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Commander Alex Vraciu USN (deceased)
|Alexander Vraciu was born in 1918, in East Chicago. Indiana to Romanian immigrant parents, . Alex grew up enthralled by the exploits of aviator Charles Lindbergh and World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Alexander Vraciu won a scholarship to DePauw University. Due to his passion for flying he obtained his private pilots license under the governments Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program at Muncie, Indiana. Vraciu graduated in 1941, and entered the Navy as pilot candidate just before Pearl Harbor. On June 24th 1942 Alexander Vraciu recieved his Naval Aviators wings. He became carrier-qualified on Lake Michigan on USS WOLVERINE, a converted excursion ship, Vraciu qualified on eight straight passes in a F4F Wildcat, demonstrating an early affinity for carrier duty. He went onto fly the Grumman F6F Hellcat in the Pacific theatre. Alex Vraciu first saw combat flying the F6F Hellcat off carriers with VF-6. It was while flying as section leader in LCDR OHares division on October 5th, 1943, that Alex scored his first aerial victory over a Japanese zero at Wake Island. He notched three Zeroes and one Rufe in a wild dogfight at the first Truk raid on February 16, 1944 as part of a 72-Hellcat fighter sweep at the Japanese Naval fortress. During the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot he shot down six dive-bombers in eight minutes. The following day, escorting bombers in an attack on the Japanese Mobiel Fleet (Kido Butai), Vraciu downed his 19th victim, a Zero making him the foremost US Navy ace by a considerable margin, although he would hold that title for only four months. His luck ran out on December 14, 1944, while strafing over Luzon Island in the Philippines, his aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire and Alex Vraciu was forced to parachute safely from his damaged aircraft. Bailing out, he spent five weeks with Filipino guerrillas before meeting up with advancing Americans. He ended the war as the US Navys fourth highest Ace. In addition to his 19 aerial victories, he had destroyed 21 enemy aircraft on the ground. During the last few months of the war he served as a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, evaluating tactical performances between japanese an US aircraft he retired from the service in 1963. He died on 29th January 2015.|
Commander Hamilton McWhorter USN (deceased)
|Hamilton Mac McWhorter first saw combat with VF-9 flying the F4F Wildcat from the USS Ranger in strikes against Casablanca. In March 1943 he transferred to the new F6F Hellcat aboard USS Essex in the Pacific, and participated in the strikes against Marcus, Wake, Marshall and Gilbert Islands, Rabaul, Truk - where he scored a notable triple victory in a few minutes, and Saipan. Joining VF-12 aboard USS Randolph, he took part in strikes against Tokyo in February 1945, and Iwo Jima and Okinawa. With 12 air victories in 89 combat missions Mac McWhorter was the first carrier-based pilot to become an F6F double Ace. He retired from the navy in 1969. Sadly, he passed away on 12th April 2008.|
Commander Willis E Hardy USN
|Bill Hardy enlisted in the US Navy in 1939, and after working his way up through the ranks was commissioned in 1943, thereby enabling him to change from flying seaplanes to the latest fighters. Assigned to Fighting Seventeen, he flew the F6F Hellcat from the USS Hornet, and took part in the strikes against Tokyo, the landings on Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, where on 6th April 1945 he downed four Japanese planes in a day. That day also saw him make his first night-time deck landing after he remained in combat too long heading off a tenacious attack by Kaikazes against a US destroyer. Bill finished the war with 6.5 aerial victories, and retired from the service in 1959.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Hellcat||The Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat was to become the US Navys primary carrier borne fighter plane during World War II. Over 12,000 Hellcats were produced, and the Hellcat was credited with 4,947 of the 6,477 kills of enemy planes downed by carrier pilots during the War. The Hellcat had a top speed of 375 MPH, a range of 1,089 miles and was armed with six machine guns. The aircraft was powered by an 18-cylinder Pratt and Whitney, air-cooled, radial engine which generated 2,000 horsepower.|
|Artist Details : Robert Taylor|
|Click here for a full list of all artwork by Robert Taylor|
The name Robert Taylor has been synonymous with aviation art over a quarter of a century. His paintings of aircraft, more than those of any other artist, have helped popularise a genre which at the start of this remarkable artist's career had little recognition in the world of fine art. When he burst upon the scene in the mid-1970s his vibrant, expansive approach to the subject was a revelation. His paintings immediately caught the imagination of enthusiasts and collectors alike . He became an instant success. As a boy, Robert seemed always to have a pencil in his hand. Aware of his natural gift from an early age, he never considered a career beyond art, and with unwavering focus, set out to achieve his goal. Leaving school at fifteen, he has never worked outside the world of art. After two years at the Bath School of Art he landed a job as an apprentice picture framer with an art gallery in Bath, the city where Robert has lived and worked all his life. Already competent with water-colours the young apprentice took every opportunity to study the works of other artists and, after trying his hand at oils, quickly determined he could paint to the same standard as much of the art it was his job to frame. Soon the gallery was selling his paintings, and the owner, recognising Roberts talent, promoted him to the busy picture-restoring department. Here, he repaired and restored all manner of paintings and drawings, the expertise he developed becoming the foundation of his career as a professional artist. Picture restoration is an exacting skill, requiring the ability to emulate the techniques of other painters so as to render the damaged area of the work undetectable. After a decade of diligent application, Robert became one of the most capable picture restorers outside London. Today he attributes his versatility to the years he spent painstakingly working on the paintings of others artists. After fifteen years at the gallery, by chance he was introduced to Pat Barnard, whose military publishing business happened also to be located in the city of Bath. When offered the chance to become a full-time painter, Robert leapt at the opportunity. Within a few months of becoming a professional artist, he saw his first works in print. Roberts early career was devoted to maritime paintings, and he achieved early success with his prints of naval subjects, one of his admirers being Lord Louis Mountbatten. He exhibited successfully at the Royal Society of Marine Artists in London and soon his popularity attracted the attention of the media. Following a major feature on his work in a leading national daily newspaper he was invited to appear in a BBC Television programme. This led to a string of commissions for the Fleet Air Arm Museum who, understandably, wanted aircraft in their maritime paintings. It was the start of Roberts career as an aviation artist. Fascinated since childhood by the big, powerful machines that man has invented, switching from one type of hardware to another has never troubled him. Being an artist of the old school, Robert tackled the subject of painting aircraft with the same gusto as with his large, action-packed maritime pictures - big compositions supported by powerful and dramatic skies, painted on large canvases. It was a formula new to the aviation art genre, at the time not used to such sweeping canvases, but one that came naturally to an artist whose approach appeared to have origins in an earlier classical period. Roberts aviation paintings are instantly recognisable. He somehow manages to convey all the technical detail of aviation in a traditional and painterly style, reminiscent of the Old Masters. With uncanny ability, he is able to recreate scenes from the past with a carefully rehearsed realism that few other artists ever manage to achieve. This is partly due to his prodigious research but also his attention to detail: Not for him shiny new factory-fresh aircraft looking like museum specimens. His trade mark, flying machines that are battle-scarred, worse for wear, with dings down the fuselage, chips and dents along the leading edges of wings, oil stains trailing from engine cowlings, paintwork faded with dust and grime; his planes are real! Roberts aviation works have drawn crowds in the international arena since the early 1980s. He has exhibited throughout the US and Canada, Australia, Japan and in Europe. His one-man exhibition at the Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC was hailed as the most popular art exhibition ever held there. His paintings hang in many of the worlds great aviation museums, adorn boardrooms, offices and homes, and his limited edition prints are avidly collected all around the world. A family man with strong Christian values, Robert devotes most of what little spare time he has to his home life. Married to Mary for thirty five years, they have five children, all now grown up. Neither fame nor fortune has turned his head. He is the same easy-going, gentle character he was when setting out on his painting career all those years ago, but now with a confidence that comes with the knowledge that he has mastered his profession.
More about Robert Taylor
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