Hellcat Fury by Robert Taylor

Hellcat Fury  by Robert Taylor

Aircraft – F6F Hellcat

Band of Brothers Part V: The American Air Commands in the Pacific 1942 – 1945

Truk, the small atoll in the South Pacific, was the major anchorage for the Japanese Fleet. Comprising a magnificent harbour and four heavily defended airfields, it was thought impregnable by the US forces as they fought their way up through the Pacific. But on 16-17 February 1944 a violent two day aerial assault by carrier-borne aircraft of Task Force 58 exploded the myth. In just two days the US Navy flyers sunk over 200,000 tons of Japanese naval shipping and destroyed an estimated 275 enemy aircraft, totally eliminating all effectiveness of the Japanese base.

Light as the Navy losses were – only 25 aircraft failed to return – the battle for Truk was ferocious. The ground installations, ships and airfield batteries put up intense anti-aircraft fire against the attacking American aircraft, while Zeros did their best to repel the onslaught. The air above the atoll became a maelstrom of flak, tracer, flying lead and shrapnel, while below huge explosions rocked the ground as ammo and fuel dumps were hit, fire raged and the acrid smoke of battle pervaded the entire area.

In this important new painting, his first featuring the F6F Hellcat, Robert Taylor brings to life the scenario that was crucial to Admiral Spruance’s forceful drive through the Central Pacific. The once feared Japanese base at Truk is being reduced to a statistic of war. Hellcats of VF6 hurtle across the lagoon at masthead height with guns blazing, reaping havoc as they tear into the enemy positions below. Seen in the foreground is the F6F-3 of Lt. Alex Vraciu, subsequently to become one of the Navy’s top guns. This exhilarating new work dramatically conveys the awesome conditions endured day after day by the pilots of the US Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific.

With prints signed by a host of US Navy Aces, including the first F6F Hellcat Ace of World War II, Robert has created a limited edition that will take pride of place in many discerning print collections.

Overall print size: 34½" wide x 24"high

All editions are signed and numbered by the artist Robert Taylor

The Aces Edition – edition size 450
Signed by three US Navy Hellcat Aces

Signed and numbered

The War in the Pacific Edition – edition size 300
Signed by eight Hellcat pilots and issued with a matching numbered copy of Robert Taylor’s ‘Pacific Pirate’ companion print signed by pilot Colonel Archie G Donahue; a total of nine signatures

Signed and numbered
Edition size 25 – Artist Proofs - sold out
Edition size 25 – Remarques - sold out

‘The signatures
*All editions
**The War in the Pacific Edition and The Portfolio Publisher Proofs
*** The Portfolio Publisher Proofs

*Commander Willis E Hardy USN – 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 6 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 Kamikazes against a US destroyer. ‘Bill’ finished the war with 6½ aerial victories and retired from the service in 1959.

*Commander Hamilton McWhorter USN – 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 the 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 the USS Randolph, he took part in the strikes against Tokyo in February 1945, and Iwo Jima and Okinawa. With 12 air victories in 89 combat missions , '‘Mac’ MacWhorter was the first carrier based pilot to become a F6F double Ace. He retired from the Navy in 1969.

*Commander Alex Vraciu USN – first saw combat flying the F6F Hellcat off carriers with VF-6, becoming an Ace in January 1944 aboard the USS Lexington. His tally of victories continued to mount, and during the ‘Great Marianas Turkey Shoot’ he splashed 6 dive bombers in eight minutes, the following day adding a Zero, bringing his total to 19. His luck ran out in December 1944 when he was shot down strafing an airfield. Bailing out, he spent five weeks with Filipino guerrillas before meeting up with advancing Americans. He ended the war as the US Navy’s fourth highest Ace and he retired in 1963.

**Commander John ‘Ted’ Crosby USN – joined the Navy in 1942 and was commissioned in May 1943. Serving on board USS Bunker Hill with VF-18 flying F6F Hellcats, he shared in downing a ‘Betty’ bomber. Transferring to VF-17 he served on USS Hornet from January 1945 where he scored a further five victories, including three in a day on April 16, to become a Hellcat Ace.

** Colonel Archie G Donahue USMC (Pacific Pirate signature) – Assigned to VMF-112 he arrived at Guadalcanal in November 1942, where he flew three tours, completing 159 combat missions, first in F4F Wildcats and then in the F4U Corsair, in which he downed five Zeros in a day. In 1944 he transferred to VMF-451 flying the F4U from the USS Bunker Hill, where he flew a further 56 missions in the F4U against targets AT Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Japanese mainland, again downing five Zeros in a day on 12 April 1945. He finished the war with 14 aerial victories.

**Lt. Commander Fred ‘Buck’ Dungan USN – Commissioned in October 1942 he joined VF(N)-76 and served with them flying the F6F Hellcat from the USS Yorktown until April 1944. He then transferred with the unit to USS Hornet until July 1944, when he was wounded and sent back to hospital. He was credited with 7 victories, all in the Hellcat, including 4 in one day.

**Lt. Commander James E Duffy USN – joined the Navy in 1942. Designated a Naval aviator he was commissioned in July 1943. Assigned to VF-15 flying the F6F Hellcat, he served aboard the USS Essex from May 1944, scoring his first victory in June. He achieved his fifth and final victory to become an Ace on 5 November 1944 against an ‘Oscar’ over Luxon.

**Captain John R Strane USN – joined the Navy in April 1941 and was one of
VF-15’s leading Aces with 13 victories. Assigned to VF-15 in August 1943 flying the F6F Hellcat, he served on the USS Essex scoring his first victories – 3 in one day – on 19 June 1944. On 25 October he downed four ‘Zekes’ in a day but was shot down into the sea and wounded, being picked up the next day by the destroyer USS Cotton. He scored his final victory in November 1944.

**Commander Ed ‘Wendy’ Wendorf USN – On his very first combat mission, with VF-16, he was hit by flak, which disabled his compass and radio; downed two Japanese aircraft, was badly wounded in a dogfight and, bleeding heavily, flew 120 miles back to his carrier- the USS Lexington, without flaps, tailhook or brakes. Recovered aboard, he was sent to the sickbay, and almost immediately the Lexington was hit by an aerial torpedo that flooded the sick quarters. He just escaped with his life! He survived to fly during the Truk raids, took part in the ‘Marianas Turkey Shoot’, and survived a ditching during the ‘Mission Beyond Darkness’. He finished the war with 6 victories.

***Colonel Bruce Porter USMC – commissioned in July 1941 and assigned to VMF-121 flying the F4F Wildcat. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he joined first VMF-111 and then VMF-441. In March 1943 he transferred back to VMF-121 for a combat tour of at Guadacanal flying the new F4U Corsair, scoring his first victory on June 12. After two further victories and four probables, he returned to the US to train as a night fighter pilot in the F6F Hellcat. He served with VMF(N)-544, VMF-551 and VMF(N)-533, with whom in May 1945, he led an element on one of the longest ever over water flights in a single-engined fighter from the Marshalls to Okinawa, a journey over 16 hours. At Okinawa he joined VMF(N)-542, and on June 15 scored two victories in a day, bringing his tally to 5.

***Colonel James E Swett USMC MOH – On April 7 1943, a large formation of 67 ‘Val’ dive bombers, escorted by 110 Zeros headed in towards Guadacanal. 76 Allied fighters rose to intercept them. Leading a four plane division of F4F Wildcats, Lt. James Swett ignored a hail of friendly AA fire and shot down 3 of the Vals in their dives, then chased 4 more across Florida Island and shot down – 7 aircraft in 15 minutes. His cooling system destroyed, and injured in the face, he splashed down in Tulagi Harbor, later to be rescued. For his performance that day the 22 year old pilot received the Congressional Medal of Honor. A VMF-221 Squadron Commander, Jim Swett flew 120 combat missions, made 120 carrier launches and recoveries, was shot down and wounded twice, and notched up 16½ air victories to become one of the US marine corps’ top ten fighter Aces of the war.

***Captain Stanley ‘Swede’ Vejtasa USN (Dauntless over the Yorktown signature) Commissioned in August 1939 ‘Swede’ Vejtasa’s first combat assignment was in May 1942 whilst flying the SBD Dauntless with VS-5 aboard the USS Yorktown during the Battle of the Coral Sea. Here he participated in the attack on the Japanese carrier Shoho, and flew anti torpedo plane patrol, claiming three Zeros. Switching to fighters with VF-10 flying the F4F Wildcat aboard the USS Enterprise he took part in the Battle of Santa Cruz, where he notched up 7 air victories on one flight in October. In March 1943 he flight-tested the new F4U Corsair in the combat zone. His final tally for the war was 11 aerial victories.

The Companion Print

Pacific Pirate’ by Robert Taylor

The War in the Pacific Edition’ and ‘The Portfolio Publisher Proofs’ – companion print ‘ Pacific Pirate’ by Robert Taylor. Named after the ‘Fighting Corsairs’, the seafaring pirates of an earlier era, the Vought F4U Corsair was the best carrier borne fighter of World War II.
Overall size: 15½" wide x 12" high