BS, 465th Bomb Group based at Pantanella in southern Italy, flying his first combat mission in November 1944. Tasked with the destruction of enemy facilities throughout Italy, southern Europe and the Balkans, the 465th were crossing the treacherous Alps on a daily basis. And flying heavily laden bombers over mountains in winter, often under fire, was a tough call. During his tour Gene survived two crashes and lived to tell the tale. Transferring to the USAF, he retired from the service in 1956.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Mitchell||On April 18, 1942, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle led a group of 16 B-25 bombers on a carrier-launched raid on industrial and military targets in Japan. The raid was one of the most daring missions of WW II. Planning for this secret mission began several months earlier, and Jimmy Doolittle, one of the most outstanding pilots and leaders in the United States Army Air Corps was chosen to plan, organize and lead the raid. The plan was to get within 300 or 400 miles of Japan, attack military and industrial targets in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe shortly after nightfall, and then fly on to a dawn landing at secret airfields on the coast of China. The twin engine B-25 Mitchell bomber was selected by Doolittle for the mission and practice indicated that it should be possible to launch these aircraft from a carrier deck with less than 500 feet of runway. On April 2, 1942 the USS Hornet and a number of escorts set sail from Alameda, California with the 16 B-25s strapped to its deck. This task force rendezvoused with another including the USS Enterprise, and proceeded for the Japanese mainland. An element of surprise was important for this mission to succeed. When the task force was spotted by a Japanese picket boat, Admiral Halsey made the decision to launch the attack earlier than was planned. This meant that the raiders would have to fly more than 600 miles to Japan, and would arrive over their targets in daylight. It also meant that it would be unlikely that each aircraft would have sufficient fuel to reach useable airfields in China. Doolittle had 50 gallons of additional fuel stowed on each aircraft as well as a dinghy and survival supplies for the likely ditchings at sea which would now take place. At approximately 8:00 AM the Hornets loudspeaker blared, Now hear this: Army pilots, man your planes! Doolittle and his co-pilot R.E. Cole piloted the first B-25 off the Hornets deck at about 8:20 AM. With full flaps, and full throttle the Mitchell roared towards the Hornets bow, just barely missing the ships island superstructure. The B-25 lifted off, Doolittle leveled out, and made a single low altitude pass down the painted center line on the Hornets deck to align his compass. The remaining aircraft lifted off at approximately five minute intervals. The mission was planned to include five three-plane sections directed at various targets. However, Doolittle had made it clear that each aircraft was on its own. He insisted, however, that civilian targets be avoided, and under no circumstances was the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to be bombed. About 30 minutes after taking off Doolittles B-25 was joined by another piloted by Lt. Travis Hoover. These two aircraft approached Tokyo from the north. They encountered a number of Japanese fighter or trainer aircraft, but they remained generally undetected at their low altitude. At 1:30 PM the Japanese homeland came under attack for the first time in the War. From low altitudes the raiders put their cargoes of four 500 pounders into a number of key targets. Despite antiaircraft fire, all the attacking aircraft were unscathed. The mission had been a surprise, but the most hazardous portion of the mission lay ahead. The Chinese were not prepared for the raiders arrival. Many of the aircraft were ditched along the coast, and the crews of other aircraft, including Doolittles were forced to bail out in darkness. There were a number of casualties, and several of the raiders were caught by Japanese troops in China, and some were eventually executed. This painting is dedicated to the memories of those airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and the thousands of innocent Chinese citizens which were brutally slaughtered as a reprisal for their assistance in rescuing the downed crews.|
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